For whom the bells may toll – famine victims to be remembered

By Mary Dennehy

St Maelruains Church of IrelandA TALLAGHT family is behind a historic proposal which could see every denomination of church, across the entire island of Ireland, toll their bells together on September 26 – to remember the victims of the Great Irish Famine. 

Raheen resident Michael Blanch and his family are the drive behind the Committee for the Commemoration of Irish Famine Victims [CCIFV], a Tallaght-based lobbying group which is responsible for the introduction of a National Day of Remembrance in 2008 by then-Taoiseach, Brian Cowen.

Since a National Day of Remembrance was introduced in 2008, CCIFV has been lobbying the Government for a fixed time on the national calendar for An Gorta Mór Sunday – with the group suggesting that the second Sunday in May should be fixed for the national day which remembers the victims and emigrants of the Great Famine. 
Despite the CCIFV’s lobbying, the Government has yet to commit to a fixed date for the day of remembrance and this year the significant event is being held on September 26. 
Despite expressing his disappointment over the Government’s lack of commitment to a fixed date, Michael is looking ahead and hoping that this year, every church will toll their bells at the same time on September 26 in remembrance of those who lost their lives or left Irish shores during An Gorta Mór. 
Michael said: “As far as I can recall, this will be a first for Ireland – the first time that churches across the whole island of Ireland, off all denominations, will reunite in remembrance. 
“I have made contact with every Christian church in Ireland and I am now starting to approach other faith leaders. 
“While not all religious denominations have bells to toll, it’s important everyone is given the opportunity to be part of the remembrance in their own way.” 
He added: “We are all descendants of those who lived through the famine or lost their lives or emigrated, so this day is also a celebration of life. 
“This will be an historic day where everybody will be united in the light of peace.
“It will show the universality of the famine, Protestant, Catholic and dissenter lie in mass graves side by side on the island of Ireland and we should now stand side by side in remembrance.
“We must also not forget those today in hunger, poverty, conflict and displacement from their homes and homeland.” 
In correspondence to the CCIFV, the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin said: “I have forwarded a copy of your request to the Executive Secretary of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, Monsignor Gearóid Dullea, with a request to bring your correspondence to the attention of the conference.”

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