Kennedy mania grips Ireland as 50th anniversary of 1963 JFK visit arrives
By: Niall O'Dowd | Published Thursday, June 20, 2013, 9:34 AM | Updated Thursday, June 20, 2013, 9:34 AM
|JFK pictured during his 1963 visit to the Kennedy Homestead in Wexford|
Kildare, Ireland: If you thought Ireland had got too sophisticated for some old time Kennedy mania then think again.
The 50th Anniversary of the JFK
visit to Ireland in 1963 is taking place this weekend and the country has decided to celebrate with a vengeance.l
The two major newspapers, The Irish Times and Irish Independent, have created special supplements
around the anniversary, one outdoing the other with gushing prose about the meaning of the visit 50 years ago.
Meanwhile in New Ross, Wexford on Saturday, the Prime Minister Enda Kenny
will be accompanied by senior Kennedy family members
, Jean Kennedy Smith and Caroline Kennedy when he inaugurates the old Kennedy homestead as a major cultural attraction.
Irish television is covering the event live and up to 50,000 people are expected to pay homage near the remote farm at Dunganstown where Patrick Kennedy left with only a pocketful of dreams in 1847.
Boys who sang for him, girls who danced for him, cops who guarded him, reporters who covered him have all come alive this week retelling their memories of June 26 to 29th 1963.
Given the week that is in it with President Obama in Northern Ireland, Bill Clinton
stopping by on a brief Shannon stopover and Kennedy mania everywhere, it is tempting to think Ireland is an extension of Irish America these summer days.
Also in town is a future presidential contender, Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, who is giving a Kennedy speech in Dublin. All we are lacking is a drop in by Hillary Clinton or Chris Christie.
Consider also that the American Ireland Fund is bringing 200 Irish American business leaders to Ireland this week and the sense of living briefly in the 51st state takes hold.
It is incredible to see the analysis of the Kennedy visit. In real politics terms it meant little compared to Bill Clinton’s visit to Belfast in 1994 when he firmly set the Irish peace process on course.
But the Kennedy visit was an electric moment for a country that had slumbered through most of the 20th century at that point after achieving independence in 1921.
It is amazing how many commentators say that Kennedy appeared to be in Technicolor during that first visit when the rest of the world seemed black and white.
They describe an almost mythical figure. Novelist Colm Toibin who was there as a young lad on the day remembers how incredibly youthful he looked at a time when many men his age in their 40s looked old through hard times.
It is a thought repeated again and again by those who saw him that day, a radiant young war hero running the most powerful country in the world, coming back to where it all began, a country just about to emerge into the modern era.
He vanquished the negative image of the Irish in the U.S. forever but it is clear he had a remarkable impact on the Irish in Ireland too.
Fifty years later they still speak his name in awe.
We will never see his likes again.