The Week Ahead: Tribute to Irish famine victims

THE Irish President, Mary Robinson, starts a nine-day visit to Canada on Saturday to pay tribute to victims of the potato famine, in which a million Irish people died and a million more emigrated.

Mrs Robinson will attend a service on Grosse Isle on the St Lawrence river, where an estimated 15,000 famine victims, who died on their way to a new life, were buried. Canada was among the many destinations sought by those fleeing the famine that devastated Ireland between 1845 and 1849. But many never made it and perished on board the 'coffin ships'.

During her trip, Mrs Robinson will address the Canadian Bar Association in Toronto, receive an honorary degree at the University of Toronto and attend the Commonwealth Games that open on Thursday in Victoria, British Columbia. South Africa will compete in the games for the first time in 36 years.

In Cape Town, South Africa's President, Nelson Mandela, makes a key address to parliament on Thursday marking his first 100 days in office. He is expected to announce steps to accelerate social change. These will be welcome as the hugely ambitious jobs, schools and homes programme for the poor black majority has been progressing painfully slowly.

Five ethnic Greeks charged with treason and spying against Albania go on trial in Tirana today and face sentences ranging from 10 years' jail to death if convicted. They are accused of being in contact with the Greek secret services, illegal possession of weapons and 'other illegal acts aiming at the annexation of Albanian territory'.

The affair has pushed already poor relations between the two countries to new depths. Greece says the trial will be a travesty of justice under a penal code inherited from Stalin. Albania retorts that this is gross interference and a smear on Albanian justice.

The accused - Theodhori Bezhani, Vangjel Papakristo, Panajot Marto, Kosta Qirjako and Irakli Sirma - were arrested in April after a border incident in which two Albanian conscripts were killed inside Albania. Albania said Greece staged the raid, but the Greeks deny this.

The space shuttle Endeavour embarks on a mission of mapping the world's environment on Thursday and will peer through the mists of Rwanda to track the imperilled mountain gorilla. Human trackers have had to be evacuated because of the war.

The Endeavour will also map the habitat of endangered pandas in China, survey stagnant pools in areas with malarial outbreaks, scan the Saudi Arabian sand for traces of oil and minerals and search in Israel, Egypt, Oman, Cambodia and China for hidden archaeological treasures.

From today, West Hollywood City Council is to broadcast its proceedings in Russian on the city's cable television information channel, because roughly a third of the city's 37,000 residents are Russian emigres - many of them recent arrivals - and speak little English.

The Floating Bath-Tub Competition takes place in the Belgian town of Dinant today, when specially designed bath tubs take part in a 'bath-tub regatta' on the River Meuse. On Wednesday there is more Belgian fun: at the International Fireworks Festival at Knokke-Heist near Duinbergen, firework displays will be synchronised to music. And Thursday, Swedish Sour Herring Day, is the first day when you can buy this year's fermented fish.

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