Potato Blight Hit's Ireland – Irish Revolutionaries
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Potato Blight Hit's Ireland

Potato Blight Hit's Ireland

By the 1840s the population in Ireland rose to 8.75 million, the highest ever recorded, but the vast majority of people especially in rural Ireland lived in abject poverty.

For most people, the only work available was labouring on large farms which grew crops and reared livestock for export to England, but wages were very low.

High rents imposed by absentee landlords meant that most people could only afford to live on small tenant farms, holdings were so small and the soil so bad that no crop other than potatoes would suffice to feed a family.

Potatoes were easily grown but very prone to disease, before 1845 the potato crop had failed at least 24 times, this was widely known but the Irish poor had no choice but to rely on this very unreliable crop.

In 1843 a potato blight had hit the USA and spread to Europe, by mid-August 1845 France, Belgium, England & the Netherlands had been hit by the blight. By September 1845 the potato blight hit Ireland with devastating effect.

On previous occasions when the potato crop failed the British closed the ports and banned all exports of food so the people could eat, no such export ban occurred this time.

Thousands of tons of food were exported between 1845 - 1851 while hundreds of thousands of people starved. Thousands of families too poor to pay their rents were evicted from their homes.

Between the landlords and the British government, the plan seems to have been to let the people die, Charles Trevelyan, who was in charge of the administration of government relief said at the time, "the judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson".

Between 1845- 1851 between one million - two million died of starvation and disease and the same amount were forced to emigrate with many not making the journey on the "coffin ships" as they became known.

To call what happened in Ireland between 1845 -1851 a famine is an insult to those who died and those forced to leave Ireland, there was plenty of food but it with was exported under armed guard.

It was genocide, not famine.


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