The victims of the Great Famine were remembered yesterday during a solemn memorial service in Co Louth.
More than 1m people died from starvation and disease and hundreds of thousands emigrated when the potato crop failed during the 1840s.
A minute’s silence was held and a tree planted as part of the National Famine Commemoration in Drogheda — the second largest port of departure for those forced to flee on coffin ships.
The generational memory of the famine, said Taoiseach Enda Kenny, is what supports Irish Aid and all aid agencies to bring not just food but hope, self-reliance, compassion and dignity across the Developing World.
“A major priority of Irish Aid is to support global efforts to reduce hunger,” said Mr Kenny.
“In addition to addressing the immediate needs of those who are victims of natural and manmade disasters, Ireland is also working to address the root causes of hunger and has become a leading global advocate in the fight against hunger.
“This is a key aspect of the National Famine Commemoration.”
The population of Ireland, which was close to 8.5m in 1845, fell to 6.6m by 1851 with many emigrating to Britain and America.
No other event in Irish history can be likened to the Great Famine, either for its immediate, tragic impact, or its legacy of emigration, and cultural loss.
Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan, Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald andMinister of State Fergus O’Dowd were joined by politicians from Northern Ireland and more than 30 foreign diplomats for the ecumenical service.
About 100 members of the Defence Forces took part in the memorial, which featured local musicians, reflections, and a pipers’ lament.
The service was part of a series of commemorative events which took place in Drogheda including the recreation of the Soup Kitchen of 1847 and an exhibition of archival material from Strokestown Estate at Drogheda Library.
Elsewhere, schoolchildren across Ireland also held a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the Great Famine on Friday, with President Michael D Higgins leading an international event in Boston last week.
Mr Deenihan, chairperson of the National Famine Commemoration Committee, thanked the people of Drogheda and said it was clear the community has a rich appreciation of history.
“The role of Drogheda as a key port during the famine was a key factor in holding the National Famine Commemoration here,” he added.
Famine commemorations have previously taken place in Skibbereen in Co Cork, and Murrisk in Co Mayo.
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