Ireland – 1847! An ancient people, language, land and culture are mortally wounded. One quarter of an entire population is in the process of disappearing – from hunger, disease and emigration. The potato blight is but the detonator for a time bomb which has its roots in centuries of an often brutal and racist colonial process.
People are dying in the midst of abundance. Only one crop fails – the potato – the staple diet of the poor. Fundamentalist religious, political and economic beliefs conspire to absolve the powerful and blame the weak.
Today! What has changed? Our painful and often traumatic history charges us with a grave responsibility to challenge such lofty lies – especially the lie of ‘Famine’.
‘Famine’, it must be understood, is but the tip of an iceberg which acutely exposes an appalling mass of human suffering and misery, caused by the denial of basic and fundamental human rights.
‘Famine’ is rarely the result of an isolated natural disaster, such as crop failure. Human relationships, expressed through unjust political, economic and social policies, result in the vast majority of humanity being forced to live on the edge of death. In such circumstances, nature simply conspires to push the poor and vulnerable over the precipice.
While humanitarian relief is an often urgent and necessary concern, the long–term causes of ‘famine’ can only be eradicated through justice and the protection of human rights. This fact is as relevant today in Asia, Africa and Latin America, as it was in Ireland 150 years ago.
The author, Don Mullan, is one of Ireland’s leading campaigners for human rights