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Rolling out the green carpet

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Forty years on, President George W. Bush is due to arrive in an Ireland that holds the temporary presidency of the European Union.
And for some years now, the Irish people, despite their special ties to the United States, have tended to view American presidents through a European lens.
That’s bad news for Bush, the fifth president to visit the Republic, who’s likely to be greeted with large-scale demonstrations opposing his administration’s foreign policy.
It was all rather different in Kennedy’s day. The CIA wrote also that the “friendly and exuberant crowds who will wish to see and hear the president may create a security problem. The Irish look upon President Kennedy’s visit as a triumphal homecoming for one of their own and as a great compliment being paid to them by a world leader.”
There had been a few anti-U.S. voices raised in Dublin during the Cuban missile crisis the previous fall.
But the CIA was worried mainly that the local police would underestimate the problem that “overfriendliness” might cause.
The reception Kennedy did receive is a contender for the most enthusiastic ever given a foreign head of state anywhere.
The 35th U.S. president was the first ever to visit Ireland while in office. He was of “wholly Irish stock,” as the Irish Independent said at the time, which many readers would have taken to mean wholly Irish Catholic. (People in the Republic of Ireland have never shown any particular interest in the many presidents who were of Scots-Irish heritage.)
For his part, Kennedy, who was received with tremendous enthusiasm wherever he went, was genuinely affected by his four-day state visit to Ireland. At least one group of friends who stayed at the White House were said to have been subjected to movie footage of the trip to the point of boredom.
Kennedy promised to return to Ireland in the spring. Whether his violent death was felt more there than in other countries is impossible to measure. A leader of the Western world in uncertain times, the slain president was hugely popular also in Britain, Germany and France.
But the Republic’s 3 million citizens had enjoyed in June 1963 a very special collective moment at an exciting and transitional time in the country’s history.

NOT A QUITTER
In October 1970, President Richard Nixon came to Ireland at the invitation of President

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