By Jonathan McCambridge, PA
Ireland has a moral duty to honour its commitments to those who seek asylum and refuge, President Michael D Higgins has said.
The president was addressing the National Famine Commemoration which took place in Milford, Co Donegal.
The ceremony also included military honours and a wreath-laying ceremony in remembrance of all those who died during the Irish famine of the mid-19th century.
Mr Higgins told the event it was an opportunity to remember the tragedy and “how it might influence our contemporary lives and the lives of others”.
He added: “Its legacy is one of involuntary emigration, cultural loss, demoralisation and loss of confidence, both in terms of population and in terms of its impact on the Irish language and the marks this would have on the country, and in particular on Irish society.
“Given this foundational part of our near historical experience, it is easy to understand how the continuing issues of food security and food sovereignty in our contemporary world resonate profoundly with us as a people and must feature in our ethical reflections and our responses as we commemorate the period of An Gorta Mor (The Great Famine).
“The strong commitment of the Irish people to humanitarian aid and relief is, of course, strongly related to our own past struggle with hunger, engrained in our collective memory.
“It is an example of the Irishness we wish to be known by, one grounded in decency, in ethical principles, taking our share of global responsibility.”
The president continued: “We have a moral and ethical responsibility to support our global family in dire need, to help with sustainable solutions to ending all famines, wherever they occur on our shared, vulnerable planet, and to provide a decisive response to climate change which itself is leading to an increased incidence of famines globally.
“The parallels with An Gorta Mor and the mass displacement it caused 175 years ago must not be lost on us.
“We have a moral duty to continue to honour our commitments to those vulnerable and displaced who seek asylum and refuge on our shores.”