2019 Great Hunger commemoration set for Phoenix

The Irish Cultural Center and McClelland Library


By Irish Echo Staff

The 2019 International Commemoration of the Great Irish Famine is to take place in Phoenix, Arizona on Sunday, November 3.

The announcement of the commemoration, which will take place at the city’s Irish Cultural Center, was made by Josepha Madigan, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and chair of the National Famine Commemoration Committee.

“As chair of the National Famine Commemoration Committee, I look forward to the International Famine Commemoration being held in Phoenix, Arizona,” said Minister Madigan.

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This is the fifth time the commemoration has been held in the U.S. and Phoenix is the westernmost venue to date. Previously the International Famine Commemoration has been held in New York, Boston, New Orleans and Philadelphia,” she said.

And Madigan continued: “I am particularly pleased that the commemoration is being held in Phoenix this year as 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the dedication of the Great Hunger Memorial commissioned by the Irish Cultural Center.

“This year’s commemoration represents an opportunity to not only recognize the work of the Irish Cultural Center and McClelland Library in Phoenix itself, but to honor the memory of those who left Ireland during the Famine itself, the subsequent years of emigration which saw many Famine Irish and their descendants make an enormous contribution in Western U.S., and the ongoing role of the Irish diaspora and Irish-Americans in Arizona and throughout the Western U.S.”

The November event will be the fifth occasion that the international commemoration has been held in the United States.

There have been ten international commemorations of the Great Hunger date. Since the first international commemoration in Toronto and Quebec in 2009, events have also been held in Australia, Canada and the UK.

The naming of Phoenix, meanwhile, has been welcomed by the Irish Cultural Center.

Leslie Thompson, president of the Irish Cultural & Learning Foundation, Inc. - of which the center and library are division - stated the Irish community was honored “to host this significant event.”

The Phoenix memorial to the Great Hunger, is An Gorta Mór/Great Hunger Memorial at the Irish Cultural Center/McClelland Library.

“This monument, designed by Phoenix artist Maureen McGuire, was the first structure built on ICC site in 1999. The arch reflects a Celtic passageway, symbolizing entry from the old world to the new, from despair to hope, from oppression to freedom. Seamus King did the marble/stone work, and Sean Prior composed the poem,” said a release.

The mission of the Irish Cultural Center, added the release, “is to provide a link between the people of Arizona and the people of Ireland and other Celtic cultures.

“The goal of the McClelland Library is to make accessible a comprehensive collection of materials on Ireland and the Irish diaspora on the role of Irish-Americans in Arizona and the Western United States. The Irish Cultural Center and McClelland Library are divisions of the Irish Cultural & Learning Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, and are owned and maintained by the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department. More at www.azirish.org.