Kennedy clan honour their fallen son

 A member of the public in the Thomas Fitzgerald Centre in Bruff.  Picture: Brian Gavin/Press 22

The last of the Irish cousins of the famous Kennedy dynasty gathered at their ancestral homestead to remember John F Kennedy yesterday.

A small group of relatives and friends met at the farmhouse in Dunganstown, Co Wexford, to pay their respects and celebrate the late president’s legacy 50 years on.

Pat Kennedy, 72, the last of the cousins to carry the famous name, said the commemoration evoked strong memories of the notorious day his third cousin was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. “This brings it all back,” he said. “It makes you feel sad.

“But we’re proud as well of all the achievements of the Kennedy family.”

The retired farmer was among relations who welcomed the president to the humble homestead where the Kennedy story began just five months before his death in 1963. “After 50 years this is nearly bringing it to a closure,” he said.

A number of events were held in and around New Ross, Co Wexford, to mark the anniversary. An official state ceremony was held at the nearby JFK Arboretum, which was opened in 1968 by then Irish president Éamon de Valera.

Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Battalion from Stephen’s Barracks in Kilkenny formed a guard of honour as Government ministers Brendan Howlin and Paul Keogh arrived to lay a ceremonial wreath after a lone piper played ‘She Moved Through the Fair’. A minute’s silence was followed by a rendition of ‘The Last Post’.

Both the Irish Tricolour and the US flag were hoisted from half to full mast, as the national anthems of both countries played.

Recalling JFK’s Irish visit, Mr Howlin said: “It instilled a renewed sense of national pride, of optimism for the future in a rapidly changing world and a belief that Ireland had a significant role to play in that world.”

In Dublin, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore led tributes at a wreath-laying ceremony at the US Embassy. Mr Gilmore said Kennedy’s assassination was etched indelibly in his own memory and that of his generation.

“It is particularly sad for us as Irish people, given the special place which President Kennedy held in our hearts,” he said. “Just a few short months prior to his untimely death, we had rejoiced together with him and his family during his memorable visit to these shores in June 1963. It was a visit that brought Ireland and the United States together in a rare and moving way.”

Patrick Grennan still lives at the ancestral Kennedy homestead in Dunganstown and his grandmother Mary Ryan — a third cousin of the president — was gifted his rosary beads and commander-in-chief dog tags after his death.

Mr Grennan said the commemorations were fitting and dignified. “I think it is amazing that, 50 years on, there’s still such attention on President Kennedy. Every newspaper we’ve opened in the last couple of weeks, every television station, is running something on Kennedy.

“There’s a film coming out — it’s just amazing how 50 years on his memory continues to capture the world. His youth and his vigour lives on.”

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