seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Inauguration of John Fitzgerald Kennedy

jfk-inaugurationJohn Fitzgerald Kennedy is inaugurated as the 35th President of the United States on Friday, January 20, 1961 at the eastern portico of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., becoming the first Irish Catholic to be elected to the office. The inauguration marks the commencement of Kennedy’s only term as President and of Lyndon B. Johnson‘s only term as Vice President. Kennedy is assassinated 2 years, 306 days into this term, and Johnson succeeds to the presidency.

Kennedy takes office following the November 1960 presidential election, in which he narrowly defeats Richard Nixon, the then–incumbent Vice President. In addition to being the first Catholic to become President, he also becomes the youngest person elected to the office.

His inaugural address encompasses the major themes of his campaign and defines his presidency during a time of economic prosperity, emerging social changes, and diplomatic challenges. This inauguration is the first in which a poet, Robert Frost, participates in the program. Frost, then 86 years old, recites his poem “The Gift Outright” at Kennedy’s request as an act of gratitude towards Frost for his help during the campaign.

The oath of office for the President is administered to Kennedy by Chief Justice of the United States Earl Warren using a closed family Bible at 12:51 (ET) although he officially became president at the stroke of noon as defined by the 20th Amendment to the United States Constitution. He does not wear an overcoat when taking the oath of office and delivering the inaugural address, despite the cold conditions of 22 °F (−6 °C) with windchill at 7 °F (−14 °C) at noon.

Kennedy’s 1366-word inaugural address, the first delivered to a televised audience in color, is considered among the best presidential inaugural speeches in American history. It includes the iconic line “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

Five First Ladies, Edith Wilson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower and Jacqueline Kennedy attend the event, as does future First Ladies Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon, and Betty Ford. Former President Harry S. Truman joins Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Kennedy on the platform, as does future Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and Gerald Ford, making this, retroactively, the largest conclave of the “presidential fraternity” prior to the opening of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in the 1990s.

Presidential inaugurations are organized by the Joint Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. For Kennedy’s inauguration, this committee is chaired by Senator John Sparkman, and includes Senators Carl Hayden and Styles Bridges, and Representatives Sam Rayburn, John W. McCormack, and Charles A. Halleck.


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Birth of Albert Reynolds, Taoiseach & Fianna Fáil Leader

albert-reynoldsAlbert Reynolds, politician and businessman, is born in Rooskey, County Roscommon on November 3, 1932. He serves as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1977 to 2002, Minister for Posts and Telegraphs from 1979 to 1981, Minister for Transport from 1980 to 1981, Minister for Industry and Energy from March 1982 to December 1982, Minister for Industry and Commerce from 1987 to 1988, Minister for Finance from 1988 to 1991, Leader of Fianna Fáil from 1992 to 1994 and as Taoiseach from 1992 to 1994.

Reynolds is educated at Summerhill College in County Sligo and works for a state transport company before succeeding at a variety of entrepreneurial ventures, including promoting dances and owning ballrooms, a pet-food factory, and newspapers. In 1974 he is elected to the Longford County Council as a member of Fianna Fáil. He enters Dáil Éireann, lower house of the Oireachtas, the Irish parliament, in 1977 as a member representing the Longford-Westmeath parliamentary constituency and becomes Minister for Posts and Telegraphs in the Fianna Fáil government of Charles Haughey (1979–81). He is subsequently Minister of Industry and Commerce (1987–88) and Minister for Finance (1988–91) in Haughey’s third and fourth governments. He breaks with Haughey in December 1991 and succeeds him as leader of Fianna Fáil and as Taoiseach in February 1992.

The Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats coalition that Reynolds inherits breaks up in November 1992 but, after the general election later that month, he surprises many observers by forming a new coalition government with the Labour Party in January 1993. He plays a significant part in bringing about a ceasefire between the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and unionist paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland in 1994, but he is less effective in maintaining his governing coalition. When this government founders in November 1994, he resigns as Taoiseach and as leader of Fianna Fáil, though he remains acting prime minister until a new government is formed the following month. He unsuccessfully seeks his party’s nomination as a candidate for the presidency of Ireland in 1997. He retires from public life in 2002.

In December 2013, it is revealed by his son that Reynolds is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Albert Reynolds dies on August 21, 2014. The last politician to visit him is John Major. His funeral is held at Church of the Sacred Heart, in Donnybrook on August 25, 2014. Attendees include President Michael D. Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, former British Prime Minister John Major, former Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader and Nobel Prize winner John Hume, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers, former President of Ireland Mary McAleese, former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin and the Lord Mayor of Dublin Christy Burke. An unexpected visitor from overseas is the frail but vigorous Jean Kennedy Smith, former United States Ambassador to Ireland, who is the last surviving sibling of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Reynolds is buried at Shanganagh Cemetery with full military honours.


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Assassination of Irish American John Fitzgerald Kennedy

kennedy-assassinationJohn Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, is assassinated at 12:30 PM CST (18:30 UTC) on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas. Kennedy is the first Roman Catholic president of the United States and descendant of immigrants from Ireland.

At 12:30 PM CST, as Kennedy’s uncovered 1961 Lincoln Continental four-door convertible limousine enters Dealey Plaza, Nellie Connally, the First Lady of Texas, turns around to President Kennedy, who is sitting behind her, and comments, “Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you,” to which President Kennedy acknowledges by saying “No, you certainly can’t.” These are the last words ever spoken by John F. Kennedy.

From Houston Street, the presidential limousine makes the planned left turn onto Elm Street, allowing it access to the Stemmons Freeway exit. As it turns onto Elm, the motorcade passes the Texas School Book Depository. Shots are fired at Kennedy as the motorcade continues down Elm Street. About 80% of the witnesses recall hearing three shots.

A minority of the witnesses recognize the first gunshot they hear as weapon fire, but there is hardly any reaction to the first shot from a majority of the people in the crowd or those riding in the motorcade. Many later say they heard what they first thought to be a firecracker, or the backfire of a vehicle, just after the President started waving.

Within one second of each other, Kennedy, Texas Governor John Connally, and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, all turn abruptly from looking to their left to looking to their right. Connally, like the President a World War II military veteran, testifies that he immediately recognizes the sound of a high-powered rifle. He also testifies that when his head is facing about 20 degrees left of center, he is hit in his upper right back by a bullet he does not hear fired. After Connally is hit he shouts, “Oh, no, no, no. My God. They’re going to kill us all!”

Mrs. Connally testifies that just after hearing a loud, frightening noise that comes from somewhere behind her and to her right, she turns toward President Kennedy and sees him with his arms and elbows raised high, with his hands in front of his face and throat. She then hears another gunshot and then Governor Connally yelling. Mrs. Connally then turns away from Kennedy toward her husband, at which point another gunshot sounds and she and the limousine’s rear interior are covered with fragments of skull, blood, and brain.

According to the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations, as President Kennedy waves to the crowds on his right with his right arm upraised on the side of the limo, a shot enters his upper back, penetrates his neck, slightly damages a spinal vertebra and the top of his right lung, and exits his throat nearly centerline just beneath his larynx, nicking the left side of his suit tie knot. He raises his elbows and clenches his fists in front of his face and neck, then leans forward and left. Mrs. Kennedy, facing him, then puts her arms around him in concern.

A second shot strikes the President as the presidential limousine is passing in front of the John Neely Bryan north pergola concrete structure. Both the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations concludes that the second shot to hit the president enters the rear of his head and, passing in fragments through his head, created a large, roughly oval hole on the rear, right side. The president’s blood and fragments of his scalp, brain, and skull land on the interior of the car, the inner and outer surfaces of the front glass windshield and raised sun visors, the front engine hood, the rear trunk lid, the followup Secret Service car and its driver’s left arm, and motorcycle officers riding on both sides of the President behind him.

After the President has been shot in the head, Mrs. Kennedy begins to climb out onto the back of the limousine, though she later has no recollection of doing so. United States Secret Service Special Agent Clint Hill, who is riding on the left front running board of the follow-up car, believes she is reaching for something, perhaps a piece of the President’s skull. He jumps onto the back of the limousine while at the same time Mrs. Kennedy returns to her seat. He clings to the car as it exits Dealey Plaza and accelerates, speeding to Parkland Memorial Hospital.

After Mrs. Kennedy crawls back into her limousine seat, both Governor Connally and Mrs. Connally hear her say more than once, “They have killed my husband,” and “I have his brains in my hand.”

The staff at Parkland Hospital’s Trauma Room 1 who treat President Kennedy observe that his condition is “moribund,” meaning that he has no chance of survival upon arriving at the hospital. George Burkley, the President’s personal physician, states that a gunshot wound to the skull is the cause of death. Burkley signs President Kennedy’s death certificate.

At 1:00 PM, CST (19:00 UTC), after all heart activity has ceased and after Father Oscar Huber has administered last rites, the President is pronounced dead.