County councillors back National Famine Commemoration bid

Portumna chosen as potential host of State ceremony and other events

Galway county councillors have given their full backing to the Galway bid to host the National Famine Commemoration 2014 with the town of Portumna being specifically chosen to host a number of events in May 2014.

Details of the draft bid were presented at a meeting of the Galway County Council with councillors unanimously agreeing to endorse it. It will now be finalised for submission to the Department of Arts, Heritage and The Gaeltacht by tomorrow, October 4, along with other bids from around Connacht which will then be assessed by the National Famine Commemoration Committee.

The process began in June this year when Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan, as chair of the National Famine Commemoration Committee, invited local authorities throughout Connacht to submit an application. The National Famine Memorial Day has been held each year since 2008, rotating around each of the provinces, to ensure that the famine, its victims, and its legacy is not forgotten.

An internal working group was formed in July to facilitate the preparation of a bid for Galway county to host the event and it came up with a draft bid which proposes that the formal State ceremonial event to be held at the Irish Workhouse Centre in Portumna on Sunday May 18, next year. A series of community events, lecture series and conferences will also be held in Portumna from May 9 to 17, including a conference on May 10 and 11 entitled Famine & Emigration in County Galway and a conference on The Irish Workhouse Past & Present on May 16 and 17.

According to the draft bid “it is essential that the Galway application benefits from strong community participation and support”. To ensure this local communities were invited to participate in the process of developing and supporting the bid through both the Community & Voluntary Forum and the Heritage Forum. It is understood that the response from communities and groups across Galway has been “overwhelmingly positive” and a large number of commitments of support and active participation have been received. The draft bid went on to say how a varied and detailed programme of events to include not just the ceremonial events in Portumna but also a range of community based events and activities throughout the county will be planned and further developed if the application is successful.

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