Ireland Park, Toronto 2017

Minister of State O’Donovan represented the Government at the 2017 International Famine Commemoration, Ireland Park, Toronto

(l to r) Ambassador Jim Kelly, Minister Patrick O’Donovan T.D., Robert Kearns, Chairman of Ireland Park Foundation, and Councillor Joe Cressy

The International Famine Commemoration for 2017 took place in Ireland Park Toronto on Tuesday 24 October. Ireland Park, which marked its tenth anniversary in 2017, was the first overseas commemorative event to be organised by the National Famine Commemoration Committee in honour and memory of those who emigrated and took to the seas during An Gorta Mór.

Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan T.D., who represented the Government on behalf of the Chair of the National Famine Commemoration Committee, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys T.D., said:

“It is especially fitting that in the 170th anniversary of the worst year of the Famine, ‘Black 47’, we return again to Ireland Park in Toronto to remember those who suffered and died during that terrible time and in particular the over 110,000 souls who undertook the perilous the voyage to Canada from Ireland that year.”

“The Irish people will never forget this horrific time in our history, nor will we forget the generous welcome given by the people of this city and country, particularly the hand of friendship and assistance offered by the people of Toronto to those distraught and desolate masses that came to these shores.”

While in Toronto Minister O’Donovan also visited the site of the new George Robert Grasset Park which was being developed by the Ireland Park Foundation. The park which is located on the site of the Emigrant hospital commemorates the sacrifice of many remarkable individuals who died while tending to the sick and dying Irish migrants in Toronto during the summer of 1847. Dr, Grassett himself died at age 36 in July, 1847 of fever contracted while treating victims of the Famine.

Upon his death the Montreal Witness reported that:

“Dr. Grasset of Toronto, of whose benevolent efforts the papers speak most highly, has fallen a martyr to the duties as immigrant physician there. He died of the fever.”

As of 2017 this was the third International Famine Commemoration to be held in Canada. Toronto also hosted the first commemoration in 2009 while the 2015 Commemoration was held in St John, New Brunswick.