Annual Famine memorial day approved
Annual Famine memorial day approved

Forgotten victims of the Irish Famine are to be remembered in an annual official memorial day for the first time.

A catastrophic failure of the potato crop in the 1840s amid a policy of laissez-faire and overt exploitation by the ruling British government led to the worst famine in European history.

One million people starved while another million emigrated. The devastating natural disaster left a lasting social and political legacy on modern Ireland, although the painful history is rarely discussed.

The Dublin government is now setting up an expert group to best decide how to organise the official Famine Memorial Day.

Making the announcement, community affairs minister Eamon O Cuiv, grandson of former Taoiseach Eamon de Valera, said: “The effects of the Great Famine are still evident today and its legacy has given Irish people an appreciation of issues such as food security and a strong commitment to humanitarian aid and relief.

“If the Famine didn’t happen, there could be 12 million people living in Ireland and eight million could be native Irish speakers.”

The Famine resulted in large Irish communities settling in countries like the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

“These diaspora communities - the Irish abroad - still demonstrate a significant affinity with their migrant predecessors of the Famine,” Mr O Cuiv said.

The Famine has also been blamed for the decline of the Irish language.

“In 1835, the number of native Irish peakers was estimated at four million, but by 1851 only two million spoke Irish as their first language,” said native Irish-speaker Mr O Cuiv.

The proposed Famine Memorial Day is a major victory for the Dublin-based Committee for the Commemoration of Irish Famine Victims, which has run a lobbying campaign for five years.

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