Posted by: irishhungercomm | March 19, 2011

St. Patrick’s Day and the Irish Famine

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

St. Patrick’s Day and the Irish Famine

CHRISTINE KINEALY, ckinealy@drew.edu, http://users.drew.edu/ckinealy
Kinealy is author of “This Great Calamity: The Irish Famine 1845-52”
and other books on Irish history. She is professor of history at Drew
University in New Jersey and just returned from Ireland on Tuesday.

She said today:

“In 1997, the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade honored the
victims of Ireland’s Great Hunger of the 1840s. The Irish Hunger was
triggered by a potato blight, but suffering was exacerbated by
inappropriate and parsimonious relief policies. Consequently, in a period
of just six years, over one million people died and an even higher number
emigrated.

“At the time of the Famine, Ireland was governed from London, by
British politicians who, for the most part, regarded the food shortages
as an opportunity to change and modernize Ireland. But Ireland didn’t
modernize and the human cost of the policies was that people died.
Tormented by hunger, they endured painful and protracted deaths, while
vast amounts of food left the country, often under armed guard. Those who
emigrated fled from starvation only to face hostility and prejudice in
their new homelands. Inevitably, many blamed the British government for
their exile.

“Irish folk memory refers to the Famine dead as having ‘mouths
stained green’ — because their last meal was often grass. When eating
our green bagels this week, and celebrating our Irish-ness, perhaps we
should spare a thought for victims of famine and social injustice
wherever they may be.”


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