A bill to establish a designated day of remembrance for the victims of Ireland’s Great Hunger has been introduced in the Irish parliament and will be considered by lawmakers.
During the height of the famine years, from 1845 – 52, approximately one million Irish died and 1.5 million emigrated in order to survive. There are many memorials in Ireland and around the world that commemorate their plight, and Ireland typically designates a day of remembrance each year sometime between May and September, but there is no official day of recognition. Each year, a different Irish community around the world also receives the chance to host the international Irish famine commemorations.
The Famine Memorial Day bill was introduced to the Dáil by Sinn Féin spokesperson on Heritage Peadar Tóibín TD, who said it was shocking one did not exist already, given that the Great Hunger was “the biggest event to befall the people of this country.”
He argued that the enduring consequences of the famine years make it especially important to reflect upon.
"The lasting consequence of the Great Hunger was the massive depopulation of this country where over one million people died and a million people were forced to emigrate – these are very conservative estimates,” he said.
"The legacy with regards [to] emigration is still here as well. The sad fact is, because of the start of mass emigration during the Famine, we still have emigration as a defining characteristic of the Irish population and we still see its effects in rural areas today.
“We need a fixed memorial day to remember the Great Irish Famine, to remember the human cost and consequences of neglect, to remember the effects when an economic imperative is prioritized and to recognize the dark shadows of colonial ‘might [...] It is an Irish tragedy, but with global significance."
If Ireland has a day to memorialize the citizens who died fighting in wars, he argued, there should be one for the famine.
“We have a national day of commemoration in remembrance of the Irish people who died in past wards, which falls on the Sunday nearest to 11th July. It is surprising therefore that we do not have a fixed date for the commemoration to honor the victims of the Great Irish Famine and its survivors.”
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