03 May 2006

Call for day to commemorate famine victims


03/05/2006 - 18:36:12

The Government must designate an annual day of commemoration to remember the victims of the Famine, it was claimed today.

The Committee For The Commemoration Of Irish Famine Victims believes the 19th century disaster is more important in the state’s history than the 1916 Rising, and must be officially marked by the Government.

Dublin City Council will debate a motion calling for an Irish Famine Victims & Emigrants Memorial Day at its monthly meeting on Monday.

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 suggested in the Dail last year that the Famine could be incorporated into the National Day of Commemoration – a ceremony to mark Ireland’s war dead.

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.

The committee has marked the Famine since 2004 by marching from Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance to the Famine sculptures on Customs House Quay on the last Sunday in May.

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.

There are up to 70 million people abroad who claim Irish ancestry – many of whom are descended from Famine emigrants, he added.

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

The 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.

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