President addresses Famine Commemoration

President Higgins and Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin officiate at annual Famine Commemoration Ceremony at Glasnevin Cemetery

The President, Michael D. Higgins, accompanied by the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD, earlier today (Sunday) officiated at the National Famine Commemoration at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.

In addition to the keynote address by President Higgins, today’s formal State ceremony included military honours and a wreath laying ceremony in remembrance of all those who suffered or perished during the Famine. Minister Martin also addressed the event.

Wreaths were laid by President Higgins on behalf of the Irish People, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps on behalf of the Diplomatic Community, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Hazel Chu, and the Chairman of Dublin Cemeteries Trust, Mr. David Bunworth. This was the second time that the commemoration has been held in Glasnevin Cemetery. The founder of the cemetery Daniel O’Connell died in Genoa on 15th May 1847. David Kennedy sang Brendan Graham’s Ochón an Gorta Mór and the National Anthem was performed by an Army Piper.

President Higgins, who has made the ethical commemoration of key events in our history, such as the Great Famine, a core tenet of his Presidency, spoke about the Famine as a defining moment in Irish history, that has shaped not only our history but also our relationship with land, migration and politics. The President also linked Ireland’s harrowing experience with the Famine to our contemporary fight against hunger, poverty and forced migration.

Speaking today, Minister Martin said: “The Great Famine was truly the darkest period of our history. However, as was so ably demonstrated in the documentary series The Hunger broadcast by RTÉ last December, the Irish people showed tremendous courage and fortitude in coming through that catastrophe to forge the modern nation, with ties to a far flung and successful diaspora throughout the world.

“Today’s ceremony is not only our opportunity to commemorate and honour the suffering and resilience of victims of the Famine years but the occasion also offers us an opportunity to reflect on the resilience of our people today. Ireland is beginning to emerge cautiously, but hopefully, from the clutches of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are moving from the shadows into the light, thanks to that steely determination of our people, whose strength this time will not be forgotten either.

“Glasnevin Cemetery, one of the largest Famine burial places in the country, is a truly fitting venue for us to gather and pay tribute to the victims of the Famine especially on this weekend, as Dublin Cemeteries Trust marks the anniversary of the death of its founder Daniel O’Connell who died in Genoa on May 15th 1847.”

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