Friday, June 29, 2007

John F. Kennedy's Irish visit...a brief reflection.

I'm possibly one of the youngest people alive who has a distinct recollection of John F. Kennedy's visit to Ireland in the summer of 1963. I was eight years old at the time. Today marks the 44th anniversary of Kennedy's departure from Ireland at the end of his visit.

One very representative memory actually came from my eighteen year old cousin who was staying in our house as a student in Dublin. She set off on her bicycle to Dublin airport to try to see the President. She left late and was warned by my mother that she would see nothing due to all the crowds. In any event she returned home after a few hours in a high state of excitement. My cousin related to us how she had been peddling along the road on the way to the airport when to her shock she saw the presidential cavalcade approaching up ahead. Stumbling off her bicycle she stood as a lone isolated figure on the roadside and began waving at the big limousine. To her utter amazement President Kennedy spotted the tall attractive lass with the bicycle on the roadside and waved back to her! Well I don't think my cousin could have felt any better if she had been given a personal autograph from the four Beatles!

It's hard to get across today to people how hugely important the Kennedy visit was at the time. Kennedy helped to teach all age groups in Ireland to stop being shy and introverted as part of a small nation. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was a great grandchild of Irish emigrants. In many ways he remained a very pure Irish figure from both his paternal and maternal roots. Here he was coming back to Ireland as president of the most powerful nation on Earth. And he was one of us. Plus he was charming, full of humour, young, tall and handsome and had time for everyone he met. It's often a dull cliche when Americans say they love Ireland but there is ample evidence that Kennedy's love was genuine and heartfelt. Personal stories abound of him making time to mingle longer than scheduled with so many local people during his visit.

All his speeches including the address to the Irish Parliament were powerful and easy to follow - even for me as an eight year old kid. He was a great motivator, he respected everything Ireland had achieved and showed us we can reach any goals we dream of. Kennedy himself was living proof of this.

Some of you will remember the idolatry the man enjoyed in Ireland in the 1960s following his visit and indeed his assassination that same year. In our house and most others there were pictures of Kennedy on the wall which enjoyed a respect and reverence only narrowly beaten in intensity by the Sacred Heart of Jesus picture. There was open weeping when Kennedy died and everyone in Ireland from my age upwards can tell you exactly what they were doing when they heard of his shooting.

I don't think it is any exaggeration to say that Kennedy's presidency was the genesis of considerable tangible American commercial interest in Ireland coupled with a growing self-belief that we Irish could stand tall with any nation.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A new Government with a rub of the Green.

Some brief comments....

1. I'm very pleased for Brian Lenihan being made Minister for Justice. He has impressed me a lot in recent years. He is a calm intelligent man of barrister background who never gets caught out in any tough debates. Something about the man's demeanor makes me wonder if he could be Taoiseach material in the distant Biffo (Brian Cowan) I guess. It's also nice to see him carrying the torch of his late father and namesake.

2. The Greens in Government. It can only do good for us all. I think they might be maturing as a party. I've been impressed by Eamon Ryan in debates. John Gormley less so, but let's see what happens. But it's clever how roads were taken out of Environment (Gormley's gig) into Transport and also Roche signing the M3 as his last act. All prearranged with the Greens in the recent hot talks - I've little doubt at all on this.

3. It's a major achievement for Bertie Ahern and assures him of a unique place in history. The tribunal is the only thing which could tarnish him now. However it's looking less likely as Tom Gilmartin's credibility as a witness is fading somewhat following recent retractions etc.

FG and Labour must be as sick as parrots. FF have the numbers, flexibility and clout to do deals with anyone to stay in Government. I've said this again and again in previous Blogs...FG must get bigger organically on their own, they've made a good recovery from the last election and I'm sure their day in the sun will come. As good as Brian Cowan might be as a vote getter and his nice Santa Claus budgets, I don't think he has great personality, nor he is ideal Taoiseach material in the wake of Bertie Ahern. If Biffo leads FF into the next election and FG have Enda Kenny and strong candidates - they could beat FF.

Anyway, a good Government seems to have been formed in my opinion.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Another daughter turns 21!

Our middle daughter, Jill, turned 21 today. It's a nice feeling for us as parents. You think back to her day of birth.

9th June 1986 was a lovely sunny day in Dublin - just like today was. Jill was born at 6.55 am. She was 24 days late and maybe that helped her to turn out to be nearly 9 pounds at birth!

I'll never forget walking down Grafton Street afterwards in the sunshine to buy flowers. It felt amazing. You would think that having experienced the joy of out firstborn, Amy, that a second birth would be getting routine. That was so far from the truth. Maybe because we had been through confusion and fear etc. with a first time experience it was now a time to focus more on the wonders of it all this time. And now there was Amy at two and half years old to be told about it all and be part of it. It was brilliant bringing Amy in to see her new little sister. The start of a lifelong friendship.

Jill has already had her party, so today we had fun with her opening presents. As I type this she is enjoying Beyonce in concert at the Point in Dublin with a pal.

Life ain't too bad at all!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Sgt Pepper taught the band to play!

A bit of deserved publicity yesterday for the Beatles with the Sgt Pepper album's 40th anniversary. I was only twelve at the time but I recall all the hype. It was a big transitional album for the Fab 4 and it got me more and more interested in the Beatles. I think this album was a big artistic break for them and moved them on to being much more than a good pop band with catchy music. What a great album cover too.

I loved Sgt Pepper, The White double album (I recall listening to every single track of it live on radio the night before release - on Radio Luxembourg or Radio Caroline - Grandad on Head Rambles might recall which!), Let it Be and my personal favourite album Abbey Road. I love singing or quoting some mad Beatles lyrics when I'm in a good mood, they are so retro and typical sixties pseudo philosophical. Some examples include...

* Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly, a girl with kaleidoscope eyes.

* It's wonderful to be here, it's certainly a thrill, you're such a lovely audience we'd like to take you home with us, we'd love to take you home.

* What would you think if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me?

* You should see Polythene Pam, she's so good looking but she looks like a man!

* Hey Bungalow Bill, what did you kill, Bungalow Bill?

* When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom

* She came in through the bathroom window, protected by a silver spoon

The latter line was used wonderfully to title a great mad photo done my a young Leaving Cert student in Dublin I've noticed that even many young people still enjoy the Beatles.

Live long and prosper, may The Force be with you!