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Westchester Officials Remember Irish Famine

IRVINGTON, N.Y. — Westchester County officials and others gathered Tuesday morning to remember Ireland’s Great Famine and the 10th anniversary of the dedication of the Great Hunger Memorial at V.E. Macy Park.

"[The park] has become such a wonderfully popular spot to truly come here and reflect … whether [people are] Irish or not,” Westchester County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Commissioner Kathleen O'Connor said.

The ceremony was also a reminder of the hunger that still exists today.

Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino attended the event and laid a wreath upon the memorial. After the ceremony, he noted that the county does a lot to fight hunger through its social services, food banks and nonprofit agencies.

“Nobody should go hungry,” he said, noting that “We’ve seen, unfortunately, an uptick over the last year or two—people who are out of work and never thought they would be.”

The memorial, which features an Irish family of five walking away from two walls meant to represent their ruined home, cost about $800,000 to erect in 2001, of which $100,000 came from Westchester County and the State -- private donations were solicited by the now-disbanded Great Hunger Memorial Committee filling in the funding gap. The memorial was created by Dublin artist Eamonn O'Doherty.

Harry Dunkak, professor emeritus at Iona College and a member of the committee, explained why the Great Famine of the 1840s is called “The Great Hunger” in Ireland.

“While the Irish were suffering from the one main food, the potato, the British were exporting tons of beef and lamb and wheat and corn that could have been used by the starving Irish,” he said.

The Great Famine had a profound effect on Ireland, according to Dunkak.

“The Irish population declined by 50 percent,” he said. “Some died, many migrated, many came to the United States, and many came, of course, to Westchester County, where they made great contributions to the development of this country.”

Information on county services can be found online or by calling the county executive’s office.

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