Exploring the state of Ireland before the Great Irish Famine.

The four part Radharc series 'When Ireland Starved' traces the events that led to the Great Famine. This excerpt examines the causes of poverty. 

In the hundred or so years before the famine, the thing that struck most visitors to Ireland was the poverty of the people.

In 'Social, Political and Religious' Paris 1839 Gustave de Beaumont describes the uniqueness of Irish poverty as 

An entire nation of paupers.

He goes on to say that

The history of the poor is the history of Ireland.

Gustave de Beaumont says that in the deplorable, primitive and over-crowded living conditions the only thriving inhabitant is a pig, for he lives in filth.

In 'A Visit to Connaught in the Autumn of 1847' James Hack Tuke describes the intense misery that he saw in Ireland in comparison to the poverty in Africa and amongst the native Americans. 

By 1845 Ireland was a source of grave anxiety to England, having been conquered multiple times yet still putting up a fight to survive the oppression of the English. 

Ireland's problems in the 19th century were largely the fruit of a consistent, long-term British policy which was to ensure that John Bull's other island could never, ever threaten the political or economic interests of John Bull himself.

This objective was confounded with the Penal Laws of 1691 and 1695 which outlines what a Catholic could and more importantly could not do and clearly set out to persecute the majority. 

In 1600 Protestants owned 10 per cent of the land of Ireland. By 1778 Protestants owned more than 95% of the land of Ireland.


'Radharc - When Ireland Starved' part 1 was broadcast on 25 March 1992. The presenter is Peter Kelly.