President Mary McAleese paid tribute to Ireland's emigrants and appealed for Irish people to help their own while speaking at a New York ceremony to remember the victims of the great Irish famine.

She said that people were suffering in Ireland, and “How could it not be the case, with so many jobs lost, so many people living with negative equity?”

She asked the affluent Irish to answer the call. "They’re our kith. They’re our kin. They’re our problem,” she said.

McAleese was speaking at a commemoration at the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park where she called for a renewed global effort on hunger and poverty.

She said every person who suffers hunger in the modern world is an affront to the memory of those who died in the famine.

The event was the culmination of a four-day trip to New York to promote Irish American business links and connect with the diaspora.

And McAleese was at pains to celebrate Ireland's emigrants.

"We in Ireland have been blessed by the fact that they and their descendants never forgot their native land, never lost their love of her culture and heritage and stayed bound to her through all the ups and downs of history.

"Their dollars faithfully sent home from the humblest of incomes helped stem the tide of poverty and helped to educate the next generation.

"Their active interest helped in the struggle for independence and more recently in the effort mobilized to achieve peace in Northern Ireland."

The President also spoke at a special ceremony at the Temple Shearith Israel to honor the help that Jewish people in New York offered during the famine.

She also received an honorary law degree from Fordham University in the Bronx.