New Orleans 2014

The 2014 International Famine Commemoration took place in New Orleans on 9 November.

The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, also remembered the Irish people who died constructing the New Basin Canal in New Orleans in the nineteenth century.

The Minister dedicated a new park, the ‘Hibernian Memorial Park’, to their memory. Prior to the dedication, Minister Humphreys also laid a wreath at the Hurricane Katrina Memorial in memory of those who lost their lives during the Hurricane which devastated New Orleans in 2005.

Speaking at the time, Minister Humphreys said:
“I am looking forward to officially opening the Hibernian Memorial Park, which honours those Irish workers who made the ultimate sacrifice in the construction of the New Basin Canal.

“We know that many Irish settlers worked on this project which would go on to take six years to complete. Their work came at a high price. The manual labour on the canal was difficult and dangerous.

“The immigrant workers faced danger and disease on a daily basis. Conditions on site were often treacherous and diseases such as cholera were rampant. Many workers were killed through accident or disease, trying to provide a future for their families.

“However, the experiences of these men did not deter other Irish people from making the journey across the Atlantic. From the plight of the New Basin Canal workers, to immigrants fleeing famine and disease, we know that Irish immigrants from all backgrounds were determined not only to survive but to succeed.

“It is a credit to their fortitude that later generations of the Irish Diaspora made their mark across America and elsewhere and reached the top in every sector of the new countries in which they settled and indeed continue to do so.

“We know that many of these people created successful lives in business, politics, sport and the arts across the globe.

“Here in New Orleans, the Irish community were tight-knit and supported their families and each other and I see that this continues today. This wonderful Park – and the Celtic Cross erected 24 years ago where the New Basin Canal once flowed – are poignant tributes to those brave workers who lost their lives building the canal. Indeed it is a tribute to all of our Irish ancestors who contributed so much to the economic and social fabric of this vibrant city.

“This event marks my final engagement in these 2014 International Famine Commemorations – my first as Minister – and the Irish community in New Orleans have set a very high standard for future years and future host cities.

“The way in which this community has come together to deliver events which remember both the victims of our Great Famine and celebrate the achievement of our emigrants – and those who stand on their shoulders – is a wonderful testament to the resilience and class of this city and its Irish community in particular.”