Newry to host exciting International Conference on the Great Famine
Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015
Community, Old Newry, What's On
In the middle of the modern migrant crisis, with European countries attempting to accommodate tens of thousands of refugees, the National Famine Commemoration will this week cross the border into Northern Ireland.
It is an opportunity to reflect on the similarities between the treatment of those now attempting to enter the European Union and the huge 19th Century migration of Irish cottiers, labourers and tenant farmers into Britain, the USA and Canada.
A key event of the Commemoration is an International Conference, ‘John Mitchel: The Legacy of the Great Famine’. Appropriately it was the Newry Man, John Mitchel, who more than any other writer or politician shaped our perception of the Great Famine.
This conference, sponsored by Newry Mourne and Down District Council, and featuring over twenty academics and writers from Ireland, Britain, the USA, Canada and Australia will consider the causes, impact and legacy of the Great Famine, especially in Ulster.
Topics related to the theme will be as varied as famine folklore, famine medicine, emigration, the skewed anger of John Mitchel and ‘Eating people is wrong’.
Quaker evidence from Loughall, Co Armagh, the birthplace of the Orange Order, in 1847 which shows conditions there to be as miserable as those in Cork, points to the need for an assessment of the impact of the Great Famine on Ulster.
The Conference, being held in the Canal Court hotel, Newry from Wednesday 23rd September to Friday 25th September, will do so.
The conference will begin at 7pm on Wednesday 23rd September with a History Ireland Hedge School. Professor Mary Daly, President of the Royal Irish Academy, Professor Christine Kinealy, Director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, Connecticut. Professor Peter Gray, QUB and Dr. Ruan O’Donnell, Limerick Universitywill discuss, under the chairmanship of Tommy Graham, the impact of the great Famine in Ulster.
A special feature on Thursday 24th is 7 speakers, with 7 slides, on 7 topics, each in 7 minutes. Also on Thursday there will be a discursive walk to John Mitchel’s grave.
The conference entertainment will include a courtroom drama, written by Larry McArdle, ‘The Trial and Trials ofTrevelyan’. The evidence for and against will be presented and the audience, being the jury, will decide on Trevelyan’s guilt or innocence.
On Friday 25th September there will be a night of ‘Words Music and Images on the Great Famine in Newry’, in St. Mary’s Church of Ireland. This will feature Pete St. John (Fields of Athenry), Tommy Sands, Joanne Quigley, Gerry Doherty and friends reflecting on the Great Famine – in aid of modern famine relief.
On Friday, under the chairmanship of the Rev John Dunlop, among other topics, Eating People is wrong – thoughts on famine. Professor Cormac O’Grada, probably the world’s leading expert on the economics of famine will present, ‘Eating People is wrong – thoughts on famine.’
Throughout the conference Newry Library will host an exhibition, researched by Anthony Russell, on the Great Famine in Newry and its Townlands.
An extra event, on Saturday morning, following the closure of the conference, will be Tim Pat Coogan, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Professor Liam Kennedy and Brian Patterson in conversation on ‘The Famine Plot’. Robert Kearns, founder of Ireland Park in Toronto, will chair this special event.
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