Galvin response

This page expresses the ideas of a reader who is identified only as "Galvin"; it does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the webmaster. Spelling and punctuation are those of Galvin. This individual is responding to the History of the Irish Potato Famine, by Conrad Jay Bladey.

I must object to the views you present on the web site "Commemoration of the Great Irish Potato Famine". Your stated goal is a better understanding of the event, but I feel that your comments produce the opposite. I would like to grant you the benefit of the doubt, but your writings err too far to exonerate the British and blame the Irish, to allow me to believe you are anything but intentionally biased.

First, to claim the Penal Laws were lightly enforced is untrue. Flat out. By no definition of "lightly enforced" can this phrase be applied to those times. The transfer of property from Catholic to Protestant, the elimination of Gaelic as a language, the loss of educated native Irish class were all direct results of these laws. It did not propel Irish into business (as you explicitly state in your first document) and eliminated them as landlord (the opposite of what you imply). To claim that these laws were normal reactions justly provoked by the irish is false. Buning down a church full of women and children as did Oliver Cromwell, justified by the statement that "Nits make Lice", was seen as horror by some of the very soldiers that carried it out. It was at this time that the penal laws were instituted; the uprisings and rebellions were a reaction to them, not the cause.

Second, your claim that the trade in wheat and other food products enriched the Irish. It did not. Over 70% of the Irish at that time were subsistence farmers. They did buy or sell wheat, they paid wheat as taxes and rents. Your talk of employment and prosperity applies primarly to the landlords and English in Ireland, not the Irish. Without land ownership, the Irish did not receive the rewards of a growing economy. The Irish did not "fail to adapt" to the industrial revolution due to a cultural failure, they missed it because it required capitol, which they had none of (not even the land they farmed). It could not "tricke down" because the rents and taxes were going to the british government and landlords living overseas, not remaining in Ireland.

Third, you question why the Irish embraced the potato; "was their taste pleasant?" This comment can only be taken as insulting, because to assume otherwise would require assigning you an ignorace at odds with the research you have shown elsewhere. The irish were dependent on the potato because it provided the greatest amount of food for the least acreage. The rent they were required to pay for land made it impossible for families on small farms (under 10 acres, which most were) to subsist on other crops. They did not "greet it with open arms", they were forced to depend on it due to poverty. Related, population grew because large families are required for farming, not due to economic prosperity. These large families were fed on potatoes.

Fourth, you claim the British government made "significant investment" to aid the irish, and made expenditures that were "not a small sum", to show that the british tried, but were foiled by poor economics, not malice. Sums not small in comparison to what? Significant investment compared to what? Compare the amount of taxes and wealth taken from Ireland to the amount spent or reinvested there. By this comparison, the amounts were small. You cannot claim that such basic revenue and expense concepts were not understood.

Fifth, landlords were not evicting tenants because they had more effective agricultural methods which required fewer workers. Ireland at the time had land available for the landlords to expand their cultivation, (though not available for the common Irish). Tenants were evicted because the government gave landlords the legal power and the economic incentive to do it. This was not ignorance. The results of the government policy were well known, and public calls for change were made in papers such as the Illustrated London News, as early as 1847. They were ignored.

The tragedy of the famine was not that over a million died because a fungus destroyed potatoes, but that the British govenment and the landlords in Ireland (predominantly English) allowed over a million people to starve in the midst of plenty. Two million more were forced to emigrate. Mr. Bladey's justifications do not stand up to facts or logic, and his assignment of Irish culpability is equally erroneous. No one is served by distorting history to excuse a group (the British) from the crimes of their past.

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