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Dublin: 12 °C Monday 19 August, 2019
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Irish people asked to observe a minute's silence for victims of the Great Famine

Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan said it is important that the Irish don’t forget “the experiences that have shaped us as a people”.

Famine memorial, Dublin
Famine memorial, Dublin
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

ALL PEOPLE OF Irish heritage have been called to observe a minute’s silence as a mark of respect to those who died in the famine.

Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan, who is also the Chair of the National Famine Commemoration Committee, said the gesture would should respect for “our ancestors who perished, suffered and emigrated during the Great Irish Famine”.

Deenihan has asked people to participate in a minute of reflection on the day of the National Famine Commemoration – Sunday, 11 May. He has called on schools to do the same on Friday, 9 May.

He said that the gesture would also honour “the extraordinary achievements of the diaspora – all those whose instinct for survival and will to live brought them to new and distant places where their determination to survive in the most difficult of circumstances inspired them to leave their mark in the new societies in which they settled”.

We must always strive to ensure that the devastating events of the famine are never forgotten and that the extraordinary contributions of those who emigrated and of their many descendents abroad are justly celebrated. We have come such a long way since that desolate time, but it is important that we do not forget our past and the experiences that have shaped us as a people.

Deenihan said that modern Ireland extended the same compassion to those suffering from hunger today, noting: “This spirit of empathy has transcended the generations to become embedded in the Irish psyche – it defines us as a people.”

The National Famine Commemoration will take place in Strokestown Park House in Roscommon on 11 May. An overseas commemoration is planned in New Orleans on 7-9 November.

Ireland’s population fell by 20 – 25 per cent during the potato blight famine of 1845 – 1852. Approximately one million people died and a similar amount emigrated.

Read: Campaign to have Irish Famine Studies taught in California

Read: Scientists have figured out what caused the Irish Famine

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Órla Ryan

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