Images Of Ireland


John Fitzgerald Kennedy's speech to the Irish Parliament

Dublin, June 28, 1963

Mr. Speaker, Prime Minister, Members of the Parliament:

I am grateful for your welcome and for that of your countrymen. The 13th day of December, 1862, will be a day long remembered in American history. At Fredericksburg, Va., thousands of men fought and died on one of the bloodiest battlefields of the American Civil War. One of the most brilliant stories of that day was written by a band of 1200 men who went into battle wearing a green sprig in their hats. They bore a proud heritage and a special courage, given to those who had long fought for the cause of freedom. I am referring, of course, to the Irish Brigade. General Robert E. Lee, the great military leader of the Southern Confederate Forces, said of this group of men after the battle, "The gallant stand which this bold brigade made on the heights of Fredericksburg is well known. Never were men so brave. They ennobled their race by their splendid gallantry on that desperate occasion. Their brilliant though hopeless assaults on our lines excited the hearty applause of our officers and soldiers."

     Of the 1200 men who took part in that assault, 280 survived the battle. The Irish Brigade was led into battle on that occasion by Brig. Gen. Thomas F. Meagher, who had participated in the unsuccessful Irish uprising of 1848, was captured by the British and sent in a prison ship to Australia from whence he finally came to America.  In the fall of 1862, after serving with distinction and gallantry in some of the toughest fighting of this most bloody struggle, the Irish Brigade was presented with a new set of flags.  In the city ceremony, the city chamberlain gave them the motto, "The Union, our Country, and Ireland forever." Their old ones having been torn to shreds in previous battles, Capt. Richard McGee took possession of these flags on December 2d in New York City and arrived with them at the Battle of Fredericksburg and carried them in the battle. Today, in recognition of what these gallant Irishmen and what millions of other Irish have done for my country, and through the generosity of the "Fighting 69th," I would like to present one of these flags to the people of Ireland.

     As you can see gentlemen, the battle honors of the Brigade include Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Yorktown, Fair Oaks, Gaines Mill, Allen's Farm, Savage's Station, White Oak Bridge, Glendale, Malvern Hill, Antietam, Gettysburg, and Bristow Station.

     I am deeply honored to be your guest in a Free Parliament in a free Ireland.  If this nation had achieved its present political and economic stature a century or so ago, my great grandfather might never have left New Ross, and I might, if fortunate, be sitting down there with you. Of course if your own President had never left Brooklyn, he might be standing up here instead of me.

     This elegant building, as you know, was once the property of the Fitzgerald family, but I have not come here to claim it. Of all the new relations I have discovered on this trip, I regret to say that no one has yet found any link between me and a great Irish patriot, Lord Edward Fitzgerald. Lord Edward, however, did not like to stay here in his family home because, as he wrote his mother, "Leinster House does not inspire the brightest ideas." That was a long time ago, however. It has also been said by some that a few of the features of this stately mansion served to inspire similar features in the White House in Washington. Whether this is true or not, I know that the White House was designed by James Hoban, a noted Irish-American architect and I have no doubt that he believe by incorporating several features of the Dublin style he would make it more homelike for any President of Irish descent. It was a long wait, but I appreciate his efforts.

     There is also an unconfirmed rumor that Hoban was never fully paid for his work on the White House. If this proves to be true, I will speak to our Secretary of the Treasury about it, although I hear his body is not particularly interested in the subject of revenues.

     I am proud to be the first American President to visit Ireland during his term of office, proud to be addressing this distinguished assembly, and proud of the welcome you have given me. My presence and your welcome, however, only symbolize the many and the enduring links which have bound the Irish and the Americans since the earliest days.

     Benjamin Franklin--the envoy of the American Revolution who was also born in Boston--was received by the Irish Parliament in 1772. It was neither independent nor free from discrimination at the time, but Franklin reported its members "disposed to be friends of America." "By joining our interest with theirs," he said,"a more equitable treatment . . . might be obtained for both nations."

     Our interest have been joined ever since. Franklin sent leaflets to Irish freedom fighters. O'Connell was influenced by Washington, and Emmet influenced Lincoln. Irish volunteers played so predominant a role in the American army that Lord Mountjoy lamented in the British Parliament that "we have lost America through the Irish."

     John Barry, whose statue we honored yesterday and whose sword is in my office, was only one who fought for liberty in America to set an example for liberty in Ireland. Yesterday was the 117th anniversary of the birth of Charles Stewart Parnell--whose grandfather fought under Barry and whose mother was born in America--and who, at the age of 34, was invited to address the American Congress on the cause of Irish freedom. "I have seen since I have been in this country," he said, "so many tokens of the good wishes of the American people toward Ireland . . ." And today, 83 years later, I can say to you that I have seen in this country so many tokens of good wishes of the Irish people towards America.

     And so it is that our two nations, divided by distance, have been united by history. No people ever believed more deeply in the cause of Irish freedom than the people of the United States. And no country contributed more to building my own than your sons and daughters. They came to our shores in a mixture of hope and agony, and I would not underrate the difficulties of their course once they arrived in the United States. They left behind hearts, fields, and a nation yearning to be free. It is no wonder that James Joyce described the Atlantic as a bowl of bitter tears. And an earlier poet wrote, "They are going, going, going, and we cannot bid them stay."

     But today this is no longer the country of hunger and famine that those emigrants left behind. It is not rich, and its progress is not yet complete, but it is, according to statistics, one of the best fed countries in the world. Nor is it any longer a country of persecution, political or religious. It is a free country, and that is why any American feels at home.

     There are those who regard this history of past strife and exile as better forgotten. But, to use the phrase of Yeats, let us not casually reduce "that great past to a trouble of fools." For we need not feel the bitterness of the past to discover its meaning for the present and the future. And it is the present and the future of Ireland that today holds so much promise to my nation as well as to yours, and, indeed, to all mankind.

     For the Ireland of 1963, one of the youngest of nations and oldest of civilizations, has discovered that the achievement of nationhood is not an end but a beginning. In the years since independence, you have undergone a new and peaceful revolution, transforming the face of this land while still holding to the old spiritual and cultural values. You have modernized your economy, harnessed your rivers, diversified your industry, liberalized your trade, electrified your farms, accelerated your rate of growth, and improved the living standards of your people.

     The other nations of the world--in whom Ireland has long invested her people and her children--are now investing their capital as well as their vacations here in Ireland. This revolution is not yet over, nor will it be, I am sure, until a fully modern Irish economy shares in world prosperity.

     But prosperity is not enough. Eighty-three years ago, Henry Grattan, demanding the more independent Irish Parliament that would always bear his name, denounced those who were satisfied merely by new grants of economic opportunity. "A country," he said, "enlightened as Ireland, chartered as Ireland, armed as Ireland and injured as Ireland will be satisfied with nothing less than liberty." And today, I am certain, free Ireland--a full-fledged member of the world community, where some are not yet free, and where some counsel an acceptance of tyranny--free Ireland will not be satisfied with anything less than liberty.

     I am glad, therefore, that Ireland is moving in the mainstream of current world events. For I sincerely believe that your future is as promising as your past is proud, and that your destiny lies not as a peaceful island in a sea of troubles, but as a maker and shaper of world peace.

     For self-determination can no longer mean isolation; and the achievement of national independence today means withdrawal from the old status only to return to the world scene with a new one. New nations can build with their former governing powers the same kind of fruitful relationship that Ireland has established with Great Britain--a relationship founded on equality and mutual interests. And no nation, large or small, can be indifferent to the fate of others, near or far. Modern economics, weaponry and communications have made us all realize more than ever that we are one human family and this one planet is our home.

     "The world is large," wrote John Boyle O'Reilly.

"The world is large when its weary
leagues two loving hearts divide,
"But the world is small when your enemy
is loose on the other side

     The world is even smaller today, though the enemy of John Boyle O'Reilly is no longer a hostile power. Indeed, across the gulfs and barriers that now divide us, we must remember that there are no permanent enemies. Hostility today is a fact, but it is not a ruling law. The supreme reality of our time is our indivisibility as children of God and our common vulnerability on this planet.

     Some may say that all this means little to Ireland. In an age when "history moves with the tramp of earthquake feet"--in an age when a handful of men and nations have the power literally to devastate mankind--in an age when the needs of the developing nations are so staggering that even the richest lands often groan with the burden of assistance--in such an age, it may be asked, how can a nation as small as Ireland play much of a role on the world stage?

     I would remind those who ask that question, including those in other small countries, of the words of one of the great orators of the English language:

     "All the world owes much to the little 'five feet high' nations. The greatest art of the world was the work of little nations. The most enduring literature of the world came from little nations. The heroic deeds that thrill humanity through generations were the deeds of little nations fighting for their freedom. And oh, yes, the salvation of mankind came through a little nation."

     Ireland has already set an example and a standard for other small nations to follow.

     This has never been a rich or powerful country, and yet, since earliest times, its influence on the world has been rich and powerful. No larger nation did more to keep Christianity and Western culture alive in their darkest centuries. No larger nation did more to spark the cause of independence in America, indeed, around the world. And no larger nation has ever provided the world with more literary and artistic genius.

     This is an extraordinary country. George Bernard Shaw, speaking as an Irishman, summed up an approach to life: Other people, he said "see things and . . . say 'Why?' . . . But I dream things that never were-- and I say: 'Why not?'"

     It is that quality of the Irish--that remarkable combination of hope, confidence and imagination--that is needed more than ever today. The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics, whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were, and ask why not. It matters not how small a nation is that seeks world peace and freedom, for, to paraphrase a citizen of my country, "the humblest nation of all the world, when clad in the armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of Error."

     Ireland is clad in the cause of national and human liberty with peace. To the extent that the peace is disturbed by conflict between the former colonial powers and the new and developing nations, Ireland's role is unique. For every new nation knows that Ireland was the first of the small nations in the 20th century to win its struggle for independence, and that the Irish have traditionally sent their doctors and technicians and soldiers and priests to help other lands to keep their liberty alive.

     At the same time, Ireland is part of Europe, associated with the Council of Europe, progressing in the context of Europe, and a prospective member of an expanded European Common Market. Thus Ireland has excellent relations with both the new and the old, the confidence of both sides and an opportunity to act where the actions of greater powers might be looked upon with suspicion.

     The central issue of freedom, however, is between those who believe in self-determination and those in the East who would impose on others the harsh and oppressive Communist system; and here your nation wisely rejects the role of a go-between or a mediator. Ireland pursues an independent course in foreign policy, but it is not neutral between liberty and tyranny and never will be.

     For knowing the meaning of foreign domination, Ireland is the example and inspiration to those enduring endless years of oppression. It was fitting and appropriate that this nation played a leading role in censuring the suppression of the Hungarian revolution, for how many times was Ireland's quest for freedom suppressed only to have that quest renewed by the succeeding generation? Those who suffer beyond that wall I saw on Wednesday in Berlin must not despair of their future. Let them remember the constancy, the faith, the endurance, and the final success of the Irish. And let them remember, as I heard sung by your sons and daughters yesterday in Wexford, the words, "the boys of Wexford, who fought with heart and hand, to burst in twain the galling chain and free our native land."

     The major forum for your nation's greater role in world affairs is that of protector of the weak and voice of the small, the United Nations. From Cork to the Congo, from Galway to the Gaza Strip, from this legislative assembly to the United Nations, Ireland is sending its most talented men to do the world's most important work--the work of peace.

     In a sense, this export of talent is in keeping with an historic Irish role--but you no longer go as exiles and emigrants but for the service of your country and, indeed, of all men. Like the Irish missionaries of medieval days, like the "wild geese" after the Battle of the Boyne, you are not content to sit by your fireside while others are in need of your help. Nor are you content with the recollections of the past when you face the responsibilities of the present.

     Twenty-six sons of Ireland have died in the Congo; many others have been wounded. I pay tribute to them and to all of you for your commitment and dedication to world order. And their sacrifice reminds us all that we must not falter now.

     The United Nations must be fully and fairly financed. Its peace- keeping machinery must be strengthened. Its institutions must be developed until some day, and perhaps some distant day, a world of law is achieved.

     Ireland's influence in the United Nations is far greater than your relative size. You have not hesitated to take the lead on such sensitive issues as the Kashmir dispute. And you sponsored that most vital resolution, adopted by the General Assembly, which opposed the spread of nuclear arms to any nation not now possessing them, urging an international agreement with inspection and controls. And I pledge to you that the United States of America will do all in its power to achieve such an agreement and fulfill your resolution.

     I speak of these matters today--not because Ireland is unaware of its role--but I think it important that you know that we know what you have done. And I speak to remind the other small nations that they, too, can and must help build a world peace. They, too, as we all are, are dependent on the United Nations for security, for an equal chance to be heard, for progress towards a world made safe for diversity.

     The peace-keeping machinery of the United Nations cannot work without the help of the smaller nations, nations whose forces threaten no one and whose forces can thus help create a world in which no nation is threatened. Great powers have their responsibilities and their burdens, but the smaller nations of the world must fulfill their obligations as well.

     A great Irish poet once wrote: "I believe profoundly . . . in the future of Ireland . . . that this is an isle of destiny, that that destiny will be glorious . . . and that when our hour is come, we will have something to give to the world."

     My friends: Ireland's hour has come. You have something to give to the world--and that is a future of peace with freedom.     Thank you.

Thanks to:

John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library
Columbia Point
Boston, Massachusetts 02125
Tel: 617-929-4500
Fax: 617-929-4538
John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library Foundation
Columbia Point
Boston, Massachusetts 02125
Tel: 617-929-1200
Fax: 617-436-3395
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1811,The British warship HMS Saldanha shipwrecked in Lough Swilly, Donegal


On the  night of the 14th Dec 1811 the British warship HMS Saldanha was shipwrecked in atrocious weather at Ballymacstocker bay on Lough Swilly with the loss of 300 men. The ships captain was William Packenham son of the second Lord Longford.  He apparently had a premonition of his own death
predicting that the ship would perish on this voyage.

My granda Owen Brennan of the locality told my dad that on that night  a group of neighbours were sitting  around the fire at the Fullertons house at Beam Hill. *    As they were about to leave the house after the storm had subsided the door opened and a very small old woman with a shawl around her entered. She stood in the middle of the floor said "the Saldanha is sunk many souls are drowned" and walked out. Nobody knew her, where she came from or where she went to.

A curious postscript to this disaster is that a green parrot was captured not far from the shipwreck several months later. Around it's neck was a medallion inscribed with the name of the ship "Saldanha"

* (It was from this house a Unity Fullerton emigrated to USA and became the Great Great Grandmother  of Tip O Neil the former speaker of the house of Representatives.  The house is now in ruins although Tip did visit the site some years ago.)


The Emigrants


          She stood distancing herself from them watching uneasily as they hugged and kissed, their cries of anguish echoing around the crowded Derry Quay. The drizzle falling on her face hid her own tears as she turned to look at the river as it rushed swiftly around the bend and she cursed it; the river that would soon be carrying her only son away from her. 

           The ship bounced and lifted as the muddy water threatened to tear it from the thick hemp ropes that held it to three squat wooden bollards. A bell rang. It was almost time.  

          She sighed, her heartbeat quickening as she shuffled after her son and his wife to the bottom of the gangway. Mary, her son’s wife tried to smile but suddenly her contorting face erupted and tears bubbled from her deep-set dark eyes. Croaking unintelligibly she threw her thin arms around her mother-in-law's shoulders and sobbed into her soaking shawl. The old woman stiffened, unused to any kind of open display of emotion. Then it was over and Mary still crying stumbled up the gangway.        

          Now he looked down at his mother his pale face smiling sadly at her. Awkwardly he too reached to gently hug her to him whispering through choking breaths, "Don't worry about Mary and me, ma. We'll be alright. As soon…as soon as I get work I'll send ye some money."

          She trembled in his strong arms as memories of his growing days and her own young life along the upper Foyle valley came to her. All those happy hard days would never return, just like her son. She would never see him again.    

          The ship's bell rang again and its heart-tugging peal was followed by louder weeping and frenzied hugging and kissing from the people around her.         

  "I'll hiv tay go, ma," he rasped. She forced a smile. "Aye, son, ye hiv tay go." Looking past him she saw Mary watching them from the deck.   

          The bell rang again. This time the ringing was accompanied by the high-pitched chant from the ship's cabin boy. 


          Bending, her son lifted his two cloth bags of belongings. He gulped, as he looked at her his dark eyes glistening, then whispered hoarsely, "I'd better git on board, ma. They're gettin' ready tay sail." He gulped again his Adam’s apple plunging up and down as he tried to choke back his tears but suddenly he dropped the bags and reached to hold her for the last time. As she clutched to him she could feel his heart thumping against her ear and the memory of one particular late Summer day came to her. 


          With her man she had worked in the many potato fields that sloped down to the River Foyle. The weather had been kinder that year, the year she had given birth. She had been happy then, and her husband had been strong. They had both been strong and full of hope. She remembered that dinnertime after they had eaten some boiled potatoes and she had fed her baby. The Summer sounds and scents surrounded them as she lay with her husband by the high hedge near the river- she had been lying back with her eyes closed, a piece of grass in her mouth and he had gently tugged it out and kissed her. As she returned his kiss she felt his tears on her cheek. His words, "Thanks fer our son," still made her cry as she relived that time in her mind often throughout the following years when her man's energy and drive waned as they lost hope and grew old before their time.

          She sighed slowly as she felt her son release her and suddenly with a cry he grabbed his bags and ran up the gangway. She stood there for a few moments her arms still outstretched. 

          The bell rang again.  'ALL ABOARD. ALL ABOARD FER PHILADELPHIA AMERIKAY.'         

          Philadelphia, she thought as she moved back among the others. A name she had grown to hate but a place that would welcome her son and his wife. Oh, they would do well out there. She had no doubt about that. Her prayers would protect them. Reaching for the ends of her shawl she pulled it tightly around her. Her prayers had been wasted on her man. He had refused to come and see them off. His curt goodbye at the door had upset them all. But she could understand how he felt. Even so she couldn't say anything. At least he was able to vent his feelings with anger.   

          Then as one of the crewmen pulled in the starboard rope she felt the hot tears run freely down her face.         

  "Goodbye ma. I'll write tay ye. Goodbye..."      

          Sniffing, her frail body heaved as she tried to hold her composure and as the ship moved away from the quay she was unaware that her own loud crying mingled with the others around her. She waved; her son and Mary waved; the people waved, and they all still waved even as the ship rounded the bend and sailed away out of sight. Soon she thought, they would be at Moville; then Greencastle; then out and around the headland to the wide Atlantic Ocean. It would be a long hard voyage but she knew they would be all right. After all wasn't that what they had to go  through. Wasn't all this laid out for them, and for her? She sighed heavily. Mary would have her day too.

          Gradually, the people began to move away from the quay until she stood there alone, a dark, tiny woman who had just said goodbye to her life. Stepping closer to the edge of the quay she looked down at the swirling muddy pools that churned up from the bottom. My life is over, she thought. If only I had the courage to end it. She swayed, half hypnotised by the dark water. Suddenly, screaming loudly a sea gull swooped in front of her; startling her, its piercing cry making her look after it as it flew down the river. The rain had stopped and the black clouds that had hung above the Donegal Hills all morning were quickly breaking up. Shadows stretched down along the fields below them as the sun struggled to make it a day. "Ah well," she whispered tugging her shawl tighter around her. Then with a last look down the river she turned and walked away. He would be waiting for her, she thought. He needed her now more than ever, and perhaps she needed him.  

©  Jack Scoltock


A very moving account of the curse or the salvation of emigration. 

Jack was born, bread & buttered in Derry where he lives with his wife Ursula. He has three lovely grandchildren. So I'm sure his talent as a children's writer comes in very handy. Jack's had 12 novels published. His most popular is the Badger, Beano series. Jack's most recent novel is "The Sand Clocker" which is based around La Trinidad Valencera, an armada ship which sunk in Kinnago Bay, Innishhowen, Couny Donegal. Jack was actually among the divers who found the wreck in 1971.  He's one of the writer on the writer's in School's list for the Arts Council and many of Jacks adult short stories have won prizes and have been published widely. Jack has also had several plays performed in The Derry Playhouse. 



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