Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Coastal Communities Invited to Participate in "Virtual" Social Justice Event to Remember Doolough Valley Deaths

16th May 2020
One of the guest musicians is renowned violinist Colm Mac Con Iomaire One of the guest musicians is renowned violinist Colm Mac Con Iomaire

Some people are climbing Everest, some tackling Hadrian’s Wall, some circumnavigating Ireland as four Dun Laoghaire sailors are doing in aid of the RNLI, all virtually, of course.

However, sailors and coastal communities are being invited to participate in a land event this Saturday - a “virtual” walk to remember one of the “blackest” events in Ireland’s Great Famine history.

Peace and justice charity Afri has marked the Doolough tragedy for the past 32 years, recalling the deaths of several hundred people in March 1849 after they were forced to walk 11 miles in cold and wintry conditions through Mayo’s Doolough valley to attend an inspection and receive food or tickets to the workhouse.

The annual event aims to highlight the fate of people in other famine situations and disasters, with a particular focus on climate justice.

Undeterred by the pandemic restrictions this year, Afri’s Joe Murray has organised a free online evening today (Sat May 16) of talk, and live music with renowned violinist Colm Mac Con Iomaire, harpist Emer Lynam, singers and songwriters Roj Whelan and Paul O’Toole.

Host for the event is campaigner and author Ruairí McKiernan, and speakers will include Prof John Maguire of University College Cork (UCC), Donnah Vuma of Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, student climate activist Gráinne Malone and author and lecturer Dr Clare O’Grady Walshe who has just published a book on globalisation and seed sovereignty in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr O’Grady Walshe contends that the pandemic has focused attention on food security, and on the separate issue of a community’s right to seed diversity – at a time when transnational corporation focus on monoculture and genetic modification is undermining traditional systems of seed saving.

Former UN assistant secretary-general Denis Halliday and travel writer Dervla Murphy have endorsed her new work, while Irish Seed Savers’ Association founder Anita Hayes has described it as a “foundation stone for a whole new conversation” on a complex topic.

Irish Aid, Trócaire and Concern are supporting Afri’s work, and its free event will be live-streamed from 7 pm on Saturday on Afri’s Facebook page and YouTube channel here.

Published in Coastal Notes
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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Coastal Notes Coastal Notes covers a broad spectrum of stories, events and developments in which some can be quirky and local in nature, while other stories are of national importance and are on-going, but whatever they are about, they need to be told.

Stories can be diverse and they can be influential, albeit some are more subtle than others in nature, while other events can be immediately felt. No more so felt, is firstly to those living along the coastal rim and rural isolated communities. Here the impact poses is increased to those directly linked with the sea, where daily lives are made from earning an income ashore and within coastal waters.

The topics in Coastal Notes can also be about the rare finding of sea-life creatures, a historic shipwreck lost to the passage of time and which has yet many a secret to tell. A trawler's net caught hauling more than fish but cannon balls dating to the Napoleonic era.

Also focusing the attention of Coastal Notes, are the maritime museums which are of national importance to maintaining access and knowledge of historical exhibits for future generations.

Equally to keep an eye on the present day, with activities of existing and planned projects in the pipeline from the wind and wave renewables sector and those of the energy exploration industry.

In addition Coastal Notes has many more angles to cover, be it the weekend boat leisure user taking a sedate cruise off a long straight beach on the coast beach and making a friend with a feathered companion along the way.

In complete contrast is to those who harvest the sea, using small boats based in harbours where infrastructure and safety poses an issue, before they set off to ply their trade at the foot of our highest sea cliffs along the rugged wild western seaboard.

It's all there, as Coastal Notes tells the stories that are arguably as varied to the environment from which they came from and indeed which shape people's interaction with the surrounding environment that is the natural world and our relationship with the sea.