Thursday 29 September 2016

President draws comparison between Famine and 'marine graves' being created by EU

Robin Schiller

Published 12/09/2016 | 02:30

The President inspects members of the Defence Forces.. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
The President inspects members of the Defence Forces.. Picture credit; Damien Eagers

President Michael D Higgins has said that European nations failing to fulfil their humanitarian obligations towards refugees should learn from mistakes made during the Famine.

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The President made the call during an emotional speech at Glasnevin Cemetery, where he was unveiling a Celtic cross memorial for the victims of the Famine. The cross was donated by the Glasnevin Trust, with Mr Higgins saying it would serve as a "permanent memorial to and reminder to those people".

President Michael D Higgins places a wreath at the Celtic cross memorial for the victims of the Famine at Glasnevin Cemetery yesterday. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
President Michael D Higgins places a wreath at the Celtic cross memorial for the victims of the Famine at Glasnevin Cemetery yesterday. Picture credit; Damien Eagers

He also compared the current refugee crisis that has seen millions of people displaced and lying in "marine graves" to that of the Irish Famine, which claimed more than 1 million lives between 1845 and 1852.

"Is there not a lesson for all of us, as we are faced in our own time with the largest number of displaced people since World War II, as the Mediterranean becomes, for some, a marine grave, as European nations fail to respond to their humanitarian obligations?

"We now have the capacity to anticipate the threat of famine. We have the capacity to take measures to avoid it; and yet we allow nearly a billion people across our world to live in conditions of extreme but avoidable hunger," Mr Higgins said.

Hunger

Michael Blanch, from Tallaght, with his sisters – Sheila McDonald (left) and Anna Carthy – at the new memorial. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
Michael Blanch, from Tallaght, with his sisters – Sheila McDonald (left) and Anna Carthy – at the new memorial. Picture credit; Damien Eagers

A wreath-laying ceremony was followed by a minute's silence in memory of all the men, women and children who lost their lives during the Famine.

More than 50 ambassadors from countries across the globe - including a representative for refugees - then laid wreaths beside the Celtic cross. The event was also attended by Arts Minister Heather Humphreys, who said millions of people continue to suffer from hunger today.

"While reflecting on issues beyond our own country we should remember that, while the Famine is a historical event for us to remember, similar suffering remains around the globe today," Ms Humphreys said.

More than 20,000 victims are buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, where more than 60 burials took place every day at the height of the Famine.

The chairman of the Glasnevin Trust, John Green, said the cemetery was under huge pressure. "Here in Glasnevin the impact of the Famine refugees was extraordinary, quickly the daily burials rose, from a daily average in the low 20s to an average 50 or 60," he said.

Irish Independent

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