National Famine commemoration day to be held on third Sunday of May each year

Formal State event to be held in a different location each year across the country

Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan said the third Sunday in May was chosen to take account of other State commemorations in May including the Arbour Hill and Daniel O’Connell commemorations.

The third Sunday in May has been formally designated as the national commemoration day to officially mark the Famine.

Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan told the Dáil that official State ceremonies would take place on that day or the "preceding Saturday" and will be held each year in a different location.

The first formal State commemoration was held in Skibbereen, Co Cork in 2009.

Ms Madigan said the third Sunday in May was chosen to take account of other State commemorations in May including the Arbour Hill and Daniel O’Connell commemorations.

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This year’s State event to commemorate the Great Famine takes place in UCC on May 12th, with President Michael D Higgins scheduled to deliver the keynote address.

Ms Madigan pointed out that the university was established in 1845 and opened in 1849, during the years of the Famine. “Arguably, this history has contributed to UCC becoming a leader in the field of research in, and study of, the Famine years.”

Debate

Ms Madigan was speaking during a debate on the Famine Memorial Day Bill introduced by Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín, which calls for the Famine to be commemorate on a particular Sunday every May.

Mr Tóibín said that not setting a fixed date to commemorate “one of the most shocking events in Irish history” was a “reflection of how uncomfortable we are dealing with the Famine. This has to change.”

Mr Tóibín said “the effects of the Famine run deep in our culture, our language and our psyche.

“It is incredible to think that the population of the island of Ireland has still not recovered from the Famine. The demographics today are radically altered due to the Famine over 150 years ago.”

He added that “one of the other legacies of the famine has been silence. There was guilt on the part of many who survived the Famine and emigration. People were cautious about telling the next generation of the unimaginable horror of their experience.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times