Gobbet Commentary 2

Topics: Famine, Ireland, International trade, Great Famine, Export, Cereal / Pages: 2 (486 words) / Published: Nov 17th, 2014
Gobbet Commentary: Great Famine

Undoubtedly known as the largest catastrophe in Irish History, The Great Famine has consequently become one of the most written about periods in Irish History. Much of the debate focuses on the lack of support from British Parliament to fund and implement government emergency programs to save Ireland from starvation and from the exodus of its citizens. Cormac Ó Gradá’s Statistical Tables From the Great Irish Famines provides empirical evidence that not only illustrates the political, economic, and social climate at the time but, also illustrates the consequences of the political and economic policy changes made during the Famine. In Table 2.3, Ó Gradá tracks grain exports and imports from 1844-1848 and immediately illustrates the famine induced need for a new food source as exports are cut by roughly two fifths and imports are increased roughly seven fold from 1845-46. While this seven fold increase in grain imports is due to the need to supplement the losses due to the failure of the potato, it also starts to show the fiscal relief provided by the passing of Peel’s act to repeal the Corn Laws. This vast reduction of tariffs on imported grains also made the government transition from public works based relief to food-aid based relief in 1847 more affordable. The consequence of the newly implemented Soup Kitchen Act is reflected in the table, which shows that 889,000 tons of grains were imported in 1847. This nearly 32-fold increase from the import levels at the start of the famine finally shows drastic measures of relief being implemented by parliament. However, while there were huge increases in imports in 1847, Ireland was still exporting 146,000 tons of grains. While some of the profits from these exports were being used to finance cheaper imports, this was primarily an attempt by the farmers to try to keep trade routes open. However, farmers who were willing to export their grains from a starving Ireland infuriated

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