JFK in Ireland

26th June 1963
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On the 26th of June, 1963, John F. Kennedy became the first U.S. president to visit Ireland.

In late June of 1963, the streets of Ireland came to a standstill as JFK, the president of the United States of America came to visit our small nation. He was the first serving U.S. president to make the journey, though the welcome he received ensured that he would not be the last. The trip to Dublin was made immediately after his visit to Berlin where he delivered his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech. RTÉ, or Teilifís Éireann as it was known then, was still a very new phenomenon for the Irish, as it had only been in existence for 18 months. Broadcasting the presidential visit was a huge undertaking for the radio and television service providers but thankfully, they were up to the challenge. Archival footage of the visit can be found here

JFK was proud of his Irish ancestry. His mother was Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald, descended from Thomas Fitzgerald (1823-1885) from Bruff, Co. Limerick and Rose Anna Cox (1836-1879) from Co. Cavan. His father was descended from Patrick Kennedy (1823-1858), a cooper from Dunganstown, Co. Wexford and Bridget Murphy (1827-1888) from Owenduff, also in Co. Wexford. 

Air Force 1 landed in Dublin Airport late on the evening of June 26th. JFK was greeted and officially welcomed to Ireland by Éamonn DeValera (President) and Séan Lemass (Taoiseach) before travelling to Phoenix Park by motorcade. The Irish people turned out in their droves to greet the president, and he was met with large cheering crowds wherever he went. On the second day of his visit, JFK visited his paternal ancestral home in Dunganstown, New Ross Co. Wexford, where he stayed for tea and cake before returning to Phoenix Park that evening. Day three saw JFK taking a helicopter to Cork where he was given the freedom of the city. After this JFK returned to Dublin once more, where he laid a wreath at Arbour Hill where the executed leaders of the 1916 Rising are commemorated. He went to Leinster House where he addressed the Houses of the Oireachtas, the first non-Irish person to do so. On his last evening in Dublin, JFK received 2 honorary degrees and the freedom of Dublin city. JFK's final day in Ireland was spent in Galway and Limerick where he was given the freedom of both cities before flying out of Shannon Airport and continuing on his European Tour. 

JFK was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on the 22nd of November 1963. Only 5 months after his visit to Ireland. 

 

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