Sydney is to host the official international commemoration of the Great Irish Famine next year, it has emerged.
There have been four international commemorations of the Great Irish Famine to date. Previous overseas events have taken place in Canada (2009), New York (2010), Liverpool (2011) and Boston (2012).
The National Famine Commemoration Committee in Dublin, which is chaired by Mr Jimmy Deenihan TD – the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht – has selected Sydney as the venue for the 2013 celebration.
Ms Caitríona Ingoldsby, Consul General of Ireland, said the news was in recognition of the strong cultural connections between the countries.
“I am very pleased that the Committee in Dublin has selected Sydney as the venue for the international commemoration event next year. We have been working closely with them, and with Sydney’s Irish Famine Commemoration Committee, over the last two years with a view to bringing this event to Sydney,” she said.
“This is an important recognition of the place of Australia in the broader narrative of Irish emigration, and of the continued ties of culture, heritage and people between Ireland and Australia.”
Over 500 people attended the annual commemorative event at the Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney on August 26.
In front of the monument to the Great Irish Famine, descendants of Irish orphan girls who were brought to Sydney in the aftermath of the Great Hunger heard a new song dedicated to the memory of their ancestors.
Orphan Girl, written by well-know Irish songwriter and author Brendan Graham, was performed by the Australian Girls Choir with singer Sarah Calderwood.
The song is inspired by the story of the more than 4,000 young Irish women and girls who fled the workhouses of Ireland to become the mothers and grandmothers of modern Australia.
Ms Ingoldsby said that the story of the orphan girls resonates strongly within the Irish community and “more broadly among Australians – many of whom may have no idea that they are descended from one of the girls”.
Sydney-woman Ms Melissa Plant, who is descended from one of the orphan girls, told the gathering the joy she felt at discovering her Irish heritage.
Her great-great grandmother Mary O’Hara arrived in Australia on December 6, 1848 from Galway.