A LONDON Irish man has been tweeting the names of every single émigré recorded arriving in New York during the Irish Famine.
The sombre Twitter account, The Great Hunger is designed to tweet every 30 minutes and has already tweeted over 20,000 names since its inception in August 2015.
Phil Lang 31, a creative technologist is hoping to use the vast amount of data he has collected from 12,000 pages of the American National Archives to help foster a sense of empathy towards refugees, both during the famine period and today.
In his blog post about the project Lang explained his motives.
“It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s important. Empathising with those we don’t know is one of the greatest things that we can achieve as people,” he said.
Each tweets includes the person's name and age, country of origin and the port they embarked from.
Lang hopes this will help people to remember them as individuals and not just a statistic.
Mary Flinn, Born at Sea, from Ireland, arrived in New York on June 4 1846, having embarked from Liverpool.
— The Great Hunger (@IrishShips) November 6, 2016
“Large, single numbers reduce, they can deny the human that they speak about," Lang says.
"We see this around us everyday, particularly in the media - recent reporting on the migration crisis affecting Syria, parts of the Middle East and Europe has done little to educate viewers and help them understand and empathise with those affected.”
The idea was sparked back in July 2015 when then British Prime Minister David Cameron described the migrants in the Calais jungle as a swarm.
“This rhetoric struck me as dangerous. It dehumanised those in need and shifted a conversation with real things at stake into a two dimensional, us and them framing," the Irishman added.
"It was this rhetoric, the use of language as a weapon that had me consider what could be done to subvert the message that Cameron was pushing and begin to shift the focus upon individuals and their stories.”
Approximately a million Irish people died during the Great Famine, a disaster that changed the very fabric of Ireland.
It is held widely responsible for drastic increase in emigration from Ireland.
During the worst years of the Famine as many as 250,000 people fled, heading first to Britain and to cities such as Liverpool. Many then continued their journeys eventually disembarking in New York.
In 1850 the Irish made up a quarter of the population of New York, Boston and Baltimore.
“Ireland has a long history of emigration," Lang said. "It is a foundational part of my nation’s identity. It is a part of me.”
Speaking to The Irish Post Mr Lang admitted the project was a slow burner. He expects it to take around 30 years to for every single name to be tweeted.
"I’m beginning to wonder if Twitter will still be around at that stage," he joked.