Kennedy Goofs in Speech to Dail Eireann – John Boyle O’Reilly – Irish Civil War

June 28: TODAY in Irish History:

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JFK image in For the Love of Being Irish

Image of JFK in For the Love of Being Irish: An A-Z of Ireland. 

Snippets of Irish History by Conor Cunneen IrishmanSpeaks 

Conor is a Chicago based Motivational Humorous Business Speaker, Author and History buff.

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1844: John Boyle O’Reilly

John Boyle O'Reilly 1844-1890

John Boyle O’Reilly 1844-1890

Irish poet, writer and nationalist John Boyle O’Reilly is born in County Meath. O’Reilly was transported to Australia in 1868 for his Fenian activities, but escaped to America after two years where he ultimately became an American citizen. President Kennedy allegedly was an admirer of O’Reilly’s work and quoted him when speaking to DAil Eireann in 1963 stating:

“The world is large,” wrote John Boyle O’Reilly.

“The world is large when its weary
leagues two loving hearts divide,
“But the world is small when your enemy
is loose on the other side.”

For further details on this speech, see JFK in Ireland below. More on John Boyle O’Reilly.




1921: De Valera Responds to Lloyd George

  Eamonn De Valera responds to Prime Minister Lloyd George’s request for a meeting to solve the Irish crisis and stop bloodshed between Irish freedom fighters and British.

Letter from Eamonn De Valera to David Lloyd George.


I have received your letter. I am in consultation with such of the principal representatives of our nation as are available. We most earnestly desire to help in bringing about a lasting peace between the peoples of these two islands, but see no avenue by which it can be reached if you deny Ireland’s essential unity and set aside the principle of national self-determination.

Before replying more fully to your letter, I am seeking a conference with certain representatives of the political minority in this country.

Eamon de Valera

On July 8th, De Valera would indicate a willingness to negotiate. Negotiations would commence later in the year and culminate with the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty December 6th 1921.




1922: Four Courts Bombardment – Civil War Starts

Michael Collins orders Irish Free State forces to bombard the Four Courts in Dublin which has been in Anti-Treaty hands since April. It signals the start of a vicious civil war where former colleagues who fought against the British are now fighting each other. In one of the many tragic ironies of Irish history, the government forces borrowed artillery from British forces waiting to leave Ireland.

Bombardment of Four Courts 1922
Michael Collins ordered Four Courts bombardment

Image of Michael Collins in For the Love of Being Irish. Buy author signed copies HERE.




1963: Day 3 of President Kennedy’s Irish visit

JFK image in For the Love of Being Irish

Image of JFK in For the Love of Being Irish: An A-Z of Ireland. 

Kennedy makes a surprising goof when speaking to a packed Dail Eireann about one of the most momentous days for the Fighting Irish Brigade during the American Civil War. Somehow, Kennedy got his dates and geography mixed up when he said

“The 13th day of September, 1862, will be a day long remembered in American history. At Fredericksburg, Maryland, thousands of men fought and died on one of the bloodiest battlefields of the American Civil War.”

The date of the Battle of Fredericksburg where so many Irish were slaughtered was December 13 and NOT September 13 as Kennedy states. Also, Fredericksburg is in Virginia and not Maryland. Kennedy was accompanied on this European trip which included the famous Ich bin Ein Berliner speech by his counselor  and speech writer Ted Sorensen, a master wordsmith and fastidious researcher who seems to have erred in the writing of the speech. It is unlikely that Kennedy mispronounced “December” as the transcript of the speech at the JFK Library includes the incorrect dates. It can be safely assumed that no one in Dail Eireann was aware of Kennedy’s error.

But the speech was uplifting and motivating to an Irish nation that was still young. Kennedy said

“This has never been a rich or powerful country, and yet, since earliest times, its influence on the world has been rich and powerful. No larger nation did more to keep Christianity and Western culture alive in their darkest centuries. No larger nation did more to spark the cause of independence in America, indeed, around the world. And no larger nation has ever provided the world with more literary and artistic genius.

This is an extraordinary country. George Bernard Shaw, speaking as an Irishman, summed up an approach to life: Other people, he said “see things and . . . say ‘Why?’ . . . But I dream things that never were– and I say: ‘Why not?'” ”

For Full Text of JFK’s speech to Dail Eireann

Earlier that day, Kennedy visited Cork City where he was again greeted like a rock star.

JFK in Cork
Kennedy in Patrick Street Cork June 28, 1963


Kennedy in Ireland: Day I

Kennedy in Ireland: Day II





WATCH: A Short History of Ireland

Want to learn more about Ireland? See these images and more in the acclaimed For the Love of Being Irish

Irish gift ideas. Best selling Irish booksRonnie Drew and Luke Kelly - Musical Irish Gifts to the worldJoyce Image in For the Love of Being IrishMichael Collins: Image from For the Love of Being Irish


This history is written by Irish author, business keynote speaker and award winning humorist IrishmanSpeaks – Conor Cunneen. If you spot any inaccuracies or wish to make a comment, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the comment button.

Visit Conor’s YouTube channel IrishmanSpeaks to Laugh and Learn.

Tags: Best Irish Gift, Creative Irish Gift, Unique Irish Gifts, Irish Books, Irish Authors, Today in Irish History TODAY IN IRISH HISTORY (published by IrishmanSpeaks)


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