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Events and impact of Irish potato famine

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Events and impact of Irish potato famine. The Irish farming population have been left counting the cost of the potato famine which has crippled their harvest and left many starving to death. The British government must shoulder the blame after an ineffective, slow and lacklustre effort to support the farmers and improve conditions. The famine itself started in September 1845 when leaves on potato plants turned black and curled, then rotted, seemingly as a result of fog which had wafted across the fields. This meant that potatoes then rotted and became inedible. The potato is the staple food of the Irish peoples' diet, consumed with every meal. It had been known in the past that when potato crops had failed, the farmers it affected and their families would starve to death. Due to Ireland's status as an agricultural nation, the famine hit them especially hard. Only around a quarter of the population can read or write and the life expectancy is around 40. Most of the Irish countryside is owned by an English and Anglo-Irish hereditary ruling class. Many landlords barely step foot on their land all year, if at all. ...read more.


During the entire period of the famine, Trevelyan would visit Ireland once, venturing no further than Dublin, far away from the hard-hit west of the country. In spring of 1846, the British tried to implement a large-scale public works program for the unemployed. In the meantime, Peel had come up with his own ideas to solve the food problem. He secretly purchased maize directly from America to be distributed to the Irish. However the maize needed to be grounded into digestible corn meal and there were not enough mills in a potato farming nation. The mills that did process it sold it at one penny a pound but soon peasants ran out of money and landowners did not contribute to the relief effort. Also the corn lacked vitamin C provided by potatoes and caused health problems such as scurvy. By June 1846, supplies of the corn meal were exhausted. It was estimated that 4 million Irish would need to be fed during the spring and summer of 1846, since nearly �3million worth of potatoes had been lost in the first year of the famine. ...read more.


However, little money was forthcoming as landlords struggled with debt and non paying tenants and merchants went bankrupt and joined the beggars on the street. The demand exceeded the supply available and in some places, one kitchen would need to feed thousands of people. By the summer of 1847, 3 million Irish people were being kept alive by the soup rations they were receiving. By the autumn, the third potato harvest of the famine had brought in a blight free crop, but not enough potatoes had been planted in the spring to make a significant harvest which many could live off. Landlords were now desperate for income and had to get rid of paupers who were on their land and not paying rent for, in some cases, years. To save their estates from ruin, the tenants had to go. The famine had lasted for six years, since 1845. the famine had killed over one million people and its effects had forced another million to migrate to other countries. Its effect will be felt for years to come and many people have lost what they cannot replace. The British government has to shoulder the blame for this mess, especially, Trevelyan, whose decisions led to the starvation of thousands of people who could have otherwise been saved. ...read more.

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