SIR – Nothing in the history of this country compares with the magnitude or calamity of the Great Hunger of 1847.
Nowhere symbolises the suffering of that time like Skibbereen, forever immortalised in memory and in song. As such, the burial place of thousands of unknown souls from that time makes Abbeystrewry Graveyard a site of national and international importance.
A few years ago, this site was in a state of overgrown disrepair, much of it covered in thick briars and bushes. The remaining gable of the old church was also in a perilous state, threatened by a thick overgrowth of ivy.
For the past six years, the church and graveyard have been restored to pristine condition, tended by local people under the Tús employment scheme. Much hard work and dedication has gone into restoring the site, which has become a beautiful if sombre place to visit.
For the many international visitors who come to pay their respects each year, the care and attention given to the grounds reflected well on the local area, showing respect for the memory of those in our past who suffered and died of want and neglect.
RTÉ filmed documentaries and masses were said there, John Spillane sang there and international groups gathered and sang and prayed.
Unfortunately, all the hard work and progress in restoring this site is now under threat. The privatisation of unemployment schemes has decimated the community and voluntary sector locally, with unemployed referrals being diverted to a private company operating the Jobpath scheme.
Sadly, while there remains dedicated and hard-working people willing and able to continue work supporting their communities and localities, they are unable to do so.
Abbeystrewery Graveyard is just one visible example of this. As I write, the grass and weeds are growing there unchecked.
I would urge anybody who may have sway locally to see that Abbeystrewry Graveyard be tended and maintained, before it is submerged again beneath bushes and briars – that surely would be a terrible reflection on how we remember our past.