Forget the G8, it's the K35 as Kennedy clan jets in for anniversary
THE Obamas may have left town, but Ireland hasn't finished with American politicians just yet.
Last night, the first members of the Kennedy clan arrived in Dublin in advance of several days of celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the visit of President John F Kennedy to Ireland in June 1963.
Among the advance group was Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland. "I know you've been focused on the G8 – now I hope you focus on the K35," she joked as she arrived at the airport yesterday evening.
There are 35 members of the extended Kennedy family due into Ireland in the coming days.
Caroline Kennedy, daughter of John and Jackie, is also in the country on a holiday in advance of the commemoration.
Kathleen, who is the eldest of Robert and Ethel Kennedy's children, explained that it was an emotional occasion for them.
"It means so much because when President Kennedy came here, he was overwhelmed with the love of the Irish people, and his last words were that he would come back in the spring. He never got to come back, but we're getting to come back," she said.
She is joined by her husband David Townsend, Sydney McKelvy (daughter of Patricia Kennedy) and her husband Peter, and also Max Kennedy Jnr and Chris Kennedy Jnr, grandsons of Robert Kennedy.
She described the commemoration as "an extraordinarily emotional homecoming, for it's so much part of our genes, and to see the celebration of the president 50 years later, when it's a tough time to remember and a sad time to remember, but also how much he is still recalled and thought of, it's really moving," she added.
Waiting to greet the arrivals was junior minister Dinny McGinley, who stood on O'Connell Street 50 years ago and cheered the cavalcade containing President Kennedy.
Dinny told the group that the visit of JFK had changed the life of his own family. "My mother insisted that my father went out and bought a TV to watch it. All the neighbours were in our house."
There is a packed schedule of events planned to commemorate the visit.
This morning, a flame from the Eternal Flame on the grave of President Kennedy in Arlington Cemetery in Washington DC arrived on an Aer Lingus flight, accompanied by Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe and a colour party from the Irish Army.
It will be taken from Dublin to New Ross aboard Irish naval ship the LE Orla, and on Saturday the Taoiseach, Caroline Kennedy and former US ambassador Jean Kennedy-Smith will light the Emigrant Flame.
Also today, Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan will present Caroline with a Certificate of Irish Heritage at the launch of the JFK Homecoming exhibition in the National Library.
A highlight of the commemoration weekend takes place on Saturday with the official opening of the Kennedy Homestead visitor and exhibition at Dunganstown, Co Wexford.