Watch the live stream: Kennedy Summer School resumes after year absence

Event features discussions around Irish and American history, culture, and politics

Footage of former US president John F Kennedy's visit to New Ross, Co Wexford in June 1963 - filmed by local woman Peggy Walsh, now aged 98 - is to be donated to the Kennedy Book and Research Archive at New Ross Library. Video: Peggy Walsh

 

After an absence last year due to pandemic, the Kennedy Summer School has resumed this weekend with a series of discussion panels around Irish and American history, culture, and politics.

The opening night event this evening is the Noel Whelan interview between Zara King and Luke O’Neill, professor of biochemistry at Trinity College Dublin on Friday at 6pm.

This live event, before a restricted, sold out audience at St Michael’s Theatre in New Ross, will see an opening speech by Séamus Whelan, son of the late Noel Whelan, founder of the Kennedy Summer School, before professor O’Neill discusses the turbulence of life during Covid-19 with King.

Following this will be a panel discussion chaired by Eileen Dunne on the question: “How polarised is America?”

Two prominent Irish-Americans, Mick Mulvaney and Brendan Boyle, a Republican and Democrat respectively, feature in this debate.

The final interview tonight will be the Edward M Kennedy interview, during which Tommie Gorman will speak to former taoiseach, Bertie Ahern.

Saturday starts with a panel of historians assessing the causes of partition in Ireland and discuss the enduring impact of the Border in Irish politics.

The panel includes Dr Bill Kissane (London School of Economics), Dr Cormac Moore (Historian in Residence), Prof Donnacha Ó Beacháin (Dublin City University), and Dr Margaret O’Callaghan (Queens University, Belfast). The meeting will be chaired by Dr Mary Murphy (University College Cork).

Kennedy Summer School live stream

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An Irish Politics session will then take place as leading Irish female politicians will debate topical issues and take questions from the audience.

Chaired by Mary Regan the panel will feature Jennifer Carroll MacNeill TD (Fine Gael), Mairéad Farrell TD (Sinn Féin), Neasa Hourigan TD (Green Party), and Jennifer Whitmore TD (Social Democrats).

There will then be a panel discussion by journalists of some of the more significant crime cases of recent years.

This panel includes Frank Greaney, Órla O’Donnell, Vivienne Traynor, and Conor Gallagher. The event will be chaired by Ken Murphy.

The final session will be a discussion of the challenges of reporting on America in a time of tumult. Three Irish journalists based in the US, Brian O’Donovan, Donie O’Sullivan, and Suzanne Lynch, will give their thoughts on Donald Trump and the “new” media in a session chaired by Larry Donnelly.

The summer school also featured a screening of previously unseen footage of John F Kennedy’s visit to Ireland which has been rediscovered after almost five decades.

The 20-minute colour film, recorded in New Ross, Co Wexford, on June 27th, 1963, was shot by Peggy Walsh, a local resident who is now 98, during the US president’s visit to the town.

The Kennedys trace their roots to Dunganstown, about 8km from New Ross; Patrick Kennedy, JFK’s great-grandfather, left Ireland during the Famine in 1848.

The president, who travelled to Ireland five months before his assassination, described his visit as an emigrant homecoming.

“It took 115 years to make this trip, and 6,000 miles, and three generations,” he said in a speech by the River Barrow. The spot is marked by a statue and an “emigrant flame” dedicated to the diaspora. It was lit by a torch taken from the eternal flame by Kennedy’s grave, at Arlington National Cemetery, in Virginia.

The footage has “been in a drawer for nearly 50 years without anyone going near it”, says Walsh’s daughter Ann Larkin. “To have it now and have it looking so good” - the film was digitised by another New Ross resident, Paddy Breen - “is just fantastic. When you see the crowds around him, the freedom and the friendliness of it, it really was like a homecoming.”

Ms Walsh and Ms Larkin are donating the film to New Ross Library’s Kennedy Book and Research Archive, an offshoot of the annual Kennedy Summer School that was formed in 2017, on the 100th anniversary of President Kennedy’s birth.

The full programme can be viewed here.