Northern Ireland

Famine commemoration in Northern Ireland for first time

National Famine Monument Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The National Famine monument, a sculpture of a coffin ship, is at the foot of Croagh Patrick in County Mayo

An annual commemoration of the Irish famine when 1 million people died is to be held in Northern Ireland for the first time.

The Irish arts minister has confirmed that the 2015 famine commemoration will take place on Saturday 26 September in Newry, County Down.

In "the great hunger" of 1845, 1.5 million people emigrated to Canada, America and England.

Many died of typhus on the so-called "coffin ships".

Irish minister Heather Humphreys said the famine affected all of the island of Ireland.

As a result, the commemoration rotates between its four provinces.

The first commemoration took place in Dublin in 2008 - in total, there have been eight commemorations - and this year, it falls to Ulster.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A monument in Dublin to those who suffered in the 1845 Irish famine that became known as the Great Hunger

"The annual famine commemoration is a solemn tribute to those who suffered in the most appalling circumstances that prevailed during the Great Famine," Ms Humphreys said.

"While the scale of suffering was greater in some parts of Ireland than in others, all parts of the island suffered great loss of life and the destruction of families and communities through emigration.

"In this commemoration, we remember all those who suffered, those who died, those who survived but who lost family members, those who were forced to emigrate and those who remained in Ireland but suffered other forms of loss because of the Great Famine."

In 2011, the commemoration was held in Clones, County Monaghan, in the province of Ulster and Ms Humphreys was present.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption 1846: A starving boy and girl rake the ground for potatoes at Cahera during the Irish potato famine

"It was very moving to witness the involvement of the entire community in the event and in particular, the participation of children. I look forward to engaging with the local community in Newry, as they bring their unique perspective to remembering one of the most important events in our shared history, and as an Ulster woman, I look forward to participating in the event in Newry in September," she said.

The minister and the famine commemoration committee welcomed Newry's strong application, the enthusiasm shown by the local community for the project and their determination to mark the occasion in a fitting, respectful and inclusive manner.

The newly-established Newry, Mourne and Down District Council will take a leading role in organising the commemoration.

The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in the Republic of Ireland and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in Northern Ireland will work with the council and other stakeholders.

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