The Boston Famine Memorial is marking 25 years.

Boston Commemorates Famine Memorial 25th

BOSTON --- The Irish community from greater Boston is gathering this Wednesday, June 28, alongside public officials, businesses and immigrant organizations to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Boston Famine Memorial.

The event, which is free and open to the public, runs from 11 a.m. to noon and features reflections from local leaders as well as traditional Irish music and a blessing of the memorial park and of those gathered.

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Among the confirmed speakers are Irish Vice Consul General Paul Rooney, sculptor Robert Shure, former U.S. Ambassador Ray Flynn and his son, Boston City Council President Ed Flynn, and Martina Curtin, chairperson of the Irish Cultural Centre Board and president and cofounder of Mná Mheiriceá.

Speakers also include a member of the Flatley family, whose father Thomas J. Flatley spearheaded the project in 1998 and Michael Nichols, president of the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District, whose organization. has worked closely with the Flatley Company to maintain the memorial park over the past quarter century.

This spring, restoration work was completed on the twin bronze sculptures and eight narrative plaques, along with upgrades to the grounds, fencing, benches and landscaping in the park.

Father John McCarthy of the Irish Pastoral Centre in Boston will give the opening invocation and closing blessing, and music is being performed by singer Mary Conroy Henderson, fiddler Aoife Griffin, and musicians from the Irish Cultural Centre.

Other Irish organizations attending the ceremony include the Boston Irish Tourism Association, Ancient Order of Hibernians, Boston Irish Reporter, Rian, the Deer Island Irish Famine Memorial Committee.

The Boston Irish Famine Memorial was unveiled on Sunday, June 28, 1998 as part of the worldwide 150th anniversary of An Gorta Mor (The Great Hunger), which swept through Ireland between 1845-49. The twin statues by Bob Shure juxtaposes an Irish family dying of starvation in Ireland, alongside a second Irish family, depicted as making their way in America with optimism and resolve, while looking back sadly at the family left behind.

Eight narrative plaques encircling the statues tell the story of the Famine years, from the dire living conditions of 19th century Ireland, caused by absentee landlordism and colonialism, and exacerbated by successive crop failures, to the heroic efforts made by Bostonians to alleviate the suffering, such as the voyage of the USS Jamestown. The final plaque, "Lest We Forget," is a reminder that famines continue to decimate suffering populations around the world today.

The project was spearheaded by Irish immigrant Tom Flatley (1931-2008), a successful businessman from County Mayo, and a group of Irish-American cultural leaders, university presidents, historians, business leaders and art administrators.

As part of his legacy, Flatley and his family established the Irish Famine Memorial Fund at Boston College, whose mission is to provide financial or material support to BC alumni and others who are working to alleviate poverty, disease, famine, and illiteracy across the globe.

The memorial park has been visited by numerous Irish dignitaries since it opened, including Irish presidents Mary Robinson, Mary McAleese and Michael D. Higgins.

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden proclaimed June as National Immigrant Heritage Month, saying that “Immigration has always been essential to America,” and praising “immigrant values of hard work, dignity, and respect.”

Located at the corner of Washington and School Streets in downtown Boston, across from the Old South Meeting House, the memorial is along the city's famous Freedom Trail and is part of Boston's popular Irish Heritage Trail. Over the past quarter century, millions of residents and visitors from around the world have stopped at the memorial to learn about the Irish odyssey in Boston More

Michael Quinlin is a member of the original Boston Irish Famine Memorial Committee.