President Higgins and Minister Humphreys officiate at annual Famine Commemoration Ceremony at Glasnevin Cemetery

Famine Cross to be unveiled as permanent memorial to Famine victims

President Michael D. Higgins is today (Sunday) officiating at the National Famine Commemoration at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. He will be accompanied by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys TD.

Following the ceremony, President Higgins will unveil a Famine Cross as a memorial to those who perished during the years of An Gorta Mór. The mid-19th century hand-sculpted Celtic cross, which has been donated by Glasnevin Trust, will be permanently located outside the Mortuary Chapel.

Today’s formal State ceremony will include military honours and a wreath laying ceremony by Ambassadors to Ireland in remembrance of all those who suffered or perished during the Famine, as well as music from local choirs and St. James’s Brass and Reed Band, Ireland’s oldest band.

In his speech, President Higgins will reflect on the economic and political factors that contributed to the Famine, the impact it had on Irish society and the lessons to be learned from the international and national responses to the greatest human tragedy of the 19th century, in proportionate terms of population.

Speaking today Minister Humphreys said:

“The Famine left an indelible mark on Ireland, devastating communities the length and breadth of this country. The annual Famine Commemoration provides us with an important opportunity to remember the one million people who perished, and the one million who were forced to emigrate as a result of the failure of the potato crop.

“Records from Glasnevin Cemetery show that at the height of the Famine, 50-60 funerals were taking place here daily. People from the four provinces of Ireland, those from Dublin and those who made their way there in search of reprieve, are buried throughout Glasnevin Cemetery, making it one of Ireland’s largest Famine burial grounds. It is fitting therefore, that the Famine Cross will stand in Glasnevin as a permanent memorial to the Famine victims, adding to Glasnevin’s status as a repository of our history.”

Chairman of Glasnevin Trust John Green said:

“It is an honour for us to host this commemoration and to inaugurate an iconic Celtic Cross as a permanent monument to those buried here who died as a result of the famine. Visitors to the cemetery are often surprised that it is also a famine burial site but from the midst of our eastern seaboard dominated country and our Dublin centric economy it is difficult for us all to realise how utterly changed this Island was post the famine. Dublin became a refugee city, death rates soared. In this cemetery daily burial numbers trebled and tens of thousands are buried here as result of the famine or famine fostered fevers and diseases.

“Hopefully commemoration such as this and memorials such as the cross we unveil here today will ensure that An Gorta Mór, which so brutally shaped our nation through suffering, sacrifice and emigration, will never be forgotten.”


Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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