JFK 'a symbol of what is possible for immigrants', Tánaiste tells Boston audience

JFK 'a symbol of what is possible for immigrants', Tánaiste tells Boston audience

TÁNAISTE Micheál Martin has described American President John F Kennedy as 'a symbol of what is possible for immigrants' during a speech in Massachusetts.

Mr Martin was speaking at the Kennedy Library in Boston on Saturday at an event to mark the upcoming 60th anniversary of President Kennedy's visit to Ireland.

He described the legacy of the four-day trip in June 1963 as a symbol of 'how Ireland shaped the United States, and how the United States in turn has shaped Ireland'.

The event was the latest in a series of engagements for the Tánaiste during his week-long visit to the US as part of this year's St Patrick's celebrations.

'Not just an Irish story'

Describing the rise of the Kennedy clan from emigrants fleeing famine to the highest echelons of US Government, Mr Martin said the story was an inspiration to all immigrants.

"When Patrick Kennedy from Dunganstown, Co. Wexford, left Ireland with his fiancée Bridget Murphy during the Great Famine of the 1840s, he could not have imagined that his great-grandson would become the leader of the young, new country where he was seeking refuge," said the Tánaiste.

"Especially since he brought with him nothing but a strong religious faith and a desire for liberty, as President Kennedy famously told the people of Ireland when he returned to the land of his ancestors over 100 years later in June 1963."

Mr Martin added: "But his is not just an Irish story, it is an immigrant story.

"I am aware this building regularly hosts ceremonies for new citizens of the United States.

"It must, I think, be profoundly meaningful for them to hear how an immigrant family which came to this country with so little, could in the space of a few generations, rise to the very pinnacle of political life.

"President Kennedy has become a symbol of what is possible for immigrants in this country."

'GFA was made in America'

The Tánaiste also praised the ongoing influence of the Kennedy family on the Peace Process, with this year marking the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

"I'm thinking in particular of the enormous contributions made by Senator Ted Kennedy, Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, Representative Joe Kennedy II and now Special Envoy Joe Kennedy III," said Mr Martin.

"Because, while the Good Friday Agreement belongs first and foremost to the people of Northern Ireland, it was, in many ways, 'made in America'.

"US politicians, businesspeople and the community played a vital role on the path to peaceful and just political settlement in Northern Ireland."

The Tánaiste’s speech was followed by a concert at the library, presented by the Metropolitan Chorale and Fellswater.

Mr Martin’s two-day trip to Massachusetts concludes on Sunday, when he will take part in the Holyoke St Patrick’s Day parade.