JFK emigrant flame arrives in Ireland
A flame taken from the eternal one on US president John F Kennedy’s grave has arrived in Ireland as part of events to mark 50 years since his visit.
More than 30 members of the Kennedy family will be in the country over the next few days for a series of engagements to commemorate the June 1963 trip.
Caroline Kennedy, JFK’s daughter, met President Michael D Higgins at Aras an Uachtarain this morning as celebrations began.
The flame, lit from president Kennedy’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, will be used on Saturday to light the new Emigrant Flame at a ceremony in his ancestral home of New Ross, Co Wexford.
Paul Kehoe, government chief whip, travelled from America with the flame.
“The journey of this flame from the grave of president Kennedy to the land of his ancestors and finally to the spot where his great-grandfather stepped on board an emigrant ship is a symbolic one,” he said.
“This flame will now continue on its journey in the safe hands of the Naval Service where it will be used to light an emigrant flame in New Ross on Saturday.”
Mr Kehoe and a Defence Forces’ colour party arrived in Dublin Airport this morning with the flame.
Children from fifth and sixth classes at Scoil Mhuire New Ross, Co Wexford were among the guests to greet the party, waving American and Irish flags.
Lieutenant Commander Conor Kirwan, captain of the LE Orla, will take the flame in a specially designed miner’s lamp on the naval vessel to Wexford.
Among some of the family in Ireland for the events are JFK’s sister and a former US ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith, his daughter Caroline, former Congressman and Ted Kennedy’s son Patrick, and Bobby Kennedy’s daughter and son Kathleen and Douglas.
One of the key events of The Kennedy Homecoming celebrations is the official opening of the new Kennedy Homestead Visitor Centre in Dunganstown, Co Wexford on Saturday.
Patrick Grennan, JFK’s third cousin and the Kennedys’ living link to Ireland, farms the land where the homestead sits.
He has been appointed curator of the new visitor centre after dedicating his time over the years to showing tourists around the location.
A new centre has been developed at the homestead next to the original farmhouse where J F Kennedy’s great grandfather Patrick was born and lived before he emigrated to the US in 1848.
An exhibition explores the circumstances of his departure from Ireland and pieces together the story of the most famous Irish-American family through the 20th century to the present day.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Caroline Kennedy and Jean Kennedy-Smith will light the Emigrant Flame in a special ceremony on Saturday.