A new visitor and exhibition centre is to open in Wexford in time for the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy’s visit to Ireland.

Plans are at an advanced stage for the new centre at the Kennedy family’s ancestral home in Dunganstown, near New Ross, Co Wexford.

Planning applications have already been lodged with Wexford County Council ahead of the 50th anniversary of JFK’s historic Irish tour.

Descendants of the Kennedy family still own the house and site and Ireland’s Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works Brian Hayes has acknowledged the work already carried out by Patrick and Siobhán Grennan.

“They deserve credit for their work in maintaining the memory of the historic beginnings and facilitating access and presentation for visitors,” Minister Hayes told the Irish Times.

“Given the importance of the homestead as a historic site and tourism attraction, the provision of modern visitor facilities is badly needed, and in consultation with the property owners a design scheme has been completed.”

The paper also reports that talks on necessary legal agreements are at an advanced stage and, subject to a satisfactory conclusion, final technical details would be completed and tenders for the work invited in the near future.

New facilities are to include refurbishment of the existing out-buildings, and a reception and toilets. The work will include improvements to a car and tour-bus park, roadways, and signage.

Announcing the project in the Dunbrody Visitor Centre in New Ross, Minster Hayes said: “As St Patrick’s Day approaches much international focus will be trained on Ireland, and great goodwill generated. What better way to promote tourism than to stimulate, in particular, the vast market in the USA where the Kennedy legacy is so revered?.

“The Dunbrody centre is a fitting place to address the theme of historic emigration and the achievement of Irishmen and women who started new lives abroad and rose to pinnacles of achievement.

“Undoubtedly, one of the greatest names in this respect is president John F Kennedy, whose great-grandfather left New Ross for the US in 1848.”