The President of Ireland, His Excellency Michael D Higgins visited Subiaco today to unveil a memorial sculpture which honours the suffering of the Irish people during the Great Famine. The poignant bronze artwork, located at Market Square depicts a keening ‘childless mother’, and represents the grief and suffering of millions of Irish people between 1845 to 1852.
The devastating famine years were catastrophic for the nation. More than one million Irish died of hunger and related disease, and two million were forced to flee from the country. In the 1850s and 1860s several thousand women and young girls were relocated from Ireland’s workhouses to begin a new life in Western Australia, most leaving behind family and loved ones.
The Subiaco memorial pays homage to these women and invites passers-by to reflect on these events, and celebrate the arrival of Irish immigrants to Subiaco and Western Australia. Subiaco has a long-time connection with the Irish community reflected in the naming of local streets, St John of God hospital and the ongoing spiritual connect of St Joseph’s Church.
In a speech to 300 invited guests at the unveiling ceremony, President Higgins said the collective efforts of the City of Subiaco, The Western Australian Irish Famine Memorial Committee and the Irish community had delivered a remarkable memorial in a remarkable location.
“I have no doubt that this [sculpture] will become an iconic landmark for Perth and for its Irish community”.
The Irish president took questions from the media about international relationships, economics, same sex marriage and sport. When asked if he would be watching the Australia vs Ireland International Rules game to be played at Subiaco Oval in November, the Irish Present said he loved sport and would check his diary for availability.
The Western Australian Irish Famine Memorial is located at Market Square park, off Roberts Road, near Subiaco Train Station.
To find out more about the memorial, download the unveiling ceremony dedication program (PDF 1.7MB).