Episode 4

Blighted Nation

Blighted Nation

In this special four part series, Myles Dungan explores how the Great Famine swept through Ireland in the mid 1800s and changed the country forever. (Repeat)

Blighted Nation: Episode Four - Does Ireland Still Bear the Scars of the Famine?

The starvation officially lasted for seven years but are the effects of the famine still with us?

Our population was decimated by the famine and even today, we are the only country in Europe and possibly, the world, with a smaller population than we had in 1840. If we never had the famine, if we remained largely Irish speaking and we didn’t have emigration, what kind of a country would we have now?

This programme examines the after effects of the famine.

Topics discussed include how our system of land ownership and use was changed after the famine. How it affected the Irish language. The disappearance of the landlord class. The post-famine boom in the Catholic Church. Does the famine still live on in the Irish psyche? How scientists discovered that past trauma can affect several generations through the use of epigenetics. The knock-on effects on our attitudes to property ownership. The Irish cultural revival. How emigration has been ingrained in our culture. Post famine silence. The Diaspora. Memory. Commemoration.

(Image courtesy of Ireland's Great Hunger Museum)

Studio Guests:
Kevin Whelan, professor of history at Notre Dame University, Dublin.
Colm Toibin, author.
Cathal Poirteir, social historian.

Blighted Nation contributors include:
Dr. Brendan Kelly (consultant psychiatrist)
Dr. Trisha McDonnell (clinical psychologist who specialises in trauma)
Sean Duke (science writer)
Brian Tolle (artist, New York Famine memorial)
Peter Quinn (New York writer)
Mick Moloney (New York based musician).

Blighted Nation podcasts are extended versions of the original broadcasts and are available here

Blighted Nation

Blighted Nation

The Great Famine which struck Ireland in the middle of the 19th century was the biggest social catastrophe in Irish history.

Over one million people died. The potato-dependent poor - landless labourers and small cottiers were wiped out.

Two and a half million emigrated between the years 1845 and 1855. A greater number than all those who had left in the previous two-and-a-half centuries

Blighted Nation presented by Myles Dungan explores how the Great Famine swept through Ireland and changed the country forever.

Emigration became deeply institutionalised in Irish culture and even today, we are the only country in Europe and possibly, the world, that has a smaller population than we had in 1840.

Recorded in Ireland and New York, Blighted Nation explores how our country's past resonates in the 21st century.

In four one-hour programmes on four consecutive evenings Blighted Nation explores the arrival of the blight and its catastrophic consequences, Britain’s response to the famine, mass emigration as well as its aftermath and legacy.

Blighted Nation was originally broadcast on 1, 2, 3, and 4 January 2013 on RTE Radio 1

Blighted Nation is sponsored by Ireland's Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Connecticut http://ighm.nfshost.com/


Blighted Nation: Episode Four features

Psychological scars?:   Mother Ireland was put on the couch as psychiatrists, a psychologist and a scientist applied their medicine to history.

Famine Memories collected by Irish Folklore Commission in 1945:    We featured a selection of famine memories as told to the Irish Folklore Commission in 1945. These stories were handed down by parents and grandparents who lived through the famine.

New York Memorial:  Around the 150th anniversary of the famine, a plethora of memorials and monuments started appearing here and abroad. One of the acclaimed memorials sits in the middle of the skyscrapers of downtown Lower Manhattan. It’s actually a replica of a famine farm – a small hill of grass and shrubs with a roofless stone cottage tucked into the landscape. Artist Brian Toal was chosen to create the New York memorial in 2000 as a piece of sculpture. Nicoline Greer went to visit it with him.

Great Silence:   Ireland was a very different place after the famine. Our population went from 8.2 million in 1841 to 6 million a decade later. At least one million people died. The rest emigrated.   Today, about 70 million people worldwide claim some Irish descent. And 40 million Americans claim "Irish" as their primary ethnicity – although it’s not something they’ve always shouted from the rooftops – as Nicoline Greer discovered when she went to New York for this programme.

Mary Robinson on the diaspora:    The diaspora weren’t really included in Irish history and identity until the 1990s when, as President of Ireland, Mary Robinson highlighted their importance. For this programme, she recalled how her views on the diaspora were received at the time.



Myles Dungan

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