On Sunday 14th May 2017, it will be 170 years since the beginning of An Gorta Mor (The Great Hunger) in Ireland. This year there will be a memorial event outside TUC Congress House. This location has been chosen because the Parish of St. Giles was the first recorded ‘Little Ireland’ in London. Many Irish people who lived in this parish endured overcrowding, poverty and squalor and many died of typhus. For this reason, a number of us will be campaigning for a memorial statue to ‘An Gorta Mor’ in this part of London. Unlike Liverpool, no other such statue exists in the capital city. We like to seen the statue dedicated to all the Irish and other migrant workers who made Britain, the most industrialised nation in the world through their concentration of cheap labour!
LONDON REMEMBERS THE GREAT HUNGER
SUNDAY 14th MAY- 1pm SHARP
OUTSIDE TUC, CONGRESS HOUSE, GREAT RUSSELL STREET, LONDON WC1B 3LS
(nearest tube- Tottenham Court Road)
The event will last for about 40 minutes. Invited speakers are as follows: Austin Harney will speak on the callous administration of Lord Trevelyan who was Head of the Treasury in 1847. This administration under its prime minister, Lord John Russell, denied the vital imports of grain supplies to Ireland, thus causing many Irish people to die of starvation. Niall Mulholland will speak on how An Gorta Mor devastated the people of the North of Ireland and Mick Gilgunn will speak on how the poverty stricken Irish immigrants in London built the British Trade Union movement and the prosperity of the capital of Britain since the days of An Gorta Mor! After the speakers, we will have a minute’s silence for all the Irish people who died and forced to flee from Ireland as a result of this “Great Hunger”.
THE GREAT FAMINE LIE
When I was a kid I grew up taught that the Irish famine was a natural catastrophe caused by crop failure. That I was taught this at a school in England where I’d guess well over 50 % of the children had Irish parents or Grandparents is quite simply wrong. The books I was given in History class of course didn’t tally with the accounts I was hearing at home and as has been the way with the Irish abroad it was that passed on history that won the day. While it is true that the main crop for the Irish and especially the working class Irish was the potatoes the truth as ever is far more startling.
Failure of the potato crop began in 1845 and this impacted on the Irish population as other crops had to be purchased at a very high price or forfeited to their landlords. Hence, the starvation took effect in 1846. During the following year, it was the beginning of more than a million deaths as Britain refused to supply grain to the starving Irish population. In addition, many workers on the roads contracted typhus and it led to the ‘Road Fever’, that spread as far as Belfast, killing many workers. It is estimated that of the British Empires 130 army regiments a staggering 67 were in Ireland during the time of The Great Hunger. Over 100,000 soldiers at any one time. Don’t be fooled into thinking that these soldiers were there on a charitable mission to help the poor beleagued Irish. they were there with only one purpose. Their job was to subdue any Irish resistance and to remove food by force. AT any one point forty shiploads of food, rising to double that some days, were removed from the island of Ireland at gunpoint. Ireland starved as its food was confiscated. The British police and soldiers seized tens of millions head of livestock, tens of millions of tons flour, grain and poultry and protected these shipments from the starving and dying Irish. All the while those in charge knew full well that these huge quantities were more than enough to feed those dying of starvation. When the quantity of exports leaving Ireland could no longer be concealed, George Bernard Shaw wrote in Man and Superman 1897:
“The Famine? No, the Starvation. When a country is full of food and exporting it, there can be no famine.”‘
In the best book ever written on the subject, The Great Hunger, British Historian Cecil-Woodham Smith exposed the removal of food to Britain and became a pariah in academia for the next 30 years. Historians and their books maintain the lie that only potato’s were cultivated and anyone bringing the genocide out in the open is smeared as a “republican sympathiser”.
While it is no surprise of an Irish politician it is still to her eternal shame that former Irish President Mary Robinson referred to the genocide as
“Ireland’s largest natural disaster”.
In 2005 while Prime Minister Tony Blair said,
“Britain stood by while the Irish starved to death”
but again did not acknowledge role of the British Army in forced food confiscations.
The official figures posit a two million drop from 1841-51 due to famine and emigration but it is believed the 1841 census wildly underestimated the real population of over Ireland meaning the figures for both the dead and emigration would be much much higher. The genocide was a deliberate attempt to exterminate the Irish people and their cultural and national identity. Queen Victoria’s economist, Nassau Senior, voiced his fear that existing policies
“will not kill more than one million Irish in 1848 and that will scarcely be enough to do much good”.
During the “famine” years, Irish foodstuff received high prices on the agricultural and commodity markets of the world. The British Empire covered half the globe; why else would it keep half its armies in Ireland at great expense? The Irish were an obstacle to Britain’s world power. They were Celtic, Catholic with their own rich culture and traditions, namely strong: National identity, Family, Culture and faith. The Irish have a strong Celtic consciousness giving the people the ability to think critically, morally and be self-sufficient. It’s in our DNA no one can ever extinguish it.
Further Recommended Reading:
but the most extensive resource on Facebook about this period is to be found at