First ever Great Hunger museum opens next month in the US
Quinnipiac President Dr John Lahey reveals how history was made
Principled truth tellers aren’t always welcomed with open arms anywhere, especially if they have come to tell hard truths which the famine museum necessitates. The Irish have always known this, and the British have always monitored our statements for centuries.
“When I was announced as grand marshal in December 1996 the ambassador from London took a few shots at me, saying that I was trying to rewrite history,” Laheyreveals.
“Parade officials also had some discussions with me to ask if we really wanted the Great Hunger to be the theme of the parade, since it was controversial. But they got on board quickly.”
Lahey had terrific support along the way, he adds. “The real vision and drive behind this museum, I’m delighted to say, comes from the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland,” Lahey reveals.
Murray Lender, chairman of Quinnipiac’s Board of Trustees (who sadly passed away in March) heard Lahey give talks on the Great Hunger while he was grand marshal, and told Laheyhe wanted to give the university a gift to provide a special room in the library at Quinnipiac dedicated to the Great Hunger.
“He told me, ‘I grew up in New Haven and I had a lot of Irish friends and I never heard a word about the famine.’ He was very forceful about saying it needed to be told and he underwrote it.”
The famine was an avoidable tragedy, Lahey concludes. The potato crop failure was not the fault of the British government and there would have been some deaths from it. But it didn’t have to become a great calamity.
The new museum will record that underline and commemorate it.
“A lot of Irish and Irish Americanartists and supporters helped to make this day possible, but without the support of a son of a Jewish immigrant from Poland who saw parallels in our experience we wouldn’t be there on Friday to dedicate this new facility. That’s a proof of how important this story is to all immigrants,” Laheysays.
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