A flame taken from the Eternal Flame at the graveside of President John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery has arrived in Ireland.

Earlier this week on Tuesday June 18, ‘The Emigrant Flame’ was lit from the Eternal Flame during a ceremonial event at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The Flame has travelled back to Ireland via New York in the custody of the Irish Defence Forces and accompanied by Minister of State Paul Kehoe T.D. and a delegation from New Ross Town Council.

The Emigrant Flame will be handed over to the care of the Irish Naval Service during a ceremonial event at Dublin Airport this morning. The flame will be carried to the LE ORLA Naval vessel in Dublin which will then take to the Irish Sea and sail up the River Barrow into New Ross port for the JFK 50 celebrations on June 22.

Commenting on the journey of the Emigrant Flame to Ireland, Minister of State Paul Kehoe stated, "The journey of this flame from the grave of President John F. Kennedy to the quay in New Ross where his great-grandfather stepped aboard the emigrant ship is a symbolic journey home. In 1963, Ireland was still a young nation, not yet achieving its full potential, and still finding its voice internationally.  President Kennedy brought a message of hope and inspiration struck such a chord with the Irish public that even now 50 years later his visit to Ireland as a watershed moment. It was the story of the emigrant son returning home. Today we bring the Eternal Flame from the grave of that emigrant son to Ireland to light in New Ross an Emigrant Flame in honour of all those who left Ireland.

As Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach I am proud of the role played by the Irish Defence Forces in the ceremonies marking the progress of this flame on the journey home and the wider JFK 50 celebrations.”

On Saturday, June 22 the JFK50 celebrations commence in New Ross, town the ancestral hometown of President John F. Kennedy. National and international stars of music, entertainment and literature will take to the quayside stage to honour and celebrate the memory of one of Wexford’s most famous sons - fifty years after his memorable visit to Ireland in 1963. The stage events will be hosted by Anne Doyle and George Hook who will introduce guests including American Grammy award winning singer Judy Collins, award winning writer Colm Toibin, Valda, The American Spiritual Ensemble, Wexford percussion group Extreme Rhythm, New Ross and District Pipe Band and Wexford man and Emmy nomintaed tenor Michale Londra and much more.

Michael Flatley will also take to the stage-to narrate the journey of the Emigrant flame and the immigrant story before the lighting ceremony at the Emigrant Flame monument. The flame will be carried along the newly developed boardwalk in a relay involving members of Special Olympics Ireland, the United States Peace Corps, members of the community and New Ross Town Council.   The flame will then be handed to An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Caroline Kennedy daughter of President Kennedy and Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith who will light the Emigrant Flame.

Commenting on the impact the JFK50 and the Emigrant Flame will have, Shaun Quinn, CEO of Fáilte Ireland said “It is fitting that in the year of The Gathering, when we celebrate Irish connections, that this symbol of one of its most famous sons has arrived to remind us of the still-potent bonds that exist between Ireland and the US. In many ways, the JFK50 celebrations and the Emigrant Flame are the purest example of what ‘The Gathering’ really seeks to be about – the continuing links between people, parishes and places, spanning divides of time, oceans and continents. We look forward to welcoming all those who return to our shores to visit Wexford and beyond this year.”

Following the lighting of the flame Judy Collins, to the accompaniment of Michael Londra, Valda and the American Spiritual Ensemble will perform ‘Amazing Grace’. In the skies above New Ross there will be a fly past salute from the Irish Air Corps.

Earlier in the day An Taoiseach will have officially opened the new visitor centre at the Kennedy Homestead and planted a tree in a ceremony to rededicate the John F Kennedy Memorial Park.

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.