National Famine Commemoration 2019

The 2019 National Famine Commemoration was held in Sligo on Sunday 19th May. An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar T.D. officiated at the ceremony, accompanied by the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan T.D.

The formal State ceremony included 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 the 2019 event included performances by local musicians from Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Sligeach and the sixty voice Sligo Famine Choir formed specially for the Commemoration.  The Cathaoirleach of Sligo County Council, Councillor Martin Baker and Mayor of Sligo, Councillor Rosaleen O’Grady, gave readings, with prayers led by local church leaders.

The Commemoration also saw the launch, in the Model Arts Centre, by the Chairperson of the National Famine Commemoration Committee, Josepha Madigan T.D. and Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, of a booklet produced by the County Sligo Famine Commemoration Committee in 1997 to mark the 150th Anniversary of the Famine.

After the Commemoration Ceremony, the Model Arts Centre also hosted a preview of the Trailer for Lost Children of The Carricks, written and directed by Professor Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin.

Speaking at the event An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD said:

The Famine was the single most traumatic event in Irish history.  Every county has its own famine story, and the story in Sligo was terrible and tragic. There were 162 sailings from the Port of Sligo, between 1847 and 1851, the majority of them to Canada and the United States.  13,000 people left in Black ‘47 alone.  440 people set off from here in the ‘Bark Larch’ to Quebec. Many of these died without ever setting foot on shore.  The few who did land on Grosse Ile received comfort from Fr. Bernard McGauran, himself from Sligo.

I believe the best way we can honour those who suffered and died during the Great Famine is by showing empathy with those who are experiencing similar problems today, whether through natural disaster or oppression. Our country has a longstanding commitment to working for the eradication of poverty and hunger in the world.  We were refugees once and we recall the great compassion and the open doors shown around the world.  It is seared on our collective memories as we work to assist today’s refugees.

Speaking at the event Minister Madigan said:

I would like to express my appreciation to the commitment of local communities and committees throughout the island of Ireland who persevere to keep the memory of those that suffered alive. In particular, I would like to recognize the work of the members of the County Sligo Famine Commemoration Committee.