DUBLIN, IRELAND – The Irish government and the Kennedy clan celebrated the 50th anniversary of one of Ireland’s most fondly recalled moments, the visit of President John F. Kennedy, with a daylong street party Saturday that was capped by the lighting of Ireland’s own “eternal flame.”
“JFK 50: The Homecoming” celebrations focused on the County Wexford town of New Ross, from where Patrick Kennedy departed in 1848 at the height of Ireland’s potato famine to resettle in Boston. In June 1963, his great-grandson John returned to the town as the United States’ first and only Irish Catholic president. Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny joined JFK’s only surviving sibling, Jean Kennedy Smith, and his only surviving child, Caroline Kennedy, to hold three torches together that light a flame encased within an iron globe.
The flame had been carried Olympics-style from JFK’s plot in Arlington Cemetery by aircraft to Dublin, then by Irish navy vessel up the River Barrow to the New Ross dockside. It was the first time the Kennedy eternal flame had been passed along in this fashion.
“May it be a symbol of the fire in the Irish heart, imagination and soul,” Kenny told more than 10,000 who had gathered along the river bank.