Letter: Ireland's famine was due to natural causes

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The Independent Online
Sir: Beatrix Campbell ('It's time to open our eyes and think of Ireland', 6 September) writes as if the potato famine which devastated the population of Ireland in the second half of the 1840s was not a natural disaster but the fault of the British government, although she blames it on the 'English'.

To write that 'the Great Hunger was one of England's episodes of ethnic cleansing in Ireland' is rubbish. Serious mistakes were made in trying to relieve the population of its misery. People were employed on building roads and other public works instead of draining the bogs and creating more arable land, but to think that the British government simply did nothing is wrong.

In real terms what today would be millions of pounds was raised by public subscription in England to provide relief for the people of Ireland. The Quakers were particularly active. One of the results of the famine was the repeal of the Corn Laws which brought cheap imports of foreign wheat into the British Isles, to the detriment of our farmers, forcing people off the land and into the factories. Ireland gained little benefit from the Industrial Revolution and her population had to emigrate to find work.

Yours faithfully,

JOHN FAULLS

Portsmouth

6 September

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