Taoiseach Leo Varadkar addressed the 12th annual Commemoration in Co Sligo on Sunday

Ireland’s National Famine Commemoration was held on Sunday, May 19 in Co Sligo and featured an address from Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar and remarks from Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan.

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Ahead of this year's event, which is the 12th annual Commemoration, Minister Madigan said:  “The choice of Sligo as host for the 2019 National Famine Commemoration is particularly significant given the strength of its historic links with An Gorta Mór."

"The population of County Sligo fell by one-third between 1841 and 1851, those who did not die of hunger and disease, emigrating. The Commemoration will honor the lost generation who died or emigrated during this time."

In her speech on Sunday, Minister Madigan thanked those who work to preserve the memory of those who suffered throughout the Famine:

Speaking at the National #FamineCommemoration Ceremony..

“I would like to express my appreciation to the commitment of local communities and committees throughout the island of Ireland who persevere to keep the memory of those that suffered alive.” 

 James Connolly pic.twitter.com/5kbVnYlHMV

— ⚖️Josepha Madigan (@josephamadigan) May 19, 2019

In his address, Taoiseach Varadkar said Ireland’s Famine was “the single most traumatic event in Irish history” and acknowledged the grave consequences faced by Co Sligo.

“Every county has its own famine story, and the story in Sligo was terrible and tragic,” said the Taoiseach.

“There were 162 sailings from the Port of Sligo, between 1847 and 1851, the majority of them to Canada and the United States. 13,000 people left in Black ‘47 alone. 440 people set off from here in the ‘Bark Larch’ to Quebec. Many of these died without ever setting foot on shore. The few who did land on Grosse Ile received comfort from Fr. Bernard McGauran, himself from Sligo.”

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The Taoiseach added: “I believe the best way we can honor those who suffered and died during the Great Famine is by showing empathy with those who are experiencing similar problems today, whether through natural disaster or oppression.”

“Our country has a longstanding commitment to working for the eradication of poverty and hunger in the world.  We were refugees once and we recall the great compassion and the open doors shown around the world. It is seared on our collective memories as we work to assist today’s refugees.”   

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The program for the 2019 Famine Commemoration included performances by local musicians from Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Sligeach, and the sixty-voice Sligo Famine Choir formed especially for the Commemoration.  

The Taoiseach, as well as representatives from over 50 other countries, laid a wreath in memory of all those lost during the Famine.

Ambassadors, or their representatives from 52 countries and from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Ireland lay wreaths in memory of all who suffered

As @defenceforces Piper plays lament

Suaimhneas síoraí dá n-anamacha uilig#NationalFamineCommemoration pic.twitter.com/CFMqU2N4id

— Culture~Heritage~Gaeltacht (@DeptAHG) May 19, 2019