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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Leads Annual Famine Commemoration

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is today officiating at the National Famine Commemoration at the Famine Warhouse 1848 in Ballingarry Co. Tipperary. He is accompanied by the Heritage Minister Heather Humphreys.

Today’s formal State ceremony will include military honours and a wreath laying ceremony by Ambassadors to Ireland in remembrance of all those who suffered or perished during the Famine.  The community programme for this year's event will include performances by Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, the Cecilian Choir of the Ursuline School, Thurles and Banna Cluain Meala as well as readings by poet Michael Coady, Carmel O'Brien and pupils from the Presentation Secondary School Ballingarry. 

The Taoiseach reflected on the impact of the famine on Irish society as well as the intense awareness of and engagement with developments in the wider European context that inspired the development of political philosophy among the Young Ireland movement  in Ireland during the mid-19th century:

Today we are gathered here to remember those who perished in the Great Famine and those who sought to respond to that disaster by creating a new future through the Rebellion of 1848.  One was a natural catastrophe, the other a military disaster – both however shaped us as a people - and Ballingarry is a fitting location to acknowledge and remember all those who suffered and died and honour their legacy. One positive legacy of the effects of An Gorta Mór is the compassion we have shown as a country for other peoples and nations undergoing humanitarian crises whether through famine, natural disasters or war.  Just as our people found assistance and opportunity when they needed it, we now work to support those who need our assistance to escape from hunger.

Minister Humphreys said:

The home of Margaret McCormack and her family is a fitting venue for this year’s commemoration. While each community has had its own unique story to tell of the Famine, the common thread that unites each host community has been the memory of the human and societal cost of the destruction wrought by An Gorta Mór.  Not only were individual lives lost but families and indeed whole villages were destroyed through death, disease and emigration.

I am pleased to announce that next year the Great Hunger Museum of Quinnipiac University will be bringing an exhibition entitled Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger to Dublin and Skibbereen.  This will afford an opportunity for us in Ireland to experience the world’s finest collection of Famine-related art at first hand.