George Clooney speaks about his Irish ancestors at humanitarian conference

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George Clooney - Hollywood star speaks about his Irish ancestors at humanitarian conference in Armenia

George Clooney has spoken about his Irish heritage in a passionate speech about the need to show compassion to refugees.

The Oscar winning actor said that his family had been refugees, after heading to America to escape the horrors of the Great Famine.

He said that we simply cannot look away from people fleeing horrors in countries such as Syria, South Sudan or the Congo.

George Clooney - Hollywood star speaks about his Irish ancestors at humanitarian conference in Armenia

Clooney was speaking at a humanitarian conference in Yerevan, Armenia. The star presented a €980,000 ($1.1m) prize to a Burundian humanitarian worker, Marguerite Barankitse, who saved thousands of orphans’ lives in the middle of a civil war.

Clooney said: “The simple truth is that all of us here tonight are the result of someone’s act of kindness.

“The Clooney family fled a potato famine in Ireland to come to the United States where their very survival required a room, a meal, a helping hand.

“We all stand on the shoulders of good people who didn’t look away when we were in need.

“We call them refugees – but they’re people just like you and me. And if you stand right in front of them and take a look deep into their eyes, you might just see an Irish farmer fleeing a famine. If we are to survive as a people, we simply can’t look away. Not from the people of Syria or South Sudan or the Congo.”

Ms Barankitse was forced to flee her home in Burundi last year after the country descended into civil war. She has helped to save the lives of 30,000 children.

She set up Maison Shalom – house of peace – during the war to provide a place of safety for orphans. She has vowed to use her prize money to help other groups who work with orphans and child refugees.

Clooney said that her work was a ‘reminder of the impact that one person can have even when encountering seemingly insurmountable persecution and injustice’.

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