One hundred fifty years ago in the late summer of 1845 one of the
possibly as many as 2 million, Irish had died and another 1 1/2 million had emigrated. No one can fully capture in words the magnitude or the intensity of the suffering and hardship endured by the Irish people from 1845-1850. The fungus was called phytophthora infestans. The Irish Potato Famine was also called the Great Potato Famine, the Great Irish Famine, the Great Hunger, the Great Starvation, the Famine of 1845-1849, or Black 47. The Irish Potato Famine was the worst famine to occur in Europe during the nineteenth century. Many classify the Irish Potato Famine as genocide and some do not. “Famine is a useful word when you do not wish to use words like genocide and extermination. (http://wwwvms.utexas.edu/ jdana/iphunger.html). Should the Irish Potato Famine be considered genocide?
What is genocide? Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, such as (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to being about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. The American Heritage Dictionary defines genocide as: “The systematic, planned annihilation of a racial, political or cultural group. (http://www.nde.state.ne.us/SS/irish/unit_6.html).
Clearly, during the years 1845 to 1850, the British government pursued a policy of mass starvation in Ireland with intent to destroy in large the national, ethnical, and racial group commonly known as the Irish People. In addition, this British policy of mass starvation in Ireland clearly caused serious bodily and mental harm to members of the Irish People. Furthermore, this British policy of mass starvation in Ireland deliberately inflicted on the Irish People conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction .
(http://www.inac.org/history/tiphunger.html). Therefore, during the years 1845-1850 the British government knowingly pursued a policy of mass starvation in Ireland that constituted acts of genocide against the Irish People.
In Ireland there was a dependence of a large section of the population agriculture and the potato crop. The famine was the result of successive crop failures and the insufficient and ineffective relief for stopping the outbreak of starvation and disease. The famine was the most tragic and significant event in Irish history and one of the worst human disasters of the nineteenth century. Ireland depended on the potato as a staple crop after 1800. Population increased rapidly and reached eight million by 1841, two-thirds of who depended on agriculture. The Irish depended on the potato and the failure of the potato crop in 1845 was disastrous. The crop failed again in 1846, 1847, and 1848. By 1851, the population of Ireland had been reduced by more than two million due to starvation, disease, and emigration to Britain and North America. (http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Congress/2807/index.html).
In accordance with the legal definition of genocide, the British policy of mass starvation pursued in Ireland from 1845 to 1850 constituted genocide against the Irish People. The Famine was a defining event in the history of Ireland and of Britain. It has left deep scars. That one million people should have died in what was then past of the richest and most powerful nation in the world is something that still causes pain as we reflect on it today. Those who governed in London at the time failed their people through standing by while a crop failure turned into a massive human tragedy. We must never forget such a dreadful event.