News

Wexford roots: New book on Kennedy's legacy and Irish-US links to Biden

Wexford roots: New book on Kennedy's legacy and Irish-US links to Biden

James Cox

Taoiseach Micheál Martin will be among the guests for the virtual launch of 'From Whence I Came: The Kennedy Legacy, Ireland & America' this evening.

The book is inspired by the Kennedy Summer School, and celebrates the Kennedy legacy along with the past and future of Irish-American relations.

'From Whence I Came: The Kennedy Legacy, Ireland & America' is edited by Brian Murphy and Donnacha Ó Beacháin.

Advertisement

Mr Murphy spoke to BreakingNews.ie about the book and the writers who contributed pieces to it.

“They [essays in the book] talk about the Kennedy legacy, but it’s wider than that, they talk about Irish politics and American politics as well. As the years went by we realised that there was some really interesting and valuable research that had been presented at the summer school about the Kennedy legacy and some great works of history so we got the idea that we would compile it into a book and everything comes under the broad pave of the Kennedy Legacy, Ireland and America,” he explained.

This evening's launch will also include speakers such as former US Congressman Joe Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy's grandson, and Samantha Power, head of the United States Agency for International Development.

Former US Congressman Joe Kennedy will speak at the book launch.

“The book begins with a young 25-year-old called Patrick Kennedy who gets on a boat in October 1848 and knows that he's never going to see Ireland or his family again and arrives in an America where Irish immigrants were still battling for acceptance.

Advertisement

“He had a very hard life, he was dead by the time he was 35 and never managed to break out of poverty, but he started a family that has had extraordinary success. Joe Kennedy is part of that family and he's part of the legacy of Patrick Kennedy who left New Ross in 1848, we're thrilled to have him there along with the Taoiseach.

“It's a great endorsement not just of the book but of the Kennedy summer school that the Taoiseach would take time out of his schedule to do it.

Biden link

“Samantha Power will also be there, that's fantastic, she's somebody who is very close to the Biden administration, and we're honoured to have her.

“One other important guest is Congressman Richie Neal. He's chair of the Ways and Means committee in the US Congress and the Congressional Friends of Ireland.

Advertisement

“It's that group's 40th anniversary and one of the founding members was Ted Kennedy.

“It was a time when the troubles were going on. There wasn't a lot of good publicity about Ireland because of the conflict and Ted Kennedy got together with some other Irish-American Senators Congressmen and Congresswomen to set up the group to help the cause of Ireland.

“He's going to talk about that valuable legacy.”

Wexford roots

Mr Murphy said the book's contributors will cover a wide range of topics on the Kennedys and Irish-American relations.

“There’s some extraordinary research in it. The first chapter is written by a former genealogist for Wexford County Council, Celestine Murphy, she actually discovered lots of new information about JFK’s great-grandmother who was a woman called Bridget Murphy.

“My co-editor Donnacha Ó Beacháin has written an extraordinary article called Electing Kennedy, an analysis of every election campaign that John F Kennedy contested from his first congressional election in the 40s to his Senate campaigns in the 50s and his presidential campaign in 1960.

“There are some great pieces on Irish-American relations in the Kennedy era by Professor Mary Daly from UCD, Professor Bob Schmuhl from the University of Notre Dame and Felix Larkin, a well known Irish historian.

“There’s a very good article from Alison Meagher who is a diplomat in the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, and she talks about the work Ted Kennedy did in bringing peace to the island.

“Kerry Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy’s daughter, she makes a very interesting contribution to the book about Bobby Kennedy’s work in terms of looking after the marginalised and disadvantaged and how he put them at the centre of his election campaign in 1968.”

Obama speechwriter

The book also looks at contemporary American politics.

“We have an article by Tad Devine, who would be one of the most respected political consultants in the US at the moment.

“He’s written a fly-on-the-wall account of Bernie Sander’s campaign in 2016, when he very nearly beat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

“The article I think is going to get the most attention is by Cody Kennan; he was the chief speechwriter for Barack Obama.

“His account is a biographical memoir of working for Barack Obama for eight years, all the highs and lows of writing speeches with the President of the United States, there’s a lot of interest in that.

“There’s something for everybody, there’s Irish history there, there’s American history there and there’s contemporary American politics as well all thrown into the mix.”

The book also looks at the future of Irish-American relations, something which will be discussed at the launch this evening.

Brian Murphy and Donnacha Ó Beacháin are co-editors of the book which looks at the Kennedy legacy and Irish-American relations.

“Our timing on the book has been good because there's a renewed spirit to Irish-American relationships with Joe Biden coming in. Kennedy was the first Irish-American Catholic President of the United States and Joe Biden is the second.

“We can see that Joe Biden takes genuine pride in his Irish roots. There's a renewed spirit of optimism on Irish-American relations, so I think the book is timely in that perspective.

“JFK's visit in 1963 was obviously historic and he came away from Ireland with an even stronger sense of his Irishness.

“Unfortunately he didn't live too long after that, it's what if but if he had of maybe Ireland would have benefited from that. Now we've got Joe Biden, somebody who is hugely proud of his Irish root and this is on those teams of Ireland, America, Irish America and the close bond between us all.

“We're hoping to get a copy of the book to Joe Biden. We know he has a big interest in the Kennedys, he said in an interview recently that his ultimate political hero was Bobby Kennedy.”

Those interested in joining the event on Monday, March 15th (6 pm Ireland) can register online via the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States website https://www.emkinstitute.org/

Advertisement