President John F Kennedy spent the happiest four days of his life in Ireland according to his nephew Douglas Kennedy.
The son of Bobby Kennedy told the people of New Ross that JFK was never happier than during his 1963 visit.
Douglas made the remarks as the Wexford town celebrates the 50th anniversary of the visit in the company of 30 members of the extended Kennedy family.
St Michael’s theatre in New Ross was the venue as seven members of the clan took part in a question and answer session with intrigued locals.
The Irish Independent reports on Douglas’s expression of the family’s delight in travelling to Ireland to mark the historic occasion.
He said: “Everybody who knew him knew that the four days he spent in Ireland were the happiest he ever was in his life. He came to himself here.
“He left here knowing that he had discovered some part of himself and his last words to the Irish people were ‘I’ll see you in the spring.’”
Douglas’s sister Kathleen Kennedy Townsend told the audience that there was added poignancy in the occasion as it was also 50 years since Kennedy died.
She said: “That makes everything sadder and tougher. John Kennedy knew himself that every moment in life in precious. For us, as Kennedys, we’ve grown up with knowing how precious life is.
“The Irish understand that because they’ve gone through so many wars and pain. You know that every moment has to be precious.”
Kathleen also told the audience that the family’s devotion to politics is down to their Irish roots.
She added: “The idea of service comes from the Irish Catholic tradition. There is always someone who is a little worse off, so there’s always something you can do and I think that’s really an Irish trait. Just think of the number of Irish who went on to become police officers, teachers and nurses abroad.
“I do believe, too, that politics is special, I want to say that because it’s degraded as being dirty these days. Politics is an honourable profession and that’s where you can make the biggest difference and change policy. That’s why I always urge people to get involved in politics and run for office if you can.”
The celebrations will include the opening of a new visitor centre by Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny on Saturday.
The centre features an exhibition of photographs taken during JFK’s visit to the rural farmyard of his cousin Mary Ryan in 1963 as well as tributes to the rest of the Kennedy family.
Thousands are expected for Saturday’s celebrations featuring Michael Flatley, novelist Colm Tobin and tenor Michael Londra.
American broadcasters NBC and CBS have travelled with the Kennedys for the visit while the BBC and Sky also have teams based in New Ross according to the report.