Tony Blair's Response To The Great Famine

1886 Words 8 Pages
While the Great famine could not have happened without the failure of the potato crop – something beyond the control of the British Government- their subsequent response, or there lack of, to the crisis greatly contributed to the devastation caused by the blight. As evidenced by Tony Blair’s 1997 apology to the Irish people, the British Government’s policies during the Great Famine toward a country it was, on paper at least, in union with, were unforgivable. Although the Conservative government under Peel’s response early on in the famine could be described as somewhat adequate, this did not continue under the incoming Whig Government led by John Russel. Their laisse faire policies meant a refusal to interfere with market forces, letting precious …show more content…
Examining these government policies, it is hard to disagree with John Mitchel’s assertion that ‘‘the Almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight, but the English created the Famine.’
When the potato blight first appeared during 1845, Robert Peel’s Tory government reacted slowly and with a low intervention ideology that hampered relief. There was an enduring, but unsubstantiated belief that ‘there is such a tendency to exaggeration and inaccuracy in Irish reports that delay in acting on them is always desirable.’ After the report of the Scientific Commission indicated that if anything reports of the blight underestimated its effect, the Government began to bring aid measures into effect. The Government saw the blight as an opportunity to reform both the Irish people and free trade and allowed these ideals to direct policy. The Corn Laws were repealed and £100,000 worth of corn was
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Labourers were made to work from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. and were docked one quarter of the day’s pay if they were late. On top of this, wages paid were ‘hardly sufficient to keep the body and soul together’ with many labouring poor not able to afford the artificially inflated food prices. Due to the increased interference by the Treasury in the running of these works, pay was often late, sometimes resulting in death for the worker who could not afford food. One such worker, Dennis McKennedy, was owed two weeks wages when he died in the winter from starvation. The fixed wages, which were set at slightly below the average income – making it impossible for many families to afford adequate food to sustain themselves, were replaced by the wages set by task payment. In theory, it would incentivise workers to increase their productivity as it had the potential to provide much more income than a set wage. The reality was very different. Labour on the public works was gruelling and physically intense with workers having to dig and move earth and stones. Many workers, weakened by hunger and affected by the unusually harsh winter of 1847 (having sold their coats long before) simply succumbed to the exhaustion and fever caused by cold and died in their thousands. The inability to work

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