28 May 2006

Silent tribute to Famine victims


28/05/2006 - 12:19:10

An international minute’s silence will be held today to remember the one million victims of the Famine.

The tribute will take place as the Committee For The Commemoration Of Irish Famine Victims leads 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, will lay a wreath at the Memorial and toss red roses into the River Liffey.

A piper will then play as a young girl sings ’Amazing Grace’.

The Committee is calling on people across the island of Ireland as well as Irish emigrants abroad to mark the minute’s silence at 2pm.

One million died and hundreds of thousands were forced to flee the island after the collapse of the potato harvest between 1845-1848.

Dublin City Council boosted the Committee’s campaign to designate an annual memorial day to remember Famine victims when councillors approved a Labour Party motion on the issue this week.

“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 Government has previously suggested that the Famine could be incorporated into the National Day of Commemoration – an annual ceremony 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.

It has been estimated that the Famine could have indirectly halved the all-Ireland population as it was over eight million people in 1845 but had shrunk to approximately four million by the 1911 Census.

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 has lobbied the British Government, the GAA and the Irish Farmers Association on the issue since it was established in 2003.

Former Riverdance star Michael Flatley has supported the campaign.

Opposition leaders Enda Kenny, Pat Rabbitte and Trevor Sargent all support calls for an annual memorial day.

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