International recognition sought for Great Famine

FOLLOWING the third annual National Famine Memorial Day which took place in mid-May, efforts are underway in Brussels to ensure that the legacy of the Irish Famine is recognised across the world.

FOLLOWING the third annual National Famine Memorial Day which took place in mid-May, efforts are underway in Brussels to ensure that the legacy of the Irish Famine is recognised across the world.

Ireland East MEP Liam Aylward has asked the European Commission to consider establishing some form of international tribute to acknowledge the impact that the famine had on Ireland and on many other countries to which Irish emigrants fled to escape starvation.

“This tragic event changed Ireland irrevocably and Irish emigrants shaped the face of many international communities in the years that followed. It would be a fitting tribute to have the legacy of the famine marked internationally,” said the Fianna Fáil MEP.

Approximately 1.5 million Irish people died of hunger or disease between 1845 and 1850, while as many as two million people emigrated to avoid a similar fate, making the Irish potato famine arguably the single worst catastrophe in 19th century Europe. The death toll was higher than that recorded during the Ethiopian famine of the mid 1980s.

Mr Aylward, a member of the European Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee, has asked the Foreign Affairs Minister to seek international support for the Irish Famine to be recognised globally. He has also held meetings with the National Famine Commemoration Committee, which works within Ireland and with the Irish diaspora community to commemorate the famine.

Irish hospital uses ‘ageing booth’ to shock smokers

ANY smoker visiting St James’s Hospital in Dublin this week was treated to an unpleasant glimpse of their future - courtesy of an ‘ageing booth’ set up in the hospital lobby to mark World No Tobacco Day.

The device, operated by St James’s “Smoking Cessation Nurse Specialist” Carmel Doherty, showed smokers what they would look like at the age of 72 if they kept up the nicotine habit. The hospital also provided carbon monoxide checks for smokers, along with details of some of the many services available to help them quit.

The stand at St James’s was one of the more innovative events that took place around the country to highlight the lethal effects of smoking. It coincided with new research released by the Irish Heart Foundation which compared the number of people who die in Ireland each year from smoking-related illness to “the equivalent of two 9/11s”. The IHF called on the government to set up a national anti-smoking taskforce to ensure that smoking cessation policies are properly funded and implemented.

Meanwhile at EU-level, Ireland East MEP Nessa Childers spoke out about her work to increase controls on the tobacco industry in Ireland and across Europe. The Labour MEP, a member of the EU’s Public Health Committee, is helping to draft a revision of the Tobacco Control Directive in a bid to curb cigarette advertising.

“Tobacco multinationals are taking advantage of weak marketing rules, especially in developing countries, to aggressively promote cigarettes to young consumers, while using front lobby groups to bully governments that attempt to tackle the industry,” said Ms Childers.

Seán Kelly MEP withdraws presidential bid

FINE Gael MEP Sean Kelly said his decision not to contest the presidential elections this coming October was based on “gut instinct”. The former GAA President has officially pulled out the race to succeed President Mary McAleese, but added he would not rule himself of running for Áras an Uachtaráin in the future.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Kelly said it was his own decision to opt out as a presidential candidate. “The last thing they (Fine Gael) want is a candidate who isn’t committed to the job, and I felt I could make a bigger contribution to Europe and Munster by withdrawing from the race,” he said. The 59-year-old added that personal factors had also influenced his decision, including the fact that he had children still in school.

Mr Kelly said he looked forward to continuing to provide “strong representation” for the people of Ireland South at the European Parliament, adding that it was more important than ever for Irish MEPs to make sure Ireland’s voice was heard at EU-level. He expressed his thanks to his well-wishers and all those who had “gladly pledged to assist” in the event of a presidential campaign.

Mr Kelly’s withdrawal leaves Fine Gael with just one declared candidate for its presidential nomination, Ireland East MEP Mairead McGuinness. Elsewhere Fianna Fáil MEP for Munster Brian Crowley is tipped to be his party’s most likely candidate, while Labour will choose a nominee from between former TD Michael D Higgins, Barnardos CEO Fergus Finlay and former Senator Kathleen O’Meara.

Two Independents have also declared their intention to seek nomination - Senator David Norris and Special Olympics CEO Mary Davis.