Kennedy clan sprinkles magic over New Ross for opening of homestead
Throughout long day in Wexford the Kennedys maintain charm and poise
Kiley Kennedy and Grace Kennedy Allen unveil a bust of Ted Kennedy, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Jean Kennedy Smithy and Caroline Kennedy, at the opening of the Kennedy homestead and visitor centre. Photograph: Eric Luke
Seamus Heaney speaking following the unveiling of a bust of John F Kennedy at the opening of the Kennedy homestead and visitor centre at New Ross. Photograph: Eric Luke
For a while on a bright Saturday afternoon in Dunganstown, the stars were out and shone brightly. The stars were the ordinary people of this corner of Wexford – the farmers, the teachers, the retired gardaí, the small business people, the retirees, the wives and mothers and their children.
Pat Greenan’s farmyard was like the scene at a happy village fete: all sunshine and flags fluttering on a breezy summer’s day, the smell of new paint and freshly cut grass scenting the air, and a marquee, a big white marquee, with tea and cakes and chat about what really matters – family and community.
The people moved about easily, men in their Sunday suits, women likewise dressed up and looking their best for an important occasion. The gardaí, senior officers and lower ranks, looked their best as well but were a little outclassed by the Defence Forces colour party, all spit and polish and that clipped military precision and formality that, in the instant of a command, can put shape on any occasion. A piper, Pte Finbar McCarthy, stood on a bank above the gathering and gave a perfect rendition of The Minstrel Boy, Dawning of the Day and Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore, the Derry lament of emigration. Down at the entrance to the brand new and beautifully executed OPW Kennedy Homestead Visitor Centre, the class of ‘63 stood in line to welcome.
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Warmth and friendship
And one by one, the awaited stars arrived. First came Jean Kennedy Smith, sprightly despite her frail appearance, the legacy of 85 years. She paused and chatted and greeted the local Kennedys like the family friends they are.
Then came Caroline Kennedy-Schlossberg, her husband Edwin, and their children, Rose (25), Tatiana (23) and 20-year-old Jack – the one all the girls adore and don’t hesitate to let him know. Throughout a long day of pressure – the pressure of crowds, of everyone wanting a piece of them, of media operating frequently on an “in-your-face” basis – they exuded warmth and friendship and seemingly genuine pleasure with everyone they met.
“Just pretend, will you,” an exasperated photographer instructed Jack, wanting him to raise a cup of tea to his mouth as he chatted to someone for whom that moment would doubtless be a highlight. Jack who, since being a toddler has lived his life under an incessant media gaze, kept his cool, obliged, and resumed his interrupted conversation.
Throughout a long day, at the homestead, in the arboretum and later still on the quayside in New Ross in the intimate company of perhaps eight or ten thousand people, the Kennedys kept their charm, their poise and sprinkled a little of their magic over everyone.
A perhaps unexpected star of the day was Enda Kenny. The Taoiseach carried himself with purpose throughout. And standing before a military colour party at the homestead, and again at the arboretum, as the Taoiseach’s Salute was played, he performed his formal duties with the dignity his office demands – and the public expects.