By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — President Bill Clinton has joined leading figures in politics, sport, business, stage and screen who are among 100 people who have made donations to start a £10 million Irish Famine Fund.
The new fund is the brainchild of Norma Smurfit and is intended to help existing Irish charities that benefit the homeless, unemployed and disadvantaged youth.
President Mary McAleese launched the fund this week by unveiling the names of the first 100 contributors cast in bronze at the Famine Memorial at Custom House Quay in Dublin.
At the moment cobblestones surround the life-size memorial of six figures. Ninety percent of these will be progressively replaced by bronze plaques with the names of those making donations.
For a donation of £750, a family name can join the thousands who will "pledge to remember the past and contribute to Ireland’s future"
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Sculptor Rowan Gillespie said that he felt his memorial would not be complete until "the figures are crossing a sea of names, names cast in bronze and set into the cobble surround, thousands of names, names of those who have pledged to care."
Contributors will receive an individually numbered certificate signed by the fund custodians as well as a detailed map indicating exactly where their name is located among the bronze plaques surrounding the figures.
Among the first donors are film celebrities Pierce Brosnan, Aidan Quinn, Brendan Fricker, Daniel Day-Lewis and Neil Jordan, dancing stars Michael Flatley and Wayne Sleep and sports stars Caitherina McKiernan, Jack Charlton and Sonya O’Sullivan.
From the music world are Enya, Frances and Mary Black, Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries and the Corrs.
International politicians joining President Clinton include John Chretien of Canada and Prime Minister Goran Persson of Sweden.
Other celebrities include Nobel winners John Hume and Seamus Heaney, racing driver Eddie Jordan, Virgin boss Richard Branson, designer John Rocha and best-selling author Frank McCourt.