At the October meeting of Roscommon County Council, which took place last Monday, Councillor Anthony Waldron called on the local authority to devise a heritage development plan to remember people from Roscommon who died during the Great Famine.
However, in its response, the Council executive gave no sign that it would take on board this proposal, instead pointing to existing locations at which Roscommon’s famine dead are already commemorated.
Cllr. Waldron submitted a notice of motion calling on Roscommon County Council to “appropriately commemorate the victims of An Gorta Mór by devising a heritage development plan to remember the people of Roscommon buried in Bully’s Acre in the townland of Slevinagee off Antogher Road in the town of Roscommon”.
Cllr. Waldron said he was proposing that the site be fittingly developed as a commemoration site in conjunction with a designated commemorative centre in the nearby former workhouse, where most of the victims died.
“This development would provide a visitor destination and reflective space for locals and tourists alike to pay their respects as well as show solidarity with the human deprivation that continues to plague humanity”.
Fr Francis Beirne, as chairperson of that committee, developed and devised plans for the Famine Memorial and Commemorative Garden which is located beside the former Master’s House and Reception Area of the old Workhouse in Roscommon town.
The submission makes the point that the Famine Memorial and Commemorative Garden is the only tangible evidence of any commemoration of the victims in the county town, adding that “it is an ideal location to commemorate the harrowing effects of the famine and the countless unknown people locally and surrounding areas of the county who died of disease and utter destitution”.
During the Great Famine, County Roscommon was the worst affected county in Ireland with a 31.5% decrease in population compared with the national average of 20%.
The submission said that to commemorate the unnamed dead victims buried in Bully’s Area and develop a centre of remembrance would complement the existing memorial and commemorative garden, adding that it would promote tourism and help our diaspora in returning to the place of their ancestry as well as assisting in tracing their family lineage.
In reply, the Council executive said: “There is an existing famine memorial in Roscommon town at the site of the former workhouse (now Sacred Heart Home) to commemorate victims of the famine. The National Famine Museum in Strokestown is only 20 km away and this is a highly interactive visitor destination, which addresses and commemorates local and national stories from the famine period. A National Famine Commemoration Day is held annually and local events can be organised as part of National Heritage Week held in August”.