Remembering The Irish Famine Ships
March 17, 2016, 02:16 PM
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As before, I mark St. Patrick's Day with a re-link of my July 2002 review of the famine memorial in New York City.  My review was positive; I described the memorial as "a modest artistic success."

Concerning the politics of the Famine, I assigned what I believe is a proper measure of blame to British politicians of the time.

Twenty-two centuries before the Famine, the Chinese philosopher Mencius wondered rhetorically: "What should we think of a ruler who allows his people to starve?" What then should we think of Robert Peel, Lord Russell, and their administrators? These men were responsible for the citizens of the United Kingdom, which at that time included Ireland. They were responsible to provide for their defense in case of invasion, and for their relief in case of natural disasters—the most elementary functions of government. They failed in that responsibility.
However, the Governor of New York State in 2002 was George Pataki, the lowest kind of hack politician, and a sower of discord.  Governor Pataki had—for entirely political purposes, of course—gone way beyond my position: He had ordered public schools in his state to teach that the Potato Famine was a deliberate act of policy on the part of the evil Brits.

irish-hunger-memorial-2-1100-architect I pointed out that some of the blame actually belongs to Governor Pataki's predecessors:

Nor, for that matter, is it well known that the Famine was basically America's fault. One of the inscriptions on the tunnel wall at the Vesey Street memorial gives the game away. "The failure of the potato crop very extensively in the United States … but, happily, there is no ground for any apprehensions of the kind in Ireland."—Dublin Evening Post, September 9, 1845. Far from having been manufactured in a British government laboratory, as George Pataki pretends to believe, the phytophthora infestans fungus that caused the potato blight (that caused the Famine) had been ravaging North America for some years before it first appeared in southern England in June 1845, around the port city of Southampton. It was most likely washed ashore on potato peelings thrown overboard from an American ship — in all probability, one that had started its lethal journey from New York harbor, perhaps from a mooring that would have been visible, if such moorings still existed today, from the Irish Hunger Memorial on Vesey Street!