11/05/2014 An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD accompanied by Jimmy Deenihan TD Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht officiate at the National Famine Commemoration Ceremony in Strokestown
Today (Sunday 11th May, 2014), An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD accompanied by Jimmy Deenihan T.D., Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Chair of the National Famine Commemoration Committee officiated at the National Famine Commemoration Day event in Strokestown
Speaking at today’s event, An Taoiseach said:
“In remembering our past, we must not lose sight of our present. Our history of famine means that Irish people have a particular empathy with those suffering the effects of hunger in the world today. As Taoiseach, in honour of our Famine dead, I’m proud to be able to say that combating global hunger and under-nutrition is central both to Ireland’s foreign policy and to our overseas development-assistance programme – Irish Aid. At a global level, strong advocacy actions, high profile interventions, and key areas of support for global initiatives are making Ireland a leader in the fight against hunger. Today, across the world, Ireland and the Irish are synonymous with aid, outreach and compassion.”
During the crisis years of An Górta Mór, it is estimated that over one million Irish people perished, from hunger or hunger-related diseases. In the decade following 1846, the floodgates of emigration opened as those most severely affected by the famine fled and more than 1.8 million Irish emigrated, with more than half of these fleeing during the famine years of 1846-50.
Roscommon was severely affected during this time. In the short period 1841 to 1851 more than 32% of the county’s population vanished either through death or emigration. At Strokestown the population of the Mahon estate declined by nearly 60%.
Minister Deenihan said:
“I have been honoured to have visited Strokestown Park on a number of occasions and it is a well known fact that the people here have worked tirelessly over the last 20 years to ensure that the victims of the Great Irish Famine are remembered in a dignified and respectful way. They have ensured the people of Ireland have a rich collection of material which helps us to examine the themes of the famine such as blight, eviction and emigration. It is therefore fitting that the 2014 National Famine Commemoration should take place here. The wealth of material here and the thought-provoking exhibitions all serve to help us to remember this tragic time in our history and not only remember but to understand the themes surrounding the famine which will help us fight hunger in the world today”.
The ceremony consisted of a formal State ceremony encompassing military honours and a wreath laying ceremony by Ambassadors to Ireland in remembrance of all those who suffered or perished during the Famine – a record number of representatives from the diplomatic corps attended this year’s event. It also featured a programme which was choreographed by the local community in Strokestown.
Previously National Famine Commemorations have taken place in Dublin, Skibbereen, Co. Cork, Murrisk, Co. Mayo, Drogheda, Co. Louth, Clones, Co. Monaghan and Kilrush, Co. Clare.