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Garda Protection of JFK

Mark Hearne (Retired Garda)

As a proud member of An Garda Siochana attached to the Traffic Corps in Dublin Castle I was given the honor of escorting President John F. Kennedy during his Presidential visit to Ireland.
There were two units of traffic gardai detailed to escort President John F Kennedy as he visited the various engagements. Each group had 1 Sergeant and 8 gardai per unit. We were on the motorcycles and actually got new bikes specifically for the occasion.

When we left to go to the airport, it was a sight on the streets, thousands of people gathered all the way from the city outwards. We were based outside the V.I.P. lounge. I will never forget the the giant American limos, I don’t think we had ever seen them here before. They cost £32 (€40.63) to fill the petrol tanks – huge money at those times. They also had gigantic running boards attached to the sides of the cars, where the F.B.I. and Secret Service would travel with the President the entire time, obviously protecting him. I had never seen anything like it.

The first car was for President Kennedy and De Valera. I was escorting this car. Kennedy stood up all the way from the airport looking out. President De Valera sat down and didn’t move. The F.B.I. agents were on the running boards wearing dark glasses. It all looked very dramatic, straight out of a film. When we came out of the airport I remember being blinded by cameras, people snapping all the way. O’Connell Street was very bad, the traffic crawled along at a snails pace. When we arrived at the Phoenix park there was total pandemonium. I got the windshield broken off the motorcycle while others had to physically lift the President out of the car.

I have a signed photograph from John F Kennedy of me escorting the cavalcade which takes pride of place hanging on the wall of my home

This event was the highlight and the proudest moment of my 37 years service with An Garda Siochana and one I will never forget!

- in Arrival in Dublin