Fifty years after President John Fitzgerald Kennedy famously visited Limerick, his daughter Caroline Kennedy will this week return to the mid-west to trace her father’s links and visit her ancestral family home in Bruff. Ms Kennedy, along with her husband Edwin Schlossberg, their three children and other members of the extended Kennedy family, including her cousin Ms Sydney Lawford, will visit Bruff this Friday, 21st June.

The trip will involve Ms Kennedy tracing the Fitzgerald side of her father’s family who originated in Bruff. She will view the church records of the Fitzgerald family and the site of the old Fitzgerald homestead on the Limerick/Palatine Road, and attend a function at the old Bruff Courthouse to dedicate the building to her ancestor Thomas Fitzgerald. President Kennedy’s great-grandfather Thomas Fitzgerald left Bruff in 1852 for Boston, taking with him the family bible which was later used by JFK when taking his oath of office in 1961.

The family was invited by Bruff Heritage Group which formed in 2008 to ensure the heritage of the area was preserved and used in a meaningful way to promote Bruff, and who are liaising with Limerick County Council, Ballyhoura Development and An Garda Síochána to plan Friday’s visit.

“We are absolutely delighted and honoured to be hosting Ms Kennedy’s visit to Bruff this Friday and it really is a major event for County Limerick in this, the Year of the Gathering,” said Paul Dennehy, Bruff Heritage Group.

Bruff Heritage Group has leased the vacant old courthouse from Limerick County Council, and it has been refurbished under the guidance of Tom Cassidy, Conservation Officer with Limerick County Council. The building will be used partly as a training centre by Ballyhoura Development and also as an exhibition and heritage centre.

Paul Dennehy continued; “Ms Kennedy is of course a lawyer and will be very interested to know that an important reform in the history of the Irish legal system was introduced as a direct result of an occurrence in the old Bruff Courthouse in 1829 – the right of the Irish citizen to have legal representation was established and the practices of local magistrates in disallowing this was forbidden. So it is especially significant that she will be present in Bruff to dedicate this historical building to her ancestor Thomas Fitzgerald. A number of senior members of the judiciary including the Attorney General Maire Whelan are also expected to attend.”