Petition – Stop Calling it a Famine!

Add your voice to the chorus that is singing out against the English government’s chosen language of Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy.

Would you sign a petition to inform non-Irish people not to use the term “potato famine” when referring to what happened in Ireland from 1845-1852?

Cover with Blurb
Divide the Dawn (April 2020), a new historical novel details the effects the Great Hunger (not famine) had on those who survived not only the blight in Ireland, but the coffin ships that landed in New York.

Call it An Gorta Mor
Call it The Great Hunger
Call it Genocide
Sign HERE!
But when you say “potato famine,” you are using the language of the perpetrator of a horrific, years-long brutal crime where millions of pounds of food were exported by British soldiers at gunpoint and a million people starved to death, a million more emigrated.

Here’s what it says:

To the United Nations

We the undersigned, citizens of the world, earnestly beseech your honorable body to adopt measures for so amending the UN Charter on Human Rights as to discourage, disenfranchise or prohibit the use of the term “Potato Famine” or “Famine” to describe the events that took place in Ireland from the years 1845-1852.

If it cannot, or will not use the term “Genocide” to describe it, we encourage the United Nations to adopt the terms “An Gorta Mór” or “Great Hunger.”

78318164_1480956538730791_5662958781147906048_nThe use of the term “potato famine” or “famine” is the language of the perpetrators of a brutal, colonial force that exported grain, wheat and cattle from Ireland, which lead to over a million deaths from starvation, and over a million more to emigrate. The blight on a single crop, the potato, could not be responsible for such devastation.

The Act of Union that came into effect January 1, 1801, joining Ireland to Great Britain, creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, put the citizens of Ireland in the trust of Great Britain. Instead of helping the Irish people at their time of greatest need, Great Britain moved them off the land in great numbers to their financial benefit: to allow cattle to graze on the same land.

With grace and humility,

Citizens of the world

Published by artofneed

artofneed Productions is a sound studio for podcasts and audio dramas Shanachie51 Press is a publishing house for cutting edge fiction Production & Published Works Psychological thriller An Affair of Concoctions (Shanachie51 Press, 2009). Book of poetry Love and Maladies (Shanachie51 Press, 2010). Historical novel Divide the Dawn (Shanachie51 Press, 2020). Young Adult Novel Chin Music Rhubarb (Shanachie51 Press, 2021). Scifi-Horror AudioDrama Democracy Jones Podcast (artofneed Productions, 2022). Coming Soon! Fiction Podcast Chin Music Rhubarb (artofneed Productions, 2023)

17 thoughts on “Petition – Stop Calling it a Famine!

  1. While I respect and understand your reasoning on this, I must say that Ireland itself uses the term ‘famine’ at the Famine Museum in Strokestown…a place we visited in September. No matter what it was or is called, that museum painted a very clear picture of what happened.

    1. I understand the confusion, but it should be known that it is one of the most hotly debated topics in Ireland. In fact, a book came out a couple years ago by Tim Pat Coogan, one of Ireland’s most well-known historians, called “The Famine Plot,” which outlines how it was the English government who called it famine, even though the description of what actually happened, if explored, should be “Genocide.” Like in any country, there is great debate concerning the past, and Ireland is no different when it comes to talking about its greatest tragedy. The political party who was the big winner in a recent election, Sinn Fein, has always maintained that it was not a famine, but the outgoing political party would rather repair relations with England by just going along with the “famine” description. Hope that helps.

  2. I finished the third run of play tail end of last year where I had all the facts and figures–very hard to deliver, in fact the other person on that scene, talking of how the population of our home city was quadrupled overnight by ‘ refugees’ from this horror often could not get the words out–maybe cos we are both descendants of people who fled–while the Trevelyn speeches were also read. I am so looking forward to reading your posts.

  3. My mantra is and always will be, that all countries should strive to work together to improve relationships. I hope I am not alone in that belief. If you can persuade me that achieving your goal will contribute to that process, then happy to sign. For the record – although I consider myself English, two of my great grandparents emigrated from Ireland to London as children in 1860.

    1. Hello David,
      I’m not so sure that requesting people to consider using a different description about something that happened many years ago can improve relations between Ireland and England. I do believe many Irish people would be much less closed-minded about improving relations with the English government if it openly accepted responsibility for its hundreds of years of oppression. With the current leadership at 10 Downing, I don’t see that happening, however. In all, it shows great maturity to admit when one has done wrong, as Blair had somewhat half-heartedly done years ago, which took some of the air out of the Irish Republican movement.

      Thank you for taking the time to offer your opinion. Hope you consider looking over the historical novel Divide the Dawn that is coming out this April.

  4. The population of Ireland at the time in question consisted of approx 70% basis lower working class, 15% middle class ( modest land owners and owners of businesses) and the remaining 15% upper class , estate owners , and property owners mainly around the bigger cities… It is a well know fact that very few of the wealthy Irish , Did next to Nothing to help their fellow starving countrymen and women… So WHY are you totally Blaming the Brits,, If you know anything about history you will know that there had been many crop failings in the UK as well…

    1. Hi John,
      Thanks for posting a comment. I understand your point. Certainly there were Catholic Irish who didn’t help, and gombeens who even took advantage of the poor. Those are definitely facts, but a very small part of the big problem. While some starved to death who suffered due to a blight on a single crop in a very fertile country, the colonial power (Britain) exported the rest of the food to their benefit. Meanwhile the old agrarian economy that had been passing out of economic favor was whisked away in favor of using the land for cattle grazing, a new economic windfall at that time. Of course Britain, who oversaw all of this, benefited greatly when a million Irish died and a million more emigrated off the land to make room for the cattle.

      To point out small portions of a big problem in order to disprove guilt is a logical fallacy known as “red herring.” And is akin, in my opinion, to stating that the minority of Jewish people who worked with the Germans or Vichy government should be blamed for the Holocaust instead of the Nazis.

      Thank you

  5. ‘An Gorta Mór means the Great Famine, not ‘The Great Hunger’. That is the first point.

    Genocide implies mass murder, an attempt to exterminate a race of people. Over one and a half million died during the great Famine of 1845-51, while at least one million more were forced to emigrate throughout the English-speaking world.

    John Mitchel famously stated that ‘God sent the Blight, but the English sent the Famine’. Mitchel was probably very close to the mark here; it was the social conditions in which the majority of Irish people lived that caused them to starve to death (ie; the dependence on the lumper potato for their daily sustenance). The lumper produced a bumper crop but was very prone to diseases.

    Had any British administration in Ireland wanted to exterminate the native Irish, it would have been quite easy to do so. However, several massacres aside… this never happened! The British administration of Ireland in the 19th century was appalling! Mind you so was the oligarchic Irish Parliament of the 18th century! It is estimated that at least 4 hundred thousand died in the famine of 1740/41, and out of a population of some 2 and a half million in 1740, this was on a par with the death toll in the Great Famine of 1845-51.

    In short, most historians would argue that the Great Famine was not genocidal, certainly not in the category with the Congolese atrocities under the watch of King Leopold of Belgium in their African colony, nor the Armenian Massacres carried out by the Ottoman Turks during WWI, and certainly not anything like the systematic genocide perpetrated on the Jews of Europe by the Nazis during WWII, or the Pol pot remine in Cambodia in the 1970s.

    I, for one will not be signing this petition. For an excellent documentary series on the Great Famine I recommend ‘Blighted Nation’ , presented by Myles Dungan in early Jan 2015, I think. Should still be available to download via google or RTE Radio docs.

    1. God sent nothing. Nature did. There was a systematic effort by the wealthy in Ireland to eradicate the poor. They no longer wanted them on their land and they exacerbated the situation in order to do so. A genocide, by definition, is not an effort to completely eradicate a people as Hitler was attempting to do, but to get rid of, in whole or part, a group of people, regardless of race. That is, in fact, what was done. You can attempt to sound scholarly all you wish but your facts are based on already per-conceived misconceptions. To blame a potato blight for the mass exodus or mass casualty of a people in a land that was overflowing with food, is a little bit ridiculous. There was no “famine.” There was a redistribution of the food elsewhere. To deliberately starve an entire group of people is the very definition of genocide.

  6. Ireland is not alone in this policy of governing colonies . All “subjects” that were not of the ruling class or of value to the ruling class were below second class and of vermin standing. Genocide has been dressed up in most parts of the Empire , Australia , India , Canada etc. The Kingdom of Ireland was never dissolved, we have a free state, the cruelty of this is obvious the last two governments where people due to misfortune are thrown on the street and road side after feeding the ruling banks.

  7. I have been saying this for years … Holocaust or ethnic clenching by English invaders is the correct name for it…

  8. During particularly warm and wet years, the Potato Blight fungus P. Infestans, virtually wiped out the crop on which the Irish depended. As a result of mass starvation, they were forced to quit the land and many emigrated. The landowners realised that the potato was no longer a reliable crop, and started to use the land in other ways. The famine was the result of weather and fungus.

    So how am I incorrect?

    1. Hi Chris,
      I don’t know who said you were incorrect. The cause of the blight on the potato crop was certainly a fungus. I don’t think anyone doubts that. What we have issue with is the use of the word “famine,” to describe the widespread hunger. That is an incorrect usage of the term. A famine is an “extreme and general scarcity of food.”

      As we know, Ireland has extraordinarily fertile soil. Wheat and other grains/cereals were raised in Ireland during those years. Cattle grazed as well, but most of it was exported by the colonial force while over a million starved and a million more emigrated. Why would anyone want to describe what happened in Ireland as “an extreme and general scarcity of food,” unless they had something to hide?

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