Dr John Lahey on the closure of the Great Hunger Museum of Ireland

The Great Hunger Museum of Ireland at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut was opened in 2012 by Dr. John Lahey, the former president of the university, who says he is “saddened and perplexed” by the museum’s closure by his successor Judy Olian.

In a statement provided to the Irish Voice, Lahey said: “I was saddened to learn of the closure, and clearly I was neither consulted nor involved in any way in this decision. consider closing a museum dedicated to educating people about the harms of discrimination and bigotry. In the case of the Great Hunger Museum in Ireland, its mission is to educate people about one of the worst cases of discrimination and state-sponsored bigotry in 19th century Europe and the worst cases of anti-Irish and anti-Catholic discrimination and fanaticism in all history. ”

Lahey, the former president of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York, remains professor of philosophy at Quinnipiac, teaching one course this semester and one for the spring of 2022. He was the driving force behind the creation of the Great Hunger Museum of Ireland, believing that the Irish experience of famine and severe racism could be taught to all ethnicities.

Olian, who became president of Quinnipiac in July 2018, announced a few months later that the museum would have to become self-sufficient by June 2020 to remain open. Its annual operating budget is $ 350,000.

“The Board of Trustees and I have set a goal of financial self-sufficiency for the museum by June 2020. As a result, the museum is seeking philanthropic support as well as self-generated funds to continue its operations in the midst of many vital learning and scholarship imperatives. from college, ”she wrote in a letter.

Dr John Lahey.

Quinnipiac confirmed over the summer that the museum, which houses the world’s largest art collection linked to the Irish famine and was closed in the worst of the pandemic, will remain closed for good. A spokesperson said the university was in “active conversation with potential partners with the aim of presenting the collection to an organization that will increase national and international public access to Great Hunger in Ireland”.

The Great Hunger Museum in Ireland.

The Great Hunger Museum in Ireland.

Members of the Irish American community have expressed deep disappointment with Quinnipiac’s decision and have taken a number of initiatives to at least keep the museum’s collection fully intact in a new location if the university refuses to move on the site. closing. A Facebook page, Save Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, has more than 1,000 members, and local Connecticut media have paid attention to the story.

On Saturday, October 30, a “Community Tribute to the Irish Hunger Museum” will be held from 1 pm to 5 pm at Woodruff Street in Whitney Avenue in Hamden, Connecticut, adjacent to the museum. The organizers get in touch with local elected officials; State Representative Josh Elliot, whose district includes the location of the museum, confirmed his attendance. The day will include street arts, live music and family activities and all are welcome.

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