Dec. 13, 2009— -- The Kennedy ancestral home and visitor center in Dunganstown, County Wexford, will receive a major upgrade, the Irish Government has revealed. A special section honoring Sen. Edward Kennedy will be included.
The founder of the Kennedy dynasty, Patrick Kennedy, a small farmer, left Dunganstown and sailed from New Ross at the height of the Irish Famine in the 1840s. President John F. Kennedy visited the farm on his historic trip to Ireland in 1963.
However, the farm has seen hard times since then, and the small visitor center was in danger of closing.
During a visit there last year, Jean Kennedy Smith, the last surviving family member, asked that the historic site be upgraded.
Now Finance Minister Brian Lenihan has revealed the Government will underwrite a project at the Kennedy homestead in Dunganstown.
"Senator Kennedy was unquestionably one of the best friends Ireland ever had on Capitol Hill," Lenihan told the Irish Parliament Wednesday.
"In a modest way I would like to honor the memory of a great man from a great family. The development of this important visitor attraction will be a welcome boost to tourism in the South East."
Lenihan said the election of John F. Kennedy as President in 1960 also gave a "powerful sense of hope, possibility and self-belief" to Irish people all over the world."
Government officials said they were still working on the details of the upgrade.
"We haven't decided as yet what the project will entail," said a spokesman.
"We will have to meet with the landowner and local authority and go forward from there."
However, Labor Party leader Eamon Gilmore criticized the announcement, which was made during a tough budget speech.
"To add insult to injury, the Minister quoted the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in a budget which cuts spending for health, education and children -- three areas for which Sen. Kennedy fought all his life," said Gilmore.