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Minister calls for memorial for Irish Famine shipwreck victims after remains found on beach

The remains were from the Carricks ship that left County Sligo in 1847.

Cap-des-Rosiers, Gaspé
Cap-des-Rosiers, Gaspé
Image: GoogleMaps

THERE HAVE BEEN calls for a memorial after scientists confirmed human remains found on a Canadian beach belonged to shipwreck victims who were fleeing the Irish Famine.

The bones of three children washed up on the Cap-des-Rosiers beach in Gaspé, Quebec in 2011.

Following this discovery, the remains of 18 others – mostly women and children – were uncovered on the beach by archaeologists in 2016. 

Experts have now confirmed that the remains of the 21 people were from the Carricks ship that left County Sligo in 1847. The vessel was carrying 180 people and sank off the Gaspé coast, killing 148 passengers. 

One million people died during the Great Famine (1845-1849) and almost a million more were forced to emigrate following a potato blight which devastated crops. 

IRISH Famine Famine Memorial on Custom House Quay, Dublin Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Scientists at University of Montreal analysed the bones discovered on the beach, CBC in Canada has reported, and found that the fragile remains belonged to people whose diets were typical of a rural population dependent on agriculture. 

“This is like the end of the story for people who were interested in this,” said Mathieu Côté, a resource conservation manager at Forillon National Park. 

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“We were suspicious of where [the remains] were from, and we had a good idea where they were from, but now we have evidence that those people were from Ireland.”

Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jospeha Madigan has confirmed that her department will now liaise with Canadian authorities with regards a memorial to the victims. 

“This is a very poignant remainder, a matter of weeks after our annual famine commemoration in Sligo, of the horror and abject suffering of that time and of the fate that awaited some of those trying to escape from it.”

“I have asked my officials to liaise with their colleagues in Parks Canada on this discovery, to see in the context of our recent international twinning, what appropriate memorial and mark of respect can be organised.”

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