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  • Ireland marks National Famine Commemoration Day on Sunday

    Friday, May 14th, 2010

    Ireland’s second National Famine Commemoration day will take place this Sunday, 16 May, with a wide range of events marking the day.

    The main event in Ireland will be a formal State ceremony at the National Famine Memorial in Murrisk, Co. Mayo. The event will include the National flag and military honors, and wreath-laying ceremonies. There will also be music, readings and prayers, tree planting, a candle-lighting ceremony, and a minute of silent reflection. Everyone is welcome.

    This state event has been complemented by a week of activities organised by the Murrisk Development Association and Mayo County Council. Events are aimed at both paying tribute to those who died or suffered during the Great Irish Famine,and also with raising awareness of the plight of those suffering the effects of famine globally now.

    The week-long series of events included literary and musical programmes and lectures. Monday’s event was “Writing the Famine in Fiction and Song”, with Brendan Graham speaking in Holy Trinity Church, with special guest singer Cathy Jordan and Feargal Murray on the piano. On Tuesday, Michael Gibbons spoke on “The Legacy of the Famine on the Landscape”. Catherine Marshall spoke on visual representations of the Famine on Wednesday. Today, Professor Peter Gray will be in the Museum of Country life speaking on religion and the Great Famine, while tonight William Henry will speak on “The Horror of Famine”.

    Tomorrow, Bronach Joyce will lead a historical walking tour highlighting aspects of famine in Westport and Clew Bay. John O’Shea of GOAL will speak tomorrow night on countries afflicted by famine today.

    Today, students in schools across the country had a one-minute silent reflection on the Famine and hunger worldwide. An information pack for schools has been produced by Trocaire and Gorta for teachers who want to explore the links between Ireland’s famine and famine in the modern world.

    In addition, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has written to all sporting organisations asking them to mark the commemoration by holding a one-minute silence at all events. Minister Pat Carey said,

    “I understand that this was a great success last year and had a real impact on both participants and spectators alike.  Sport holds such a strong and respected position in Irish society and I would encourage all sporting organisations to use their influence to pay tribute and acknowledge the losses suffered in Ireland as a result of the famine.  Unfortunately, famine is not unique to Ireland and many countries across the globe still suffer from famine and hunger today.  It is important that in acknowledging our own history we continue to raise awareness of the plight of these people?.

    For more information, visit the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs National Famine Commemoration Day website.

    The Catholic Bishops have also issued a statement marking the Famine Commemoration Day. Visit the website for more information.

    New York is supposed to be the site of a parallel event but I’ve been unable to dig up any information on that – I’ll post that if I find it.

    Regional, youth Farmleighs to follow Global Irish Economic Forum

    Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

    Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin has released the “Progress Report on Follow-up to The Global Irish Economic Forum”. The report outlines a number of initiatives that have been undertaken following the Global Irish Economic Forum, which was held at Farmleigh in September 2009.  The forum had two aims: first, to explore how the Irish abroad could contribute to economic recovery, and second, to examine ways in which Ireland and its global community could develop a more strategic relationship with each other.

    While the Forum has in the past few months occasionally been criticised in the media as a talking shop, it’s clear the government is trying to demonstrate the impact of the event on its economic strategy. The report include specific projects in the areas of diaspora engagement,  economic policy, culture, innovation, tourism, greentech, international financial services, and agriculture and food. Among the ideas on diaspora engagement are:

    • Global Irish Network – This network of 300 people in 37 countries was launched and held its first meeting on 4 February. The network is intended to serve as a resource for the Government in promoting Ireland’s economic, cultural and tourism messages in key markets.
    • Regional “Farmleighs” – Meetings in a number of countries with visiting members will take place in 2010.
    • Supporting business and technology networks – The Government has funded the Irish Technology Leadership Group in Silicon Valley with $251,000; Craig Barrett has been appointed the new chair of the ITLG. An Irish Innovation Centre is due to open in California “in the first quarter of 2010”.
    • Farmleigh Overseas Graduate Programme – The Government is working to establish a programme to facilitate up to 500 graduate placesments abroad; the initial focus will be in Asia.
    • Youth Forum for the Global Irish – The DFA is working with the Ireland Funds to convene a Forum in June 2010 for 100 younger members of the global Irish community.
    • Gateway Ireland – John McColgan of Riverdance is moving this private-sector initiative forward, aimed at creating “a new high-quality Irish portal website”.
    • Diaspora Bond – The Government is examining the feasiblity of extending the National Solidarity Bond, announced in Budget 2010, to non-Irish residents.
    • Local Diaspora Strategies – Each Irish embassy is producing a strategy aimed at supporting and enhancing engagement with the local Irish community.

    There are more proposals under the aforementioned other subheadings.  Some of the ideas that are under development include:

    • The New Irish centre in New York, toward which the Irish government has pledged 2.3 million euro
    • A new performing arts university, which is in the exploratory phase
    • Efforts to maximise the tourism potential of online access to genealogy records
    • A new strategy for Asia and emerging markets
    • The development of “Food and Drink Diaspora” network by Bord Bia
    • The maintenance of investment in research and development in Budget 2010
    • The development of proposals by the Innovation Task Force to address issues raised at Farmleigh.

    As someone who’s been studying Ireland’s engagement with its diaspora for years, it’s clear to me that we’ve entered a new era in our relationship with the Irish abroad.

    Some of these ideas might be a hard sell (diaspora bonds, anyone?), but even more important than the new initiatives are the enhanced desire for engagement by the Irish government.  Recent years have seen extraordinary changes and an increasingly sophisticated relationship developing between Ireland and our diaspora. Part of this has been influenced by changing trends in global diaspora strategies, much of it by Ireland’s peculiar circumstances. It will be exciting to see how this relationship grows, and particularly how the Irish diaspora will respond to this increasing outreach.

    See the entire report at the GlobalIrishForum website.

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