Dáil Éireann - Volume 477 - 08 April, 1997

Written Answers - Famine Commemoration.

42. Mr. Andrews asked the Taoiseach the commemoration ceremonies, if any, to date which have been performed in connection with the 150th anniversary of the Famine; the functions, if any, he anticipates in advance of the conclusion of the various ceremonies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8801/97]

The Taoiseach: I have been privileged, as chairperson of the Government's Famine Commemoration Committee, to have co-ordinated or attended numerous ceremonies commemorating the Great Famine in Ireland and abroad.

[349] Events in Ireland included the following: launched women's archive exhibition on women, famine and emigration; launched Teagasc famine exhibition in Derry, Ballina and Galway; presented schools famine essay competition prizes; organised famine commemoration concert, Dublin; attended ceremony in National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin; launched the Famine Commemoration Committee/RTE TV documentary on the Great Famine; organised ecumenical service of remembrance in Tuam, County Galway; attended a number of famine commemoration Masses and ecumenical services organised by local groups, including a Mass for the victims of the Famine in Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Ballinasloe, County Galway; attended ceremony at the Paupers Graveyard in Fermanagh; opened the Cork archives famine exhibition “Our Dark Legacy” in Cork public museum; launched publications on the Famine, including “Transactions of the Central Relief Committee of the Society of Friends during the Famine” in the Irish Film Centre, Dublin; opened conferences and summer schools dealing with the theme of the Famine, including the Douglas Hyde and Parnell Summer Schools; unveiled famine memorials and plaques in many parts of the country, including Ballygarrett, County Wexford and Dungarvan, County Waterford.

Events abroad included the following:

Britain

—Organised and attended Liverpool commemoration concert.

Australia

—Famine commemoration concert and lecture tour in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

USA-Canada

—Famine commemoration lecture tour in Chicago, South Bend Indiana, San Francisco, San Diego, Washington, New York, Boston and Montreal.

Further ceremonies-events being planned by the Government's Famine Commemoration Committee include: organising a major international conference on the Famine in Dublin Castle in May; attending Great Irish Famine event in Millstreet, County Cork in June; unveiling of national memorial to the Famine at Murrisk, County Mayo in July and opening famine photographic exhibition in Guinness Hop Store in August.

The Irish famine of 1845-50 was the greatest disaster of modern Irish history. The potato blight took the lives of over a million of our people and drove a further million into exile. The emotional scars of this tragedy are still with us. Until recent years the pain of the Famine was too close to allow us to confront the memories of those days. We need to mourn our dead and [350] grieve for our loss. This commemoration has offered the opportunity to complete the grieving and healing process that was not possible at the 100th anniversary as the Famine was still too close, the pain still too acute.

The Government's commemoration programme, together with the thousands of voluntary community groups at home and abroad, has offered the opportunity to the Irish to learn and understand the Famine in all its pain and complexity.