Aer Lingus Welcomes JFK Eternal Flame to Ireland

To mark the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s visit to Ireland in June 1963, a special ceremony was held on Tuesday (18th June 2013) where a flame was lit from the Eternal Flame at the late President’s graveside at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.

The flame, known as the ‘Emigrant Flame’ arrived in Ireland this morning on board Aer Lingus flight EI 108 from New York, touching down at 08:20, in the care of a colour party from the Irish Army. Following a welcoming ceremony at Dublin airport the flame will be transferred to the care of the Irish Naval Service with whom it will travel to New Ross aboard the Irish naval vessel, LE ORLA. The Emigrant Flame will form part of a ceremonial event in New Ross, Co Wexford on Saturday, 22nd June as part of a programme of JFK50 Celebratory events in the town.

The flame is being transported in a specially designed miner’s lamp which is identical in every respect to the lamp which was used to transfer the Olympic flame from Athens to London for the 2012 Olympics.

A ceremony was held at Dublin airport with a welcoming party that included Ministerial, Naval and Irish Defence Forces personnel amongst other dignitaries. Minister of State at the Department of Defence Paul Kehoe T.D carried the lamp containing the flame down the steps of the aircraft, to the sound of a military piper, and hand it over to Lt Col Brendan Delaney Officer in Charge of the Arlington flame escort part, for handover to the awaiting Officers from the Naval Service for their safe keeping. Children from fifth and sixth classes from Scoil Mhuire New Ross, Co Wexford were amongst the guests to greet the party, waving American and Irish flags.

Among the distinguished guests were Minister Dinny McGinley, T.D Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht, representing the Defence Forces and the Naval Services were Lt. General Sean McCann and from the US Embassy John Hennessey Niland, Chief of Mission. Aer Lingus was represented by Director of Communications, Declan Kearney.

On the evening of 26th June 1963, President John F. Kennedy arrived in Dublin from Berlin for a four day visit to Ireland. The President arrived on board Air Force One with Aer Lingus providing the airport ground handling services.

This was the first visit to Ireland by an American President. He was considered to be the most significant publicly acclaimed international figure to visit Ireland, at that time.

The first images of JFK’s arrival to Ireland are those of the President descending a set of steps with the Aer Lingus livery and shamrock, which were specially painted with large “IRISH” lettering. These images have become some of the most iconic from his visit to Ireland.

Aer Lingus CEO Christoph Mueller said, “Aer Lingus is honoured to participate in the commemoration of John F. Kennedy’s 1963 visit. When we were approached by Wexford County Council to assist with the passage of JFK’s eternal flame to Ireland we had no hesitation in offering our services. The images of President Kennedy’s visit were beamed all around the world 50 years ago, which led to a surge in American visitors to Ireland in the succeeding years. Transatlantic travel has become much more commonplace in the intervening decades but helping the Irish-American Diaspora to connect with their roots is still a very important part of what we do. We are proud to be part of that connection.”

Speaking at the ceremony Minister of State at the Department of Defence Paul Kehoe T.D. said, „The journey of this flame from the grave of President Kennedy to the land of his ancestors and finally to the spot where his great-grandfather stepped onboard an emigrant ship is a symbolic one. The journey of this flame from the US to Ireland, with the help and assistance of Aer Lingus, has been very different from the journey of Patrick Kennedy in 1848. The military ceremony in Dublin Airport will witness the transfer of the flame from the Irish Army who so proudly represented this Nation in Washington D.C. to the Irish Navy who will carry the flame on its final journey on the LE Orla to New Ross.”

Source / Author: Aer Lingus