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Kennedys arrive to mark 50th anniversary of JFK visit

The flame was handed over during a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery
Image caption The flame was handed over during a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery

The Obamas have left Ireland - but another presidential family has arrived.

Relatives of former US president John F Kennedy landed in Dublin on Thursday.

Their trip marks the 50th anniversary of the American president's visit to his ancestral home in New Ross, County Wexford, in June 1963.

Thirty-five members of the extended Kennedy family are due in Ireland in the coming days.

John F Kennedy was the first serving US president to visit Ireland.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, said the next few days would be emotional.

"It means so much because when President Kennedy came here, he was overwhelmed with the love of the Irish people, and his last words were that he would come back in the spring.

"He never got to come back, but we're getting to come back," she said.

Image caption The emigrant flame arrived at Dublin airport on Thursday

Kathleen, who is the eldest of Robert and Ethel Kennedy's children, described the commemoration as "an extraordinarily emotional homecoming".

She said the celebration of the president 50 years on was "really moving".

A number of events are under way to mark the anniversary.

Fire from the Eternal Flame on the grave of President Kennedy in Arlington Cemetery in Washington DC has already arrived in Ireland.

It is being transferred from the care of the Irish Army to the Naval Service before heading to New Ross to light an emigrant flame inside a large bronze globe.

Meanwhile, Caroline Kennedy, the only surviving child of President Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, has opened the National Library's JFK Homecoming Exhibition.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan said President Kennedy was a visionary in many areas and his "love of the arts shone in his presidency".

The minister also announced the first John F Kennedy National Library of Ireland Poetry Scholarship - in which scholarships in poetry will be awarded to young students each year.

A highlight of the commemoration weekend takes place on Saturday with the official opening of the Kennedy Homestead visitor and exhibition at Dunganstown, County Wexford.

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