Inclusive Famine Commemoration: Unionist Perspectives

Inclusive Famine Commemoration explores the perspectives of Unionists in Northern Ireland who reflect upon the Great Famine’s impact and legacy for their communities.

An enduring myth about the Great Hunger was that the north-east of Ireland—and so, by implication, Protestants—escaped the ravages of these tragic years. In fact, no part of the country was unaffected, and the Protestant poor suffered as badly as the Catholic under-class.

In the almost exclusively Protestant area of Ballymacarrett (now the Newtownards Road) private soup kitchens were set up at the end of 1846.

In 1847, 60 per cent of the local population were dependent on this form of emergency relief. In July of that year, leading Orangemen were suggesting that the traditional 12 July commemorations should not take place as a mark of respect to their brethren who had died. The marches did go ahead but without music or festivities.

Protestant clergymen were despairing as they had nowhere to bury the dead: the Shankill cemetery, similar to all of the town’s cemeteries, was overflowing, with bodies left unmarked and unburied.

Mortality in the Lurgan workhouse was so high that visiting Quakers likened the suffering to Skibbereen in the south-west of Ireland.

Inclusive Famine Commemoration: Unionist Perspectives explores the complex history of the Great Famine in the northeast of Ireland – now Northern Ireland. It highlights how views of this tragedy are now being re-examined and re-evaluated by members of the Unionist community.

Famine Window, Belfast City Hall
Cooperation with Northern Ireland Funding Scheme 2021