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Changing Ireland

Famine Walk in solidarity with Shell To Sea LOUISBURGH CDP, which with AfrI, organises the annual Doolough Famine Walk in Mayo, this year held it in solidarity with the Shell To Sea Campaign. Shell To Sea opposes a gas pipeline originally destined to pass through a residential community and protected environmental area in the barony of Erris. “Multinational oil companies will go wherever maximum profit leads them,” said Breda Ruane of Louisburgh CDP. “They are often aided and abetted by Governments who, as in the case of Ireland, gift them the nation’s natural resources free gratis.” Breda – who was walking her last Famine Walk as Louisburgh CDP co-ordinator (she is moving to a VEC job) said the courage of people such as environmentalists in Ogoniland in Nigeria and the ‘Rossport Five’ in Mayo was “an inspiration.” The annual famine walk from Doolough to Louisburgh took place on Saturday, May 26, and highlighted the theme ‘Voices in the Wilderness: Erris, Gas and Global Warming’. The topic was chosen, said Breda, “as the threat posed by global warming and climate change has seeped into public consciousness like never before.” The walk-leaders were Choctaw tribal leaders, Gary White Deer and Dr Janie

White Deer, Dr Mark Garavan, spokesperson for the Shell to Sea campaign and author of the recently-published book, ‘The Rossport 5’, and John Hoban, musician, singer, songwriter and poet. The ten-mile walk from Doolough to Louisburgh commemorates those who died in 1849 along the route and the organisers also use the walk as “an act of solidarity with those who suffer injustice in today’s world.” Before the walk, six paintings were

unveiled in Louisburgh Parish Hall. They were inspired by the Shell to Sea Campaign and featured work by artists Tom Meskell, David Gearty, Isabela Basombrio Hoban, John Mulloy, Mick Smyth and Clare Griffen. After the Walk, Gary and Janie travelled to North-West Mayo to meet with anti-Shell protesters. Louisburgh CDP has engaged in numerous development education events over the years, often with the involvement of AfrI.

Choctaws gave us $710 in 1847

Janie White Deer pins a white rose to the famine memorial at the foot of Croagh Patrick in Mayo.

GARY White Deer and Janie White Deer, of the Choctaw Nation in the US, joined the Doolough Famine Walk this year. The Choctaw people made a donation of $710 at the height of the Irish famine in 1847 and at a time when the Choctaws were being hounded like animals around their own country by European invaders. The Choctaw contribution would be worth around €1 million in today’s money, according to one estimate. Irish people walked in the 500-mile march from Mississippi to Oklahoma in 1992 to mark the 150th anniversary of the donation. “As people of that time, we were both oppressed. It was an act of solidarity, of one poor, dispossessed people reaching out to help another,” said Gary. Donations to help the Irish during the Great Famine came from distant and unexpected sources - from Calcutta and Bombay in India, from Florence in Italy, from France, Jamaica, and Barbados. The Quakers and Jewish synagogues also contributed generously. The Famine killed an estimated one million people as it ravaged Ireland in the mid-1840s and led to 1.8 million people taking the emigrant boat to England or America.

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