From: Jim Gallagher
To: Tom Power – Irish Famine Memorial Committee, Sydney, Australia
Subject: 2011 Irish Hunger commemoration
In response to your E-mail question about dates (months as well as days) to standardize commemoration events for the victims of the Irish Hunger please note the following:
1. True, several years ago the Irish Government originally selected the middle of May as the “official” day(s) to commemorate the Irish Hunger. We in America, who had been waiting for any excuse to sponsor such an event, however small or large, immediately committed ourselves to coordinate our efforts with the Government, to show solidarity. The Irish Government representatives recommended that we commemorate the Hunger on either the week before or the week after the Irish Government’s date, which, I believe, was on or about May 15. In this way, this would avoid conflict with their own activities and allow them to travel to that years diaspora site to participate in Hunger commemorative activities. In America, we celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May, and it is usually a family weekend. So, we didn’t want to conflict with that established weekend. Also, the last weekend in May is our Memorial Day, which is a family weekend, the social start of summer and the occasion of parades, etc. We couldn’t have a commemorative event on that weekend either. As a result we chose the third weekend in May. That is the
background for the choice of the 3rd weekend in May – in America. However, we have made it plain that any group or individual could hold a commemorative activity on any date that was most convenient to them and
their community. So, while a date was chosen, and it is hoped that as many commemorative activities could be held on a given date, again to show solidarity, it is a recommended date and not a fixed date for everyone. Our main concern was to have these commemoration activities held in as many worldwide locations as possible, and we didn’t want to unnecessarily restrict anyone having an interest by forcing them to conform to a single, perhaps inopportune, date.
2. Earlier this year we heard that the Irish Government selected the north of Ireland as the 2011 in-Ireland site for an official commemoration event. We have not heard where the Irish Diaspora site would be.
3. Here it is May 20, 2011 and the Irish Government has not announced when or whether they will conduct any official Hunger commemorative activity in Ireland or in the Irish diaspora this year. Last week, in
conversation with the Irish Consulate in New York (USA), we learned that the Government is getting a late start because of the forming of a new government and, I gather, other organizational or policy issues. We were told that the Irish Government may soon be ready to “consider” conducting a Hunger Commemoration event in either September or October 2011. We are not aware that there is anything firm nor is there any commitment at this time. We were told that we would be informed when and if a decision is made. Further, at this time we cannot guess what, if anything, this change may mean for Irish Government selected dates in succeeding years.
4. Considering that other countries may not share the same holiday dates with America, we have also tried to make it clear that there is no single date to conduct commemorative activities, in May or any other
month. As said previously, it is our hope that worldwide commemorative events will be chosen and conducted by local committees, and, with decorum, integrity and sincerity. It is also hoped that there will be a much needed educational element in all the commemorative activities, as so few people seem to be aware of the truths of the causes and impacts of the Irish Hunger period. By the way, as far as we’re concerned no
commemorative activity can be too small or too large. A Mass or religious service, reading of memorializing victims during the Mass intercessions, cemetery or public monument services, public media exposure, symbolic food donations to public or religious soup kitchens or food pantries, etc. are all satisfactory to us.
5. Lastly, as a means of coordinating international commemorative events, we ask that any committee conducting such an event please give us some feedback as to what they did, what the response was, what
problems occurred, etc. We would like to use the information to list all events held, use the list for publicity and as a stimulus for others in succeeding years. Our overall objective is worldwide commemorative
observations, to give the victims the dignity that they never received when alive or in death. While we are a small Ad hoc Committee we also try to assist groups interested in conducting such commemorative activities, including citing educational resources. Hopefully, some day the Irish Government will officially identify all the mass graves in Ireland and Church(s) will consecrate those mass graves in Ireland and mass graves in quarantine stations around the world.
I hope that this rather long response is an adequate answer to your query. We are delighted to hear that you have been conducting Irish Hunger commemorative activities for years and wish you all the best in
the future. Please do not hesitate to contact us with comments, recommendations, etc. I promise that future replies will not be as lengthy.
James J. Gallagher
Committee for the Commemoration of the Victims of the Irish Hunger,