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USS JOHN KENNEDY MAKES A STIR IN DUBLIN

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Dublin's key tourist port came to a standstill Wednesday as sightseers flocked to see the USS John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier and soak up the atmosphere of celebrations leading up to the U.S. Independence Day.

The streets of Dun Laoghaire were virtually impassable, clogged with people, some of whom traveled more than 100 miles to see the 80,000 ton warship anchored 1.5 miles out in Dublin Bay.The sea around the warship was saturated with sailboards, dinghies and trawlers as sightseers tried to get a closer look at the mammoth carrier.

Problems with a platform resulted in delays for the 10,000 hopefuls who acquired free tickets, allocated by Ireland's national lottery, to visit the imposing 26-story warship. People paid up to $159 for tickets on the black market.

"It's amazing. We will probably never see anything like this again," said one observer, who had traveled 60 miles from his midlands home in Athlone.

"Big John," as the aircraft carrier is dubbed, is hard to miss, as it is longer than the Irish capital's main boulevard, O'Connell Street, larger than its premier sports arena, Croke Park, and taller than its town hall.

A ceremonial 21-gun salute welcomed the carrier and heralded the start of a weeklong celebration.

The highlight of the week will be the celebration on July 4, although bad weather is casting a shadow over where the party for VIPs will be held.

Initially special guests were invited to party on the carrier, but this may now be moved to dry land. Popular Irish family singers The Corrs will join navy and army bands to complete a colorful evening's celebration.

However, not all spectators welcomed the JFK. More than 400 demonstrators protested Tuesday evening, chanting "Hey, hey, JFK, how many kids did you kill today?"

Green Party parliamentarian Patricia McKenna told newspapers that Ireland's neutrality was being severely compromised by allowing the JFK into Ireland's territorial waters.