John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks at Redmond Place in Wexford.

June 27, 1963

Mr. Mayor, Chairman of the Council, Mr. Minister, my friends:

I want to express my pleasure at being back from whence I came. There is an impression in Washington that there are no Kennedys left in Ireland, that they are all in Washington, so I wonder if there are any Kennedys in this audience. Could you hold up your hand so I can see?

Well, I am glad to see a few cousins who didn't catch the boat.

And I am glad to take part in this ceremony this morning for John Barry. I have had in my office since I was President the flag that he flew and the sword that he wore. It is no coincidence that John Barry and a good many of his successors played such a leading part in the American struggle, not only for independence, but for its maintenance. About 2 months ago I visited the Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest battlefield in the American Civil War, and one of the monuments to the dead was to the Irish Brigade. In Fredericksburg, which was another slaughter, the Irish Brigade was nearly wiped out. They went into battle wearing a sprig of green in their hats and it was said of them what was said about Irishmen in other countries: "War battered dogs are we, gnawing a naked bone, fighting in every land and clime, for every cause but our own."

It seems to me that in these dangerous days when the struggle for freedom is worldwide against an armed doctrine, that Ireland and its experience has one special significance, and that is that the people's fight, which John Boyle O'Reilly said outlived a thousand years, that it was possible for a people over hundreds of years of foreign domination and religious persecution--it was possible for that people to maintain their national identity and their strong faith. And therefore those who may feel that in these difficult times, who may believe that freedom may be on the run, or that some nations may be permanently subjugated and eventually wiped out, would do well to remember Ireland.

And I am proud to come here for another reason, because it makes me even prouder of my own country. My country welcomed so many sons and daughters of so many countries, Irish and Scandinavian, Germans, Italian, and all the rest, and gave them a fair chance and a fair opportunity. The Speaker of the House of Representatives is of Irish descent. The leader of the Senate is of Irish descent. And what is true of the Irish has been true of dozens of other people. In Ireland I think you see something of what is so great about the United States; and I must say that in the United States, through millions of your sons and daughters and cousins-25 million, in fact--you see something of what is great about Ireland.

So I am proud to be here. I am proud to have connected on that beautiful golden box the coat of arms of Wexford, the coat of arms of the kingly and beautiful Kennedys, and the coat of arms of the United States. That is a very good combination.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:40 p.m. His opening words referred to Thomas F. Burne, Mayor of Wexford; James I. Bowe, Chairman of the County Council; and Frank Aiken, Minister of External Affairs.

After leaving New Ross that morning the President and his party drove to Dunganstown to visit the farm where Patrick Kennedy had spent his early years. Hostess for the occasion was Mrs. Mary Kennedy Ryan, third cousin to the President, who had assembled about 25 relatives and the Parish Priest for a family reunion. The President was shown the house and was served light refreshments in the farmyard. He gave no speech but proposed a simple toast "to the Kennedys who went away and to the Kennedys who stayed behind."

The President then flew to Wexford where he laid a wreath at the Barry Memorial--a 1956 gift from the U.S. Government to the people of Ireland. He then proceeded to Redmond Place where he spoke and was given the freedom of Wexford.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks at Redmond Place in Wexford. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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