RTÉ Archives is preparing an exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of President John F Kennedy’s visit to Ireland. It includes radio, television and RTÉ Guide coverage of the visit and his subsequent death five months later. It will be structured in 6 parts:
- Preparations for the Visit. This section includes TV news reports of the advance party sent by the White House to plan the visit and media preparations for live coverage of the event. A special supplement from the RTÉ Guide with full listings and bios of reporters will also be published.
- Day 1 – 26 June 1963. This section covers the night of President Kennedy’s arrival in Dublin, his welcome by President de Valera, the motorcade into Dublin city, featuring radio commentary by Terry Wogan, and JFK’s arrival at Áras an Uachtaráin.
- Day 2 – 27 June 1963. President Kennedy returns to his ancestral homeland of Co. Wexford. He makes a speech at the quayside in New Ross, from where his great-grandfather emigrated, and attends a tea party at the ancestral farm in Dunganstown, where his relatives still live. One of the radio reporters in Dunganstown is a very young John Bowman. Next, the president lays a wreath at the John Barry statue in Wexford before returning to Dublin for a garden party at Áras an Uachtaráin. Included here is a radio commentary on the garden party fashion.
- Day 3 – 28 June 1963. President Kennedy travels to Cork, where he receives the freedom of the city. There is radio commentary of him falling as he attempts to leave. Back in Dublin, he lays a wreath at Arbour Hill, where he is so impressed by the cadets that they are later asked to perform at his funeral. Next he goes to the Dáil, where TV cameras are allowed to film proceedings for the first time ever. President Kennedy presents an Irish Brigade flag from the American Civil War to the Irish people in recognition of what those soldiers and many other Irish did for the United States. Afterwards, he continues on to Dublin Castle, where he receives two honorary degrees and freedom of the city.
- Day 4 – 29 June 1963. President Kennedy travels west for the final leg of his visit. He makes a speech in Eyre Square in Galway, before travelling on to Limerick, where the mayor Frances Condell grants him freedom of the city in an amusing speech. Finally, he makes a farewell speech at Shannon and leaves in his jet.
- Death of President Kennedy. Only five months after his visit to Ireland, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Michael O’Hehir happened to be in New York at the time and phoned in a radio report of his death an hour later. He was then asked to cover the funeral, which was broadcast live via Telstar satellite. Some of the TV coverage is included here, but because of poor reception on the day, the images we show would not have been seen by the audience, though audio commentary remained available throughout.
Tributes broadcast by RTÉ include a moving address by Limerick mayor Frances Condell on television and a radio vox pop from the streets of Dublin by John Bowman. There is also footage of Ireland’s national day of mourning for the president on 26 November, when services and masses were held throughout the country. The final word goes to the poet Patrick Kavanagh, whose tribute to the president was published in the RTÉ Guide on 6 December 1963 as ‘The Murdered King’.