Kennedy Summer School to Host 1963-style Kennedy Tea Party

Monday, July 03, 2023. 12:33pm
Eileen Whelan set to host Kennedy Summer School Tea Party accompanied by WestEnd star Sharon Clancy

Eileen Whelan set to host Kennedy Summer School Tea Party accompanied by WestEnd star Sharon Clancy

2023 marks the 60th anniversary of the historical visit of President John F Kennedy to New Ross and to his ancestor’s homestead at Dunganstown, where the memorable Tea Party took place.

That most famous Irish tea party is set to be re-enacted at the JFK Arboretum in county Wexford during the annual Kennedy Summer School on the afternoon of Thursday, August 31st 2023.

The Kennedy Summer School will celebrate the iconic Presidential visit of John F Kennedy to New Ross and Dunganstown with a special event of talks, entertainment and afternoon tea. The event will be hosted by News presenter Eileen Whelan who will talk about her career path and life at RTÉ. The afternoon promises to be an interesting, entertaining, lively opportunity for all involved to meet, mingle and chat in that most typical of Irish ways – over a cup of tea.

Eileen Whelan set to host Kennedy Summer School Tea Party accompanied by WestEnd star Sharon Clancy

Eileen Whelan is originally from Co Limerick.  One of the late John and Ellen Whelan’s 14 children, the family eventually settled in Co Wicklow. 

Eileen first pursued a career as a classical singer and studied at the Royal Irish Academy of Music.  She also spent two summers as a member of the Bunratty Singers, entertaining tourists every night, but unfortunately damaging her vocal cords in the process.

Eileen then turned to journalism.  She completed a journalism course and worked in pirate radio in Wicklow in the days before Ireland had independent radio stations.  She then joined RTÉ as a freelance journalist, reading the news overnight on 2FM and writing bulletins for Radio One.  She went on to earn a staff position with the national broadcaster.  Initially, she spent time working in RTÉ Cork local radio – Cork 89FM – where she soldiered alongside Marty Morrissey, Tony O’Donoghue and Mary Wilson, among others.

Eileen next applied for and was awarded a World Press Institute fellowship, which is granted annually to 10 international journalists who spend four months travelling around the United States.  The fellows are immersed in American culture, politics and society and learn more about the craft of journalism from experts.  The fellowship was followed by a stint in London during which Eileen reported for and presented news bulletins on the BBC and Sky.

Eileen returned to Ireland and to RTÉ in 2000.  She spent several years as a reporter prior to becoming the presenter of the late News on Two.  Currently, she is the main anchor of the One O’Clock News on RTÉ television and regularly presents the Six One and Nine O’Clock News programmes.

Eileen lives in Wicklow Town with her husband Larry and sons, Seán and Larry.

The Kennedy Summer School Tea Party has become a firm favourite for many is hosted by Sean Connick, CEO of the John F Kennedy Trust.  Sean has the enjoyable task of welcoming and chatting with the legendary Eileen Whelan, RTE Newscaster.  Familiar to all, Eileen has attended the Kennedy Summer School throughout the years and this year it is our pleasure to welcome Eileen as our guest at the Tea Party.   The conversation between Eileen and Sean will see them chat about her broadcasting career and life interests.

Eileen Whelan set to host Kennedy Summer School Tea Party accompanied by WestEnd star Sharon Clancy

The talented Sharon Clancy a WestEnd star singer and actress will entertain guests with a wide variety of popular numbers and she will be accompanied by musician Tomas Kavanagh.

In addition, a documentary that was filmed in New Ross during the 50th anniversary of the visit of President John F Kennedy to New Ross in 1963 will be screened. The film was captured in 2013 during the year of ‘The Gathering’ and the documentary followed the planning of the occasion of the JFK50 and the celebratory events with many local faces of New Ross and beyond set to feature.  This film will bring back many memories of another spectacular event in New Ross, when the Emigrant Flame was lit and the Irish Air Corps performed a spectacular fly-past over the river Barrow. The JFK50 Documentary is being shown on this, the 60th anniversary of President Kenndy’s visit to his ancestral home.

Guests to the event will be treated to an array of pastries and cakes and of course, a traditional fruit cake, which is what President John F. Kennedy along with his sisters Eunice Shriver and Jean Kennedy-Smith were served by his cousin Mary Ryan during his visit in 1963, these delicious treats will be made by the expert members of the Wexford Federation Irish Country Women’s Association.

During his visit, the President cuts a slice of the cake, which he ends up giving to Mary Ryan, his second cousin once removed. He thanks her and her friends for doing all of the cooking and offers a toast, “a cup of tea to all the Kennedys who went and all the Kennedys who stayed”.

The annual Kennedy Summer School is set to host a number of expert discussions and is billed as ‘A Festival of Irish and American, History, Politics and Culture. There will be over 60 guest speakers participating with Her Excellency, Canadian Ambassador Nancy Smyth, set to open the occasion.  Sports fans will be enthused to learn that football legend Martin O’Neill will also be taking to the stage to discuss his extraordinary life in football and share his views on the future of the beautiful game.

The weekend will be filled with panel discussions, debates and public interviews and addresses. Other highlight events include an expert panel set to discuss ‘Celebrity Politics’ which will be moderated by Sarah Carey joined by Dr Kathryn Cramer Brownell, Terry Prone, Gerard Howlin and Dermot Murnaghan. An expert panel will also discuss the 50th anniversary of Ireland’s membership of the European Union with moderator Alex White SC, joined by Patrick Honohan, Ray Bassett,  Suzanne Lynch, Lucinda Creighton and Dermot Murnaghan.

The Saturday interview will see a husband and wife political duo take to the stage to discuss their opposing political viewpoints. Husband and Democratic political consultant James Carville and Republican political consultant Mary Matalin. The annual JFK Summer School Speakers Lunch guest speaker is EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness.

For further details and tickets for the 2023 events see or call St. Michael’s Theatre on 051 421255. The Kennedy Summer School and Festival is run in association with the Office of Public Works, New Ross District Council, Wexford County Council, Boston College, Purdue University & Failte Ireland.

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