IT was 50 years ago next week that John Fitzgerald Kennedy made his historic visit to Ireland. It was, we now know, a journey home that had a profound effect on the young and inspirational American president. Tragically, he was assassinated a few short months later and never had a chance to fulfil his political mission, nor to return to the country that had captured his heart.
Today, the JFK50 commemoration reaches its climax as the Taoiseach joins the visiting Kennedy clan and local dignitaries in marking an event that has few equals in the history of this young State.
Those old enough will remember the sense of pride, awe and wonder that surrounded those special days in the June of 1963.
Only Pope John Paul II's visit, in September of 1979, comes close as an occasion that harnessed the nation in such a sense of unity and purpose.
It is hard to imagine a visit by a pontiff ever stopping the nation in its tracks again, but we know from the reception that the Obamas received this week that an audience with a First Family still has the ability to seduce us.
Perhaps we were more innocent back in 1963; more forgiving of – and faithful to – our political leaders and statesmen.
In any case, what is being celebrated in the south-east today and next week is an enduring link between Ireland and one of America's most famous and charismatic sons.
We welcome home the Kennedy clan, all 35 of them, and may their stay be every bit as memorable as the one they have come to commemorate.