The Irish Genocide

The Story of Media Prejudice Destroying a People- Sam Mears

Who, What, Where, Why's

The Irish Genocide was a famine that centered around a potato blight that occurred from 1845 'til 1851 (The History Place, Introduction, 2000) . The Irish were hugely dependent on the potato, so there was no place to turn for thousands of poor farmers. The famine is known as a genocide because of the way the British treated the Irish. The largely Protestant British were contemptuous of the Catholic Irish. In fact the Irish grew more than enough food to sustain themselves for the duration of the famine, but the British raised the prices of food and rent for tenant farmers and began exporting the only crops the Irish had. Queen Victoria's economist Nassau Senior lamented that the famine "will not kill more than a million Irish in 1948, and that will be scarcely enough to do much good," (Irish Holocaust, Page 1, 1995).

Perspective 1

Anti-Irish sentiment extended back centuries. In 1695, the British passed the Penal laws, which stripped Irish Catholics of rights like voting, buying land, and practicing religion (History Place, Before the Famine, 1995). As far as the British were concerned, The Irish were beneath them. The Irish had staged several unsuccessful rebellions, which lowered their standing significantly with the Irish. The Irish were hardly people in British eyes. The Protestant British saw the Irish Catholics as heathens in need of reform, and they believed the Potato Famine the vehicle to do that (Irish Genocide, Official British Intent, 1995).

Perspective 2

The Irish saw themselves as oppressed. They were tenant farmers with outrageously high rent, which prevented them from purchasing food to survive (History Place, Before the Famine, 2000). They had few rights, and were often taken advantage of by wealthy British. The little support the Irish were given was deemed degrading and not worth the trouble. The farmers were often given the choice of going hungry and paying rent, or eating and being homeless. Many boarded ships to America when faced with this dilemma (History Place, After the Famine, 1995)

Media Bias Explained

The British had a centuries old fued with Irish Catholics. The British media portrayed the Irish as heretics against the true religion, Protestantism. Without this bias, the British would certainly been more inclined to help the starving Irish poor

Criticism 1- Cultural Criticism

The British didn't see the merits of Irish society- they saw only uneducated, uncouth people not worth saving. They refused to provide assistance because moral discrepancies. The British wouldn't help because they believed the famine would rectify the Irish Catholic's moral issues (Irish Genocide, Official British Intent, 1995). Catholicism was seen as the religion of heathens, and therefore beneath British assistance.

Criticism 2- Marxist Criticism

The Irish nation was dirt poor by British standards. Entire families often lived in a hut smaller than the average classroom, and children went hungry even before the famine (History Place, Before the Famine, 1995). The wealthy British were able to control the Irish with crippling taxes and regulations simply because they were wealthier. The upper class British worsened a terrible situation by robbing poor Irish of their food, livelihood, and homes.
The Great Irish Famine: History of Modern Ireland - Facts, Genocide, 1847 (1997)