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Unread 02-28-2010, 09:57 AM
 
Location: Everywhere and Nowhere
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Default Why Did the Irish Starve?

Ireland is surrounded by a sea full of fish so why did they starve during the potato blight? Sicily is also an island and while poor didn't suffer from famine largely because of what they were able to catch. Were the Irish just stupid?
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Unread 02-28-2010, 10:09 AM
 
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You could as logically ask this of any maritime country. No one lives on one food source. More importantly, no one changes their diet very quickly. Potatoes were central to the Irish diet, remarkably so, and they were unable to adjust quickly. It should be noted that during the famine large quantities of grain were sent out of Ireland to make money for landlords, one of the darker secrets of the famine.
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Unread 02-28-2010, 10:34 AM
 
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Part of the reason stems from the political situation in Ireland at the time..and the Potato Blight was the final straw.
Prelude to the Irish Famine: Agriculture
The History Place - Irish Potato Famine
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Unread 02-28-2010, 10:51 AM
 
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Much of the problem in Ireland was tied to English policy, and to the then landlord class. If one wants to know why England is unpopular in Ireland to this day, all you have to do is read this. It should be noted that many in England at the time were highly critical of British policy, but understandably when a million starved in Ireland few Irish cared.

Quote:
Cecil Woodham-Smith, an authority on the Irish Famine, wrote in The Great Hunger; Ireland 1845–1849 that no issue has provoked so much anger and embittered relations between England and Ireland as "the indisputable fact that huge quantities of food were exported from Ireland to England throughout the period when the people of Ireland were dying of starvation." Ireland remained a net exporter of food throughout most of the five-year famine.[citation needed]
Christine Kinealy, a University of Liverpool fellow and author of two texts on the famine, Irish Famine: This Great Calamity and A Death-Dealing Famine, writes that Irish exports of calves, livestock (except pigs), bacon and ham actually increased during the famine. The food was shipped under guard from the most famine-stricken parts of Ireland. However, the poor had no money to buy food and the government then did not ban exports.
The following poem written by Miss Jane Francesca Elgee, a well known and popular author, was carried in the The Nation[63]
Weary men, what reap ye? Golden corn for the stranger.
What sow ye? Human corpses that wait for the avenger.
Fainting forms, Hunger—stricken, what see you in the offing
Stately ships to bear our food away, amid the stranger's scoffing.
There's a proud array of soldiers—what do they round your door?
They guard our master's granaries from the thin hands of the poor.
Pale mothers, wherefore weeping? 'Would to God that we were dead—
Our children swoon before us, and we cannot give them bread.[64]
Speranza[65]
This is one of the saddest comments I ever read .....

Quote:
In 1845, Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecid declared his intention to send 10,000 sterling to Irish farmers but Queen Victoria requested that the Sultan send only 1,000 sterling, because she had sent only 2,000 sterling. The Sultan sent the 1,000 sterling but also secretly sent 3 ships full of food. The English courts tried to block the ships, but the food arrived at Drogheda harbour and was left there by Ottoman sailors.[70]
Well this might be worse...

Quote:
Still other critics saw reflected in the government's response the government's attitude to the so-called "Irish Question." Nassau Senior, an economics professor at Oxford University, wrote that the Famine "would not kill more than one million people, and that would scarcely be enough to do any good."[128] In 1848, Denis Shine Lawlor suggested that Russell was a student of the Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser, who had calculated "how far English colonization and English policy might be most effectively carried out by Irish starvation."[129] Charles Trevelyan, the civil servant with most direct responsibility for the government's handling of the famine, described it in 1848 as "a direct stroke of an all-wise and all-merciful Providence", which laid bare "the deep and inveterate root of social evil"; the Famine, he affirmed, was "the sharp but effectual remedy by which the cure is likely to be effected. God grant that the generation to which this opportunity has been offered may rightly perform its part..."[130]
As a christian I suspect that when he stood before his god, the Lord was less than pleased with him. To put it mildly.

The behavior of the British government, dominated by landlords was deplorable.

Quote:
In 1996 Francis A. Boyle, a law professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, wrote a report commissioned by the New York-based Irish Famine/Genocide Committee, that concluded "Clearly, during the years 1845 to 1850, the British government pursued a policy of mass starvation in Ireland with intent to destroy in substantial part the national, ethnic and racial group commonly known as the Irish People.... Therefore, during the years 1845 to 1850 the British government knowingly pursued a policy of mass starvation in Ireland that constituted acts of genocide against the Irish people within the meaning of Article II (c) of the 1948 [Hague] Genocide Convention."[138] On the strength of Boyle's report, the U.S. state of New Jersey included the famine in the "Holocaust and Genocide Curriculum" at the secondary tier.[139]
Historian Peter Duffy writes that "The government's crime, which deserves to blacken its name forever ..." was rooted "in the effort to regenerate Ireland" through "landlord-engineered replacement of tillage plots with grazing lands" that "took precedence over the obligation to provide food ... for its starving citizens. It is little wonder that the policy looked to many people like genocide."[140]
The same was said at the time. Others assert that the laisez faire views of the British government were more pertinant, it simply did not believe government should do anything, ever. Against that, British governments had responded heavily when problems occured in England itself.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Famine_(Ireland)
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Unread 02-28-2010, 11:13 AM
 
Location: Everywhere and Nowhere
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But the English owned the grain and other food exports. Nobody owned the fish so they were a free untapped resource the Irish could have exploited over hundreds of years but didn't. I realize it's more popular to blame others for all your problems but you're also at least partially responsible for your own plight. Perhaps the greater preference the Irish had for strong drink versus Sicilians was also responsible since one can make hard liquor from grain but not from fish.
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Unread 02-28-2010, 11:22 AM
 
Location: Bucks County, PA
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I imagine it's much cheaper to produce potatoes than catch fish. Potatoes were particularly a main food source for the poor.

Why such hostility towards the Irish?
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Unread 02-28-2010, 11:34 AM
 
Location: Everywhere and Nowhere
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PA2UK View Post
I imagine it's much cheaper to produce potatoes than catch fish. Potatoes were particularly a main food source for the poor.

Why such hostility towards the Irish?
Fish was a main food source for the poor in many other countries and catching it isn't particularly expensive to catch. Hmm, I can sit here and watch my family starve or I can go to the coast and catch some fish (one would think their catholicism might have put that idea in their heads).

Why is inquiring about possible societal deficiencies considered hostile?
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Unread 02-28-2010, 11:49 AM
 
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Not everyone lived on the coast. Many of the ones who did sold their small boats for money..One explaination is in this article:The HIstory Place - Irish Potato Famine
Not many had the means to just pick up and hang out the "Gone Fishin" sign
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Unread 02-28-2010, 11:52 AM
 
Location: Bucks County, PA
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Because they didn't have the equipment or the skills? Fact of the matter remains that potatoes were a main food source, particularly for the poor and particularly during the winter... and when a vast amount of people are reliant on something, they can't necessarily just turn to something else that quickly or easily.

And it wasn't just about the lack of the food - it was a crash of a major industry... anyone who was involved in the production and distribution of potatoes was suddenly out of a job. No job = no money = no food.

There are plenty of reasons why many couldn't just turn to other food - your insistance that it was pure stupidity is rather short sighted and you come across as someone with some kind of grudge against the Irish.
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Unread 02-28-2010, 12:29 PM
 
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It takes capital and training to catch fish. The Irish had neither. Until the late 18th century potatoes was not the dominant food source in Ireland. It became so because of the policies of the English landowning class and the British government which devestated the country economically. Its in the links I cited above.

The blame for the Irish economic situation was not with the Irish, who did incredibly well everywhere outside Ireland, but in Whitehall and Kensington.
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