Will Ireland finally have a National Famine Commemoration Day on the third weekend of May each year?
The Irish government has officially set the third weekend in May as the country’s National Famine Commemoration Day.
For some time, there have been calls for an official day to be assigned on which the most tragic event in Irish history can be marked and remembered.
In 2017, Fine Gael’s Colm Brophy proposed that the second weekend of May each year would mark the National Famine Commemoration Day. Ireland's Minister for Culture announced on Thursday, however, that the third weekend of that month would be formally designated by the government.
The third Sunday in May has been formally designated by the Government as the National #Commemoration Day to officially mark the #Irish #Famine. It should be commensurate with the sheer amount of people lost to death & emigration. Speaking in #Dáil today: pic.twitter.com/I8eCinuM4b— ⚖️Josepha Madigan (@josephamadigan) May 3, 2018
The first official set commemoration will be in May 2019. Events will either take place on the third Sunday or on the preceding Saturday. The Minister stated that the date was chosen after taking into account other State commemorations in May including Arbour Hill and the Daniel O'Connell commemorations.
“We have a fixed date to commemorate Easter 1916 and one to commemorate all those who died in other wars on behalf of our country,” said Brody when he made the proposal last year.
“However, when it comes to what is, perhaps, our country’s greatest tragedy; it is somehow deemed not important enough to be marked by a permanent date in our calendar. This is no longer acceptable.
“We need a fixed date for a number of reasons. It will allow everyone to work towards the commemoration, on a yearly basis, and allows schools to make it part of the school curriculum.”
Great news that a National Famine Commemoration Day is going to be held every year from 2019 on. It will be on the third week of May each year.— Skibbereen Heritage (@skibbheritage) May 3, 2018
Since 2008, a government commemoration has been held around the second Sunday in May, moving to a different host town each year. The flexibility of the date, however, has meant that many Irish people are unaware of its existence, Brophy believes.
“Unfortunately now, nine years on from the first National Famine Commemoration Day – all too few people in this country even know this National Day exists,” said Brophy during a debate on his National Famine Commemoration Day Bill 2017 last year.
Minister Madigan made Thursday's announcement during a debate on the Famine Memorial Day Bill introduced by Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín that made a similar call to Brophy’s.
“The effects of the Famine run deep in our culture, our language and our psyche,” Tóibín said.
“It is incredible to think that the population of the island of Ireland has still not recovered from the Famine. The demographics today are radically altered due to the Famine over 150 years ago.”
He added: “One of the other legacies of the famine has been silence. There was guilt on the part of many who survived the Famine and emigration. People were cautious about telling the next generation of the unimaginable horror of their experience.”
Started in 2008, the National Famine Commemoration Day was an attempt at creating one dedicated day in the year for Irish citizens and diaspora around the world to reflect on one of Ireland’s most significant historical events, which resulted in the death of one million people from starvation and the immigration of a million and a half others.
The National Famine Commemorations have moved from county to county each year, taking place in Cork City in 2018 on May 12.
The date on which the famine Irish have been remembered has also varied, drastically delayed in 2016 from May until September so events would not be overshadowed by the massive efforts shown for those who took part in 1916.
“The Great Famine marked a watershed in our history,” Brophy said.
“By introducing a fixed day of commemoration, the second Sunday in May, this Bill is bringing certainty to this important day where no such certainty currently existed. As a society, we must remember our past appropriately to learn where we’ve come from. That is the only way we can navigate successfully towards the future.”
Do you think that the National Famine Commemoration Day should be held on a fixed date each year? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.