Liverpool's Irish links celebrated

Thu, Nov 22, 2012, 00:00

Ireland’s links with Liverpool have been written in the pain of the Famine when almost 1.3 million people fleeing hunger passed through the city’s ports, President Michael D Higgins said last night.

Mr Higgins and his wife, Sabina, began a three-day official visit to Liverpool and Manchester yesterday, and were greeted at Liverpool Town Hall by the city’s mayor, Cllr Sharon Sullivan.

In a speech to the University of Liverpool Mr Higgins said he doubted there was any city more suited for a debate on the question of Irish identity and the Irish migrant experience.

“For centuries past, Liverpool has represented the first glimpse of Britain for generations of Irish migrants and travellers. The mighty docks of Liverpool represented a gateway. The mouth of the Mersey became a point of transition to a new life, much as Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty were for those men and women who travelled west, to New York and beyond,” the President said.

The historical experience of the Irish in Liverpool is, of course, inextricably connected with the Famine of 1845 to 1847 which drove many more to Liverpool in search of escape.

“In just three years during the Famine, almost 1.3 million Irish took the boat to Liverpool, sick, starving and seeking relief,” he said, giving the John Kennedy lecture.

Earlier, Mr Higgins and Mrs Higgins laid a wreath at the Great Hunger Memorial at St Luke’s Garden.