FOOD EXPORTS FROM IRELAND DURING THE FAMINE
The monetarist policy of the British Government of the 1840's known as "Laissez Faire" demanded no political interference with "the free market".
In Ireland Before and After the Famine Cormac O’Grada documents that in 1845, a famine year in Ireland, 3,251,907 quarters (8 bushels = 1 quarter)) of corn were exported from Ireland to Britain. That same year 257,257 sheep were exported to Britain. In 1846, another famine year, 480,827 swine and 186,483 oxen were exported to Britain.
Cecil Woodham-Smith, considered the preeminent authority on the Irish Famine, wrote in The Great Hunger; Ireland 1845-1849 that, "...no issue has provoked so much anger or so embittered relations between the two countries (England and Ireland) as the indisputable fact that huge quantities of food were exported from Ireland to England throughout the period when the people of Ireland were dying of starvation."
"Although the potato crop failed, the country was still producing and exporting more than enough grain crops to feed the population. But that was a 'money crop' and not a 'food crop' and could not be interfered with."
According to John Mitchel, quoted by Woodham-Smith, "Ireland was actually producing sufficient food, wool and flax, to feed and clothe not nine but eighteen millions of people," yet a ship sailing into an Irish port during the famine years with a cargo of grain was "sure to meet six ships sailing out with a similar cargo."
One of the most remarkable facts about the famine period is that there was an average monthly export of food from Ireland worth 100,000 Pound Sterling. Almost throughout the five-year famine, Ireland remained a net exporter of food.
Dr. Christine Kinealy, a fellow at the University of Liverpool and the author of two scholarly texts on the Irish Famine: This Great Calamity and A Death-Dealing Famine, says that 9,992 calves were exported from Ireland to England during "Black'47", an increase of thirty-three percent from the previous year. In the twelve months following the second failure of the potato crop, 4,000 horses and ponies were exported. The export of livestock to Britain (with the exception of pigs) increased during the "famine". The export of bacon and ham increased. In total, over three million live animals were exported from Ireland between 1846-50, more than the number of people who emigrated during the famine years.
Dr. Kinealy's most recent work is documented in the spring, 1998 issue of "History Ireland". She states that almost 4,000 vessels carried food from Ireland to the ports of Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool and London during 1847, when 400,000 Irish men, women and children died of starvation and related diseases. The food was shipped under guard from the most famine-stricken parts of Ireland: Ballina, Ballyshannon, Bantry, Dingle, Killala, Kilrush, Limerick, Sligo, Tralee and Westport.
During the first nine months of "Black '47" the export of grain-derived alcohol from Ireland to England included the following: 874,170 gallons of porter, 278,658 gallons of Guinness, and 183,392 gallons of whiskey.
The total amount of grain-derived alcohol exported from Ireland in just nine months of Black'47 is 1,336,220 gallons!
A wide variety of commodities left Ireland during 1847, including peas, beans, onions, rabbits, salmon, oysters, herring, lard, honey, tongues, animal skins, rags, shoes, soap, glue and seed.
The most shocking export figures concern butter. Butter was shipped in firkins, each one holding nine gallons. In the first nine months of 1847, 56,557 firkins were exported from Ireland to Bristol, and 34,852 firkins were shipped to Liverpool. That works out to be 822,681 gallons of butter exported to England from Ireland during nine months of the worst year of "famine".
If the other three months of exports were at all comparable, then we can safely assume that a million gallons of butter left Ireland while 400,000 Irish people starved to death!
Dr. Kinealy's research proves beyond a reasonable doubt that there was sufficient food in Ireland to prevent mass starvation, and that the food was brought through the worst famine-stricken areas on its way to England. British regiments guarded the ports and warehouses in Ireland to guarantee absentee landlords and commodity speculators their "free market" profits.
When Ireland experienced an earlier famine in
1782-83, ports were closed in order to keep home grown food for domestic
consumption. Food prices were immediately reduced within Ireland. The merchants
lobbied against such efforts, but their protests were over-ridden. Everyone
recognised that the interests of the merchants and the distressed people were
irreconcilable. In the Great Famine, that recognition was disregarded.
Now read the poetry of famine.
Readers should note that the above is mostly extracted from educational websites produced by countries bound by law to teach "genocide studies". History is often more opinion than science. While most historians agree that between 1845 and 1850, one million Irish starved to death, the question of whether Ireland was a net exporter of food is contested. Ed.