The International Commemoration of the Great Irish Famine in Sydney yesterday 'celebrates the tremendous impact that Irish emigrants have made to their adopted homeland,' reports The Catholic Weekly.
The comments were made by Ireland’s Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, who also chairs Ireland’s National Famine Commemoration Committee. He has travelled to Sydney to take part in the international commemoration at the Irish Famine Memorial at Hyde Park Barracks. It is only the fifth time that the International Famine Commemoration has been held outside Ireland, following Canada in 2009, then New York, Liverpool and Boston.
'Given the significant number of Irish who came to Australia as far as our population is concerned, it is terrific,' said historian Dr Perry McIntyre, chair of the Great Irish Famine Commemoration Committee in Australia. 'There were 4114 girls who came out of the workhouses during the famine, and a lot more came as a result of the famine and just after it as assisted immigrants.'
The commemoration is an occasion for all Australians to remember their roots, said Bishop Terry Brady, auxiliary bishop of Sydney. 'I think it’s a good opportunity to remind this society that, except for our indigenous brothers and sisters, we all come from somewhere else and most of us came for a better life. I’m sure many of these young girls didn’t know where they were going and I’m sure they got harsh treatment,' Bishop Brady said. 'And as the generations aged and had families, they became part of the establishment.'
Mr Deenihan’s brief visit included launching The Atlas of the Great Irish Famine at the State Library and addressing a seminar at Parliament House.
The Irish National Famine Commemoration Committee strives to raise awareness of famine issues around the world, he said.
Photo: Members of the Australian Girls Choir performed at the commemoration last year