Like their modern day counterparts, the doctors and nurses who treated the ill and dying during the Great Famine served bravely for the people of Ireland in the midst of a national health crisis.
ulture Minister Josepha Madigan yesterday paid tribute to the medics of both generations as she led the National Famine Commemoration.
The ceremony was due to take place in Buncrana, Co Donegal, but was instead moved to St Stephen's Green in Dublin city centre due to the lockdown.
For the first time, the event was not open to the public.
Wreaths were laid at the Edward Delaney Famine sculpture by Ms Madigan on behalf of the nation and by the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps on behalf of the diplomatic community.
Singer Aimee Banks performed a rendition of Brendan Graham's 'Crucán na bPáiste' while the national anthem was performed by an Army piper.
Speaking at the ceremony, Ms Madigan said the Great Famine was a public health emergency in its own right and that the heroes of that time sought to "lift and carry those who fell or could not keep up".
"That same spirit of caring and self sacrifice that is embedded in the caring professions, is being seen again today as our health workers embrace the challenge of caring for those affected by Covid-19.
"We honour and respect these modern day heroes and value their courage.
"Perhaps we can best show our appreciation for their work, and the efforts of their forebears during the Great Famine, by adhering to those small acts of heroism we are called upon to perform in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and to come though these testing times just as our ancestors once did.
"As we confront a pandemic today, let us recall that the Great Famine was a public health emergency in its own right. We think of the many heroes of the Famine years," said Ms Madigan.
"People such as the doctors and nurses of the fever hospitals who put themselves at risk to care for others will always have our thanks for their sacrifice.
"As our society has changed and evolved this commitment to helping others has never wavered and we see the same qualities of courage and commitment to others in our healthcare staff today," she added.
The minister also unveiled a plaque marking the first annual Famine commemoration held in the Custom House in 2008.
This will be installed in the grounds of the Custom House later this year.