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Calls for a fixed date in the year to remember Ireland's Great Famine

The current commemorations do not have a specific date.

Famine Statues on the Dublin Docklands
Famine Statues on the Dublin Docklands
Image: Photocall Ireland!/RollingNews.ie

THIS YEAR’S NATIONAL Famine Commemoration will take place on Sunday 11 September at Glasnevin Cemetery.

But some politicians argue that not enough is being done to remember those who died during the Famine.

Fine Gael TD Colm Brophy and Sinn Féin TD Sean Crowe have asked in recent weeks whether the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Culture would consider setting a fixed date for Famine commemorations.

Brophy says, “We have a fixed date to commemorate Easter 1916 and one to commemorate all those who died in other wars on behalf of our country.

However, when it comes to what is, perhaps, our country’s greatest tragedy, it is somehow deemed not important enough to be marked by a permanent date in our calendar. This is no longer acceptable.

He argues that a fixed date would facilitate schools, allow more time to plan and attract more Irish diaspora home to attend events.

There needs to be a change in our mentality when it comes to commemorating this momentous and terrible moment in our history. I feel that setting a fixed and permanent date in our diaries to remember and honour all those lost their lives would be a very positive step.

90187606 National Famine Commemorations 2010 in Co Mayo Source: Brian Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys says that while a fixed date has been considered by the Commemoration Committee, they decided against it.

This is to allow for flexibility in scheduling the event around the Taoiseach and President’s “demanding schedules”, as well as enabling hosting venues to make arrangements, she explained.

She also noted that the flexible date made it possible for the commemorations to take place in September this year instead of May, when they are normally held. This meant that the event would not be overshadowed by the Easter Rising.

Minister Humphreys concluded:

 I do not consider it desirable to fix the same date each year, given the factors that may need to be considered, such as the site selection process, the availability of the lead person to officiate at the ceremony and the general arrangements at community level.

However, Brophy argues that the President and Taoiseach should be able to plan around the commemorations if they know when they are taking place.

It is a matter of how one prioritises this… This is the greatest tragedy to have befallen the people and I do not think it is too difficult for us to put a date in our diary to mark it every year.

National Famine Commemorations have taken place since 2008 and move from county to county. The 2009 commemorations were held in Skibbereen, Co Cork, which was hit particularly hard by the famine. Last year’s event took place in Armagh.

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.

What about you? Do you think there should be a fixed National Famine Commemoration?


Poll Results:

Yes (3702)
No (519)
Don't know (144)



Read: World’s first newspaper interview may have been with an Irish woman during the famine

Read: PHOTOS: Tracing the footsteps of one of the Great Famine’s darkest chapters

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About the author:

Elizabeth O'Malley

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