Flame from JFK's graveside taking trip to his ancestral home county

Valerie Robinson Southern Correspondent

A FLAME from the graveside of President John F Kennedy is set to begin its journey today from Virginia to his ancestral home county of Wexford. It will be taken from the eternal flame at Arlington National Cemetery after the Kennedy family gave their blessing. It will then travel to Ireland as part of celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's visit in June 1963. During the historic visit, which was the first by a US president, JFK spent time in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick. He also travelled to New Ross, the town from which his great-grandfather Patrick had emigrated in 1835, travelling to Boston where he worked as a cooper. The eternal flame was lit at President Kennedy's graveside at the request of his widow Jacqueline following his assassination in Dallas just five months after his Irish visit. She wanted the flame to remind Americans that her husband had given his life for his country. During a ceremony at Arlington Cemetery today, attended by members of the Kennedy clan and Irish dignitaries, a flame will be taken from the memorial and placed in a specially designed 'Kennedy Lamp'.

Irish junior minister Paul Kehoe, who will be at the ceremony, paid tribute to the Kennedys for agreeing that the flame could be taken. "We will take this flame home to Ireland to light an emigrant flame in New Ross to honour all the emigrants, including Patrick Kennedy, who left our nation to start new lives in the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and countries across the globe," he said. "The flame is a symbol of tragedy but also of hope and what feelings could be more appropriate for the emigration story. The US and Irish military have developed a ceremony that will be a powerfully symbolic of our two nations' shared history.'' Participants will include members of New Ross Town Council, colour parties from the Irish Defence Force and the US Armed Services, the Special

Olympics Movement and the United States Peace Corps. Wexford natives Anthony Kearns and tenor Michael Londra will perform The Star-spangled Banner and Amhran na bhFiann. Irish soldiers will accompany the flame on a flight into Dublin Airport on Thursday where it will be transferred to the custody of the Irish Navy, travelling to New Ross aboard the Irish naval vessel LE Orla. On Saturday Taoiseach Enda Kenny, JFK's daughter Caroline Kennedy and his sister and former ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, who accompanied JFK on his 1963 trip, will ignite the new emigrant flame memorial at the JFK50 Ireland celebrations.

? 50 YEARS SINCE VISIT: President John F Kennedy


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