WHILE the 36 visiting ambassadors and the dozens of additional dignitaries in Kilrush last Sunday may not have noticed, local people must have been astonished at how clean and fresh Frances Street was looking.
One of the widest streets in Ireland underwent a lightening facelift in the weeks before the visit of President Higgins to the West Clare capital.
Derelict buildings, which hadn’t been painted for decades, were transformed for the weekend, while parking places were realigned and repainted.
The entire street was cordoned off on Sunday for what was a superbly organised National Famine Commemoration.
People with official invites were seated quite close to the platform erected close to the roundabout in Lower Frances Street, while people without an invite had to make do with a view from a standing area, behind the seats.
However a large screen, in front of those who stood, afforded them a clear view of proceedings.
While all speakers who delivered their pieces on stage were clearly visible and easily heard, it was difficult to see all of the Crack’d Spoon Theatres Famine depiction. That said the re-enactment was unquestionably the high point of the afternoon’s activities.
Their haunting and quite realistic delivery silenced the attendance even after the production had concluded.
While President Michael D Higgins delivered the key note speech, several local speakers also contributed including Mayor of Kilrush Mairead O’Brien and Mayor of Clare Pat Daly.
PJ Murrihy’s West Clare Famine Song was also well received, as was Assumpta Kennedy’s singing of Lone Shanakyle.
National Famine Committee Chairman and Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan told the gathering that he was thankful to all organisations that had contributed to the the event.
“The backdrop to today’s ceremony, Pauper’s Quay, is particularly poignant, given that it was the point of departure for many local people bound for New York, Australia and elsewhere,” Minister Deenihan said.
“We know that many of those emigrants died before they could reach their destinations but many survived and prospered in their adopted homelands.
“We welcome some of their descendants back to Kilrush to join us in honouring their memory,” Mr Deenihan added.
All 36 Ambassadors laid wreaths at the commemorative plaque, sculpted by Kilkee man Paddy Murray, while a minute’s silence was observed in the unseasonal early May weather.
The ceremony concluded with the raising of the national flag to full mast, followed by the National Anthem.