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President John F Kennedy photographed with John Jr in the White House's Oval Office Photo by: Google Images

President John F Kennedy's Irish files revealed in digital archive

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President John F Kennedy photographed with John Jr in the White House's Oval Office Photo by: Google Images

The online digital archive of the JFK era is a treasure trove of information on the President's Irish relationships.

The archive, www.JFKLibrary.org, which went live in 2011, gives the public access to materials amassed by researchers on the life and work of the 35th president of the United States.

Among the Irish-related items is a witty letter from Irish playwright Brendan Behan, informing President Kennedy that the 15th century head of his maternal clan, the Fitzgeralds, was once summoned to Rome to explain why he had burned down a local cathedral.

"The Pope asked the Gaelic lord why he had committed this enormous sacrilege," writes Behan.

"To which his lordship replied: "I declare to Jesus, your holiness, I never would have done but I thought the archbishop was inside!"

It's not hard to imagine JFK roaring with laughter at Behan's letter.

There is lenghty correspondence between Grant Stockdale, Kennedy's first ambassador to Ireland, and JFK. Stockdale was especially agitated about the dreadful state of the US Embassy in Dublin and pleaded for funds to build a new one.

"I never witnessed a more deplorable sight that the interior of our Dublin Embassy," he wrote to Kennedy in 1961.

"The general situation is nothing short of disastrous."

Soon after JFK found the funds to build the new embassy, the building still in use, in Ballsbridge, Dublin.

Stockdale invited Kennedy to Ireland in 1962 and the presdient replied," I would like very much to come to Ireland if I can think of a reason whch would be sufficiently substantial to warrant a visit."

Stockdale also told of walking down O'Connell Street, Dublin's main thoroughfare, and seeing a "group of eight to ten females of all ages" staring at a newstand. Dispayed there was a cover shot of Jackie Kennedy in the Saturday Evening Post.

Also included in the archive are details of the many gifts presented to the president by the Irish, who clearly idolized him. The electic collection of gifts included a piece of the Giant's Causeway, a silver christening cup for John F. Kennedy Jr., and a freedom of the city casket containing a proclamation from the city of Limerick.

Podcasts on the website include recordings of Jacqueline Kennedy describing how she entertained at the White House, and her reflections on hosting state dinners.

The website's video section includes signature moments in Kennedy's presidency, including his famous 1963 televised speech to the nation about the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, when America and the entire world hung on the president's every word.

The treasure trove of a website was launched  in 2011 to coincide with the anniversary of the 35th president's inauguration.

The amount of material posted to the new digital archive is considerable: 200,000 pages of text, 1,500 photos, 1,250 audio recordings and moving images, and 340 phone conversations totaling 17.5 hours.
 
Among the most popular documents is a draft, in JFK’s handwriting, of his inaugural address which included the famous line: "Ask not what your country can do for you..."

The website also catalogs notes, tapes, and maps made during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Oval Office phone conversations between Kennedy and other important historical figures.

To view the new archive visit www.jfklibrary.org.

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