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Famine Memorial Day legislation ‘can’t be left in limbo’ – Tóibín

3 May, 2018

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Peadar Tóibín TD has said that the issue of commemorating the Famine can no longer be left in limbo.

Speaking ahead of the debate this afternoon on his Bill, the Famine Memorial Day Bill 2016, Teachta Tóibín said:

“The Famine is one of the most shocking and important events in Irish history.

“Just a few generations ago, the Irish people were subject to unimaginable horror. It irrevocably altered the trajectory of this country. Our population was halved – the Famine emptied the country of its people with considerably more than one million deaths and three million emigrating in its aftermath.

“The effects of the famine on our culture, our language and our psyche run deep. It’s incredible but in population terms alone Ireland has still not recovered from the famine.

“One of the legacies of the famine has been silence. Through the generations, the horror of the famine was not spoken about. In my view, that’s one of the reasons that state’s official commemoration is so low key and mobile in terms of dates. The changing of dates denotes a lack of importance and prevents commemoration organisations around the world from being able to build proper annual events.  Today, Minister Josepha Madigan’s Department confirmed that a Memorial Committee still has not been put together since late in 2017.    

“It is vital that this changes and that we as a people take time out to reflect with dignity and respect on the Famine. It is not just about remembering those that died so horrifically. It is also about a better understanding of ourselves.  We hope that this Famine Day Memorial Bill gets cross party support today. We are disappointed that there has been some politics played around what should be a cross party effort. I introduced this Bill at first stage in December 2016 and it was unopposed by government.  However, for some reason, Fine Gael TD Colm Brophy subsequently introduced a similar Bill two months later.

“While this was unusual to say the least, the issue was of such importance that we supported the subsequent FG bill. However, it is now come to light that Fine Gael are blocking Teachta Brophy’s Bill by withholding a necessary money message. This nonsense is leaving the issue in limbo and has forced me to proceed with my own Bill. I would ask the Minister to ensure that this issue is taken out of Punch and Judy politics and that we work together to fix this issue now.” 

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