Famine victims remembered
Victims of the Famine were remembered at a ceremony this afternoon to mark the first National Famine Memorial Day.
A service was held in Skibbereen, Co Cork, where up to 10,000 famine victims are buried in a mass grave.
The day has been earmarked by the Government to commemorate and honour the 1.5 million people who either perished or emigrated from Ireland from 1845-1851.
A ceremony was also be held in O’Donovan Rossa Park in the town where children from seven local schools will light candles in memory of the victims of the Famine and plant a Rowan tree.
Skibbereen was one of the worst affected areas of Ireland during the Famine, with 28,000 dead and a further 8,000 lost to emigration.
Minister for Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív , chairmain of the National Famine Commemoration Committee, attended the service and then walked to nearby Abbeystrewery Cemetery where politicians, ambassadors and diplomats from 20 countries are to attend a formal wreath-laying ceremony.
Mr O Cuiv, who unveiled a plaque at Grosse Ile near Quebec City in Canada last week to commemorate the 7,000 Irish men, women, and children who are buried there, said the Famine was a transforming event in Ireland.
Grosse Ile was a quarantine station during the Famine, which became known by locals as "L’Ile des Irlandais" - the Island of the Irish.
“We have come such a long way since the Famine, but it is important that we do not forget our past and the experiences that have shaped us as a people,” he said.
“Many people in the world still suffer from famine and hunger and we must use our experience and empathy to raise awareness of their plight.”
The Bishops of Ireland said blessings and special prayers will take place countrywide for victims of famine.
Celtic Football Club marked the day with its team members wearing the Club’s Celtic Cross on their shirts when they played against Hibernian FC.
The Cross, representing a bridge between Scottish and Irish cultures, is the symbol of the Club’s charitable arm, established to continue the charitable work initiated by the Club’s founder Brother Walfrid, an Irish Marist Brother.
Celtic Chairman John Reid said given Celtic’s proud Irish heritage, the Club is inextricably linked to the Famine and the subsequent immigration from Ireland.
“The Irish Famine resulted in death, disease and displacement of people on an unimaginable scale with the West of Scotland becoming a principal point of refuge,” said Mr Reid.
The National Famine Memorial Day will be marked in Mayo and New York next year.