Annual Famine Commemoration held in Northern Ireland for the first time – Minister Humphreys
The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, is today (Saturday, 26 September 2015) officiating at the Annual Famine Commemoration at Albert Basin, Newry, Co. Down. This is the first time that the Annual Famine Commemoration has been held in Northern Ireland, and the second time it has taken place in Ulster.
Wreaths are being laid by Minister Humphreys and representatives from the Northern Ireland Assembly and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council. As in previous years, ambassadors and consuls from more than 30 countries will also lay wreaths in honour of those who suffered, died or emigrated during the Famine.
Speaking today Minister Humphreys said:
“As a proud Ulster woman, I am very pleased to be here in Newry, as we hold the Famine Commemoration for the first time in Northern Ireland. The Great Famine was one of the most significant events in the history of this island and Northern Ireland was not immune from the death and devastation which it brought. Ulster lost one sixth of its population during the Famine decade.
“Of the 130 or so workhouses on the island of Ireland during the Famine, only two had a higher mortality rate than the workhouse in Lurgan. Soup kitchens operated in Ballymena, Lisburn and throughout Ulster. While the population of Antrim fell only slightly – due to the influx of destitute people into Belfast – all of the other counties of Ulster lost at least 10% of their population.
“The failure of the potato crop during the 1840s not only led to enormous suffering and loss of life but also changed Ireland’s demographic and cultural landscape, the effects of which can still be felt in the present day. Today we remember all those who suffered as a result of the Famine throughout Ulster and the rest of Ireland regardless of their creed, political affiliation or nationality.
“The active involvement of groups from across the community in Newry has given great resonance to this year’s commemoration. By engaging with the history of the Famine in this area, we can help to develop a deeper understanding of the regional and local impacts of this seminal event in the history of our island. I would like to commend Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, which has worked with my Department to make this year’s commemoration a very special event.”
Minister Humphreys will also unveil a commemorative plaque in Warrenpoint, Co. Down tomorrow (Sunday) in honour of those who emigrated and all of the people who suffered on the island of Ireland as a result of the catastrophic Famine.