KILRUSH Town Council and Clare County Council this week formally submitted a detailed bid for Kilrush as a host location for the 2013 National Famine Commemoration.
The local authorities have submitted the expression of interest to the National Famine Commemoration Committee, led by Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
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 province each year and will be held in Munster in 2013.
The Mayor of Clare Councillor Pat Daly and Mayor of Kilrush Councillor Mairéad O’Brien pledged their support for the bid, stating that Kilrush is an appropriate host location considering the significant impact of the Great Famine on the town and surrounding area.
The submission is 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.
Clare heritage officer Congella McGuire said Kilrush’s well-known links with the Famine will make it a solid contender to host the National Famine Commemoration next year.
“Kilrush is recognised nationally as one of the locations worst affected by starvation, disease and emigration between 1845 and 1852,” she said. “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,” Conjella McGuire added.
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 in Moveen, west of Kilkee, were depicted and the ruins of the Famine village are visible today. Other links with 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.
“One of our society’s principal objectives since it was set up earlier this year has been to bring the National Famine Commemoration to Kilrush,” Kilrush Famine Commemoration Committee member, Paddy Waldron, PRO of the Kilrush and District Historical Society said.
“We all have a duty to remember our ancestors who suffered death, disease, hunger, emigration or eviction in Kilrush Poor Law Union, or elsewhere, during the Famine years and their many contemporaries who left no living descendants to remember them. Neither should we forget that other parts of the world still suffer from famine today,” he added.
Speaking in support of Kilrush’s bid, historian Ciarán Ó Murchadha said Clare suffered badly during the Famine.
“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, there is no question in my mind that Kilrush should host the next National Famine Commemoration event, in 2013,” he urged.
The National Famine Commemoration Committee 2013 will assess bids from other counties in Munster over the coming weeks. The date and location of the commemoration will be announced later this year. Minister Deenihan has already announced that the 2013 International Commemoration of the Great Irish Famine will take place in Sydney, Australia, on Sunday, August 25 2013.
The members of the National Famine Commemoration Committee 2011 to 2013 are Dr Majda Bne Saad, UCD; Professor Thomas Cooke, Pobal; Brian Hanratty, Gorta; Terri Kearney, Skibbereen Heritage Centre; Mary Kennedy, Broadcaster; Justin Kilcullen, Trócaire; Dr Éamon Phoenix, Historian; Hugh Swift and Dr Patrick Wallace, National Museum of Ireland.