Published: Thu, 26 November 2015
The Thomas Fitzgerald Heritage centre, Bruff, Co Limerick was the location of a special memorial tribute to the late US President John F. Kennedy on Sunday last where keynote speaker Seán Kelly MEP paid tribute to “one of the most popular and iconic political figures of the past century – JFK”.
“With his family hailing from right here in Bruff, John F. Kennedys links with Ireland were great and today we still reap the benefits from some of the work he did for US-Irish relations. Kennedy regularly acknowledged his Irish roots and made an historic visit to Ireland and indeed came here to Limerick in June 1963, just five months prior to his tragic death, this day 52 years ago. A proud Irish American, he later said that the Irish trip was “one of the most moving experiences” of his life,” MEP Kelly told attendees.
“An interesting fact about the Limerick leg of the trip is that it wasn’t originally part of his itinerary; however through some great work by Steve Coughlan TD and Mayor of Limerick Frances Condell, it was ensured that the great man would visit this great county. In May 1963, Mayor Condell, the first female mayor of Limerick, wrote to the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland calling for Limerick’s inclusion and outlining how ‘arrangements for a visit to Limerick can be speedily made.’
“The Limerick visit would be Kennedy’s last event in Ireland and he spoke at Greenpark Racecourse, promising the crowd that he would return in the Spring time – sadly, this was not to be.”
Kennedy told the people of Limerick that “This is a great country with a great people…This is not the land of my birth but it is the land to which I hold the greatest affection.” Not Irish by birth, but we welcomed him as Irish nonetheless, Kelly said.
Mr Kelly spoke of the extremely unique and privileged relationship Ireland has with the US, with some 40 million Americans claiming Irish ancestry.
“This close relationship is one of great success and real achievement on many levels. The US and Irish-Americans have played a central role in the achievement of peace (both in securing Irish Independence and in bringing about a ceasefire in Northern Ireland) and in Ireland’s economic development. Much of this Irish-American friendship can be traced back to John F Kennedy and his family.”
In closing, Mr Kelly remembered the most recent victims of the Paris terrorist attacks, adding: “In light of recent tragedies, I leave you on a sombre note. I was reminded of a quote from Kennedy this week in a speech he gave to the UN in 1961: Mankind must put an end to war – or war will put an end to mankind. Wise words that have perhaps never sounded more logical.”