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JFK'S FAMILY HOME; Kennedys descend on New Ross to mark 50th anniversary of iconic trip.

Byline: SARAH SLATER and CIARAN MURPHY irishsundaymirror@mgn.ie

THE next generation of Kennedys was out in force in New Ross yesterday.

They were remembering the 50th anniversary of late US President John F Kennedy's first official visit to his ancestral hometown.

And they were also there to celebrate the opening of a new visitors' centre at the ancestral home of Patrick Kennedy who left his home in nearby Dunganstown, Co Wexford, during famine times to start a better life in America.

His emigration led to the eventual election of his great grandson, the first Irish Catholic US President.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny officially opened the Kennedy Homestead visitors' centre where a tea party similar to one held for JF Kennedy was held.

On New Ross quayside an eternal flame, flown from his resting place in Arlington Cemetery in Virginia this week, was carried by Caroline, the daughter of JF Kennedy and only surviving child, and placed close to a statue depicting her late father.

The flame was reignited some two hours behind schedule - shortly after 6pm - owing in part to the large crowds which had thronged the town and quayside. gnited some hedule - wing in owds the ne Making an emotional speech, Caroline said: "There is no visit that meant more to him [her father] o e than Ireland. My first visit here was a few years after his death. t w h.

We met my aunt and other cousins." nd " Well-known names at the ceremony were Jean Kennedy-Smith, 85, sister of the slain President and former USes at e Jean sister of d former US Ambassador to Ireland, and Kathleen Kennedy-Townsend, his niece and daughter of his assassinated brother Robert, along with both men's grandchildren and up to another 30 relatives.

Mrs Kennedy-Smith said: "We have been given a wonderful welcome. We've had great days here and everything is going really well."

She added that many more visits by the Kennedys would be on the cards.

The former US Ambassador and her late sister Eunice Kennedy-Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics, accompanied the late President to New Ross on his visit 50 years ago. They came to rediscover their past.

Ireland is the only place where the eternal flame will burn outside of the United States.

The Kennedys' Wexford and Limerick cousins, the Ryans, Grennans and Fitzgeralds, were out in force.

Family members visited the Dunbrody, a famine-era replica ship that has been docked in New Ross since 2001 and is a major tourist attraction.

A niece of JFK, Kiki Kennedy, said: "We are so proud of our Irish heritage, and we draw so much strength and joy from connecting to Ireland."

The late President never got to return to Ireland in the springtime as he had promised during his speech on the quayside in 1963.

He was shot in Dallas, Texas, during a visit there four months after his four-day visit to Ireland which started on June 26.

The eternal flame was brought to New Ross by the Irish Navy ship LE Orla.

Thousands of people packed into the Wexford town yesterday to mark the anniversary of the JFK visit, and streets were festooned with Irish and American flags and bunting.

Around five years ago Jean Kennedy-Smith brought Ireland's then Finance Minister Brian Lenihan down to the Kennedy homestead now run by third cousin once removed Patrick Grennan.

She told Mr Lenihan the homestead needed financial backing to cope with hundreds of visitors who went there on an annual basis.

When her late brother and US Senator Ted Kennedy died a year later, the Government announced [euro]1.5million in funding and plans for a new JFK Trust to take over the running of it.

A delighted Grennan handed his property over to the state on a long-term lease with a nominal rent.

A bust to subseque homes mark par 19 A bust to Ted Kennedy was subsequently unveiled at the homestead, and it also marked the Kennedy tea party held there in 1963.

fhi "Nearly every year for the last 20 we have had a Kennedy in the place," said Grennan.

"They [locals] are used to Kennedys coming around here.

u c They don't even bat an eyelid."

Th eye M Air C Service in the celeb " More than 200 Army, Air Corps and Naval Service personnel took part in the celebrations surrounding the JFK 50 Festival.A beautiful wooden sculpture was presented to New Ross Town Council by the Ancient Artillery Company of Boston, of which the President was a member.

The Taoiseach said: "You [Caroline] are a true testament to the rearing of a good family despite all the burdens and pressures because of the name you carry.

"From the grave of the 35th President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the torch has been passed. We light this flame in honour of all our emigrants old and new.

"It will burn as a symbol of the affection we have for our diaspora, as a living sign that they are our family and we are theirs, no matter where they are in the world."

New Ross town manager Eamon Hore explained how as a six-year-old boy his only clear memory of the time was of President Kennedy's visit.

He said: "There's been a fantastic response [to the event], it's really been in the planning for about two years... but it's passed all our expectations.

"It's great the Kennedys gave their permission for this to happen.

"There's a huge love for the Kennedys and the family, which obviously goes back to the visit of JFK."

CAPTION(S):

Leader... John F Kennedy was proud of roots

Make it big... Taioseach and Kennedys prepare to cut tape at homestead in Co Wexford yesterday

Unveiling... Grace Kennedy Allen and Kiley Kennedy with bust of grandad Ted Kennedy Handover... Jean Kennedy-Smith with flame
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Jun 23, 2013
Words:974
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