Letter: Irish famine's legacy of bitterness

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Letter: Irish famine's legacy of bitterness

Sir: Nick Martin-Clark (Letters, 5 June) asks, in the debate about the Irish famine, if the then British government would have stood aside from a similar fate for English peasants. They probably would, given their laissez-faire-inspired indifference to working people which saw, for instance, ordinary Mancunians in the same period having an average life-expectancy of 16, due to cholera.

However, we should recognise that certain key events, such as the famine and Bloody Sunday, have shaped modern Irish perceptions and tarnished British-Irish relations, as I argue in a Commons motion on the issue. It's also true that many republicans will probably never be satisfied with any British actions concerning the past or the present. But all reasonable efforts should be made to put a line under these tragic events and build on the strong and positive cultural and political links that bind British and Irish people.

Let's not forget that we get on very well and there is much mixing between us: many people in Britain have Irish roots or relatives. History, warts and all, should liberate but not shackle us.

HARRY BARNES MP

(North East Derbyshire, Lab)

House of Commons

London SW1

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