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Thursday, 1 November 2012

Atlas of the Great Irish Famine in library despatch

Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, has announced that every county and city library in Ireland is to be provided with a copy of the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-52, which is edited by John Crowley, William J Smyth and Mick Murphy, and was recently published by Cork University Press.

Minister Deenihan said: "In recognition of the important role that libraries play as community centres of culture and learning, I am delighted to now provide a copy of this beautiful and important publication for each of the county and city libraries in Ireland. I hope that they will find it to be a useful and informative resource and that it will be of assistance in publicising and educating communities around Ireland about the history of the Great Irish Famine.

"The failure of the potato crop during the 1840s was a transforming event in Ireland. There is nothing else in the history of the Irish people that can be likened to the Great Famine, either for its immediate impact, or its legacy of emigration, cultural loss and decline of the Irish language. It brought a shattering direct loss of life, established a momentum in emigration that endured for many years and polarised social and political relations in Ireland and with Great Britain. It is now widely accepted that a million people perished between the years 1845-1852 and that an additional one million and a quarter emigrated. In 1835, the number of native Irish speakers was estimated at 4 million, but by 1851 only 2 million spoke Irish as their first language.”

I'm so pleased the Minister has taken this step. The book is truly outstanding in all manner of ways – scope and research depth, presentation and editorial standards – and I'm sure it's going to pick up a lot of awards. It certainly deserves to.