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Irish President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina unveil a commemoration to the Famine in Kilrush, County Clare, remembering those who died or were forced to emigrate during the Great Hunger. Photo by: National Famine Commemoration - Kilrush 2013

President Higgins leads Clare tribute to those who died in the Great Famine

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Irish President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina unveil a commemoration to the Famine in Kilrush, County Clare, remembering those who died or were forced to emigrate during the Great Hunger. Photo by: National Famine Commemoration - Kilrush 2013

A West of Ireland town has remembered those who died or were forced to emigrate in the famine that robbed it of half its population.

Irish President Michael D Higgins led the sixth annual National Famine Commemoration Ceremony in Kilrush.

The county Clare town lost as much as half its population between 1846 and 1851.

President Higgins was guest of honour at the ceremony at Frances Street in Kilrush, one of 66 separate events in Clare over the last 10 days according to the Irish Times.

The event was also attended by members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive.

Ambassadors from 36 countries including Estonia, Canada, Kenya and Poland laid wreaths.

The audience of 2,000 people was addressed by President Higgins.

He said: “Today, we particularly remember the victims of this great tragedy in our history who hailed from Kilrush and its environs, and indeed from the province of Munster as a whole.

“Within Munster, the county of Clare was the most severely affected during the Famine and Kilrush shares the unhappy distinction of being one of the three areas worst hit by death, disease and evictions.

“In fact, it is estimated that Kilrush, where we are today, lost 50 per cent of its population between 1846 and 1851.

“It is very fitting therefore that we should gather today in Kilrush to honour the memory of its Famine victims. Many of our Irish people died believing that their lives were of no value; that they counted for nothing.

“By our presence here today, we honour their lives, we remember their suffering and we grieve for them all.”

Ireland’s Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan, who chairs the National Famine Commemoration Committee, was also in attendance along with Minster for Children Frances Fitzgerald and Attorney General Màire Whelan SC.

Deenihan said: “This event is a true mark of respect and a fitting tribute to those who died in the Great Famine or had to immigrate as a result of it.”

President Higgins and Deenihan planted an oak tree as a permanent reminder of the event. The President also unveiled a commemorative plaque before leading a wreath laying while a lone piper played a lament.

The report says an International Famine Commemoration will be held in Sydney, Australia in August which Minister Deenihan will also attend.

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