New Ross Standard - - NEWS -

PO­LIT­I­CAL anoraks and peo­ple with even a pass­ing in­ter­est in world events were chal­lenged, en­light­ened and en­ter­tained dur­ing the ‘Elec­tric Pic­nic’ of sum­mer schools in New Ross over three days.

Thou­sands of peo­ple at­tended 19 events held in New Ross from Thurs­day till Satur­day, where politi­cians, jour­nal­ists, po­lit­i­cal ad­vis­ers and sports­peo­ple en­gaged in lively dis­cus­sions about the is­sues of the day. Hu­man rights cam­paigner and daugh­ter of Robert F Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy of­fi­cially opened the sum­mer school on Thurs­day night at St Michael’s The­atre, 50 years on from her fa­ther’s as­sas­si­na­tion. She de­scribed US pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump as a ‘dis­as­ter’ since tak­ing of­fice and said she hopes her nephew, Con­gress­man Joseph P Kennedy will run for the po­si­tion.

Ms Kennedy was in­ducted into the Ir­ish Amer­ica Hall of Fame at the Dun­brody Vis­i­tor Cen­tre. She also pre­sented a copy of her book, Robert F Kennedy, Rip­ples of Hope, to the lo­cal Kennedy Book and Re­search Ar­chive at New Ross Library, where she said: ‘When peo­ple ask me what’s really im­por­tant about my fa­ther, I think the most im­por­tant thing about him was his moral imag­i­na­tion.’

Ms Kennedy, who has worked on var­i­ous hu­man rights is­sues since 1981, de­scribed Pres­i­dent Trump as ‘a dis­as­ter on hu­man rights’ be­cause of his poli­cies to­wards im­mi­grants and refugees and said he had un­der­mined the United Na­tions as well as the LGBT com­mu­nity, the African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity, the Na­tive Amer­i­can com­mu­nity, while be­ing a ‘war­mon­ger’ in his ac­tions and his deal­ings with other world lead­ers. Speak­ing on whether she thinks Pres­i­dent Trump will be re-elected, Ms Kennedy said: ‘I hope not, I’m very ex­cited about the re­ac­tions of the Amer­i­can peo­ple espe­cially the youth move­ments, the Park­land stu­dents in Florida, the Na­tive Amer­i­cans at Stand­ing Rock, the Women’s Rights Movement and Black Lives Mat­ter – those have all really been rein­vig­o­rated in a way that we have not seen for decades and decades by this Pres­i­dency.’

She was one of many speak­ers to lam­baste the Pres­i­dent over the course of the three days. The sum­mer school be­gan with a sem­i­nar on the Ir­ish third level ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, fol­lowed by a tea party rem­i­nis­cent of the most fa­mous tea party in Ire­land’s his­tory, hosted by chef Rachel Allen and Bren­dan Grace at the JFK Ar­bore­tum and Memo­rial Park which was at­tended by a large crowd. Fol­low­ing Ms Kennedy’s in­ter­view with a panel of sport­ing he­roes took to the stage as they dis­cussed ‘Pro­files on Sport­ing Courage’. Anna Geary was joined by Ai­dan O’Brien, Davy Fitzger­ald, Kevin Doyle and Lisa Ja­cob and chaired by Sinead Car­roll.

Over three days more than 40 guest speak­ers par­tic­i­pated in de­bates on a wide range of sub­jects with cur­rent U.S. pol­i­tics, the fi­nal phase of Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions and the re­cent Ref­er­en­dum to Re­peal the 8th Amend­ment. On Fri­day morn­ing an in­spi­ra­tional event for school stu­dents took place at St. Mary’s Sec­ondary School in New Ross. Au­thor and Sen­a­tor Lynn Ruane joined Twit­ter Ire­land’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Sinead McSweeney and 2FM DJ Chris Greene as they ad­dressed more than 800 pupils on ‘In­spir­ing Am­bi­tion over Ad­ver­sity’.

On Fri­day af­ter­noon EU Com­mis­sioner Ho­gan was the key­note speaker at the Kennedy Sum­mer School lun­cheon at the JFK Ar­bore­tum and Memo­rial Park. He was crit­i­cal of the ‘ul­tra-Brex­i­teers’ par­tic­u­larly Nigel Farage, Ja­cob Rees Mogg and Boris John­son as he com­pared them to the Three Stooges and US Pres­i­dent Trump. He likened the Pres­i­dent to a cat­tle dealer who takes a short-term view of the world who drives hard bar­gains and fails to make sus­tain­able deals which can ben­e­fit all in the longer-term. Later in the evening, the of­fi­cial open­ing of the Ir­ish Amer­i­can Hall of Fame took place at the Dun­brody Vis­i­tor Cen­tre which saw Ms Kennedy in­ducted to the hall and Bren­dan Grace awarded the Spirit of Ire­land Award.

Back at St Michael’s The­atre a panel dis­cus­sion ti­tled, ‘Brexit Endgame: Im­pli­ca­tions for Ire­land’ was chaired by Au­drey Carville and she was joined by Dearb­hal McDonald, Lucinda Creighton, Mary O’Rourke and Michelle Gildernew. The au­di­ence asked if there is any sym­pa­thy for English PM Teresa May. Lucinda Creighton said: ‘She’s in an im­pos­si­ble po­si­tion... the hard Brex­i­teers are us­ing her, they don’t want to be re­spon­si­ble for the catas­tro­phe and will get rid of her when it’s done.’

Former Min­is­ter Mary O’Rourke thinks the UK Gov­ern­ment needs to sort out their ne­go­ti­a­tions and agree on a Brexit deal so they don’t crash out of the EU. ‘I don’t think the Bri­tish at the end of the day can be that stupid,’ she said. Later in the evening saw an event in which the in­ter­view tables were turned as founder of the Kennedy Sum­mer School Noel Whe­lan in­ter­viewed Miriam O’Cal­laghan about her life. Events closed with a spe­cial meal to mark the 50th an­niver­sary of the open­ing of The John F. Kennedy Ar­bore­tum and Memo­rial Park with Pres­i­dent Michael D Hig­gins.

At a talk en­ti­tled Pres­i­den­tial Elec­tions and Po­lit­i­cal Per­sua­sion on Satur­day, Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal strate­gist John Weaver re­called his time cam­paign­ing with the late John McCain, who passed away the previous week. ‘John would have en­joyed this,’ the Repub­li­can from Texas said, adding that his party has lost its way com­pletely by not car­ing for work­ing class peo­ple.

There was a big round of ap­plause af­ter the screen­ing of the fa­mous McCain speech in which he de­fended Pres­i­dent Barack Obama dur­ing the 2008 cam­paign a town hall meet­ing. Mr Weaver said John Ka­sich is se­ri­ously look­ing at run­ning for the 2020 Pres­i­dency, adding that Pres­i­dent Trump is un­fit to be Pres­i­dent now or from 2020.

Dur­ing a de­bate en­ti­tled Trump, Im­mi­grants, Jobs & Guns Mr Weaver said: ‘He (Mr Trump) is not bright enough to have an ide­ol­ogy. He is a nar­cis­sist and he is not the dom­i­nant sen­ti­ment in the US. The dom­i­nant sen­ti­ment in the US is not hate and di­vi­sion. He is a fan­tas­tic mar­keter of Don­ald Trump.’

He said un­der Mr Trump a dark­ness has re­turned to Amer­i­can so­ci­ety that has not been seens since the era of Sen­a­tor Joe McCarthy in the 1950s. Mr Weaver said you couldn’t get two more dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters than Robert F Kennedy and Don­ald Trump, point­ing out that the Repub­li­can party has lost 15 mil­lion mem­bers since Mr Trump ar­rived on the scene.

Dr Robert Mauro of Boston Col­lege said Mr Trump is play­ing the vic­tim card. ‘We are in a trade war with Canada: that’s like be­ing in a trade war with your brother.’

Sum­mer School chair Wil­lie Kielthy said he was thrilled with how it went. ‘I am really happy. I think it ticked all of the boxes. Com­mis­sioner Ho­gan’s re­marks were car­ried in the UK press and it does fo­cus on New Ross in par­tic­u­lar and the Kennedy story.’

Mr Kielthy said there were nu­mer­ous guests from Amer­ica and a Chi­nese del­e­ga­tion at­tended. ‘Even the fi­nale with Pres­i­dent Hig­gins in the park for its 50th an­niver­sary clos­ing the fes­ti­val for us was a huge hon­our from the sum­mer school’s per­spec­tive. For our Pres­i­dent to speak so elo­quently about the park, about Robert F Kennedy and about the sum­mer school was spe­cial.’

He said Fáilte Ire­land’s Paul Kelly was in New Ross for the en­tire fes­ti­val, which was a great coup, adding that its pro­file has been boosted. ‘Hope­fully we will have equally ex­cit­ing speak­ers next year. We plan to freshen it up and have al­ready had speak­ers con­tact us about at­tend­ing next year.’

Rachel Allen poses for a selfie with Rachel Hussey from Taghom at the tea party.

Au­drey Carville, Mary O’Rourke, Cllr John Fleming, Michelle Gildernew, Dearb­hail McDonald and Lucinda Creighton.

Mau­rice Buck­ley, OPW chair­per­son; EU Com­mis­sioner Phil Ho­gan, Mary O’Rourke, Dr Robert Mauro, Boston Col­lege; and RTE’s Eileen Dunne.

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