Plans for a year of events to celebrate the historic visit of President John F Kennedy to his hometown of New Ross, County Wexford were unveiled today (Tuesday, 3rd July 2012) at Government buildings by An Taoiseach Mr. Enda Kenny, T.D.
John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States of America, received a rapturous welcome on an emotional visit to his ancestral homeland. Thousands of well wishers cheered and waved flags on his arrival at New Ross town from where Patrick Kennedy, his great-grandfather, had set sail for a better life in America back in 1848 during the potato famine. A choir of 300 boys greeted him, singing "The Boys of Wexford", a ballad about the 1798 rebellion. The president left his bodyguards to join them in the second chorus. Once the singing was over, Mr. Kennedy shook hands with as many schoolchildren as he could reach.
In his speech at the quayside in New Ross he said: "When my great-grandfather left here to become a cooper in East Boston he carried nothing with him except two things - a strong religious faith and a strong desire for liberty. I am glad to say that all of his grandchildren have valued that inheritance."
From New Ross, the President travelled the four mile journey south to his ancestral homestead in Dunganstown for a joyous reunion with his cousins. The President then travelled on to Wexford Town where he laid a wreath at the statue of Wexfordman Commodore John Barry “Father of the American Navy”. Assistant to President Kennedy, Dave Powers, recalled the four days in Ireland as the happiest of the President’s life.
Unveiling the 2013 JFK 50 Programme of Events, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny said, "President John F Kennedy's visit to his ancestral home in 1963 was a watershed event in recent Irish history. It remains one of the most significant visits by a Head of State to Ireland and has had a lasting effect which resonated in the visit of President Obama and is recalled every year on our St Patrick's Day visits to the States.
I have long been an admirer of President Kennedy and often recall words from his extraordinary speeches, like his address to the Irish Parliament almost 50 years ago when he described the qualities of the Irish as 'a remarkable combination of hope, confidence and imagination - that is needed more than ever today'. I can see that combination of qualities in the programme of commemorative events planned here, its link into the Gathering and the opportunity to celebrate the remarkable way that Ireland was lit up by the visit of one of its most famous sons."
Chairman of New Ross Town Council, Councillor Paul Crowdle, said, “New Ross remembers the visit of J.F.K. with great pride and fondness, and the Townspeople are looking forward to a year of celebrations to honour its most famous Son”.
Commenting at the launch at Government Buildings, Wexford County Manager Eddie Breen said, “In Wexford we are very proud of our cultural and international links and heritage, we are honoured to mark this prestigious occasion and to pay tribute to the extraordinary man that was John F. Kennedy and the Kennedy family.”
Shaun Quinn CEO of Failte Ireland emphasized, “We are delighted to be working with the team behind JFK 50. The late President is a touchstone for Irish-America and an icon of the Irish diaspora and it is very appropriate that we mark the 50th anniversary of his visit here in a suitably significant manner. From a tourism perspective, this event also ties neatly into the ethos of “The Gathering 2013” which we are working on for next year – an event primarily geared towards welcoming home the Irish diaspora”.
Throughout the year of celebration of the JFK visit, many major events will take place in New Ross during 2013. The first event, ‘New Frontiers’, sees New Ross host the spring conference of the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland on February 15th and 16th. The conference theme will be Municipal Twinning and will focus on relationship building and connections.
‘The Homecoming’ will take place from June 21st to July 8th, a national homecoming event where An Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D. will attend at New Ross to take part in the commemoration of the official visit of JFK of 1963. Another exciting development in relation to the Kennedy legacy is the Office of Public Works announcement by Minister Brian Hayes to construct a new €1.5m visitor centre at the Kennedy Homestead in Dunganstown, New Ross. The new centre will also open in 2013.
The Kennedy Trail will also be officially unveiled linking New Ross Town including the Kennedy Monument, the Eternal Flame, the new Quayside development and the Dunbrody Famine Ship to the Kennedy Homestead at Dunganstown and the magnificent JFK Arboretum, strengthening the tourism potential of the region and delivering jobs directly and indirectly.
A major celebration of Independence Day on July 4th will take place lasting right through to July 8th.
In November of 2013, ‘The Remembering’ will take place. A wreath will be laid at the Kennedy Statue in New Ross town to honour and remember the memory of John F Kennedy. A mass will also form part of the day of remembrance on November 22.
Footage of President John F Kennedy's visit to Ireland in 1963: