Jimmy Deenihan, TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, has invited all people of Irish heritage around the globe to join with the people of Ireland and observe a minute of silent reflection on Sunday 11 May as a gesture of respect for our ancestors who perished, suffered and emigrated during the Great Irish Famine.
Minister Deenihan said: 'As Chair of the National Famine Commemoration Committee, I warmly welcome the tireless efforts of the many communities and organisations abroad to commemorate the victims of the Great Famine and to enlighten new generations about the terrible plight of the Irish people who suffered and perished or emigrated during this tragic period in our nation's history.
'I now call on you to join with the people of Ireland in observing a minute of silent reflection on Sunday 11 May, in honour of all those who suffered loss of life, loss of home and loss of family during this time. We also honour the extraordinary achievements of the Diaspora – all those whose instinct for survival and will to live brought them to new and distant places where their determination to survive in the most difficult of circumstances inspired them to leave their mark in the new societies in which they settled.
'We must always strive to ensure that the devastating events of the famine are never forgotten and that the extraordinary contributions of those who emigrated and of their many descendents abroad are justly celebrated. We have come such a long way since that desolate time, but it is important that we do not forget our past and the experiences that have shaped us as a people. Today, we extend the same genuine compassion and generosity to those who are suffering from hunger, disease and poverty in the modern world. This spirit of empathy has transcended the generations to become embedded in the Irish psyche – it defines us as a people. This is the only way that we can truly honour the victims of the past.'
The 2014 National Famine Commemoration is taking place on Sunday 11 May in Strokestown Park House, County Roscommon, with an overseas commemoration also planned for New Orleans (7-9 November). Minister Deenihan has already invited over 4,000 schools nationwide to observe a minute of silent reflection at noon on Friday 9 May as a gesture of respect for those who died or suffered loss during the famine. He has also invited cultural and sporting organisations in Ireland to observe a minute's silence at public events taking place on Sunday 11 May in honour of the famine victims. This minute of silent reflection in schools and at public and sporting events, large and small, will inspire people of all ages to reflect on this tragic period in our nation's history.