Skibbereen commemorates victims of Great Hunger

Mon, May 11, 2009, 01:00

THE START of a week of events culminating in National Famine Memorial Day in Skibbereen, Co Cork, next Sunday featured the unveiling of a plaque commemorating thousands of Irish who died while in quarantine in Quebec, Canada.

Also yesterday the Catholic bishops issued a joint statement on overseas aid in the context of the commemorations in Skibbereen.

Governments, they said, had “a responsibility to honour their promises on overseas aid. These promises need to be translated into action.” They pointed out that “for Christians, remembering is not simply about the past”.

At this time of economic turmoil there was “a serious risk that as a country, we could become focused exclusively on taking care of ourselves”, they said. They added that “crucially, in remembering the Famine, we also need to recommit ourselves to addressing famine throughout the world”.

Irish people’s response to the plight of the poor and suffering peoples of the world was “deeply rooted in our own experience”, they said, while today agencies such as Trócaire needed “our support now more than ever to respond to hunger and famine throughout the world”.

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív was at Grosse Ile, Canada, to commemorate the 7,000 Irish buried there.

A flag and wreath-laying ceremony will commemorate some 8,000 to 10,000 famine victims interred in a mass grave at Abbeystrewery Cemetery, Skibbereen.

The National Famine Memorial Day was announced by the Government earlier this year after a long campaign for recognition by lobby groups such as the Dublin-based Committee For The Commemoration Of Irish Famine Victims.

Mr Ó’Cuív has asked all schools to hold a minute’s silence on Friday in memory of the 1.5 million who perished or emigrated from Ireland and those who continue to suffer from famine. All public and sporting events are being asked to hold a minute’s silence next Sunday.

Dozens of events are taking place in Skibbereen, one of the areas worst affected by the famine.

Yesterday a 10km journey made by almost 1,000 men protesting about the late payment of wages on the road relief scheme in 1846 was retraced in aid of charity.

For further information visit the websites www.pobail.ie and www.skibbheritage.com.