Everyone in Ireland “felt they knew” JFK during his time as US President, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said.
Today marks the 60th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas.
It was a sunny autumn day on November 22nd, 1963, as JFK was being driven through the city, waving cheerfully at the crowds from his Presidential motorcade.
At 12.30pm, US history changed forever when gunman Lee Harvey Oswald opened fire, burying bullets in JFK’s head and neck.
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was a 12-year-old schoolboy when news of the assassination arrived in Ireland – but the events of that fateful day remain etched into his memory.
“It was teatime in Dublin,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.
“I was at home in Drumcondra with family… Word came in that he had been shot and then there was a break in reporting.
“It wasn’t like now when all these things can instantly change.”
Mr Ahern’s brother Noel had bought a new transistor radio, which was then cutting-edge technology, and the pair grabbed an aerial and headed outside to tune into the news.
“He had to get into an American station on the radio and we heard from the top of the shed that he was dead,” Mr Ahern said.
“It was enormous here; he’d been here in June. He was the Irish President, everyone had followed the election.
“I remember the election when he was up against Nixon and it really shocked Ireland and the world.”
'I’ll be back in the springtime'
All of JFK’s eight great-grandparents fled Ireland for America during the Famine and Irish people felt a strong connection to him.
His four-day-visit to Ireland just a few months earlier was a sensation, with huge crowds turning out to see him wherever he went.
READ: In the week that marks the 101st year since his birth, our Senior Curator @montemannion recounts JFK's 4 day trip to Ireland in 1963, and how the visit had a profound effect on the country https://t.co/jOYqnQsOCW pic.twitter.com/KudMok1oj3
— EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum (@EPICMuseumCHQ) May 31, 2018
Just before he left, JFK told the Irish people, “I’ll be back in the springtime.”
His assassination meant the promise would never be fulfilled.
“Everybody kind of felt that they knew him and then to be gunned down like that [was awful to see],” Mr Ahern said.
“We all, probably, in Ireland, expected that he’d be re-elected, so he’d hopefully be around for a long time.
“That started the love story between Ireland and the Kennedys which continues on to this day.”
Main image: President Kennedy and motorcade minutes before his assassination in Dallas in 1963.