independent

Saturday 23 August 2014

A visit by Obama would bring huge benefits for all of County Wexford

Published 29/01/2013 | 12:45

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Michelle and Barack Obama having a sup of the black stuff in Moneygall during their visit in 2011. Might this year see them having a pint in New Ross?

HOPES have been building in Co. Wexford since the idea was first mooted last November, that US President Barack Obama might visit New Ross this summer to honour the county's most famous son, President John F Kennedy.

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June's JFK 50 celebrations in New Ross are happily close enough to the G8 Summit in Fermanagh, that a visit by President Obama might just be a possibility.

As a nation, America certainly remembers its history well. National monuments such as those in Washington for past Presidents and soldiers who fought in various wars, are visited by millions every year.

Now, Dunganstown, New Ross, the Kennedy ancestral home, will have a dedicated visitors centre telling the Kennedy family story. It's a story that as much belongs to Ireland as it does to America.

In 1848, 26 year old Patrick Kennedy, JFK's great-grandfather, boarded a famine ship from the quay in his hometown of New Ross. Like a million of his fellow countrymen and women, he set out from Ireland in search of a better life. His children and grandchildren prospered in the land of opportunity, and like many Irish Americans, they never forgot their Irish roots.

Just months before he died, President Kennedy paid an emotional visit to the home of his ancestors, on June 27, 1963. As the county marks a half century since his visit, and as the world marks fifty years since his assassination, it would be a truly fitting way to remember the fallen President, should President Obama make it down to New Ross for the commemoration. The occasion would put Wexford on the international map, and the resulting publicity for the area would be immeasurable. Not only would it embody the spirit of 'The Gathering', it would also reinforce the already close ties between the two nations. The JFK 50 plans also include the opening of an exhibition in the John F Kennedy Arboretum, New Ross, and the lighting of an eternal flame to John F Kennedy, dedicated to emigrants on the quayside in New Ross. An eternal flame already burns brightly for JFK at his graveside in Arlington Cemetery in Washington. Now another flame will burn for him in the land of his forefathers, in his honour, and in memory of all those who fled these shores in a desperate bid to survive, and it will signify, as all those memorials do in Washington, 'We will never forget'.

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