Sunday, May 16, 2021

Sarah Mooney

President Michael D Higgins has led the national remembrance of victims of the Irish famine on Sunday.

The National Famine Commemoration was marked at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, with capacity limited for the second year running due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Higgins addressed a small group of dignitaries before laying a wreath on behalf of the Irish people, in a ceremony for those who suffered or died during the famine of the mid-19th century.

As we meet, the threat of famine affects 34 million of our fellow global citizens today

The President said the famine was a defining moment in Irish history that had shaped the Irish relationship with land, migration and politics, also referencing contemporary hunger, poverty and forced migration.

“As we meet, the threat of famine affects 34 million of our fellow global citizens today,” he said.

“Yemen, the United Nations informs us, is in imminent danger of enduring the worst famine the world has seen in decades. A quarter of a million Yemenis have died from violence, starvation and preventable illness over the past six years.”

Mr Higgins said “we require today a renewed moral consciousness… that ensures that the needs of all can be met.”

“The Covid pandemic has surely shown us that there is not only need for a better paradigm of existence, but that it is achievable with a harmonious, sustainable connection of economy, ecology and ethical society,” he said.

President Michael D Higgins arrives at the National Famine Commemoration at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. Photo: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography.

Wreaths were also laid at the ceremony by the dean of the Diplomatic Corps on behalf of the diplomatic community, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Hazel Chu, and the chairman of Dublin Cemeteries Trust, David Bunworth.

Minister for Culture, Catherine Martin, described the famine as “the darkest period of our history.”

“However… the Irish people showed tremendous courage and fortitude in coming through that catastrophe to forge the modern nation, with ties to a far flung and successful diaspora throughout the world,” she continued.

“Today’s ceremony is not only our opportunity to commemorate and honour the suffering and resilience of victims of the famine years but the occasion also offers us an opportunity to reflect on the resilience of our people today.

“Ireland is beginning to emerge cautiously, but hopefully, from the clutches of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are moving from the shadows into the light, thanks to that steely determination of our people, whose strength this time will not be forgotten either.”

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