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Famine memorial group aims to help homeless

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Harry Keaney

Irish immigrants and their descendants in the U.S. may now have their family name included in a special Famine memorial in Dublin while, at the same time, helping homeless and disadvantaged youth.

The memorial, on the docks of the River Liffey, is simply called "Famine" and consists of seven bronze statues standing on a spot from where many left their homeland forever, a large number eventually settling in the U.S.

The first 100 family names have already been cast in bronze and were unveiled by Ireland’s president, Mary McAleese, last October. Those first names include leading Irish political figures as well as many high-profile personalities such as Pierce Brosnan, Michael Flatley, Neil Jordan, John Hume, Gerry Adams and President Mary McAleese.

The Irish Famine Commemoration Fund was founded by Norma Smurfit and is supported by the Bank of Ireland Group. According to project manager, Carol Murphy, who was in New York last week, it hopes to raise $10 million by the millennium. The memorial was created by the sculptor Rowan Gillespie.

"The six bronze figures portray despair, suffering, pain, apprehension and hope," McAleese said in support of the project. "Through this symbolic work of art, Gillespie has expressed what we as a nation cannot seem to find words for."

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In special recognition of generous donations of $1,000 or more, the nominated family name along with the family’s place of origin or residence will be cast in bronze to be included in the sea of names which will permanently replace the cobblestones that now form the base of the "Famine" memorial.

Murphy pointed out that fund organizers are also looking at the possibility of having just family names etched on the cobblestones around the memorial for contributions of about $200.

"We do not want it to be for the elite, and we offer one-year and two-year payment plan options," said Murphy, who is the daughter of RTE personality Mike Murphy.

"The money raised will go to existing Irish charities that benefit the homeless and disadvantaged youth," Murphy said. She added that the fund would also like to set up a board of trustees that would be responsible for administering funds to charities in the U.S.

For information on the Famine memorial and the fund, call Oonagh Daly at (888) 854-7055 or (353) 1-668-5355. The e-mail address is irishfamine@indigo.ie or log onto www:http//:irishfaminefund.ie.

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