Famine victims remembered at ceremony in Co Clare
Kilrush lost 50 per cent of its population between 1846 and 1851
First published: Sun, May 12, 2013, 18:06
Today’s event was the culmination of 66 separate events over 10 days in Co Clare.
The ceremony was held in blustery but relatively dry conditions at Frances Street in Kilrush, where President Michael D Higgins was guest of honour.
President Higgins told an audience of around 2,000 people: “Today, we particularly remember the victims of this great tragedy in our history who hailed from Kilrush and its environs, and indeed from the province of Munster as a whole.
“Within Munster, the county of Clare was the most severely affected during the Famine and Kilrush shares the unhappy distinction of being one of the three areas worst hit by death, disease and evictions. In fact, it is estimated that Kilrush, where we are today, lost 50 per cent of its population between 1846 and 1851.
“It is very fitting therefore that we should gather today in Kilrush to honour the memory of its Famine victims. Many of our Irish people died believing that their lives were of no value; that they counted for nothing. By our presence here today, we honour their lives, we remember their suffering and we grieve for them all,” the President added.
The event was also attended by Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan, who chairs the National Famine Commemoration Committee, as well as Minster for Children Frances Fitzgerald and Attorney General Màire Whelan SC.
Mr Deenihan described the event as a “true mark of respect” and a “fitting tribute” to those who died in the Great Famine or had to immigrate as a result of it.
President Higgins and Mr Deenihan, assisted by President Higgins’s wife Sabina, planted an oak tree as a permanent reminder of today’s event. President Higgins also unveiled a commemorative plaque before leading a wreath laying while a lone piper played a lament.
The Cracked Spoon Theatre Company performed Níl aon tinteán, a reenactment of a famine scene, while a flotilla of vessels was launched on the Shannon Estuary to symbolise emigration during the Famine.
The West Clare Famine Song, written especially for yesterday’s event, was performed by well known Clare singer-songwriter PJ Murrihy, while representatives of the various religious faiths in Ireland recited prayers.
An International Famine Commemoration will be held in Sydney, Australia in August which Mr Deenihan will also attend.