Thursday, May 04, 2006


Remember the Famine?

The Famine devastated Ireland I see The Committee For The Commemoration Of Irish Famine Victims has called upon the Government to designate an annual day of commemoration to remember the victims of the Famine.

The Committee believe the potato famine to be more important in the state’s history than the 1916 Rising and they feel it should be officially marked by the Government.

The committee has lobbied the GAA, the IFA and the British government on the issue since it was established in 2003.

The Irish government previously marked the 150th anniversary of the Famine in the 1990s and the GAA moved the 1947 All-Ireland finals to the Polo Grounds in New York to honour the centenary.

Dublin City Council will debate a motion calling for an Irish Famine Victims & Emigrants Memorial Day at its monthly meeting on Monday and Commemoration Committee chairman Michael Blanch said:

"Every household on the island has a relative who died in the Famine.

"It was only three generations ago and the victims were both Catholic and Protestant, so a commemoration can build bridges between the two communities.

"Every country remembers disasters in its history whether it is the Holocaust or New York’s 9/11."

Dublin City Council’s motion, which is being proposed by former Lord Mayor Cllr Dermot Lacey, could be later passed by other local authorities if approved in City Hall on Monday.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern suggested in the Dail last year that the Famine could be incorporated into the National Day of Commemoration but Mr Blanch said this specifically remembers dead Irish soldiers, and not civilians which comprised the Famine victims.

He envisages that an annual commemoration could be rotated to Leinster, Munster, Connaght and Ulster on an annual basis.

The Commemoration Committee also believes that the Memorial Day would be a gesture of solidarity towards people suffering in famines occurring in regions across the world like Somalia and Darfur.

It is generally believed that one million people died in the Famine and an additional one million emigrated but Mr Blanch claimed that the disaster could have indirectly halved the population as the all-Ireland population was over eight million in 1845 but had shrunk to four million by the 1911 Census. He added that there are up to 70 million people abroad who claim Irish ancestry – many of whom are descended from Famine emigrants.

My own view on this is that it is a worthy cause and I personally hope the motion gets approval.

While the Committee has stated they would like to commemorate the event annually by rotating it around the four Irish provinces, I would go a step further and get some of the cities in America involved where many of the Irish emigrated. This of course is a key part of the Famine's legacy and the people who went abroad suffered a lot as well. It could be held in cities like Boston and New York. I would also suggest allowing it to be commemorated in areas of Britain where the people emigrated, such as Liverpool.

Overall I think it's for a good cause and it is vital that we remember our history. The Famine is a massive part of this country's history.

What are your thoughts?


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