Kilrush in County Clare has been selected as the host location for the 2013 National Famine Commemoration, Clare Local Authorities have announced.
The National Famine Commemoration Committee, led by Jimmy Deenihan T.D., Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, today (Monday, 14 January 2013) informed Kilrush Town Council and Clare County Council that Kilrush will host the main commemoration event on National Famine Commemoration Day, a date for which has yet to be announced.
The annual observance in Ireland commemorating the Great Famine has been organised officially by the Government since 2009. The main commemoration event is held in a different place each year, rotating among the four provinces of Ireland. The 2012 National Famine Commemoration took place in Drogheda, Co Louth.
Events at the main venue usually include lectures, arts events, and visits to places connected to the Famine. Local events also take place countrywide while a minute’s silence is encouraged for schools and workplaces.
The Mayor of Clare Cllr. Pat Daly and Mayor of Kilrush Cllr. Mairead O’Brien both welcomed the announcement, adding that Kilrush is an appropriate host location considering the significant impact of the Great Famine on the town and surrounding area.
Mayor O’Brien noted: “Kilrush has historically been very closely linked with and was greatly affected by the Great Irish Famine in the mid 19th century. It is fantastic to see this link being recognised nationally with Kilrush being selected as the host town for the 2013 National Famine Commemoration.”
According to John Corry, Kilrush Town Clerk: “It is a huge honour for the town to host this event in the year of the Gathering and I hope that many visitors from near and far will visit our great town during this Commemoration. I wish to thank everyone involved in preparing a very comprehensive submission and look forward to showcasing Kilrush both nationally and internationally for this event.”
Kilrush is recognised nationally as one of the locations worst affected by starvation, disease and emigration between 1845 and 1852. The famine years brought much hardship to Kilrush. Evictions, fever and cholera reduced the population of south-west Clare to such an extent that it has never again attained its pre-famine numbers. The Kilrush workhouse witnessed terrible deprivation and deaths. During and after the famine, the Vandeleur name became synonymous with the worst of landlord evictions, with over 20,000 evicted in the Kilrush area.
Illustrations from Kilrush at the time of the famine featured in the Illustrated London News and these illustrations are the best recognised images of the famine conditions in Ireland. Images of the famine from Moveen were depicted and the ruins of this famine village are visible today. Other strong attributes from the area include the association with Captain Kennedy, Vandeleur Estate, the famine plot and memorial garden at Old Shanakyle cemetery, the Paupers’ Quay, among many other sites and stories.
Famine author and Clare-based Historian Ciarán Ó Murchadha, who supported Kilrush’s bid to host the event, said: “Having spent over 20 years researching, writing and teaching, in Ireland, Britain and the United States, about the Famine at local and national level, I can state without any fear of contradiction that although all of Clare suffered grievously, no part of the county endured as much as Kilrush town and Kilrush union, and for such a prolonged period. That being the case, I am delighted to learn that Kilrush will host the next National Famine Commemoration event.”
In August 2012, Clare County Council placed advertisements in the local media inviting local and community organisations, historical societies, local Famine Commemoration Committees, schools and other interested parties to propose a location in County Clare to host this event in 2013. Kilrush was subsequently put forward as a proposed host location. The submission was supported by the Kilrush and District Historical Society, Kilrush Chamber of Commerce, Kilrush Tidy Towns, Kilrush Tourism Group, An Garda Síochána, local businesses, community groups, politicians and a number of Irish history academics, including Famine author and historian Ciarán Ó Murchadha and NUI Maynooth Lecturer in History Dr. Gerard Moran.