Taoiseach and Minister Humphreys officiate at National Famine Commemoration Ceremony at the Famine  Warhouse 1848 Ballingarry

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is today (Saturday) officiating at the National Famine Commemoration at the Famine Warhouse 1848 in Ballingarry Co. Tipperary. He will be accompanied by the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD.

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.  The community programme for this year’s event will include performances by Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, the Cecilian Choir of the Ursuline School, Thurles and Banna Cluain Meala as well as readings by poet Michael Coady, Carmel O’Brien and pupils from the Presentation Secondary School Ballingarry.  Local artists including Katy Goodhue and David Quin have also produced new works as part of the supporting programme of events and these, together with over 200 artworks produced by children from local primary schools, will be on display at the Commemoration.

In his speech, the Taoiseach reflected on the impact of the famine on Irish society as well as the intense awareness of and engagement with developments in the wider European context that inspired the development of political philosophy among the Young Ireland movement  in Ireland during the mid-19th century;-

“Today we are gathered here to remember those who perished in the Great Famine and those who sought to respond to that disaster by creating a new future through the Rebellion of 1848.  One was a natural catastrophe, the other a military disaster – both however shaped us as a people – and Ballingarry is a fitting location to acknowledge and remember all those who suffered and died and honour their legacy. One positive legacy of the effects of An Gorta Mór is the compassion we have shown as a country for other peoples and nations undergoing humanitarian crises whether through famine, natural disasters or war.  Just as our people found assistance and opportunity when they needed it, we now work to support those who need our assistance to escape from hunger.”

Speaking today Minister Humphreys said:

“The home of Margaret McCormack and her family is a fitting venue for this year’s commemoration. While each community has had its own unique story to tell of the Famine, the common thread that unites each host community has been the memory of the human and societal cost of the destruction wrought by An Gorta Mór.  Not only were individual lives lost but families and indeed whole villages were destroyed through death, disease and emigration.”

The Minister also welcomed the visit to Ireland next year of Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger, saying

“I am pleased to announce that next year the Great Hunger Museum of Quinnipiac University will be bringing an exhibition entitled Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger to Dublin and Skibbereen.  This will afford an opportunity for us in Ireland to experience the world’s finest collection of Famine-related art at first hand.”


Notes to Editor:

The Famine Warhouse 1848

During the Great Famine the Warhouse was the scene of the 1848 Rebellion. The house which is a National Monument under the care of the OPW exhibits the history of the Famine and mass emigration, the rebellion, high treason trials and penal exile of the Young Ireland leaders in Australia and their escapes to the U.S.A.

Here rebels under the leadership of the Protestant aristocrat, William Smith O’Brien, M.P., besieged 47 police officers who had barricaded themselves into the McCormack farmhouse taking five children hostage. The exhibition places the Famine Rebellion in the context of 1848 as Europe’s Year of Revolutions in France, Germany, Italy, Austria and Hungary.

Further detail on the ceremony:

The programme begins with a recital from Banna Chluain Meala which was founded in 1971 and is one of the largest and most successful marching and concert bands in Ireland.  It is estimated that as many as 2000 members have passed through the band in its 40+ years, many of whom have gone on to pursue careers in music. The band has been crowned  All Ireland Marching Band Champions on ten occasions and has  represented Clonmel and Ireland by travelling widely in Ireland and Europe and has forged links with other band organisations, especially in Holland.

Music throughout the ceremony will be provided by the Cecilian Choir from the Ursuline School in Thurles.   Formed over 30 years ago, earlier this year the choir was  awarded first prize in the Post Primary School Equal Voice Competition, at the Limerick Choral Festival.

The ceremony will also feature performances from Professor Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin.  A native of Clonmel, he is acknowledged as having developed a unique Irish piano style exploring the sounds of traditional and classical music with occasional incursions into jazz and other world music forms.

Poet Michael Coady, a member of Aosdána and native of Carrick-On-Suir and Carmel O’Brien will also read Amhrán na bPrátaí Dubha, written during the Famine by Máire Ní Dhroma of Ring, Co. Waterford.  It will be read in the original Irish by Carmel O’Brien and in his own English translation by Michael Coady.

James Clarence Mangan’s poem Siberia will now be read by Aidan Mullally and Abaigeal Maher from the Presentation Secondary School, Ballingarry.

Local musicians The Mangled Badgers will also perform before and after the ceremony.

The Great Silence, a short film commissioned for today’s occasion written and directed by David Quin who lives in the Commons, will be presented during the ceremony?

A series of box relief collages created by local artist Katy Goodhue will also be on display as well as artworks prepared by 250 children from the six local primary schools as part of the Tipperary Famine Landscape Project. An exhibition of these works was opened in the Village Hall in Ballingarry on Thursday 28th September.

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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