Ireland has a “moral and ethical responsibility” to support those suffering from hunger around the world, President Michael D Higgins has told the National Famine Commemoration at Milford, County Donegal.
The formal State ceremony on Sunday featured a keynote address from the president as well as a wreath-laying ceremony in remembrance of all those who died during An Gorta Mór.
The president said it was an opportunity “for all of us to reflect on and recall the lives, the suffering and the loss of that tragic event imposed on Irish people."
“It is an opportunity, too, to remember those who fled to create new lives abroad, and reflect on the best lessons we might take from such a recall and how it might influence our contemporary lives and the lives of others.”
President Higgins said the legacy of the Famine is “complex, deep, wide, has many strands that have impacted on the Irish collective psyche."
“Its legacy is one of involuntary emigration, cultural loss, demoralization and loss of confidence, both in terms of population and in terms of its impact on the Irish language and the marks this would have on the country, and in particular on Irish society.”
He added: “The strong commitment of the Irish people to humanitarian aid and relief is of course strongly related to our own past struggle with hunger, engrained in our collective memory. It is an example of the Irishness we wish to be known by, one grounded in decency, in ethical principles, taking our share of global responsibility.”
Also speaking at the event was government minister Catherine Martin who said the Great Famine “fundamentally altered this country, and its people, in so many ways."
And Minister Jack Chambers said: “It is particularly appropriate that today’s event is being held here in Donegal, where the impact of the Great Famine and its legacy of emigration shaped the lives of its communities and people for too long.
“But today is also an opportunity to honor the courage and determination of those who were forced to leave these shores. Despite the challenges and horrors they faced, they flourished and created a thriving diaspora which continues to maintain its connection to Ireland.”