An Gorta Mór

In Ireland, the Great Famine was a period of mass starvation, disease and emigration between 1845 and 1852. It is also known, mostly outside of Ireland, as the Irish Potato Famine. In the Irish language it is called ‘An Gorta Mór‘ (The Great Hunger) or ‘An Drochshaol’ (The Bad Times). During the Famine, Ireland’s population fell by between 20 and 25 percent. Approximately one million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland. The proximate cause of famine was a plant disease commonly known as potato blight. The blight ravanged much of Europe but hit Ireland particularly hard due to a number of political, social and economic factors which remain the subject of historical debate.

For example, views of the Irish as racially inferior, and for this reason significantly responsible for their circumstances, gained purchase in Great Britain during and immediately after the famine. Discussion of the British government’s response to the failure of the potato crop in Ireland and the subsequent large-scale starvation, and whether or not this constituted genocide, remains a politically-charged issue in Ireland.

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