The movement towards Irish independence that began in the 19th Century had all manner of forces driving it, but one burning injustice stood out above all others: the Great Famine of the late 1840s, caused by potato blight. Around a million people, mainly from the south and west of Ireland, died as a result of the famine; around a million more emigrated, many to the United States, others to the British mainland.
Worse, food exports from Ireland continued during the famine. Irish exports of calves, livestock (except pigs), bacon, and ham actually increased during the Famine. Much of that food came from the parts of Ireland worst affected by famine. It is, as with famines in India, part of the most shameful legacy of the British Empire.
This is understood by those who have even the most basic grasp of the history of the island of Ireland. But not one former cabinet minister. After it was revealed “Leaked government papers show Ireland faces the prospect of taking a bigger economic hit than the UK should there be a disorderly withdrawal from the European Union. According to the documents, Ireland could see a 7 per cent drop in GDP under a no deal Brexit, whereas the UK would suffer a 5 per cent drop”, the detail was provided.
“A government report, leaked to the Times of London, has indicated that there could be food shortages in Ireland in a no-deal Brexit scenario, and the economic impact on Ireland would be worse than in the UK … This is based on the large number of food exports from the UK to Ireland (more than half of the total food imported to Ireland comes from the UK)”.
So who would like to use the prospect of food shortages to kick the Irish? As if you need to ask. “Tory MP Priti Patel has told the [Times] that these warnings should have been used as leverage against Ireland to encourage them to drop the backstop”.
Condemnation was immediate. Threatening Ireland using food supplies as a stick with which to beat the Government in Dublin? “Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reacted to the story, saying that ;The sheer moral bankruptcy of the Tory Brexiteers is on full display today.’” Labour’s Lisa Nandy was of similar opinion.
She told “Threatening Ireland in this way is as morally reprehensible as it is futile. Britain should be showing itself to be a dependable neighbour and friend in the future, and it is frightening that Brexiteers are even contemplating a move which could see stopping trade, including food supplies, being weaponised in this way, particularly given the uncomfortable historical echoes”. The party’s deputy leader Tom Watson also weighed in.
“This is an insult to all the people of Ireland. It displays ignorance to history and a political insensitivity that is unworthy of an MP. She should retract and apologise”. i News concluded its report by referring to the great decline in Ireland’s population that came with, and followed, the Great Famine: “The country’s population has still not returned to the levels before 1845”. The rot at the heart of the Tory Party is on full view today.
And remember, they allowed Priti Patel to become an MP. She was then gifted a ministerial portfolio. Be afraid, ordinary voters. Be very afraid.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at