Call for Great Hunger memorial day

Efforts to designate an annual memorial day to remember victims of the Great Hunger have been boosted following the approval of a motion on the issue by Dublin City Council.

A minute’s silence was held on Sunday to remember the one million people who died as a result of an agricultural crisis inflamed by colonial British policies.

Another million was forced to flee Ireland after the collapse of the potato harvest between 1845 and 1848. The population of Ireland was ultimately halved from eight million to four million by what became known as the Irish Holocaust.

The tribute took place as the Committee For The Commemoration Of Irish Famine Victims led a solemn procession from Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance to the Famine Memorial on Custom House Quay.

Members of the committee, dressed in peasant clothing, laid a wreath at the memorial and tossed red roses into the River Liffey.

“The Famine was a seminal event in Ireland’s past and dramatically changed the course of our history forever,” committee chairman Michael Blanch said.

“It was akin to the Holocaust for Jews or 9/11 for America and foreign visitors can’t believe that it is not officially recognised in Ireland.

“It only happened three generations ago and the victims were both Catholic and Protestant, so an annual commemoration will build bridges between the two communities.”

The committee envisages that the memorial day would also be a gesture of solidarity towards all people around the world who have suffered in famines.

The 26 County government has previously suggested that the Famine could be incorporated into the National Day of Commemoration, a memorial day to mark Ireland’s war dead.

But the committee said this occasion specifically remembered dead Irish soldiers, and not civilians which comprised the Famine victims.

There are up to 70 million people abroad who claim Irish ancestry, many of whom are descended from emigrants who fled Ireland during the Famine.

The Committee For The Commemoration Of Irish Famine Victims has lobbied on the issue since it was established in 2003.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News