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Stellar line-up is confirmed for this year's Kennedy Summer School

Household name political pundits, sports people and experts to debate US election, Brexit and much more


Former CNN reporter Gina London

Former CNN reporter Gina London

Former CNN reporter Gina London

An exciting line-up of speakers has been announced for this year's Kennedy Summer School festival.

Now in its seventh year, the Kennedy Summer School is a forum for debate and reflecting on world politics and the relationship Ireland has with Britain and America in particular, while also addressing pressing social issues including mental health, history, religion, sport and Irish politics.

Among this year's 60 plus guest speakers are Cal Thomas who many listeners to the Matt Cooper Show will be familiar with and New York Times columnist Maureen O'Dowd. Among the other household names guests are Mick Wallace, Lee Chin and Jeffrey Donaldson MP.

The summer school is set to be worth in the region of €225,000 to the town and area for its three days, Thursday, September 5 to Saturday, September 7. Directors Larry Donnelly and Dr Robert Mauro said: 'Of course, we will once again be discussing the Trump presidency as the 2020 election looms in the US, as well as the impact Brexit will have on the whole of this island, the United Kingdom, and beyond.'

The summer school will begin with the annual commemorative Tea Party at the Kennedy Homestead. Hosted by Sean Connick, Chief Executive of the JFK Trust, with Marty Morrissey and Senator Frances Black who will talk about their very different career paths.

Members of the Wexford ICA Federation will create a mouth-watering range of exquisitely presented homemade cakes and pastries for this special Afternoon Tea event.

The dedication accession of the Larkin Collection to the Kennedy Book and Research Archive at New Ross Library follows.

To mark the 100th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's birth in 2017, an archive of Kennedy related material will be available to be viewed at New Ross Library.

A short ceremony hosted by Eileen Morrissey, Wexford County Librarian, will take place to mark the formal hand-over of the collection. The following are some of the events taking place during the three days:

On Thursday, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. a talk called Being Protestant and Irish takes place at St Michael's Theatre which is the venue for the vast majority of the remaining talks and events over the weekend.

The official opening of the summer school takes place from 7.30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will be performed by former leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party Seamus Mallon who will discuss his fascinating career, his recently published memoir, 'A Shared Home Place' and his perspective on current developments, or lack of them, in Northern Ireland.

The annual Edward M Kennedy Lecture takes place at 8 p.m. on the theme 'What role is there for faith in our politics'.

Archbishop Eamon Martin is among the speakers. The day concludes with some musical entertainment at 9 p.m. when Songs of America Love and Lost will be performed.

On Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 noon a talk called 'Inspiring Ambition Over Adversity' takes place at St Mary's Secondary School with Stefanie Preissner, the creator of the hit RTE comedy series 'Can't Cope, Won't Cope'. Stefanie will be discussing her great career, while Emmy winning former CNN correspondent Gina London will host the event.

The full range of speakers is currently being finalised. The title of this event uses the 'New Ross' font designed by Fifth Class students at Bunscoil Rís in New Ross.

At the same time a schools talk by Wexford-born illustrator Lauren O'Neill takes place at New Ross Library.

Meanwhile at the same time a tourism forum hosted by Jenny De Saulles, Head of Ireland's Ancient East, takes place at the theatre. Other speakers and panellists will include Denise O'Leary, Assistant Head of the School of Hospitality and Tourism in Technological University Dublin, Paul Kelly, CEO Fáilte Ireland and Tom Enright, CEO Wexford County Council, and other contributors are to be announced.

A speakers lunch addressed by Michael Martin takes place at the marquee in the JFK Arboretum between 12.30 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. The Fianna Fáil leader's address will be followed by a short public interview with Dr Robert M. Mauro, Director of the Irish Institute and Global Leadership at Boston College.

Sports fans can look forward to the Profiles in Sporting Courage talk at 6 p.m. Speakers at the panel discussion include Irish sports personalities Sarah O'Shea, Gearoid Devitt, Ursula Jacob and Lee Chin (pictured left). More names are expected to be added.

From 7.15 p.m. to 8.15 p.m. The Supreme Courts of America and Ireland is the topic for a discussion chaired by Noeline Blackwell, followed by The Kennedy Summer School interview with Bruce Morrison from 8.30 p.m. - 9.30 p.m. Morrisson is a graduate of MIT and Yale law schools, where his classmates included Bill and Hillary Clinton.

A former Congressman, Morrison's public interview will be with Six One News presenter Caitríona Perry.

On Saturday a History Symposium runs from 10 a.m. to 11.40 a.m. featuring a wide ranging discussion on Sean LeMass, Charles Haughey, and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

From 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., columnist Maureen O'Dowd will lead a discussion on US media, politics and more and from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., the Irish politics Panel will see Newstalk presenter Dr Ciara Kelly chair a panel discussion between TDs Mick Wallace, Regina Doherty, Jim O'Callaghan and Joan Burton.

Brexit will be front and centre during a discussion at 4 p.m. called 'Our Two Islands, Our Complex Relationships' between Jeffrey Donaldson MP with the Democratic Unionist Party and former Tanáiste and Justice minister Michael McDowell SC.

One of the highlights of the weekend will be the US Politics Panel about the 2020 election, with Donald Trump's Presidency to be debated by speakers, including columnist Cal Thomas.

The weekend will conclude with the Kennedy Summer school dinner.

Tickets can be booked online at St Michael's Theatre's website.

Wexford People