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Honour Irish famine victims by ending world hunger, says Taoiseach

Speaking at the annual Famine Commemoration Ceremony, Micheál Martin noted Ireland’s “bitter past” has spurred it to aid other victims of hunger and poverty.

File photo of Taoiseach Micheál Martin
File photo of Taoiseach Micheál Martin
Image: Tom Honan/RollingNews.ie

“THE SPECTRE OF famine” still haunts millions of people worldwide, 175 years after Ireland’s Great Hunger, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

Speaking at the annual Famine Commemoration Ceremony in Strokestown Park, Co. Roscommon, the Taoiseach noted Ireland’s “bitter past” has spurred it to send “not just thoughts and prayers, but money, expertise and most importantly our people, be they missionaries, peacekeepers or the staff of our many NGOs to assist those experiencing the darkest of times”.

The state ceremony included military honours and a wreath laying ceremony by ambassadors to Ireland.

He drew comparisons between Ireland’s Great Famine and the Holodomor in Soviet Ukraine in 1932-33, which is estimated to have killed up to 10 million people.

“Through our participation in International bodies, such as the United Nations, we have sought to raise our voice in defence of the victims,” Martin said. “And of course, we are steadfast in our solidarity with the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against a brutal and unjust war waged against them by a neo-imperial power.

“One of the many reasons why the people of Ukraine prize their freedom so dearly is that they too bear deep scars from a famine which destroyed millions of lives. The Holodomor of 1932-33 was a crime against humanity – a famine imposed on what is one of the largest food producing countries in the world.

“When the people of Ukraine voted for independence they did so in a spirit of self-reliance and without rancour. They chose for themselves a simple flag of a clear sky over fields of wheat.

As war rages in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned his country risks triggering global food shortages, adding that the situation in Ukraine’s Donbas is “very difficult”.

Russia, which invaded Ukraine on 24 February, has increasingly turned its attention to the country’s east since the end of March, after failing to take the capital Kyiv.

Western analysts believe President Vladimir Putin has his sights on annexing southern and eastern Ukraine in the months ahead but his troops have appeared to be encountering stiff resistance.

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Minister of State for the Gaeltacht Jack Chambers also spoke at the event.


Martin pointed to other modern food shortages, such as some six million people in Somalia who are affected by food insecurity.

“Just as in the 1840’s, the effects of drought are exacerbated by human action and inaction. Politics and ideology once again combine to increase the suffering of the poorest among us.”

He noted the groups who sent aid starving Irish people: “The doctors, the clergy, the Quaker community, and further afield, the members of groups such as the British Relief Association, the Choctaw Nation, the Jewish Community of New York, the Coloured Citizens of Philadelphia and the people of Toronto and countless others who opened their hearts.

“If we are to honour the victims of our Great Famine, if we are to be true to the spirit of trying to rid the curse of famine from our world, then we must be resolute in standing for cooperation between nations on the basis of humanitarian and democratic values.”

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