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On the eve of a visit by Queen Elizabeth to Ireland, a mass grave of 3,000 native Irish Catholics who died during the so called ‘Famine’ of the 1840s has been unearthed in Waterford.

Irish government media arm, RTE, reported the news with caution stating, ‘Over 3,000 famine victims could be buried in Waterford field’.

Started by the Historic Graves Project, the researchers used Lidar survey and drone cameras to map out 300 individual graves.

They told RTE:

“We were looking for two types of grave in particular; long graves and individual graves. Long graves, where we’ve seen them elsewhere, are related to famine overwhelmingly; large amounts of people dying and being buried in mass burials and then the small singles as well.

“What really surprised is that the Lidar showed the small single graves are highly detectable using the publicly-available data set.”

“There’s a good, rich biodiversity here, but it’s masking the graves. Our purpose was to maintain the integrity of the place, the biodiversity value, but then find where the graves are. We were hoping to find where the graves are and I think to a large degree we’ve managed that.”

They also said:

it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that up to 3,000 people are buried in the “long” famine graves, as existing graveyards in the area became overwhelmed by the number of deaths during that tragedy, particularly in 1847 (Black ’47), 1848 and 1849.

“It’s hard to actually get across to people the scale of the disaster… We know that between 1845 and 1855 3,000 people died in the workhouse system in Dungarvan alone, that’s not counting any deaths outside of the workhouse’’

The shocking discovery comes ahead of the Queen’s visit to Northern Ireland to mark 100 years since the partition of Ireland.

The Great Hunger, as it was called, lasted for the best part of a decade and led to Ireland seeing mass starvation with millions dying and emigrating, despite high levels of food being exported during this period.

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