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Minister Humphreys launches the 2014 International Famine Commemoration in New Orleans



The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, is today (Thursday) launching the 2014 International Famine Commemoration in New Orleans. Minister Humphreys is attending the event as Chair of the National Famine Commemoration Committee.

Thousands of Irish emigrants fleeing the Famine came to the Southern United States, many of them arriving in New Orleans via the Mississippi River, where the 2014 Commemoration is being launched today. From 1840-1860, New Orleans had a higher Irish population per capita than Boston or Philadelphia.

Tomorrow, Minister Humphreys will deliver the keynote address at the Tulane University Symposium ‘Ireland and New Orleans: From the Famine to Katrina – Stories of Recovery.’ She will also visit St Mary’s Dominican High School, which was set up by a group of nuns from Dublin in the 1860s, and which received $50,000 in funding from the Irish Government in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Speaking today, Minister Humphreys said:
“The people of Ireland and New Orleans have a lot in common, in terms of a shared sense of loss and a determined spirit to survive. In the years following the Famine, thousands of Irish emigrants braved the journey across the Atlantic to make new lives here and elsewhere across the United States.

“It is important that we remember the one million people who died during the Famine, and the one million more who emigrated. But we should also celebrate the lasting impact the Irish diaspora are having to this day in cities across the United States. The people of New Orleans have come through incredible adversity in recent years. It is inspiring to see how the city has literally been rebuilt since the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“The Irish people reached out to the people of New Orleans after that horrific storm, with the Irish Government committing more than €1 million in disaster relief for the immediate aftermath of the hurricane. I can see how that money was well spent on a number of projects, including the restoration of the library at St Mary’s Dominican High School, which retains its strong Irish links more than 150 years after it was set up by a group of nuns from Cabra.

“The Irish community in New Orleans remains incredibly strong to this day. The Famine Commemoration not only allows us to recognise and pay tribute to that community, it also allows us to explore and strength cultural and business links that exist between our two communities.”

ENDS

Note to Editors:
Please see further details of the Minister’s schedule in New Orleans for Thursday and Friday below

Thursday November 6th:
· Meeting with Mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu
· Visit to Café Reconcile – a job training and life skills programme for young people (ages 16–22) from severely at-risk communities across the city.
· Reconcile’s students arrive facing a vast array of challenges, from extreme poverty and high school attrition to homelessness, violence, and participation in the juvenile justice system.
· Launch of the 2014 Famine Commemoration Programme at the Mississippi riverfront, which was the entry route to the city for many Irish emigrants
· Visit to the Historic New Orleans Collection (HNOC), a museum and research centre, dedicated to preserving the culture and history of New Orleans

Friday November 7th:
· Keynote address at Irish Business Breakfast hosted by Louisiana Lieutenant Governor, Jay Dardenne
· Open and deliver the keynote address at the Tulane University Symposium at St. Alphonsus Art & Cultural Center ‘Ireland and New Orleans: From the Famine to Katrina – Stories of Recovery’. The symposium is being organised by Professor Laura D. Kelley of Tulane University, who has produced a new book on the Irish in New Orleans
· Visit to St. Mary’s Dominican High School, which received $50,000 from the Irish Government in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The money was used to restore the school’s library
· Visit to the ‘Irish Channel’, an area of the city where many Irish emigrants settled after the Famine
· Opening of An Gorta Mór: Great Hunger Exhibition and Hunger Awareness Art Show at the Irish Cultural Museum of New Orleans

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