Sunday 25 September 2016

Irish people understand plight of refugees due to Great Famine - Taoiseach

Philip Ryan in Connecticut

Published 24/09/2015 | 20:08

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Quinnipac Unversity President John Lahey
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Quinnipac Unversity President John Lahey

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Irish people are 'particularly attuned' to the plight of hundreds of thousands of migrants seeking refuge in Europe due to Ireland’s history of mass emigration during the Great Famine.

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Speaking as he received an honorary degree from Quinnipac University in Connecticut, Mr Kenny said Irish people know what it is liked to be 'forced to leave everything and start anew'.

The Taoiseach’s comment come as he prepares to address a landmark UN summit on poverty and world hunger in New York tomorrow.

He insisted Ireland is 'absolutely committed' to leading the fight on world hunger and coming to the aid of the thousands of refugees fleeing war zones in the Middle East.

“In our generational memory we know what it is like to flee, to be forced to leave everything and start anew with new people in a new place,” he said.

He added: "We know what it is like not alone to seek refuge but to long for a kind look, a kind word, recognition of our dignity, our shared humanity.

Ireland is working with the EU to make sure we help as many of these people as possible. We cannot and we will not look away.”

Mr Kenny said in war zones across the world it is the 'Irish hand that keeps the peace' and in countries struck by famine 'it is an Irish voice that brings hope and comfort'.

Before receiving the honour, Mr Kenny visited the Irish Great Famine Museum in Hamden, South Connecticut.

The museum was founded by the President of Quinnipac University John Lahey who said he was honoured to have Mr Kenny visit the centre.

“We’ve had representative from the Irish Government here but to get the Taoiseach, by his presence alone is going to send an extremely important message about how really this museum is,” Mr Lahey said.

The museum houses art works by some Ireland’s most celebrated artist including Jack B Yeats and Rowan Gillespie deal with the theme of the famine.

During his acceptance speech, Mr Kenny highlighted how thousands of young people left Ireland during the economic crisis to find work in America as they did during the Great Famine.

“In terms of our recent emigrants our loss was America’s gain,” he said.

“But today we want our young people to come home because they and their children are our future and we want them to have the best and be the best at home in their own country,” he added.

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