JFK’s ‘eternal flame’ gets a business class lift ‘home’…

From the Irish Times news blog

An “eternal flame” taken from the grave of former US president John F Kennedy, has arrived in Dublin ahead of the 50th anniversary of his visit. The flame disembarked an Aer Lingus plane this morning in the steady hands of Minister of State at the Department of Defence Paul Kehoe.

I’m as sentimental and dewy eyed as the next Irishman, but, really guys?

  • Alias

    Never mind the supposed austerity, where else in the world would you get a farce wherein a flame has a starring role, and the purpose is to mark a visit by a US president 50 years ago? It just goes to show how on the ball Clare Daly was when she accused the Irish government (as reported elsewhere in the IT blog) of pitiful obsequious to foreign authority:

    Taoiseach Enda Kenny said remarks by Independent TD Clare Daly were “disgraceful” after she claimed there was “almost unprecedented slobbering” over the Obama family’s visit.

    Ms Daly told Mr Kenny: “We were speculating this morning on whether you were going to deck the Cabinet out in leprechaun hats decorated with . . . stars and stripes to really mark abject humiliation.”

    Ms Daly also accused the Taoiseach in the Dáil of showcasing Ireland “as a nation of pimps, prostituting ourselves in return for a pat on the head”.

  • I wonder too about our relationship with US Presidents, totally uncritical etc., but I do believe these visits serve a purpose.

    Granted, it’s difficult to quantify outcomes, much easier to qualify, but still – it’s a good relationship to maintain.

    Does it all go too far? Probably.

    But almost more ludicrous than some of the kowtowing are those who get so overly animated in opposition to these things. Clare Daly makes a fair overall point – but her delivery I take issue with. Too far.

  • I am old enough to remember grainy black and white tv images from the Kennedy homestead in 1963.
    It was NOT his first visit. He had been there circa 1949 driving there from I think Lismore Castle in County Waterford where he was staying.
    To the immense credit of his distant relatives, I find the place extremely moving, because it could so easily be a tacky business. The wreath that President Kennedy laid at Arbour Hill, a reminder that the Guard of Honour at his graveside was Irish Army cadets.
    Yes Camelot was all a sham and those of us who were watching ITVs Take Your Pick around 7.15pm on 22nd November 1963 will always remember the programme being interupted for a newsflash.
    The only thing remaining of Camelot is the death of John F Kennedy…plus a tale of a father, Old Joe…who was a bad’un.
    But despite the serial and genetic womanising for the best part of a century from old Joes Holywood starlets, to “Happy Birthday Mr President” to Chappaquiddick (sp) not to mention vote-rigging in Chicago, there is at least a kernel of truth that this is a family that has served USA well…and been on the side of the goodies.
    Local unionists wont see it that way. They will see American interference and will see that the bad stuff outweighs the good stuff.

    Yet it is impossible to disconnect June 1963 in County Wexford (or Berlin) with what happened in November 1963 in Dallas, Texas.
    I dont know if Obama really meant what he said in Belfast, earlier this week. I am skepical of the hero worship. Here is an American President who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize being lauded by a Belfast audience….too young to know that a Nobel Peace laureate (1976) from Belfast was at the City Hall…protesting American policy including potentially arming Syrian rebels and mis-using drones.
    As an American Facebook friend put it…”Obama is a Chicago politician”.

    Certainly there were aspects of this week that went over the top. Clare Daly overstates it. It was all mildly embarrassing but not a national humiliation.
    A junior Minister arrives at Dublin Airport with an eternal flame. Certainly its risible but no more or less risible than David Beckham landing in Cornwall (???) with the Olympic Flame.

    My most recent visit to the Kennedy homestead was in September 2003….like I say its understated and genuine. And I would have thought that I was at heart ….nuanced….about the whole Camelot thing.
    Good and Bad things there.
    But a letter written by JFK hangs there…..he writes to a friend after that visit in circa 1949. He notes that his socialite woman friend says that the people were like people from “Tobacco Road” and Kennedy rounds on her for missing the point that they had great dignity.

    And at heart that sums Kennedy up….the spoiled socialite who actually saw a lot of dignity in unlikely places. Thats what made him different.

  • Brian Walker

    I too grew up to Kennedy We have to remember that JFK was the first full on, 100% Irish American to make it right to the top while outgrowing its rough image and taking on the mantle of the WASP elite which had so looked down on his kind, the aspiring Boston Irish ( “all lace curtains and no knickers”).

    Kennedy was bound to be a political artefact but no more than many others. It was just that he was a better creation than almost any other one in his time. Witness the rueful jealousies of Nixon and LBJ both of whom were also well placed to appreciate his real qualities.

    It doesn’t do justice to history to write Kennedy off as phoney. He did human (maybe all too human). He did have charisma as a speaker. Witness the response to the Ich Bin ein Berliner speech. America’s decision to hold the line in Europe from the Berlin airlift of 1948 to the fall of the Wall is one of those epochal matters that are so big that they became taken for granted, quite wrongly. Kennedy boldly chose a time of high tension to confirm the commitment, impressing Khruschev who had written him off after the Bay of Pigs invasion fiasco in 1961.
    As we can judge for ourselves from the tapes, we have great cause to be grateful for the way he personally handled the Cuban missile crisis of 1982.

    His visit to Ireland was a live TV first. Of course it was partly to boost his image for re-election but you could clearly see how eager he was to capture a flavour of his ancestral past. I remember him holding a mug of tea in one hand a soda farl in the other in the open air at New Ross and chatting away. From Ben Bradlee’s memoir of him and other sources he was genuinely moved by his Irish heritage. And why would he not be? He told Bradlee “I want to do something for Ireland” but never got around for it. What it might have been is difficult to guess.

    Being pro- Irish didn’t mean anti-British. On his way to Berlin he stopped off for a summit with Harold Macmillan to whom he was connected via the Devonshires. If you want the sex angles, his sister Kathleen (“Kick”) was killed in an air crash on her home from Paris with her lover in 1948. And he said to Macmillan: “If I don’t have a woman every day I get a headache.” Mac who was a cuckold, never said what he thought of this after retailing the quote . Was he just a little envious?

    Everyone has their own opinion about the truth behind the Camelot image. This was droit de seigneur on a grand scale not untypical of grandees everywhere and in every era, certainly not in the US just before the permissive sixties when everybody wanted a share of the action . The difference is that the media are more intrusive today. Even Kennedy might have trouble preventing exposure in the 1964 election.

    One impact of JFK on this teenager with a Northern unionist background was to feel how daft was the campaign to vote against him because he was a Catholic. His answer on the stump was a model of its kind.

  • Rory Carr

    Clare Daly appears to have become so intoxicated by her intemperate language that she lost sight of meaning. Pimps do not prostitute themselves – rather they profit from the prostitution of others more vulnerable than themselves.

    As for the bringing of a brand from the eternal flame on JFK’s Arlington grave to burn in Ireland, I do not find this exercise particularly maudlin or falsely saccharine-sweet. John F.Kennedy, however one views his legacy, was held in great esteem and fond sentiment by the people of Ireland in his lifetime and a lasting commemoration to his memory n the land of his ancestors to which he was most attached seems not at all inappropriate to me at least.

  • Some excellent points there.
    Am I right in thinking that this was “live TV” and the first time RTE had sent pictures via Eurovision. In the 1960s we always got a buzz out of the Eurovision logo and anthem.
    But Im not sure how the media would have handled Kennedy in 1964?.
    Mr Walker is absolutely right that the media was not intrusive…and indeed the media did not reveal the extent of FDRs disability (acceptable) or the relationship with his secretary whose name eludes me right now.

    but its a thin line between not being intrusive and not reporting the truth. Arguably the respectable Republican press ( and it pains me to say is to their credit) did not report all that they knew about the dalliances.
    and arguably the good guys in the “Democrat” press actually knew a lot more about relevant (Illinois) and irrelevant stuff and just hushed it all up.
    This was the same kinda information that Ben Bradlee would love to have discovered about Nixon ten years later.
    whether it was an age of reverance or complicity….Im inclined to think both.

  • sonofstrongbow

    The Simpsons’ Mayor Quimby has JFK nailed. Although an elderly relation of mine would not have agreed. As a child when visiting her I remember she had photographs on the wall of Kennedy and Pope Paul (VI?) on either side of a Jesus with an illuminated heart.

    I’m often struck by the Republic’s relationship with Uncle Sam. For me it’s a little like a deadbeat parent living vicariously through a more successful child’s life, even though they had diddlee squat to do with that success.

    I came through Dublin airport this St. Patrick’s Day. The terminal was bedecked with the Irish Tricolour and the Stars and Stripes, with Old Glory edging it in the numbers game.

    Strange. Perhaps it’s a, not so subliminal, cri de coeur to be the 51st State? Maybe the grab for a US President’s lineage is just part of it.

    Strange. Given that it is the government of that island east of Ireland that has more often made common cause with the US of A.

  • More usually the iconic image Son of Strongbow refers to was JFK, Jackie and Pope John XXIII. The Jesus with the illuminated heart was/is known as the Sacred Heart and back in the 1960s a fairly good guide to knowing what kinda house you were in.
    Often other houses would have a picture of a Queen.
    I dont see it as especially surprising to see Irish and American flags at Dublin Airport on St Patricks Day. After all many Americans arriving in Ireland especially to celebrate what was originally an Irish-American holiday.
    And one imported to Ireland.
    and that perhaps is the connexion.
    That St Patricks Day post Fenian at least in USA was an assertion ofIrish etnicity that actually predated Irish nationality.

    The”in your face” attitude of longshoremen, railroad workers and domestic servants culminated in the election of John F Kennedy in 1960. And that did produce a knock on effect in Ireland and his visit was a key factor in that.

  • sherdy

    I wouldn’t knock the idea – we have very few bright lights of our own – so let’s welcome the flame and whatever comes with it.

  • I guess that feeling sour for some reason, she decided to deal with it by putting down her fellow citizens for being happy. Perhaps makes her think that she is superior to the plebs.

  • SK

    “For me it’s a little like a deadbeat parent living vicariously through a more successful child’s life, even though they had diddlee squat to do with that success.”


    Can’t be much worse than the relationship of the island next door, akin to a jilted girlfriend who just can’t seem to let go of that “special relationship” she once had but that has long since faded. Ah, unrequited love.

    Footage of the recent Boston tragedy showed that city bedecked in almost as many tricolours as there were stars and stripes. I was taken aback by that. The President’s own city of Chicago still dyes its rivers green every year in honour of us. You can’t see a cop movie based in New York without catching a glimpse of the NYPD pipe band flying the flag of the Irish Republic alongside its nation’s own.

    Shmoltzy? Yeah a bit. But you know as well as I do that there are many a yank who have quite the soft spot for us lot. The snide remarks suggest that bothers you, which makes it all the more enjoyable.

  • tacapall

    “For me it’s a little like a deadbeat parent living vicariously through a more successful child’s life, even though they had diddlee squat to do with that success.”

    Over three hundred thousand Irish slaves were forced to plant the first seeds of British colonialism in the New World, Im sure most people except those slave masters across the water would agree that Ireland and Africa were the work horses that built the foundations of what is now known as corporate America.

  • Innuendo

    “For me it’s a little like a deadbeat parent living vicariously through a more successful child’s life…”

    By that analogy, would you say that Northern Ireland a 93-year old man still sucking at his dead mother’s tit?

    “…even though they had diddlee squat to do with that success.”

    Oh Lordy, where does one even start with that?

  • sonofstrongbow

    ‘When Irish eyes are smiling…………’ 🙂