A Late Night Encounter
It was Saturday the 28th and lovely sunny weather. I was 10 years of age. We lived in South County Dublin but my mother ran a small grocery shop in East Wall. I was there with her that day and late that evening after she had closed up and done the books she said we were not going straight home. The President had flown back from Wexford that day and had attended a garden party in Áras an Uachtaráin and later a reception in Iveagh House, after which he had walked into a crowd of well-wishes on Stephens Green to shake hands. My mother drove us into the Phoenix Park and we waited with a small group of people at the gate of the American Ambassador’s Residence. It was an expectant and cheerful group – us and a few Guards. There was great excitement when, after midnight, the President’s car arrived at the gate and stopped. He got out to shake hands – but on the opposite side of the car. He shook hands to the people there while Eunice Shriver and his sister emerged to glad-hand those of us on our side. He was very friendly, tanned and well-coifed with a triangle of hankie in his breast pocket.
Since then I have often reflected on that glamorous head and the speeches that preceded his Irish visit – the one in Berlin, of course, but, more importantly, his address to the American University in Washington D.C., which won him the confidence of Khrushchev and the first Test Ban Treaty. I was in my best friend’s house when the news of the Dallas assassination was broadcast and remember his teenage sister begin a startling keening. A few days later I watched with my parents the news of Oswald’s killing by Jack Ruby and remember vividly my mother’s disgust at another televised murder.
- in Iveagh House