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   Marie Tierney Smith
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Famine Diary

Part 2
By Marie Tierney Smith



Now let us examine why, at the time of the famine in 1845, the ownership of the land of Ireland, by the Irish, stood at 5 %, and while millions of rural Irish living in the southwest and northwest of the island, were subsisting only on the lowly lumper potato.

Most revisionist historians and the media commence the story of the Great Irish Hunger with the coming of the potato blight. Charles Trevelyan, the Dracula of the famine period, blamed the deaths on the laziness of the Irish character, John Mitchell on the British, and the victims on themselves.

When Ireland was conquered in 1169 by the Normans under Henry II, two distinct personalities, the direct opposite of each other went down the path of confrontation. The Celts on the island of Ireland had evolved as a creative, spiritual, and intellectual people. After their defeat and dispersal by the Romans in Europe they had settled in Ireland in isolation, to bring to fruition, during the First Golden Age,all of their ancient learning and laws.During the great monastic period, Ireland was known as the Island of Saints & Scholars - a beacon of light in a sea of darkness following the fall of the Roman Empire.

The Romans had conquered England in 55 BC and with their arrival brought with them Germanic soldiers Anglos and Saxons. When the Roman armieswithdrew to Europe.  Their Germanic armies remained behind, and as Britain collapsed into tribal warfare, after the Roman departure, Norse kings, in order to secure their territories, brought over from Europe, Germanic mercenaries.  All of this isthe basis of the word defining British roots -Anglo-Saxons.

Taking the diverse characteristics of the Celts and Anglo-Saxons, you can imagine that they were on a confrontation

In 1641 at the Battle of the Boyne in Co. Meath, the Catholic deposed King of England, James II, supported by the Irish, and French, was defeated by William of Orange (the origins of the Orangemen & the Marching Season which is being enacted in northern Ireland at this time). James II (a coward) fled to Europe and Patrick Sarsfield and the French General St.Ruth continued the good tight. St.Ruth was killed and with no French reinforcements on the horizon, Patrick Sarsfield negotiated the Treaty of Limerick in 1642. You can visit the Treaty Stone in Limerick on your next visit to Ireland.


Before his departure to  Europe, Sarsfield had obtained guarantees in the Treaty that the Catholics could practice  their religion without interference and retain their lands.  The British Ascendancy Parliament in Dublin refused to ratify the Treaty and in order to eliminated any future threat of conspiracy by the Catholic Irish against them, initiated the draconian penal code.

Professor Lecky, a Protestant of British blood in his History of Ireland in the 18th Century said that the object of the Penal Laws was three fold.

  1. To deprive the Catholics of all civil life.
  2. To reduce them to a condition of most extreme and brutal ignorance.
  3. To dissociate them from the soil.

The laws were in effect for over one hundred years and thus laid the groundwork for a .genocide of the Irish people when the blight arrived in 1845. Jonathan Swift, Dean of St. Patrick's, and author of Gulliver's Travel., in 1792 published A Modest Proposal, a savage satire in which he offered for public consideration a scheme for the killing off of Irish year-old babies to feed the British nobility.

From the 15th through the 19th centuries, successive English monarchies and governments enacted laws designed to suppress and destroy Irish manufacturing and trade. These repressive Acts, coupled with the Penal Laws, reduced the Irish people to "nakedness and beggary" in a direct and purposeful way. The destitute Irish now stood on the very brink of a bottomless pit. When the potato blight struck in 1845, the final push had arrived.