26 May 2006

Council backs motion on famine

Daily Ireland


Moves to designate an annual memorial day for victims of Ireland’s famine received a boost yesterday.
Dublin City Council has unanimously approved a Labour Party motion to officially mark the potato famine — also known as the Great Hunger — of the 1840s. One million people died and hundreds of thousands of people were forced to emigrate at that time.
In 1860, the Young Irelander John Mitchel wrote: “The Almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight, but the English created the famine.”
Labour leader Pat Rabbitte has also tabled a parliamentary question on the issue. Arts minister John O’Donoghue will take the question in the Dáil next week.
Councillor Dermot Lacey, who proposed the motion to the city council, said: “Every household in Ireland has ancestors who died in the famine and the memorial day is a fitting tribute to them all.”
The Committee for the Commemoration of Irish Famine Victims is to lead its annual procession from Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square to the famine memorial on Custom House Quay this Sunday. The group is calling on people in all parts of Ireland as well as Irish people living abroad to observe a minute’s silence at 2pm on that day.
Committee chairman Michael Blanch said: “The famine only happened three generations ago and the victims were both Catholic and Protestant, so any commemoration can build bridges between the two communities.”
The committee envisages that the memorial day would also be a gesture of solidarity towards all those around the world who have suffered in famines.
In the Dáil in May last year, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern suggested that the famine could be incorporated into the National Day of Commemoration, an annual ceremony to mark Ireland’s war dead.
The committee said this occasion specifically remembered dead Irish military personnel and not civilians.

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