President John F. Kennedy stands in an open car while a large crowd cheers as the President’s motorcade passes through Cork, Ireland. June 29, 1963
With today’s meeting of Queen Elizabeth and former IRA leader Martin McGuiness now part of history, it seems appropriate to remember another historic visit to Ireland that also took place on June 27 . John Fitzgerald Kennedy – the first Catholic elected as president of the United States – was quite proud of his Irish roots and heritage. As part of his 10-day trip to Europe in late June/early July of 1963, Kennedy stopped over in Ireland for four days. He visted deValera in Dublin, then Cork and Galway where he was wildly greeted. A special visit to his ancestral home in Dunganstown, County Wexford, the cottage of Mary Kennedy Ryan a distant relative and the welcome from his Irish cousins may have been the highlight for the President. A local crowd waving both American and Irish flags greeted the President and he was then serenaded by a boys choir that sang “The Boys of Wexford.” The ballard – commemorating the Irish Rebellion of 1798 – had Kennedy singing along as he must have done many times with his maternal grandfather, former Mayor of Boston John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald ~ (Chorus): “We are the boys of Wexford /Who fought with heart and hand /To burst in twain the galling chain /And free our native land.”
President Kennedy and his sisters, Jean Kennedy Smith* and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, during their visit to the Kennedy family’s Irish homestead in Dunganstown, County Wexford, for a family reunion. June 27, 1963
When warned by aide Kenny O’Donnel that “You’ve got all the Irish votes in this country that you’ll ever get… If you go to Ireland, people will say it’s just a pleasure trip.” To which Kennedy responded: “That’s exactly what I want!”
The stop in Ireland came just after President Kennedy’s memorable and famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech at the Berlin Wall. The fact that JFK was tragically assassinated months later only makes this trip all the more poignant. From the Cork Examiner ~ “When John Fitzgerald Kennedy set foot on Irish soil he made a mark on the history of this country that can never be effaced.”
JFK bids a fond farewell to the land and people of his roots! President Kennedy leaving Ireland from Shannon Airport ending his 1963 visit.
*Note: Jean Kennedy Smith later served as the 25th U.S. Ambassador to Ireland (1993-1998) – appointed by President Clinton.