Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is considering the erection of a memorial to victims of the Great Famine in the Stormont Estate.
Asked about the idea by Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff, Mr Ó Muilleoir said: “I am supportive of your proposal and would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to explore in more depth your thoughts on how we might progress an appropriate memorial to those who died in An Gorta Mór (the Great Hunger) / The Great Famine.”
Whie clearly in the early stages, the minister appears keen to pressing ahead with the idea.
“I have written to the Irish government’s National Famine Commemoration Committee to ask for their advice and assistance,” he said.
The population of Ireland was devastated by the Great Famine of 1845-1849 as millions starved to death or emigrated. While the impact of was perhaps felt more keenly in the south of Ireland, the suffering in Ulster was profound. The population here was more than decimated – Ulster lost some 15% of its people during the years of the Great Famine.
A TUV press officer warned that any memorial could become “politicised”. He said: “Looking at it objectively, there should be no issue from a unionist perspective in commemorating the Famine. The Famine affected people regardless of political or religious distinctions.
“The danger is that if this is coming from Sinn Féin the issue might be politicised and there are a number of ways they might seek to do that such as the use of Irish. It is worth noting that by virtue of the fact that we have a Sinn Fein Finance Minister there is potential for interference with existing memorials within the Stormont Estate. TUV will be vigilant in relation to this.”
Other unionist parties were contacted for comment but had yet to do so at the time of going to press.