President John F. Kennedy's visit to Ireland in June 1963 was the first by a serving American President. Using materials from archives in London, Dublin, and Boston, this article re-assesses the motives behind Kennedy's decision to visit Ireland and concludes that it was largely a personal journey. However, the trip was not without wider historical and political significance and was surrounded by controversy. The visit was unpopular in the United States, proved a security nightmare, and provoked much discussion amongst the political leadership in Belfast, Dublin and London over Kennedy's attitude to partition. The visit marked a major development in the history of Irish-American relations as it eased tensions over Ireland's neutrality, marked a shift towards White House activism in Irish affairs, boosted Irish tourism, and fostered increased trading and cultural links between the two countries.