Sunday 22 September 2019

Bridge will be named after JFK's mother

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy
Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy
An artist's impression of the new bridge

David Looby

The longest bridge in Ireland - which will be located a short distance from New Ross - will be named the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Bridge.

New Ross District Director Eamonn Hore made the announcement at Wednesday's meeting of New Ross Municipal District council. Ms Fitzgerald Kennedy - who died in 1995 aged 104 - was President John F Kennedy's mother.

Born in Boston in 1890, she was first introduced to politics as a child. In her teens she became acquainted with Joseph P Kennedy in Maine where their families were vacationing together and on October 7, 1914, they were married. The couple had nine children: Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. was born in 1915, John in 1917, Rosemary in 1918, Kathleen in 1920, Eunice in 1921, Patricia in 1924, Robert in 1925, Jean in 1928 and Edward in 1932.

Ms Fitzgerald Kennedy was active in President John F Kennedy's Presidential campaign and in Bobby Kennedy's campaign and lead an extraordinary life.

Mr Hore said: 'We have a €250m project (in the New Ross Bypass) and the bulk of that is for the bridge so on international terms this is significant. The name has a Norman influence (in Fitzgerald) and the Normans sailed up the Barrow to New Ross. The bridge is 148 metres from the townsland of Dunganstown and one mile from the Kennedy Homestead.'

He said many members of the Kennedy family have visited New Ross including John F Kennedy in 1947 and again in 1963 as American president, Ted Kennedy in 1962, Jackie Kennedy and her children, Eunice and Maria in 1967, Jean Kennedy Smith and her daughter Amanda in 1993, and 35 members of the family in 2013 for the JFK50 commemoration day. 'There is a real connection with the people and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy was the matriarch. This will cement our connection with the Kennedy's for the future.'

He said the Fitzgerald name goes back to the founding of New Ross and the Fitzgeralds were among the first of the Norman knights to receive lands in Wexford. 'The Fitzgeralds landed in Bannow Bay and the Kennedy family sailed from New Ross. The new bridge links all these strands, bringing in the Dunbrody famine ship, the marriage of Aoife and Strongbow at which a Fitzgerald banner was flown and the Emigrant Flame, which was brought from John F Kennedy's graveside in Arlington Cemetery, representing Irish emigration.'

He said having the bridge named after a Kennedy will bring more tourists to New Ross, adding that it will create an emotional pull for tourists. Having infrastructure named after a celebrity reaps massive financial awards, he added. Mr Hore said Ms Fitzgerald Kennedy's daughter, Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, has committed to travelling for the launch in late 2018 or early 2019.

In a letter to Mr Hore she said: 'We are all excited about the bridge. I am sure some of the family will want to come over.'

The 887 metre Kennedy bridge will cut journey times by up to 40 minutes. The new road will allow traffic on the N25 between Cork and Waterford to bypass the town of New Ross and cross the Lower Barrow on a new 36m high, 887m long four-lane suspension bridge. This will feature the world's longest central span three tower extradosed bridge, a type of cable-stay structure, spanning the River Barrow.

The N25 section commences at a roundabout junction with the existing N25 at Glenmore, County Kilkenny, before crossing over the River Barrow on the bridge from Pink Point in County Kilkenny to Stokestown in County Wexford.

Mr Hore's proposal was debated at length at the meeting and was unanimously supported.

It was remarked that tourism will be a growing feature of the local economy post-bypass.

Cllr Michael Whelan said the proposal was very well researched.

He said: 'It's very important that New Ross keeps that connection with the Kennedy's.'

Describing the name as a 'brilliant idea', Cllr Willie Fitzharris said: 'It's one of the most important things we have in the town. The Kennedy name has served us very well and we have 60,000 visitors a year coming here because of the Kennedy's.'

Cllr Martin Murphy said it was 'absolutely fantastic' that a link would be forged with the Kennedy's in Ireland's greatest bridge.

'I think the idea is fantastic,' he said.

Cllr Michael Sheehan said Waterford and Kilkenny local authorities should be contacted about the name.

Mr Hore said as the bypass is located in County Wexford, New Ross Municipal District can name the bridge, adding that he would be in contact with management at both councils.

He said having the surname Fitzgerald in the bridge's name was important as it links with the Norman and medieval history of Kilkenny.

Cllr John Fleming agreed that the name should be in the New Ross council's ownership.

Cllr Larry O'Brien said: 'As one who lives in the parish of the bridge I support it and think it's great.'

Cllr Anthony Connick said: 'It's a tourist attraction and it links everything together. I am 100 per cent behind it.'

New Ross Standard