Interviewed 16 June 2021
In this segment, Retired Sergeant Eamon Hession, recalls his memories of the high-profile visit in 1996, to Dublin Bay of the US Navy aircraft carrier USS JFK. More than 10,000 people were invited to tour the ship at anchor in Dublin Bay. The visit was also intended to honour two personalities who made a great impact on US history – John F Kennedy, for whom the ship was named, and Commodore John Barry. Barry was a County Wexford native who played an instrumental role in the early years of the US Navy. Her Excellency Ms Jean Kennedy Smith, a sister of John F Kennedy, was the US ambassador to Ireland at this time and was among those to welcome the ship to Ireland. The USS JFK was officially decommissioned on 1 August 2007. ‘Big John’ as it is known by the crew stopped a mile and a half off Dun Laoghaire as it is too big to berth in the harbour. See an image of the USS JFK HERE.
EAMON HESSION: Well, the only, the one thing I didn’t mention there much about was one of the highlights as well was the visit of the John FK.
MS. DELANEY: Oh, I beg your pardon, yes, and it’s there in front of me.
MR. HESSION: I would just like to get that in because when I was at the port that time in 1996, part of my job that time was to be involved in the organisation of the visit of the John FK and along with several different agencies in the State, there was months and months and months of planning went into it. And I suppose being at the port, I was the eyes and ears of everything down there and I liaised with the harbour company and all the different agencies and it came anyway, the John FK came in July in ’97, a great, in ’96, a great occasion and I think it was 250 or 300,000 people came around that weekend to Dun Laoghaire and ’twas fabulous, it was a great occasion and I suppose ’twas great to get on it. I was, for my position there, I was one of the people that got out on the boat, including my wife and two young sons at the time.
MS. DELANEY: Oh, that must have been lovely!
MR. HESSION: Oh, that was fantastic, and I mean, the weather was bad and there was a lot of trips that were cancelled due to the weather, they couldn’t get on to the ship. But it was, ’twas a highlight, really, of my time around Dun Laoghaire to see the John FK come.