John F. Kennedy Trust

In 1988 the John F. Kennedy Trust was formed in New Ross, against a backdrop of deep recession and high unemployment. It grew from a dawning realisation among the community that the decisive first steps to economic recovery would have to be inspired and initiated locally. It was envisaged that the Trust would commemorate John F. Kennedy by involving itself in projects which would enrich the lives of the people of his ancestral home area. One of the first decisions of the Trust was to invite Mary Ann Ryan, cousin of the late President Kennedy, to join them-thus establishing a Kennedy family link from the outset. Another crucial early decision was to involve elected public representatives and local government officials, so forging a partnership between local community and local authority. Other early additions to the Board of the Trust were from the local business community. At a national level, outstanding figures in the business and academic worlds were invited to become patrons of the Trust-among them Dermot Desmond, Pat O’ Neill, Pat Murphy, Paddy Shaffrey, Noel Dillion, Louis M. Cullen, Prionsias Ui Cathain and Pat Craig.

 

The Trust first commissioned an environmental study of New Ross, which became known as the “Shaffrey Plan” after the architect and town planner Paddy Shaffrey. The plan was adopted by the local Urban District Council and led to a number of improvements to the streetscape and amenity infrastructure of the town. Seminally, the study definitively identified the untapped potential of the Kennedy connection and the possibilities for heritage tourism. They realised a full time person would be needed to help develop the centre from concept to reality, the help of the state backed training and employment authority, FAS was sought and Sean Reidy was appointed as Project Manager in 1992. This marked the beginning of a fruitful relationship between FAS and the Kennedy Trust which was to prove crucial.

 

The idea of the ship, incorporating a floating heritage centre, emerged over time. A passing mention of the idea in an interview given by Sean Reidy inspired local marine artist Garret Fallon to do some research. He identified the Dunbrody as the perfect representative of the local maritime history and the Kennedy connection. Renowned naval architect Colin Mudie was commissioned to do the initial design work. And so the concept evolved-here was a way to celebrate the positive aspects of emigration and the achievements of those who had gone. In the words of historian Kevin Whelan, ships such as the Dunbrody could-and should- be viewed as cradles of opportunity rather than coffins.

To Date the Trust’s Projects Include:

  • 1988: The Shaffrey plan

    An Environmental Development Plan for New Ross.

  • 2001 to present: The Irish Emigration Database

    The Trust has completed a most comprehensive database of Irish emigration to the United States, in conjunction with the Balch Institute in Philadelphia, the Ellis Island Restoration Commission in New York and the Battery Conservancy in New York. This database is available to search for free through this website.

  • 2001 to present: The Dunbrody Famine Ship.

    The Trust has completed a most comprehensive database of Irish emigration to the United States, in conjunction with the Balch Institute in Philadelphia, the Ellis Island Restoration Commission in New York and the Battery Conservancy in New York. This database is available to search for free through this website.

  • 2001 to present: The JFK Dunbrody Festival.

    Every year in July the Trust organised the JFK Dunbrody Festival. Taking place over three days, with funfairs, markets, and live music every night, this festival was the highlight of our summer.

  • 2001 to 2014: The Forest of Dunbrody.

    No longer in operation as trees are currently not available. This was run in association with Coillte, the forest at Lacken replaced the wood used in the building of the ship by affording people the opportunity to sponsor a tree.

  • 2007 to present: The Irish Emigrant Wall of Honour

    A national memorial to the Irish Diaspora in New Ross, Co. Wexford. In 2011 the Wall of Honour will be incorporated as centrepiece of the redeveloped Quayside and Boardwalk.

    For a small donation your ancestor can be permanently commemorated in historic New Ross.

  • 2005 to 2008: Interreg IIIA, Celtic Maritime Connections Project

    Through the Interreg project, and in conjunction with Milford Haven Port Company and Pembrokeshire College, the JFK Trust has contributed to be development of Maritime Heritage on a European wide basis.

  • 2013 to Present: The Kennedy Homestead, The Emigrant Flame, The Boardwalk

    To commemorate the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's visit to New Ross, JFK 50 celebration took place in the town in June 2013 which saw the opening of the Kennedy Homestead, the lighting of the Emigrant Flame and opening of the Boardwalk.

    Click here to view our current Board of Directors 2021