Northern Irish Finance Minister Máirtín O Muilleoir has said he is considering the erection of a memorial to victims of the Great Hunger in the Stormont Estate. When asked about the idea by Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff, Ó Muilleoir said: “I am supportive of your proposal and would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to explore in more depth your thoughts on how we might progress an appropriate memorial to those who died in An Gorta Mór (the Great Hunger) / The Great Famine.”
“I have written to the Irish government’s National Famine Commemoration Committee to ask for their advice and assistance,” he said.
According to the Belfast Newsletter, while the impact of the Great Famine was felt most sharply in the south of Ireland, the suffering in Ulster was profound, with the province losing 15 percent of its population during the devastation.
A TUV press officer warned that a memorial could become “politicized.”
He said: “Looking at it objectively, there should be no issue from a unionist perspective in commemorating the Famine. The Famine affected people regardless of political or religious distinctions.
“The danger is that if this is coming from Sinn Féin the issue might be politicized and there are a number of ways they might seek to do that such as the use of Irish. It is worth noting that by virtue of the fact that we have a Sinn Féin Finance Minister there is potential for interference with existing memorials within the Stormont Estate. TUV will be vigilant in relation to this.”
In September of this year Ireland's annual National Famine Commemoration was held in Northern Ireland for the first time. The event, which was been running since 2008, was held at Warrenpoint, in Newry. Led by the Irish Minister for Arts and Heritage Heather Humphreys, who is herself from Northern Ireland, she told the crowds the Great Hunger had been one of the most significant events in Irish history.
"The famine has undoubtedly been one of the most significant events in our history. The failure of the potato crop during the 1840s not only led to the enormous suffering and loss of life but also changed Ireland's demographic and cultural landscape, the effect of which can still be felt today," said Humphreys.
"We remember all those who suffered as a result of the famine, regardless of their creed, political affiliation or nationality."