Dublin South West Fine TD Colm Brophy has said most Irish people are unaware Ireland has a National Famine Commemoration Day, and this has contributed to a “scant awareness among younger generations of the causes and impact of the Great Famine in the 1840s.”
Deputy Brophy made his comments in the Dail yesterday during debate on his National Famine Commemoration Day Bill 2017 which would establish a fixed date to be set every year for the commemoration of the Famine.
Minister for Heritage Heather Humphreys gave her support to the Bill, which is at the second stage, and if passed would see the second Sunday of May each year to be known as the National Famine Commemoration Day.
Mr Brophy said that nine years on from the first commemoration in 2008 “all too few people in this country even know this national day exists. Very few talk about this event and even fewer children in our schools learn about this day when they study the Great Famine as part of the school curriculum.”
National Famine Commemoration Day was first introduced in 2008 with the aim of creating one dedicated day in the year for Irish citizens and diaspora around the world to reflect on one of Ireland’s most significant historical events, which resulted in the death of one million people from starvation. Deputy Brophy said:
“Unfortunately now, nine years on from the first National Famine Commemoration Day all too few people in this country even know this National Day exists.
“Very few talk about this event and even fewer children in our schools learn about this day when they study the Great Famine as part of the school curriculum.
“Today’s Bill will ensure this event is given due status and recognition, and will fix the second Sunday in May as the annual National Famine Commemoration Day.
“The Great Famine marked a watershed in our history. It was not inevitable that Ireland would suffer this famine but a combination of circumstances and inept response by the British administration combined together ensured that the Famine would turn into one of the greatest tragedies of the 19th Century.
Minister Humphreys said the National Famine Commemoration Committee endeavoured to hold the ceremony on the second Sunday of May each year but a degree of flexibility was beneficial to ensure the president or taoiseach of the day was available for the event. Commemorations were held in October last year because of the number of 1916 centenary ceremonies.
Ms Humphreys said she believed the challenges of setting a fixed date could be overcome and she acknowledged that “by fixing a date we are saying, without hesitation, that the Famine has left an indelible mark on Ireland and can never be forgotten”.