A new Irish documentary explores President Kennedy's historic trip to Ireland in June 1963 but also two trips he took before that. The documentary was written and presented by broadcaster Ryan Tubridy who has a passion for history, politics and a fascination with the former president. Kennedy was elected president 50 years ago on November 8th 1960.
The 50 minute production examines the close relationship that JFK had with Ireland and the impact of his official visit to the island where his ancestors emigrated from. Its explores questions such as why did President Kennedy have such a profound effect on the Irish?
Not as widely publicized is the fact that Kennedy was in Ireland on three other occasions prior to his presidential visit. His first visit was as a young correspondent for the Hearst newspaper group in the 1940's. Then in the late 1940's he spent three weeks researching his family roots in Co.Wexford where he met his cousin Mary Ryan. She would later describe him to family as just "a strange American, pale, skinny and in need of a good feed.”
The RTÉ program also reflected upon the Irish era into which the American president arrived.
Contributors to the documentary included Ted Sorensen, one of Kennedy's most trusted advisers who was with him on the trip to Ireland and Jean Kennedy Smith, Jack's last surviving sibling, who was also on the trip, reveals her memories.
Irish author Colm Tóibín also recalls his vivid memories of seeing JFK as a young boy in Wexford: "He was the most glamorous person I'd ever seen. It was as if we were living in black and white, and then suddenly -- Technicolor!" he said.
A wide range of historians including Gearóid O’Tuathaigh, Gary Murphy, and Diarmaid Ferriter
also contributed to the analysis.
One eye witness suggested the biggest impact his visit had was on Irish tourism.
“The day Kennedy came was the day Galway changed from being a sleepy town to a thriving city," said photographer Stan Shields who covered the visit for the Connacht Tribune.
Eye witness accounts come to life during the production as people from all throughout Ireland gave accounts of the momentous occasion. The production also showcases rare film archives and previously unheard audio from the JFK library in Boston.