National Famine Commemoration Day

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The National Famine Commemoration Day (Irish: Lá Cuimhneacháin Náisiúnta an Ghorta Mhóir[1]) is an annual observance in Ireland commemorating the Great Famine. A week-long programme of events leads up to the day, usually a Sunday in May.[2] It has been organised officially by the government of Ireland since 2008.[3] The main event is held in a different place each year, rotating among the four provinces of Ireland.[3] There is also an international event, held in a place important for the Irish diaspora.[4]

Events at the main venue include lectures, arts events, and visits to places connected to the Famine.[5][6] The government encourages local events, and a minute's silence on the day,[7] or the preceding Friday for schools and workplaces.[8]

History[edit]

Famine memorial in Dublin, endpoint of the CCIFV walk

The Great Famine lasted from 1845 to about 1850, with "Black '47" the worst year. In 1994 the government established a committee to fund events and works commemorating the Famine's 150th anniversary, which operated until 2000.[9]

In County Mayo from 1987, an annual "Famine Walk" from Louisburgh to Doolough has commemorated the Doolough Tragedy of 30–31 March 1849.[10][11] From 2004, the Committee for the Commemoration of the Irish Famine Victims (CCIFV) has organised an annual commemoration each May in Dublin, in which members dressed as starving peasants walk from the Garden of Remembrance to the famine memorial sculptures in front of the Custom House.[12] The CCIFV lobbied for official recognition and received various messages of support from politicians.[9][10][12] Taoiseach Bertie Ahern answered several Dáil questions on the CCIFV and Famine commemoration generally. In 2005, he was reluctant to countenance a designated annual national day to commemorate the Famine; he favoured a single memorial to all major historical events, mentioning the 1798 Rebellion and the Land War.[9] In 2006, he said the Department of the Taoiseach was examining submissions on Famine commemoration.[13] In 2007, he was "Positively disposed towards the establishment of a memorial day".[14] That year, the day of the CCIFV walk received a modicum of official recognition, with one reception hosted by Conor Lenihan, Minister of State responsible for food aid,[12][14] and another by Bertie Ahern at Iveagh House.[12] The Friday before the 2008 CCIFV walk, the government issued a press release announcing that the state would in future organise an annual commemoration.[15] That Sunday there was a reception hosted by Minister of State John Curran at the Custom House, Dublin before the CCIFV walk.[15] A July press release of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs described this as "the first National Famine Commemoration Day".[16]

In July 2008 Éamon Ó Cuív, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, established the National Famine Commemoration Committee, whose stated main objective was:[16]

to consider the most appropriate arrangement for future national commemorations of the Great Famine. The general legacy of emigration, cultural loss and the decline of the Irish language, together with the specific issues of food security and the strong commitment of the Irish people to humanitarian aid and relief, are particular themes that will be explored by the Committee during its work.

This committee has recommended the venue for subsequent commemorations, and liaised with each local organising committee. The event is staged in each province in rotation. The 2011 event was scheduled for Ulster, and in October 2010 two Sinn Féin ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive discussed the possibility of a Northern Ireland host venue with Pat Carey, Ó Cuív's successor as the Republic's Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.[17] In the event, Clones, County Monaghan, in the Republic, was chosen. Northern Ireland was the location of the next Ulster host: Newry, County Armagh in 2015.[18]

In December 2016, Sinn Féin introduced a private member's bill seeking to have the commemoration held on the second Sunday of every May every year.[19] Peadar Tóibín said, "we do not know at this late stage when the national Famine day will take place next year. This annual uncertainty over the commemoration date is shocking".[20] Colm Brophy of Fine Gael introduced a similar bill in January 2017.[21]

Venues[edit]

Year Irish Venue Date International Venue Notes
2008 Dublin, County Dublin[15] 25 May[15] Unofficial event, with ancillary official reception.[15]
2009 Skibbereen, County Cork[5] 17 May[5] Canada[4] (Toronto and Grosse Isle)[22] The first official commemoration. Skibbereen was particularly hard hit by the Famine.[3][23]
2010 Murrisk, County Mayo[6] 16 May[6] New York City[4] Site of the National Famine Monument.[6]
2011 Clones, County Monaghan[24] 10 September[24] Liverpool[4] The government denied CCIFV claims the event had been moved from May to avoid clashing with Queen Elizabeth II's state visit.[2] Date was a Saturday, rather than Sunday, to avoid clashing with 10th anniversary of September 11 attacks.
2012 Drogheda, County Louth[25] 13 May[25] Boston, United States[4] President Michael D. Higgins gave a lecture in Boston,[26] while Taoiseach Enda Kenny attended the Drogheda event.[27]
2013 Kilrush, County Clare[28] 12 May[29] Sydney[30]
2014 Strokestown, County Roscommon[31] 11 May[31] New Orleans[32] Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan officiated at the Strokestown event.[33]
2015 Newry, County Armagh[18] 26 September Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada[18]
2016 Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin[34] 11 September Philadelphia, USA[35]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Fógraíonn an tAire Deenihan gurb é Droichead Átha, Contae Lú, an Baile Óstach do Lá Cuimhneacháin Náisiúnta an Ghorta Mhóir 2012" (in Irish). Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. 30 December 2011. Retrieved 10 February 2012. [permanent dead link]
  2. ^ a b Wylie, Catherine (11 July 2011). "Minister denies postponing Famine event". The Irish Times. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c English, Eoin (7 May 2009). "Famine town first to honour victims". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Minister Deenihan announces Boston as the location for the 2012 International Commemoration of the Great Irish Famine". Press Releases. Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. 7 January 2012. Retrieved 10 February 2012. [permanent dead link]
  5. ^ a b c "National Famine Commemoration 2009" (PDF). Skibbereen Heritage Centre. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c d "National Famine Commemoration 2010" (PDF). Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. 2010. Retrieved 10 February 2012. [permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Bray, Allison (15 May 2010). "Minute's silence urged for victims of Famine". Irish Independent. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  8. ^ Ó Muirí, Pól (13 May 2010). "Minute's silence for the Great Famine". The Irish Times. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  9. ^ a b c Dáil debates 4 May 2005 p.19
  10. ^ a b "Annual Commemoration Walk". Committee for the Commemoration of the Irish Famine Victims. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  11. ^ Ryan, Áine (23 May 2011). "Annual Famine walk held in Mayo". The Irish Times. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  12. ^ a b c d "Group finally wins State's backing for Famine event". Irish Independent. 5 May 2007. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  13. ^ Dáil debates 14 June 2006
  14. ^ a b Dáil debates 27 March 2007 p.4
  15. ^ a b c d e "Government to commemorate Great Famine with annual memorial day" (MS Word). Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. 23 May 2009. Retrieved 10 February 2012. [permanent dead link]
  16. ^ a b "Inaugural meeting of the National Famine Commemoration Committee" (MS WORD). Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. 22 July 2008. Retrieved 10 February 2012. [permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "Minister Gildernew and Minister Ruane discuss National Famine Commemoration Day with Pat Carey T.D" (Press release). Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. 15 October 2010. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  18. ^ a b c "National Famine Commemoration". Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. 3 July 2015. 
  19. ^ "Famine Memorial Day Bill 2016". Bills. Oireachtas. Retrieved 15 December 2016. 
  20. ^ "Famine Memorial Bill 2016: First Stage". Dáil debates. 14 December 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2016. 
  21. ^ "National Famine Commemoration Day Bill 2017 [PMB]". Bills. Oireachtas. Retrieved 2 February 2017. 
  22. ^ "National Famine Commemoration 2009". Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Retrieved 10 February 2012. [permanent dead link]
  23. ^ "The National Famine Commemoration Day −10th to the 17th May 2009". Dublin: Heritage Council. 2009. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  24. ^ a b "Minister Deenihan praises local events in the run up to the National Famine Commemoration 2011". Press Releases. Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. 8 September 2011. Retrieved 10 February 2012. [permanent dead link]
  25. ^ a b "Minister Deenihan welcomes Taoiseach's decision to officiate at the National Famine Commemoration in Drogheda". Press Releases. Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. 23 January 2012. Retrieved 10 February 2012. [permanent dead link]
  26. ^ Press Association (30 April 2012). "President makes official US visit". Irish Independent. Retrieved 10 May 2012. 
  27. ^ "Robinson's message for Gorta". Drogheda Independent. 25 April 2012. Retrieved 10 May 2012. 
  28. ^ "Minister Deenihan announces National Famine Commemoration 2013 to be held in Kilrush, Co. Clare". Press Releases. Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. 14 January 2013. Archived from the original on 18 January 2013. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  29. ^ "Date Set For National Famine Commemoration in Kilrush". Press Releases. Clare Herald. 1 February 2013. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  30. ^ "MINISTER DEENIHAN ANNOUNCES[ THE 2013 INTERNATIONAL COMMEMORATION OF THE GREAT IRISH FAMINE IS TO TAKE PLACE IN SYDNEY". Press Releases. Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. 30 August 2012. Archived from the original on 17 December 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2012. 
  31. ^ a b "Minister Deenihan launches the National Famine Commemoration Local Community programme of events 2014 in Strokestown, Co Roscommon". Press Releases. Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. 31 March 2014. Archived from the original on 3 April 2014. Retrieved 5 April 2014. 
  32. ^ "Irish Government Names New Orleans as 2014 International Famine Commemoration Site". Press Releases. New Orleans Conventions and Visitors Bureau. 17 October 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2014. 
  33. ^ "Taoiseach and Arts Minister officiate at famine commemoration in Strokestown". Dublin News. 12 May 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  34. ^ "Europe 'should learn lessons of Irish Famine'". RTÉ.ie. 12 September 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2016. 
  35. ^ National Famine Commemoration Committee (14 September 2016). "International Famine Commemoration 2016". Irish Famine. Retrieved 15 December 2016. 

External links[edit]