Sunday, May 17, 2009

National Famine Memorial Day by a Balbriggan Sinn Féin member

Today, Sunday May 17th, was the second National Irish Famine Memorial Day. On Friday of this week schools throughout the country held a minutes silence in remembrance of the Great Hunger. This weekend sporting events were asked to also observe a minute's silence and a national event was held in Skibereen in remembrance of the terrible events of 150 years ago.

Today, I took a trip with my children to the famine memorial at Custom House Quay. It was my intention to simply lay some flowers and pay a personal tribute to the victims of this catastrophe.

When I got there I found that a ceremony was being held to remember the millions who died or emigrated as a result of the potato blight.
This event was organised by the COMMITTEE FOR THE COMMEMORATION OF THE IRISH FAMINE VICTIMS. The event they organised was a dignified one involving the laying of wreaths, speeches, music and the casting of flowers onto the Liffey. The Lord mayor of Dublin was present as were a number of ambassadors. I found the whole experience deeply moving and I believe it made a great impression on my children as well.

At the end of the ceremony I spoke with some of the organisers and I found out that this small group has campaigned for many years to raise the awareness of the plight of the Irish Famine Victims and all those who were forced to leave. Their aim was for the establishment of an Annual Commemoration for the whole of the Island on the last Sunday in May each year in commemoration of the Famine Victims and Emigrants who had to leave this country.

It is thanks to the efforts of this group that this weekend saw the second National Famine Memorial Day and it was a great inspiration to see what a group of concerned local people can achieve if they are convinced their cause is right and they have the dedication to see it through to its end.

One thing I wish to say though is that the "Great Famine" was not a famine. There was plenty of food in this country and in fact wheat and other food stuffs were exported from Ireland throughout the course of the great hunger (Gorta Mór). What there was, was a potato blight that impacted on the poorest sections of Irish society and that the British government made a choice not to provide Irish people with sufficient food to eat.

This same choice is being made on a wider scale today. The world we live in has sufficient food to feed all the people who live here, yet people die from hunger, and the effects of hunger, each day.

Allowing this slaughter to happen 150 years ago was wrong then, and it is still wrong now.
Given our history we in Ireland should be a voice in the world community demanding action to remove hunger from this planet. We should demand there is "real" development aid given to poorer countries, that poorer countries are paid a fair price for the goods they produce and that third world debt is tackled in a positive manner.

In the 21st century there is no reason to allow people to die through lack of food. So, let's not be like those who allowed the great hunger to ravish this country. Let us remember the victims of the great hunger in a positive manner by demanding the world be a better place now than it was 150 years ago. Let us demand that the world takes action now and there is finally an end to death through hunger.
For some information on the famine in Fingal visit