Speaking to RTE News reporter, Frank Wall, on Feb 26, 1962, Ted Kennedy spoke about his visit to his ancestral home of County Wexford and his pleasure in visiting Ireland.
In February 1962, Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy embarked on a historic journey to Ireland, a trip that would leave an indelible mark on his life and on the Irish-American community. This excursion, which was much more than a simple vacation, was a heartfelt pilgrimage to the land of his ancestors and a demonstration of solidarity with the Irish people.
"I’m delighted, first of all, to be here in Ireland."
Kennedy said he was very much looking forward to meeting his relations in Dunganstown, Wexford, and added "This is purely a sentimental trip."
He told RTE "The visit to Ireland is something which I’ve always wanted to do and I think might very well be the highlight of my whole trip abroad."
Ted Kennedy had spent the previous weeks in mainland Europe on a fact-finding mission about the Common Market. Later that year in Nov 1969, Kennedy became a United States Senator.
Ted Kennedy was not alone on his voyage to Ireland. He was accompanied by his sister, Jean Kennedy Smith, who would later become the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland during President Bill Clinton's administration. This sibling duo shared a deep connection to their Irish heritage, and their visit to Ireland was a symbolic homecoming for both of them.
Senator Kennedy's journey to Ireland commenced on February 14, 1969, as he departed from New York City. His arrival in Ireland was met with great anticipation and excitement, not only by the Irish-American community but also by the people of Ireland themselves.
The Kennedys first arrived in County Wexford, the ancestral homeland of their family. They visited the small village of Dunganstown, where their great-grandparents had lived before emigrating to the United States during the 19th century. This visit was a poignant moment as Ted Kennedy laid a wreath at the gravesite of his great-grandfather, Patrick Kennedy. It was a symbolic gesture of paying tribute to his roots and connecting with the past.
From County Wexford, Ted and Jean Kennedy traveled to Dublin, the capital of Ireland. In Dublin, the Kennedy siblings had a series of significant political meetings. Ted Kennedy met with Irish government officials, including the then Prime Minister, Jack Lynch, and discussed a range of topics, including Irish-American relations and the ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland. This visit underscored Ted Kennedy's commitment to the Irish cause and his role as a key advocate for peace and justice in the region.
The impact of Ted Kennedy's journey to Ireland extended far beyond his time on the Emerald Isle. His commitment to Irish-American relations and the cause of peace in Northern Ireland continued throughout his career in the U.S. Senate. He played a pivotal role in promoting the MacBride Principles, a set of guidelines aimed at encouraging American companies operating in Northern Ireland to adhere to fair employment practices.