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Commemoration of the Great Famine to take place in Arizona

Josepha Madigan said the event will recognise the ongoing role of the Irish diaspora and Irish-Americans in Arizona.

The Great Hunger Memorial, Phoenix, Arizona.
The Great Hunger Memorial, Phoenix, Arizona.
Image: IrishFamineMemorials.com

THE 2019 INTERNATIONAL commemoration of the Great Irish Famine will take place this weekend in Phoenix, Arizona. 

The annual event moves location each year, and this is the fifth time that the international commemoration has been held in the United States. 

There have been ten international commemorations of the Great Irish Famine to date. Since the first international commemoration in Toronto and Quebec in 2009, events have also been held elsewhere in Canada and the UK, as well as the US. 

Previous international Famine commemorations were in New York, Boston, New Orleans and Philadelphia.

The national commemoration was held at the Model Arts Centre in Sligo in May. 

The government will be represented at this year’s event by Patrick O’Donovan, the Minister of State for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform. 

‘Diaspora’ 

Josepha Madigan, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaelteacht and chair of the National Famine Commemoration Committee said it was an opportunity to honour the memory of the people who left Ireland during the famine for the western part of the United States. 

I am particularly pleased that the commemoration is being held in Phoenix this year as 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the dedication of the Great Hunger Memorial commissioned by the Irish Cultural Center.

An Gorta Mór – The Great Hunger – memorial was unveiled at the McClelland Library in Phoenix in 1999.

The monument, designed by Phoenix artist Maureen McGuire, was the first structure built on the site.

Its arch reflects a Celtic passageway, symbolising entry from the old world to the new and was built by sculptor Seamus King. 

Madigan added that this year’s commemoration “represents an opportunity to not only recognise the work of the Irish Cultural Center and McClelland Library in Phoenix itself but to honour the memory of those who left Ireland during the Famine itself” and “the subsequent years of emigration which saw many Famine Irish and their descendants make an enormous contribution in Western US.

The Great Famine lasted from 1845 to 1852. One million people died and and one and a half million emigrated, mostly to America and Canada. Before the Famine, Ireland’s population was just over eight million.

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