Friday, 3 December 2010

The Great Famine in Ireland - 1845 - 1849 - Leonard Roarty

The causes of the famine were agricultural practices, dependence on the potato, social conditions, over-population and British constitutional policies. The continuous subdivision of land due to overpopulation and the greed of many landlords, meant that the potato was the only food eaten by nine tenths of the population and one third depended on it entirely. Thus when the potato crop failed there was famine in the land. Other food crops and animals were used to pay the rent.

Over one half of the population lived in small one roomed dwellings. Two thirds of the population were engaged in agriculture. The population in 1800 was five million, by 1845 it had risen to over eight million. Two centuries before the famine the British were thinking that famine would be an ideal way to tame the barbarian Irish, in the famine the will became a fact. There was plenty of food in Ireland, but it was taken away, often at gunpoint and exported under military guard, to feed the population in Britain and her army. In short the famine was the genocide of the Irish nation.

Results of the Famine

The results include the number of dead, cultural changes, emigration, nationalism, the beginning of the end of the land system and the Irish diaspora.

The Irish diaspora (scattering) is worldwide as the result of emigration. It consists today of Irish emigrants and their descendants in Irish communities worldwide, particularly in America. It is now a formidable, well connected and talented resource of Irish communities whose pride and affection for the land of their forefathers never deserted them.

Two disparate examples of the Irish diaspora are:

1. An Irish youth abroad looking for work and comradeship has only to make contact with an Irish community or even an Irish bar, where he will meet his fellow countrymen who will offer them friendship and help.

2. Despite her famous 'out, out, out' speech and the fact that she famously said 'the lady is not for turning' Margaret Thatcher signed the Anglo-Irish agreement twenty-five years ago because of the pressure by the very strong lobby of the very powerful and influential caucus of Irish American politicians who insisted that the American Government take a proactive stance in securing the Anglo-Irish agreement, and subsequent peace settlement.

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