A historic moment in Irish American history will take place today, at the graveside of President John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery, when a flame will be taken from the Eternal Flame to be transported to Ireland, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of his memorable visit to Ireland in June 1963.

The ceremony will begin at 10.30am at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The Star Spangled Banner will be performed by tenor Anthony Kearns and Ireland’s national anthem Amhrán na bhFiann will be performed by tenor Michael Londra.

Minister of State Paul Kehoe T.D. together with a members of the Kennedy family and a delegation from New Ross Town Council and a color party from the Irish Defence Force will participate in the flame lighting ceremony. The flame will then be transferred to specially commissioned ‘Kennedy Lamps’ for the journey to New Ross, Co. Wexford.

“The ceremony in Arlington marks the start, not just of the JFK 50 celebrations, but of a journey home,” Minister of State Paul Kehoe said.

“It is the first time the US military and the Kennedy family have allowed a flame be taken from the Eternal Flame on President Kennedy's grave. We will take this flame home to Ireland to light an Emigrant Flame in New Ross to honor all the emigrants, including Patrick Kennedy, who left our nation to start new lives in the US, the UK, Australian, Canada and countries across the globe. The flame is a symbol of tragedy but also of hope and what feelings could be more appropriate for the emigration story. The US and Irish military have developed a ceremony that will be a powerfully symbolic of our two nations shared history.”

After its journey across the Atlantic the flame will travel up the river Barrow in New Ross on Saturday June 22 where Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Caroline Kennedy and former Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith will ignite a new ‘Emigrant Flame’ memorial at the JFK50 Ireland celebrations.

Chair of the JFK50 Councillor Michael Sheenhan said, “The legacy of our flame transcends the ages and represents hope, faith and a rededication to our firm belief that we are all part of a larger family; no matter where our diaspora are, the elemental light and heat of the flame reminds us of the call of home and the spirit of our people across the globe which endures and the march of our nation continues anew.”

The lighting of the flame on June 22 will be culmination of a full programme of JFK50 Celebratory events in the town. For further details see www.jfk50ireland.com