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KILRUSH IS TO PUT its hand up to host the National Famine Commemoration once again.

A request has been issued to the National Famine Commemoration Committee for the West Clare town to host the commemoration for the first time since 2013.

It follows a proposal by Cllr Ian Lynch (IND) before the West Clare Municipal District who also appealed to the local authority to commission a sculpture or monument “in recognition of the work done by Captain Kennedy during the Famine”.

Acting senior executive officer, John O’Malley confirmed that the request would be made to host the event. He forwarded the call for a monument to the Council’s memorials committee to discuss the matter in more detail.

In 2013, Kilrush hosted a ten day programme of events leading up to the National Famine Commemoration, the official representation was led by President, Michael D. Higgins. This included a series of lectures, walks, tours, re-enactments, theatre, music, exhibitions and local commemoration ceremonies. The events recalled the impact of the Great Famine on the people and the landscape of the Kilrush Poor Law Union.

Indeed Kilrush and its environs were among the areas worst hit by the Great Irish Famine between 1845 and the early 1850s. In the 1840s, half a century before the introduction of Local Authorities, most local government and local taxation were devolved to the level of the Poor Law Union and placed in the hands of the local Boards of Guardians.

In the Kilrush Union, which originally stretched all the way from Loop Head in the west to Quilty in the north to Kildysart in the east, the unpaid Guardians lost control of the situation during the famine. In November 1847, Captain Arthur Kennedy was appointed in an advisory capacity as Poor Law Inspector for Kilrush, where he remained until September 1850. His detailed reports documented the further deterioration of the situation, and the Guardians were stripped of their powers, which were transferred between April 1848 and November 1849 to two paid Vice-Guardians.

Between December 1849 and February 1850, the Illustrated London News carried a lengthy seven-part series entitled Condition of Ireland: Illustrations of the New Poor-Law, illustrated by a total of eighteen sketches. The series and the sketches concentrated on the Poor Law Union of Kilrush, where the effects of famine were particularly harshly felt. These eighteen contemporary sketches are today by far the best recognised images of famine conditions in Ireland. Some or all of them have been reproduced in almost every general work on the Famine.

Of the 2013 event, Cllr Lynch noted that it was “very successful” in showing what the community went through but also showcased the town. “It’s ten years since we hosted it, there’s an opportunity at the minute before the application close and us saying why we didn’t apply, to start the conversation and engage all the stakeholders that were involved the last time and see if we’re ready because it was such a big task the previous time. It does showcase the town and the wider area, I think it is a great opportunity”.

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