House­hold names add a touch of glam­our to New Ross fes­ti­val

SOME OF THE BIG­GEST NAMES IN IR­ISH AND AMER­I­CAN POL­I­TICS AND ME­DIA CAME TO­GETHER FOR AN IN­SIGHT­FUL AND IN­SPIR­ING KENNEDY SUM­MER SCHOOL

New Ross Standard - - NEWS - BY DAVID LOOBY

HOUSE­HOLD names in the me­dia mixed with US and Ir­ish po­lit­i­cal ex­perts dur­ing an en­ter­tain­ing, thought-pro­vok­ing and in­spir­ing Kennedy Sum­mer School last week.

The sum­mer school was hailed as a great suc­cess by New Ross Mu­nic­i­pal Dis­trict Cathaoir­leach Cllr Wil­lie Fitzhar­ris, while its chair­man Wil­lie Kielthy said he was thrilled with how well it went, es­pe­cially the way it branched out to in­cor­prate events at New Ross Li­brary, the Kennedy Home­stead, the John F Kennedy Ar­bore­tum and St Mary’s Sec­ondary school.

The sum­mer school be­gan on Thurs­day night at St Michael’s The­atre with a doc­u­men­tary en­ti­tled ‘Con­demned to Re­mem­ber’ about Holo­caust sur­vivor Tomi Re­ichen­tal.

On Fri­day morn­ing more than 700 Tran­si­tion Year stu­dents gath­ered at St Mary’s Sec­ondary School to hear in­sights into build­ing re­silience from Niall ‘Bressie’ Bres­lin and Sinead McSweeney, Twitter Ire­land’s Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor. Stu­dents de­scribed it as an ‘in­spir­ing and em­pow­er­ing oc­ca­sion’.

Lunchtime on Fri­day saw Min­is­ter for Fi­nance Paschal Dono­hoe de­liver a weighty ad­dress about his bud­getary plans and fu­ture eco­nomic strat­egy at the John F Kennedy Ar­bore­tum. He out­lined that for mid­dle-in­come earn­ers he would be mak­ing ‘steady and af­ford­able progress’ in re­duc­ing the tax bur­den for them.

RTE news­reader Eileen Whe­lan was MC at the event and she praised Noel Whe­lan and all the vol­un­teers and spon­sors who, she said, made the fes­ti­val amaz­ing.

Fáilte Ire­land chair­man Paul Kelly said the sum­mer school is a role model to other towns and vil­lages across Ire­land of what can be done by a group of hard work­ing vol­un­teers.

Later in the af­ter­noon the Kennedy Home­stead was filled with an au­di­ence ready to recre­ate the fa­mous tea party of 1963. They were en­ter­tained with a se­ries of cook­ery demon­stra­tions by Paul Kelly, ex­ec­u­tive pas­try chef at the Mer­rion Ho­tel, Kevin Dun­don of Dun­brody Coun­try House; Mar­garet Roche head chef at Hugo’s restau­rant; and Mike O’Con­nor, as­sis­tant head of the School of Culi­nary Arts at DIT. Af­ter­noon tea, fea­tur­ing fruit­cake just like the one served to Kennedy in the same farm­yard in 1963 was also served.

At St Michael’s The­atre that evening Ber­tie Ah­ern, Mark Durkan, Verona Mur­phy and Tony Con­nelly all joined the Brexit panel dis­cus­sion. Mr Ah­ern said he isn’t very im­pressed by the UK’s ap­proach to the is­sue. ‘ There is lit­tle light at the end of the tun­nel . . . I can’t see much progress be­ing made,’ he said. When asked ‘If he was in Gov­ern­ment again what would he do?’, he said: ‘If you ask me, one word ‘pro-ac­tive’; they haven’t got a “bulls no­tion”’.

Ms Mur­phy said, ‘In Ire­land, there is a fail­ure to en­force leg­is­la­tion es­pe­cially on for­eign reg­is­tered ve­hi­cles.’ Mark Durkan said, ‘Peo­ple will start to ques­tion if we did the right thing with the Good Fri­day agree­ment – we need to pro­tect it.’

On Fri­day evening Barack Obama speech­writer Cody Keenan of­fered a master­class in speech writ­ing, say­ing ‘Un­til you’ve re­ally lived some­one’s hopes and dreams it can be hard to write their speech’. He also reck­oned that ‘If Barak Obama ran last year, he would have kicked Trump’s ass.’ He ended on a note of hope, stat­ing, ‘Hope is con­ta­gious, it doesn’t al­ways win in the short-term but it al­ways wins in the end.’

Ian Pais­ley Jnr MP took to the stage to close the evening’s event on Fri­day, speak­ing in a public in­ter­view with Noel Whe­lan. He said: ‘Grow­ing up, we were on the same is­land and yet it was bro­ken.’

He said the best peo­ple to run North­ern Ire­land are the peo­ple, ‘di­vided as we might be’.

Open­ing the school’s events on Satur­day morn­ing was a sym­po­sium with Felix M. Larkin, Mary E. Daily and Pro­fes­sor Robert Sch­muhl, chaired by David McCul­lagh - all fo­cussing on the life and times of John F. Kennedy on the cen­ten­nial of his birth.

Bob Shrum cap­ti­vated the au­di­ence in a public in­ter­view with one of the Kennedy Sum­mer School cu­ra­tors Dr. Brian Mur­phy as he jour­neyed through his ca­reer and of­fered real in­sights to US cam­paign pol­i­tics. Bob Shrum was one of the very few peo­ple at the Kennedy Sum­mer School to have spo­ken with JFK in per­son and he said: ‘His pres­ence filled the room.’

On Satur­day af­ter­noon Sarah McIn­er­ney chaired the Ir­ish pol­i­tics ses­sion as she was joined by Fine Gael’s Regina Do­herty, Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDon­ald, Labour’s Joan Bur­ton and Fianna Fail’s Lisa Cham­bers.

RTE’s Washington cor­re­spon­dent Caitri­ona Perry re­ceived rap­tur­ous ap­plause as she spoke on Satur­day af­ter­noon. She de­scribed the mo­ment dur­ing the Pres­i­den­tial cam­paign that she knew that it was pos­si­ble Don­ald Trump could be­come the next US pres­i­dent.

Af­ter­wards a US pol­i­tics ses­sion got un­der way with Bob Shrum, Gina London, Bob Sch­muhl, Dr. Robert Mauro and John McGuirk. Bob Sch­muhl of Notre Dame Univer­sity said: ‘What we are see­ing in Amer­ica is un­prece­dented and, I would say his­toric. Don­ald Trump was a pres­ence in the Amer­i­can liv­ing room for 20 years, it eased his tran­si­tion to pol­i­tics for the public.’

The au­di­ence heard how Amer­i­cans have lost trust in the me­dia, while The Trump Show is keep­ing them en­ter­tained.

Con­cern was ex­pressed by Dr Mauro about the fu­ture for Amer­ica, while Mr Shrum ex­pressed op­ti­mism about the fu­ture of the Democrats, say­ing the party must con­tinue to cham­pion so­cial jus­tice causes and stand up for eco­nomic is­sues if it is to re­gain power. The week­end drew to a close with a public in­ter­view with Ryan Tubridy dur­ing which he dis­cussed the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind the Sum­mer School, JFK, and his re­la­tion­ship with Ire­land.

The sum­mer school, which is de­lib­er­ately held out­side the peak tourist sea­son, brings sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic ben­e­fit to the town and county, amount­ing to a €50,000 spend an­nu­ally. Vis­i­tors from the US, the UK, France, Ger­many and all across Ire­land snapped up an av­er­age of 300 tick­ets per day for the three-day sum­mer school.

One of the cu­ra­tors of the 2017 Kennedy Sum­mer School, Larry Don­nelly said: ‘ This, the fifth year of the Kennedy Sum­mer School, has been un­prece­dented in its suc­cess. The school’s tick­ets sold out some five weeks ago and we’ve had peo­ple from all across the coun­try and the world tuned into our live stream events and each of the talks this year have been pod­cast on our web­site. We are al­ready work­ing on very ex­cit­ing plans to ex­pand the Kennedy Sum­mer School even fur­ther in 2018.’

Mr Kielthy said 700 stu­dents got to lis­ten to in­spir­ing talks while the fes­ti­val broad­ened its reach by hav­ing Ryan Tubridy dis­cuss his chil­dren’s book at New Ross Li­brary.

Sum­mer school founder Noel

Whe­lan said: ‘Wex­ford County Coun­cil, New Ross Mu­nic­i­pal Dis­trict, the OPW and Fáilte Ire­land have all backed the sum­mer school to en­sure it has an even big­ger im­pact on the town next year. He wel­comed the de­ci­sion of Larry Don­nelly and Dr Brian Mur­phy to re­main as co-directors for next year, when the John F Kennedy Ar­bore­tum will cel­e­brate 50 years in ex­is­tence. ‘One of the prob­lems with fes­ti­vals is they can be­come too re­liant on one or two peo­ple. Project Man­ager Karen O’Con­nor and chair­man Wil­lie Kielthy, along with Larry and Brian, have helped to build it up. The speak­ers go home and speak in glow­ing terms about New Ross and County Wex­ford and the del­e­gates go home and tweet and talk about it.’

Larry Don­nelly, Ber­tie Ahearnem Verona Mur­phy, Mark Durkan, Tony Con­nelly and Dr. Brian Mur­phy.

Chief speech­writer for Barack Obama, Cody Keenan.

Speak­ers Caitri­ona Perry, RTE’s Washington cor­re­spon­dent and Gina Lun­don, for­mer CNN cor­re­spon­dent.

Niall Bres­lin pho­tographed with some stu­dents af­ter his talk on Build­ing Re­silience in St Mary’s school in New Ross.

Chef Kevin Dun­don do­ing a spot of cook­ing at the Dun­ganstown tea party.

Ian Pais­ley Jnr on stage at St Michael’s The­atre.

Joan Bur­ton TD at St Michael’s The­atre.

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