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Council plans to mark Great Famine with commemorative public art

A memorial to the Great Famine in Dublin. Photo (for illustrative purposes only) by David Dixon

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s leisure and community services committee has given its backing to plans to commemorate the Great Famine.

On March 25, 2019 a motion was brought before the council calling on the local authority to “erect a monument and an interpretive information panel in Lurgan Town Centre to commemorate those who died and mark this terrible period in the history of the town”.

The motion also called for further discussion to take place with local historians and a working group to be established to look at the “impact of the famine across the borough with a view to similarly marking the events of this period”.

At its meeting on Monday, November 14, councillors on the leisure and community services committee were presented with a report detailing the efforts of the working group and the development of projects thus far.

The report provided councillors with two tables, the first of which detailed elements of the programme that have budget provision. The second table provides information regarding parts of the programme that still require officers to identify and secure funding to enable delivery.

The first table includes a lecture series, commemorative public art in a three stage approach, commemorative interpretative panels and annual commemorations.

The total cost of these pieces will be more than £23,500 with the budget for the annual commemorations expected to be minimal and can, according to the report, “be built into the annual district council’s good relation action plan for the 2022/23 year”.

Table two only lists a commemorative public art piece, and notes “after phase one and two will be the construction and installation of the commemorative public art”.

“Consideration will have to be given to the potential location of this in Lurgan Town once we have completed stage one and two of the process.”

The budget provision for this element of the commemorations is between £35,000 and £50,000. Officers have recommended that £35,000 of this funding comes from council reserves and they will work to identify external sources of funding.

Addressing the meeting, the council’s community development manager, Godfrey McCartney, said “there has been quite a few working groups since January around this particular subject”.

“We are trying to find the best way to commemorate the Great Famine. Table two provides details on parts of the programme that will still require officers to find some funding from external agencies.

“If this programme is approved the Great Famine lecture series will be starting in January and will be chaired by Dr Gerard MacAtasney and we will be funding that through our good relations action plan.

“We then have a commemorative public art piece and we are funding a piece of that through the good relations action plan which will inform the commissioning of the design.

“The commemorative interpretation panels have already been done, manufactured and paid for, and the proposed locations are Portadown’s Peoples Park, Lurgan Park, Solitude Park in Banbridge and The Palace Demesne in Armagh.

“We are also going to mark the Great Famine annually, funded through our annual good relations action plan with social media, annual tree planting and an annual lecture series.”

He continued: “Table two comes to the actual commissioning, construction and implementation of the public art piece.

“We are proposing £35,000 from council reserves and officers will have to identify external funding sources to do that. It will be officers’ intention to maximise as much public funding as we can through other grant agencies.”

SDLP councillor Eamon McNeill said he was happy to propose the recommendation to approve the plan as detailed and this proposal was seconded by Alderman Kenneth Twyble with the proposal supported by all in the chamber.

Main image: Copyright David Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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