By Pauline Redmond
The Kennedy homestead, birthplace of former US President John F. Kennedy’s great-grandfather, is located in Dunganstown, Co. Wexford. JFK visited the farm during his trip to Ireland in June 1963 and met with his cousin Mary Ryan there.
In this area of Wexford, known as the barony of Shelburne, the land wars of the late nineteenth century were vigorously fought. During this period in Ireland, tenant farmers fought against excessive rents, unfair tenancy conditions and evictions.
On October 22nd 1887, James and Patrick Kennedy, nephews of John F. Kennedy’s great grandfather, were involved in the defence of David Foley’s house, later known as Foley’s Fort, in nearby Ballykerogue, close to Campile.
The local landowner was Colonel Tottenham, ower of Loftus Hall. Locals approached his agent, Mr. Boyd, and asked for a reduction of one quarter in rent. Their request was denied and they were informed that if full rents were not paid that evictions would take place.
The tenants had requested the reduction as part of the Land League’s ‘Plan of Campaign’ strategy, which called on tenant farmers to ask their landlords for reduced rent rates. If the landlord refused the request farmers were asked to withhold the monies.
Following refusal to pay the required rent, Boyd decided to start the evictions with the tenant who had the largest holding – David Foley. The date when the eviction would take place was obtained from a policeman when under the influence of alcohol.
Twenty-one of the strongest men from the parish went to defend the property, including the Kennedy brothers. They were led by Foley’s son, Laurence, who was involved in the Land League. They barricaded the house like a ‘fort’.