Transcript: Liam Kennedy on Cry Holocaust | Mar 19, 2005

Liam stands behind the podium. He is in his fifties and has short brown hair is
slightly balding and wears a black jacket, deep red tie, and blue and grey striped shirt.

Liam says THE MOST
TRAUMATIC EVENT OF MODERN IRISH
HISTORY IS UNDOUBTEDLY THE GREAT
FAMINE OF THE MID 19th CENTURY.
LESS THAN A DECADE AGO, WE
COMMEMORATED BLACK '47, THE
WORST YEAR OF THE PROLONGED
CRISIS.
BY THE END OF THAT YEAR, THE
BRITISH GOVERNMENT WAS
EFFECTIVELY TURNING ITS BACK,
FINANCIALLY, ON THE STARVING
PEOPLE IN THE MOST WESTERLY
PROVINCE OF THE UNITED KINGDOM.
THE FAMINE WAS TO RUN FOR A
FURTHER TWO OR THREE YEARS,
MAKING IT ONE OF THE LONGEST-
RUNNING FAMINES IN EUROPEAN
HISTORY.
BEFORE IT HAD RUN ITS AWFUL
COURSE, MORE THAN ONE MILLION
PEOPLE HAD PERISHED OF HUNGER OR
HUNGER-RELATED DISEASES.
VIEWED GLOBALLY, AS DAVID WILSON
HAS SAID, IT WAS ONE OF THE
WORST FAMINES OF MODERN TIMES.
FOR THE JEWISH PEOPLES OF
EUROPE, THEIR DARKEST HOUR
BELONGS TO LIVING MEMORY.
THE MASS DESTRUCTION OF SOME SIX
MILLION JEWS IN THE MID 20th
CENTURY AT THE HANDS OF THE
GERMAN NAZIS.
CAN WE SOMEHOW ASSOCIATE THESE
TWO SEARING EPISODES IN THE LIFE
HISTORIES OF THESE TWO PEOPLES?
IN A SENSE, THE QUESTION IS
REDUNDANT, IT'S ALREADY BEEN
DONE.

A caption reads "Liam Kennedy. Queen’s University, Belfast. Cry Holocaust:
The Great Irish Famine and the Jewish Holocaust."

Liam says JAMES PIUS
SWEENEY OF NEW YORK, WRITING IN
THE IRISH-AMERICAN PAPER
THEIRISH ECHO, WHILE
ACKNOWLEDGING THAT THERE ARE
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE FAMINE
AND THE HOLOCAUST, WENT ON TO
ARGUE, AND I QUOTE, THE GENOCIDE
OF THE HOLOCAUST WAS REMARKABLE
BECAUSE OF THE MACABRE
EFFICIENCY OF FREIGHT CARS,
CAMPS AND GAS HOUSES.
THE GENOCIDE OF THE GREAT FAMINE
IS DISTINCT IN THE FACT THAT THE
BRITISH CREATED THE CONDITIONS
OF DIRE HOPELESSNESS AND
DESPERATE DEPENDENCE ON THE
POTATO CROP THROUGH A SERIES OF
SADISTIC, DEBASING, PREMEDITATED
AND BARBAROUS PENAL LAWS, WHICH
DELIBERATELY AND SYSTEMATICALLY
STRIPPED THE IRISH OF EVEN THE
LEAST SEMBLANCE OF BASIC HUMAN
FREEDOM.WHEN BLIGHT
STRUCK, THE IRISH WERE TOTALLY
VULNERABLE.
THIS WAS, HE SAYS, A NUANCED
GENOCIDE, ONE THAT MANIPULATED
FATE BY PUSHING A PEOPLE TO THE,
THE BRINK OF ANNIHILATION AND
TURNING AWAY SO AS NOT TO HEAR
THE WAILING.
PUT BRIEFLY AND MORE BLUNTLY,
PROFESSORS CHARLES RICE AND
FRANCIS BOYLE BELIEVE THE
POLICIES PURSUED BY THE BRITISH
GOVERNMENT FROM 1845 TO '50 IN
IRELAND CONSTITUTED GENOCIDE.
HISTORY TEACHES US THE GREAT
IRISH HUNGER WAS NOT THE RESULT
OF THE MASSIVE FAILURE OF THE
IRISH POTATO CROP, BUT RATHER
WAS THE RESULT OF A DELIBERATE
CAMPAIGN BY THE BRITISH TO DENY
THE IRISH PEOPLE THE FOODS THEY
NEEDED TO SURVIVE.
BOB SCALLY, IN HIS ELEGANTLY
CRAFTED WORK,THE END OF
HIDDEN ISLAND, WHEN
DISCUSSING THE HUNGER-STRICKEN
EXODUS OF PEOPLE FROM THE
ISLAND, SPEAKS OF, AND I QUOTE,
"THE ODOUR OF RACIAL HATRED
SURROUNDING THE EMIGRANTS'
TREATMENT.
IT BEARS MORE RESEMBLANCE TO THE
SLAVE TRADE OR THE BOX CARS OF
THE HOLOCAUST THAN TO THE
ROUTINE CROSSINGS OF EARLIER
AGES."
HOWEVER, WHAT'S STRIKING IN
THESE CONTROVERSIES IS THAT
WHILE THE FAMINE-HOLOCAUST
CONNECTION IS MADE AND OF
COURSE, IS A FAIRLY RECENT SET
OF COMPARISONS, THE NATURE OF
THE PARALLELS IS RARELY SPELLED
OUT IN DETAIL, SO I THOUGHT IT
WOULD BE USEFUL TO PERHAPS TRACE
SOME OF THESE POSSIBLE LINES OF
COMPARISON IN A BIT MORE DETAIL.
NOW I THINK WE PROBABLY ALL
AGREE IMMEDIATELY THAT, IN
PRINCIPAL, THERE'S NO END TO THE,
THE NUMBER OF COMPARISONS ONE
MIGHT RUN IN TERMS OF THE TWO
CATASTROPHES, SO I'VE SIMPLY
SELECTED A FEW THAT SEEM
ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT.
LET'S LOOK AT THE ATTITUDE OF
THE STATE TO THE IRISH PEOPLE OR
PEOPLES IN THE LEAD-UP TO THE
FAMINE AND COMPARE THAT WITH
THE, THE ATTITUDE OF THE NAZI
STATE TO GERMANS WHO HAPPEN TO
BE JEWS IN THE DECADE OR SO
BEFORE THE FINAL SOLUTION AND I
THINK YOU'LL APPRECIATE THESE
SKETCHES ARE, OF NECESSITY,
GREATLY COMPRESSED.
IRISH CATHOLICS, AND TO A LESSER
EXTENT, IRISH PRESBYTERIANS, HAD
EXPERIENCED DISCRIMINATION
DURING THE 18th CENTURY.
BUT THE MOST SEVERE
MANIFESTATIONS OF THIS WERE WELL
IN THE PAST BY THE 1840s.
INDEED, THE DRUMMOND
ADMINISTRATION OF 1835-40,
OPERATING OUT OF DUBLIN CASTLE,
MARKED A MAJOR DRIVE TO CURB THE
POWERS OF LANDLORD AND ORANGE
INFLUENCE IN LOCAL
ADMINISTRATION, THE JUDICIARY
AND CONTROL OF POLICING.
THOUGH THE PACE OF REFORM
SLACKENED WITH THE UNTIMELY
DEATH OF THOMAS DRUMMOND IN
1840, THESE GAINS WERE NOT
REVERSED.
SO THE, THE FUNDAMENTAL IRISH
QUESTION IN THE DECADE BEFORE
THE FAMINE, AND THIS NEEDS
EMPHASISING, WAS POVERTY, IT WAS
NOT THE STATUS OF IRISH
CATHOLICS WITHIN THE BRITISH
STATE.
IN THE DECADE BEFORE THE
HOLOCAUST, THE GERMAN STATE,
UNDER NAZI CONTROL FROM 1933,
MOVED BEYOND DISCRIMINATING
AGAINST JEWS TO ACTIVE
PERSECUTION, A PROCESS THAT IN
LESS THAN A DECADE WOULD RESULT
IN THEIR LIQUIDATION.
THE NAZI ACCESSION TO POWER WAS
FOLLOWED BY A NATION-WIDE
BOYCOTT OF JEWISH BUSINESSES ON
APRIL 1, 1933, WAS FOLLOWED A
FEW DAYS LATER BY MASS
EXPULSIONS FROM THE CIVIL
SERVICE ON THE GROUNDS OF RACE,
IN THE NAME OF PURIFYING THE
STATE.UNLIKE THE
IRISH CASE, THE STATE
ORCHESTRATED A CLIMATE OF FEAR
AND REPRESSION.
VERBAL ASSAULTS, PHYSICAL
ATTACKS, PUBLIC HUMILIATION
BECAME AN ALL TOO NORMAL
OCCURRENCE.
IN EFFECT, THE NEW REGIME
PORTRAYED JEWS AS A LEPROUS,
PARASITIC ELEMENT WITHIN GERMAN
SOCIETY, THE ENEMY WITHIN, AN
EVIL, MALIGNANT AND IMPLACABLE
FORCE, WHICH HAD TO BE ELIMINATED
AT ALL COSTS. THE NUREMBERG
LAWS OF SEPTEMBER, 1935,
STRIPPED JEWS OF THEIR
CITIZENSHIP AND MADE SEXUAL
RELATIONS WITH NON-JEWS ILLEGAL.
THE GROTESQUELY TITLED "LAW FOR
THE PROTECTION OF GERMAN BLOOD
AND GERMAN HONOUR."
THE PERSECUTION OF A HELPLESS
AND PASSIVE MINORITY WAS TAKEN A
STAGE FURTHER ON THE NINTH AND
TENTH OF NOVEMBER, 1938,
KRISTALLNACHT, CRYSTAL
NIGHT, WITH MASS ATTACKS ON
JEWISH HOMES, BUSINESSES AND
SYNAGOGUES.
IN LESS THAN A YEAR, EUROPE WAS
AT WAR AND THE SKIES DARKENED
FURTHER FOR THE INFERIOR RACES
OF CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
AND THE NAZI -- AS THE NAZI WAR
MACHINE ROLLED EASTWARDS.
ONE CAN INDEED SPEAK OF
RACIALIST ATTITUDES TOWARDS THE
IRISH, PARTICULARLY THE CATHOLIC
IRISH, AT ALL LEVELS OF BRITISH
AND AMERICAN SOCIETY IN THE MID
19th CENTURY.
THE LAMPOONING OF IRISH PEOPLE
IN PERIODICALS AS BRUTISH
CREATURES AND AS DEVIOUS,
DEVIANT, AND VIOLENT.
THESE IMAGES SOMETIMES
OVERLAPPED WITH HOSTILE
REPRESENTATIONS OF THE WORKING
CLASSES, ENGLISH, SCOTTISH,
WELSH, IRISH, IN VICTORIAN
BRITAIN.
AND I THINK WE HAVE TO ADMIT
THAT SECTARIAN AND XENOPHOBIC
IMAGES WERE ALSO PRESENT WITHIN
IRISH SOCIETY, FINDING THEIR
EXPRESSION IN TAUNT, RIOT OR
BROADSHEETS BALLAD, RATHER THAN
THE PRINT MEDIUM.
IN ANY CASE, THESE IMAGES AND
COUNTER-IMAGES BEAR LITTLE
RESEMBLANCE TO THE ANTI-SEMITISM
COURSING THROUGH GERMANY IN THE
INTERWAR YEARS AND GIVEN STEELY
EXPRESSION BY PUNITIVE
LEGISLATION AND TO THE
ACTIVITIES OF PARAMILITARY
STREET GANGS.
I NOW WANT TO GO ON TO FOCUS ON
THE, THE PERIODS OF CATASTROPHE
THEMSELVES, THE, THE SECOND
POINT ON THE AGENDA.
ARE THERE SOME PARALLEL
EXPERIENCES WE CAN IDENTIFY?
PERHAPS THE, THE CONGREGATING OF
PEOPLE INTO WORKHOUSES IN
IRELAND DURING THE FAMINE, THE
CONCENTRATION OF JEWS IN GHETTOS
DURING THE EARLY YEARS OF WORLD
WAR II BEAR SOME COMPARISON.
LET ME GIVE YOU TWO
REPRESENTATIVE ILLUSTRATIONS.
JAMES HACK TUKE, ON A
HUMANITARIAN MISSION TO DONEGAL,
ONE OF THE NORTHERN -- THE
NORTHERNMOST COUNTY IN IRELAND
IN THE WINTER OF 1846 FOUND THE
INMATES OF THE GLENTIES
WORKHOUSE HALF STARVED AND HALF
NAKED AND I QUOTE, THE DAY
BEFORE, THEY HAD BUT ONE MEAL OF
OATMEAL AND WATER AND AT THE
TIME OF OUR VISIT, HAD NOT
SUFFICIENT FOOD IN THE HOUSE FOR
THE DAY'S SUPPLY.
THEIR BEDDING CONSISTED OF DIRTY
STRAW, IN WHICH THERE WERE LAID,
IN ROWS ON THE FLOOR, EVEN AS
MANY AS SIX PERSONS BEING
CROWDED UNDER ONE RUG AND WE DID
NOT SEE A BLANKET AT ALL.
THE ROOMS WERE HARDLY BEARABLE
FOR FILTH.
THE LIVING AND THE DYING WERE
STRETCHED SIDE BY SIDE BENEATH
THE SAME MISERABLE COVERING.
NO WONDER THAT DISEASE AND
PESTILENCE WERE FILLING THE
INFIRMARY.
DESCRIPTIONS OF LIFE IN THE
POLISH GHETTOS A CENTURY LATER
CONTAIN ACCOUNTS OF MATERIAL
DEPRIVATION, OF HUNGER AND
DISEASE.
BUT ATTITUDES TO THE INMATES,
EVEN BEFORE THE FINAL SOLUTION,
WERE DIFFERENT.
AS ONE GERMAN OFFICIAL PUT IT IN
NOVEMBER, 1940, A RAPID DYING-
OUT OF THE JEWS IS, IS FOR US, A
MATTER OF TOTAL INDIFFERENCE, IF
NOT TO SAY DESIRABLE, AS LONG AS
THE CONCOMITANT EFFECTS LEAVE
THE PUBLIC INTEREST OF THE
GERMAN PEOPLE UNTOUCHED.
ONCE THE GHETTOS HAD BEEN SEALED
OFF FROM THE SURROUNDING
SOCIETY, THE PENALTY FOR LEAVING
WAS DEATH.
DEATH OR, OR MASS MORTALITY IS
THE THIRD THEME I WANT TO
EXPLORE.
DEATH IS A DEMOCRACY, IT MIGHT
BE OBJECTED, ALL VICTIMS ARE
EQUAL AND HENCE COMPARISONS ARE
LIKELY TO BE UNREVEALING.
I'M NOT SO SURE.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING
DEATH DIFFERENTIATE ONE TYPE OF
TRAGIC EVENT FROM ANOTHER.
THE CORK EXAMINER IN LATE 1846
DESCRIBES THE SCENES OF CHAOS
AND DESPAIR IN SKIBBEREEN, A
PARISH IN SOUTHWEST CORK.
DISEASE AND
DEATH IN EVERY QUARTER, THE ONCE
HARDY POPULATION WORN AWAY TO
EMACIATED SKELETONS, FEVER,
DROPSY, DIARRHOEA AND FAMINE
RIOTING IN EVERY FILTHY HOVEL
AND SWEEPING AWAY WHOLE
FAMILIES.
HUNDREDS FRANTICALLY RUSHING
FROM THEIR HOME AND COUNTRY.
A WHOLE VILLAGE
IN THE LAST STAGE OF
DESTITUTION, RELIEF COMMITTEES
THREATENING TO THROW UP THEIR
MOCKERY OF AN OFFICE IN UTTER
DESPAIR.
THE DEAD BODIES OF CHILDREN
FLUNG INTO HOLES HASTILY
SCRATCHED IN THE EARTH, WITHOUT
SHROUD OR COFFIN.
WIVES TRAVELLING TEN MILES TO
BEG THE CHARITY OF A COFFIN FOR
A DEAD HUSBAND, AND BEARING IT
BACK THAT WEARY DISTANCE.
EVERY FIELD BECOMING A GRAVE,
AND THE LAND A WILDERNESS.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF DEATH FOR
JEWS WERE DIFFERENT.
MANY DIED OF HUNGER, DISEASE,
ILL TREATMENT AND EXHAUSTION
DURING THE VAST RESETTLEMENT
SCHEMES AND IN THE GHETTOS, ON
THE DEATH MARCHES AND ON THE
TRAINS TAKING THEM TO THE
EXTERMINATION CAMPS.
BUT MANY, PERHAPS MOST, IN THE
CASE OF POLAND, WERE KILLED
DIRECTLY BY SHOOTING OR GASSING.
CHRISTOPHER BROWNING, IN
THE PATH TO GENOCIDE,
DESCRIBES THE WORK OF ONE
KILLING UNIT USED IN GHETTO
CLEANING.
THE DATE WAS THE 12th OF JULY,
WHICH HAS A DIFFERENT RESONANCE
IN NORTHERN IRELAND, THE PLACE
WAS A POLISH VILLAGE NEAR
LUBLIN.
THE GERMAN POLICE RESERVE UNIT
INVOLVED WAS ORDERED TO SURROUND
THE VILLAGE OF ABOUT 1800
INHABITANTS AND ASSEMBLE THEM IN
THE MARKETPLACE.
ALL WHO RESISTED OR THOSE TOO
WEAK TO WALK WERE TO BE SHOT
INSTANTLY.
HEALTHY YOUNG MEN WERE TO BE
HELD IN THE SQUARE AND LATER
TAKEN TO SLAVE LABOUR CAMPS.
THE REMAINDER WERE FERRIED IN
RELAYS TO THE FOREST NEARBY.
EACH BATCH OF JEWS, MEN, WOMEN
AND CHILDREN, WAS FORCED TO LIE
DOWN IN, IN ROWS.
THE POLICEMEN THEN FIRED THEIR
CARBONS AT POINT-BLANK RANGE
INTO THE NECKS OF THEIR VICTIMS.
SOMETIMES THROUGH NERVOUSNESS OR
DISGUST, THEY MISSED.
ONE AIMED TOO HIGH, SHOOTING OFF
THE TOP OF HIS VICTIM'S HEAD,
SPLATTERING BRAINS INTO THE FACE
OF HIS SERGEANT.
SOME OTHERS ASKED TO BE ASSIGNED
TO OTHER DUTIES, SUCH AS
GUARDING THOSE IN THE SQUARE.
WHEN THE FIRST SALVO WAS HEARD
FROM THE WOODS, A TERRIBLE CRY
SWEPT THE MARKETPLACE, AS THE
COLLECTED JEWS NOW KNEW THEIR
FATE.
THEREAFTER, HOWEVER, A QUIET,
INDEED UNBELIEVABLE QUIET,
SETTLED OVER THE JEWS.
THE KILLINGS WENT ON THROUGH THE
DAY.
NOW THAT'S JUST ONE DETAIL FROM
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE EUROPEAN
JEWS AND THE LETHAL HATREDS THAT
SHAPED THEIR FATE.
LET'S THINK ABOUT MORTALITY.
WHAT OF THE SCALE OF MASS
MORTALITY AND ITS RELATIVE
INTENSITY IN THE TWO EPISODES?
WELL, THE, THE GREAT FAMINE OF
THE 1840s CLAIMED ABOUT 1.1, 1.2
MILLION MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN.
AND THOSE ARE EXCESS DEATHS, NOT
TOTAL DEATHS.
I MEAN, IT'S A SAD FACT THAT,
INESCAPABLE FACT THAT PEOPLE GO
ON DYING ALL THE TIME, SO BY
EXCESS DEATHS, I MEAN THOSE
DYING OF, EXCLUSIVELY OF FAMINE
OR FAMINE-RELATED CAUSES.
THIS MOUNTAIN OF MORTALITY, OF
MORE THAN A MILLION DEAD, IS THE
EQUIVALENT OF ONE IN SEVEN OR
ONE IN EIGHT OF THE POPULATION
AND IN PROPORTIONAL TERMS, MAKES
THE GREAT FAMINE OF THE 1840s
COMPARABLE WITH THE LARGELY
FORGOTTEN FAMINE OF 1740-41.
AND I'D ADD FURTHER THAT A DEATH
TOLL OF ONE IN SEVEN OR ONE IN
EIGHT MARKS THE IRISH FAMINE OF
THE 1840s AS ONE OF THE MOST
SEVERE IN THE HISTORY OF FAMINES
INTERNATIONALLY.
IF YOU THINK OF CONTEMPORARY
THIRD WORLD FAMINES, HOWEVER
TERRIBLE, EVEN THE TSUNAMI
DISASTER OF RECENT TIMES, WE
DON'T, WE DON'T NEARLY APPROACH
THIS DEGREE OF DEATH.
AND THAT DEATH TOLL VARIED
GREATLY BY REGION, BY SOCIAL
CLASS AND TO SOME EXTENT, BY AGE
AND GENDER. AND WE MAY USE
THESE CATEGORIES TO PURSUE SOME
MORE DETAILED COMPARISONS
BETWEEN THE TWO CATASTROPHES.
SO BEGINNING WITH THE, THE
REGIONAL DIMENSIONS OF THE
FAMINE, AS IS WELL KNOWN, THE
GREATEST CONCENTRATION WAS IN
THE WEST OF IRELAND.THE FAR WEST,
WHERE AN IMPOVERISHED PEASANTRY
SCRAPED A LIVING FROM THE
BEAUTIFUL BUT BARREN LANDS OF
WEST CONNAUGHT AND WEST MUNSTER.
IN TERMS OF THOSE MOST LIKELY TO
DIE, IT WAS THE CARTIERS, BREWER
LABOURERS AND TOWN LABOURERS WHO
SUFFERED MOST.
SO THE, THE IMPACT OF THE, THE
GREAT FAMINE WAS HIGHLY
SELECTIVE IN TERMS OF SOCIAL
CLASS.
IN GENDER TERMS, AND PERHAPS
THIS WILL SURPRISE SOME, THE
CHANCES OF SURVIVAL WERE
SLIGHTLY GREATER IF YOU WERE
FEMALE RATHER THAN MALE.
WHETHER THAT WAS DUE TO
BIOLOGICAL FACTORS, CULTURAL
FACTORS, OR INDEED A COMBINATION
OF THE TWO IS NOT ALTOGETHER
CLEAR.
THERE WAS ALSO, AS YOU MIGHT
EXPECT, AN AGE PROFILE TO THE
VICTIMS, WITH THE OLD BEING
PARTICULARLY VULNERABLE TO
FAMINE CONDITIONS.
HOW DOES ALL THIS COMPARE WITH
THE HOLOCAUST?
WELL, IN ABSOLUTE TERMS, THE
NUMBERS DYING UNNATURALLY DURING
THE NAZI ERA WAS HIGHER.
IN THE REGION OF SIX MILLIONS.
IN PROPORTIONAL TERMS, RELATIVE
TO POPULATION, THAT IS, THE
STORY IS INCOMPARABLY BLEAK.
THE KILLING RATE WAS THE ORDER
OF 80 TO 90 PERCENT IN MANY EUROPEAN
COUNTRIES.
IN SOME VILLAGES, IT WAS 100 PERCENT .
IN BELZEC IN THE SOUTH OF
POLAND, WHERE 60,000 WERE
EXTERMINATED BETWEEN MAY 1942
AND AUGUST 1943, THERE WERE ONLY
TWO KNOWN SURVIVORS.
IN POLAND, OF SOME THREE MILLION
JEWS, FEWER THAN ONE IN TEN
SURVIVED.
THIS WAS INDUSTRIALISED SADISM
AND, AND MURDER, A BASTARD
PROGENY OF THE INDUSTRIAL
REVOLUTION, YOU MIGHT SAY.
AND CONDUCTED WITH AN EFFICIENCY
THE WORLD HAD NEVER KNOWN.
BUT LEST THERE BE SOME
MISUNDERSTANDING, LET ME INSERT
A QUALIFICATION HERE.
THERE'S NOTHING IN THE LOGIC OF
INDUSTRIALISM, NOR MORE
GENERALLY IN THE TECHNOLOGIC
MASTERY OF NATURE THAT LEADS
INEVITABILITY TO THE PERVERTED
OUTCOMES WITNESSED UNDER THE
THIRD REICH.
NEITHER IS INDUSTRIALISM A
NECESSARY CONDITION FOR MASS
SLAUGHTER, AS THE LOW-TECH
KILLINGS OF TUTSIS BY THE
MAJORITY HUTU PEOPLES IN RWANDA
IN MORE RECENT TIMES REMIND US.
TURNING TO THE HOLOCAUST, WE
COULD LOOK AT MORTALITY DURING
THE HOLOCAUST IN TERMS OF THE
SAME CATEGORIES WE DEPLOYED FOR
THE IRISH FAMINE, THOSE OF
REGION, SOCIAL CLASS AND GENDER.
THERE ARE REGIONAL DIMENSIONS TO
THE HOLOCAUST AND TEMPORAL
VARIATIONS IN ITS INCIDENCE.
BUT I'M NOT SURE THAT THOSE
PERSPECTIVES TAKE US VERY FAR.
WHILE IT'S TRUE THAT DEATH RATES
VARIED ACROSS EUROPE,
NONETHELESS, IN ALL GERMAN-
OCCUPIED AREAS, THE END OF
POLICY WAS THE FINAL SOLUTION.
THE END WAS THE DESTRUCTION OF
THE EUROPEAN JEWRY.
CONSEQUENTLY, DEATH RATES
APPROACH SATURATION POINT WHERE
THERE WAS GERMAN OCCUPATION, AT
LEAST OF ANY PROLONGED TIME.
NEITHER, I THINK, DOES IT MAKE
MUCH SENSE TO SPEAK OF AGE,
GENDER OR OCCUPATIONAL FACTORS
IN SHAPING OVERALL DEATH RATES.
IT IS TRUE THAT THOSE CHOSEN FOR
SLAVE LABOUR WERE SELECTED ON
THE BASE OF AGE, GENDER AND
SPECIAL SKILLS AND THOSE FACTORS
COULD PROVE VITAL TO THE
SURVIVAL OF INDIVIDUALS AND
SMALL GROUPS OF, OF SURVIVORS.
I WANT TO NOW MOVE TO WHAT I
REGARD AS THE HEART OF THE
MATTER, THE QUESTION OF
INTENTIONALITY.
THE UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON
GENOCIDE STATES, GENOCIDES
MEANS, GENOCIDE MEANS ANY OF THE
FOLLOWING ACTS, COMMITTED WITH
INTENT TO DESTROY, IN WHOLE OR
IN PART, A NATIONAL, ETHNICAL,
RACIAL OR RELIGIOUS GROUP.
IT THEN GOES ON TO SPECIFY
VARIOUS ACTS, INCLUDING KILLING
MEMBERS OF THE GROUP, CAUSING
SERIOUS BODILY OR MENTAL HARM TO
MEMBERS OF THE GROUP,
DELIBERATELY INFLICTING ON THE
GROUP CONDITIONS OF LIFE
CALCULATED TO BRING ABOUT ITS
PHYSICAL DESTRUCTION.
THE CRUELTY, OFTEN WANTON
CRUELTY, WHICH ATTACHED TO THE
TREATMENT OF JEWS HAD VIRTUALLY
NO PARALLELS IN THE IRISH CASE.
WE KNOW MUCH, FOR INSTANCE,
ABOUT THE INEFFECTUAL ROLE OF
MEDICINE DURING THE GREAT FAMINE
AND THIS IS DESPITE THE ZEAL OF
MANY IRISH DOCTORS, BUT NO ONE
HAS UNCOVERED CASES OF, FOR
EXAMPLE, MEDICAL EXPERIMENTS AT
THE EXPENSE OF FAMINE VICTIMS.
TRUE ENOUGH, EVICTIONS WERE
HEARTLESS AFFAIRS AND ON A
MASSIVE SCALE, BUT EVEN IN THESE
CASES, THERE WAS THE ASSUMPTION
THAT ALTERNATIVES, HOWEVER
BLEAK, EXISTED.INTENTIONALITY
IS RELEVANT TO THE QUESTION OF
RESPONSIBILITY, A QUESTION
INEXTRICABLY BOUND OF WITH THE
POLITICS OF MEMORY.
JOHN MITCHELL, THE FIERY YOUNG
IRELANDER WAS IN NO DOUBT.
DO WE ACCEPT
MITCHELL'S VERDICT, WHICH
WHISTLES LIKE A BULLET THROUGH
IRISH POPULAR MEMORY?
THE ALMIGHTY INDEED SENT THE
POTATO BLIGHT, BUT THE ENGLISH
CREATED THE FAMINE.
I'VE SOMETIMES FELT THE ALMIGHTY
GETS OFF RATHER LIGHTLY IN THIS
PARTICULAR FORMULATION, BUT NO
MATTER.
MITCHELL MAKES A USEFUL
DISTINCTION, ALBEIT IMPLICITLY,
BETWEEN CAUSATION AND
RESPONSIBILITY.
THE FAMINE, IT WAS AN ECOLOGICAL
DISASTER, BUT IT WASN'T SIMPLY
THAT.
I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO
DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THREE
DISTINCT NOTIONS, CAUSATION,
RESPONSIBILITY AND BLAME.
AND TO THE BAR OF HISTORY, WE
MIGHT WANT TO CALL TO ACCOUNT
NOT ONLY LORD JOHN RUSSELL, THE
BRITISH PRIME MINISTER DURING
MOST OF THE FAMINE AND HIS WHIG
ADMINISTRATION, BUT A HOST OF
OTHER HISTORICAL ACTORS, AS
WELL, FROM LANDLORDS TO YOUNG
IRELANDERS AND THE STRONG
FARMERS AND MERCHANTS OF EASTERN
IRELAND... THAT'S ANOTHER STORY,
AS THEY SAY, BUT TO NARROW THE
FOCUS SIMPLY TO THE ROLE OF THE
BRITISH GOVERNMENT, JUST FOR A
MOMENT.
FOR ALL THE MASSIVE
IRRESPONSIBILITY AND BUCK-
PASSING THAT CHARACTERISED FIVE
YEARS OF THE CRISIS, THE STATE
SUCCEEDED IN ORGANISING PUBLIC
RELIEF SCHEMES THAT EMPLOYED
THREE QUARTERS OF A MILLION
WORKERS, AND, AT ONE POINT, WAS
RESPONSIBLE FOR FEEDING THREE
MILLION PEOPLE ON A DAILY BASIS.
THESE ARE NOT THE ACTIONS OF A
GOVERNMENT OR A STATE BENT ON
GENOCIDE.
LET'S SUMMARISE WHERE WE'VE GOT
TO.
THE BURDEN OF MY STORY SO FAR IS
THAT IT'S DIFFICULT TO FIND ANY
SIGNIFICANT PARALLELS BETWEEN
THE FAMINE AND THE HOLOCAUST,
EITHER IN TERMS OF THEIR
RESPECTIVE PREHISTORIES, OR THE
ACTUAL EVENTS THEMSELVES, OR THE
INTELLECTUAL SHOCKWAVES THEY
UNLEASHED.
PERHAPS THE HANDLING OF THESE
CATASTROPHES THROUGH TIME OFFERS
MORE FRUITFUL GROUND FOR
COMPARISON
AND I BELIEVE THAT TO BE THE
CASE. SO LET'S VENTURE INTO THAT
DIFFERENT TERRITORY IN THE
SECOND AND MERCIFULLY SHORTER
PART OF THIS LECTURE.
WHEN YOU PUT JEWISH AND IRISH
PEOPLE INTO THE SAME FRAME, ONE
SUSPECTS GUILT CAN'T BE FAR
AWAY. SHADES OF WOODY ALLEN CROSSED
WITH FRANK McCOURT OR MANHATTAN
MEETS SHANNONSIDE.
ALMOST INEVITABLY, IT WOULD
SEEM, THE HOLOCAUST AND THE
FAMINE IMPOSED BURDENS OF GUILT
ON THOSE WHO SURVIVED.
ON THE JEWISH SIDE, THERE WERE
THOSE WHO CO-OPERATED WITH THE
NAZIS IN THE MENIAL OPERATIONS
OF THE DEATH CAMPS AND LIVED,
NOT, PERHAPS, TO TELL THE TALE.
OTHERS SUCH AS HELEN LEWIS, WHO
I MENTIONED EARLIER, IN HER
MEMOIR, A TIME TO SPEAK,
COMMENTS COMPASSIONATELY OF THE
FRAILTY OF ONE OF HER FRIENDS
WHO ABANDONED HER FOR DEAD BY
THE ROADSIDE ON ONE OF THE
TERRIBLE DEATH MARCHES TOWARDS
THE END OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR.
AND THAT, OF COURSE, HAPPENED
AFTER YEARS OF INCARCERATION,
HUNGER AND TERROR.
BUT MORE NUMEROUS WERE THOSE WHO
SURVIVED THE CAMPS AND BORE AN
EXISTENTIAL GUILT SIMPLY BECAUSE
THEY SURVIVED, SURVIVED A WORLD
OF TERRIFYING AND NIHILISTIC
VIOLENCE, WHERE MOST OTHERS HAD
PERISHED.
PRIMO LEVI, THE HOLOCAUST
WITNESS, WRITER AND SCIENTIST
PUTS THIS ELOQUENTLY.
IT'S NOT THAT WE FEEL THE GUILT
THAT SHOULD BE FELT BY THE
EXECUTIONER, BUT TO SOME DEGREE,
I BELIEVE, ALL OF US, OR MOST OF
US, HAVE FELT A CERTAIN UNEASE
AT THE THOUGHT THAT SO MANY DIED
WHO WERE AT LEAST AS WORTHY AS
US, IF NOT MORE SO.
IT'S THE FEELING OF BEING ALIVE
IN SOMEONE ELSE'S STEAD.
THE LINEAMENTS OF GUILT ARE MORE
DIFFICULT TO TRACE IN RELATION
TO THE GREAT FAMINE, NOT ONLY
BECAUSE THE EXPERIENCE IS
LOCATED, IT'S BURIED DEEPER IN
TIME.
IN A SOCIETY UNHINGED BY HUNGER
AND THE SPECTRE OF DEATH, IT'S
HARDLY SURPRISING THAT SOME
FAMILY MEMBERS TURNED ON EACH
OTHER, FIGHTING OVER A MORSEL OF
FOOD OR ABANDONING A DYING
RELATIVE TO HIS OR HER FATE.
THERE ARE CASES OF NEIGHBOUR
TURNING AGAINST NEIGHBOUR, OF
AMBITIOUS OR AVARICIOUS FARMERS
AND MERCHANTS SWALLOWING UP THE
LAND VACATED BY DISPOSSESSED
SMALL HOLDERS.
CASES OF FARMERS PROSECUTING
LABOURERS FOR STEALING FOOD.
SO FOR THE SURVIVORS, NOT TO SAY
THE BENEFICIARIES OF THE FAMINE,
THERE WERE THINGS TO FEEL GUILTY
ABOUT.
IF GUILT IS A POINT OF
CONNECTION BETWEEN THE TWO
CATASTROPHES, PERHAPS THERE ARE
OTHER, SHARED PSYCHOLOGICAL
EFFECTS.
IRISH COMMUNITIES AND JEWISH
COMMUNITIES WERE TRAUMATISED BY
THE TERRIBLE EVENTS OF THE 1840s
AND THE 1940s, RESPECTIVELY.
ONE MIGHT WONDER IF INDIVIDUAL
AND COLLECTIVE TRAUMA, BORNE ON
THE WINGS OF POPULAR MEMORY,
MIGHT HAVE HAD A LONGER TERM
EFFECT OF SENSITISING A PEOPLE
TO THE SUFFERINGS OF OTHER
GROUPS, LEADING TO NEW OR
DIFFERENT PATTERNS OF SOCIAL
BEHAVIOUR.
SO THE EXPECTATION MIGHT BE THAT
OUT OF SUFFERING COME ACTS OF
EMPATHY AND REDEMPTION.
I THINK THERE ARE ACTUALLY ROUGH
PARALLELS BETWEEN THE HANDLING
OF THE HOLOCAUST BY SOME JEWISH
GROUPS AND THE HANDLING OF THE
FAMINE EXPERIENCE BY SOME
SECTIONS OF IRISH NATIONALISM.
BUT IT'S THE INVERSE IN BOTH
CASES OF THE EMPATHY HYPOTHESIS.
BUT IT WOULD BE
HARD TO ARGUE THAT
AGGRESSIVENESS WITH WHICH THE
ISRAELI STATE POLICES THE
OCCUPIED TERRITORIES BEARS
TESTAMENT TO HEIGHTENED SENSE OF
ETHNIC EMPATHY AND HISTORICAL
UNDERSTANDING.
SUSAN SONTAG IS ONLY ONE OF
THOSE VOICES FROM WITHIN WHAT
MIGHT LOOSELY BE CALLED THE
JEWISH DIASPORA WHO HAS ARGUED
IN SONOROUS PROSE FOR MORE SENSI

- FOR A MORE SENSITIVE READING
OF THE PALESTINIAN EXPERIENCE.
PRIMO LEVI,
WHOM I'VE JUST MENTIONED, WAS,
OF COURSE, ANOTHER.
AND I MUST ADD, THERE'S LITTLE
EITHER TO SUGGEST THAT
PALESTINIAN GROUPS HAVE READ
THEIR HISTORY OR HISTORIES WITH
AN EYE TO THE EMANCIPATORY
POTENTIAL OF SHARED SUFFERING
AND TRIBULATION.
IN THE IRISH CASE, WE HAVE A
REMARKABLE TEST OF THE
HYPOTHESIS LINKING SUFFERING AND
SUBSEQUENT BEHAVIOUR.
SOME OF YOU WILL HAVE SEEN THE
MARTIN SCORSESE FILM
GANGS OF NEW YORK.
THIS HEAP OF CELLULOID SLUDGE,
IF I MAY BE DISPASSIONATE FOR A
MOMENT --
[Laughter]
-- WITH A
BUDGET GREATER THAN THE G.N.P.
OF SOME AFRICAN COUNTRIES, ENDS
WITH THE IRISH AND OTHER ETHNIC
GROUPS RIOTING IN NEW YORK.
THE FILM IS EVASIVE ABOUT WHY
THE POOR CATHOLIC IRISH ARE
RIOTING AND WHO THE TARGETS OF
THEIR COMMUNAL HATRED REALLY IS.
THE HISTORICAL BACKDROP IS THE
COUNTDOWN TO THE AMERICAN CIVIL
WAR.
THESE RIOTS IN NEW YORK WERE
CONVENTIONALLY LABELLED "THE
DRAFT RIOTS."
THEY WERE, PUTTING IT MORE
BLUNTLY, RACE RIOTS.
IN AN EXPLOSION OF COMMUNAL
HATRED, THOUSANDS OF IRISH MEN
AND IRISH WOMEN TURNED ON BLACK
NEIGHBOURHOODS, LYNCHING AND
BURNING BEFORE THEM.
THIS WAS NEW YORK, 1863, MARK
THE TIME.
THIS WAS LITTLE MORE THAN A
DECADE AFTER THE IRISH FAMINE.
MOST OF THOSE RIOTERS WOULD HAVE
BEEN RECENT IMMIGRANTS.
MOST WOULD HAVE EXPERIENCED
CHILDHOOD OR ADOLESCENCE DURING
THE HORRORS OF THE VAST
STARVATION.
THESE WERE THE CHILDREN OF THE
FAMINE.
LET ME TAKE A SECOND HISTORICAL
EPISODE TO UNDERLINE THE POINT
OF NO NECESSARY RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN COMMUNAL SUFFERING AND
BROADENED HUMAN SYMPATHIES.
THIS PARTICULAR EXAMPLE LINKS
WARTIME IRELAND, THE IRISH
FAMINE AND THE HOLOCAUST.
FROM MAY 1945 ONWARDS, FOLLOWING
THE END OF WARTIME CENSORSHIP IN
IRELAND, THE IRISH NATIONAL
NEWSPAPERS BEGAN TO REVEAL
DETAILS OF THE NAZI DEATH CAMPS
IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE.
ON THE 13th OF MAY, 1945,
THE SUNDAY INDEPENDENT,
THE LARGEST CIRCULATION IRISH
NATIONAL NEWSPAPER, PUBLISHED
PHOTOGRAPHS OF CORPSES FROM THE
DEATH CAMPS AT BUCHENWALD,
NORTHAUSEN AND OHRDRUF.
TWO WEEKS LATER, EAMON DE
VALERA... THE IRISH PRIME
MINISTER, SPEAKING AT AN
ELECTION MEETING IN GALWAY, THE
WEST OF IRELAND, DEFENDED THE
WARTIME CENSORSHIP OF NEWS.
AND THEN ADDED, RATHER SOURLY,
YOU SEE MORE ATROCITY PICTURES
AND SO ON AND ARE YOU ANY THE
BETTER FOR SEEING THEM?
THE REACTION ON THE PART OF
EXTREME NATIONALISTS TO THE NEWS
OF THE EXTERMINATION CENTRES WAS
OF A MORE HOSTILE KIND.
EITHER DENIED, AN EARLY EXAMPLE
OF HOLOCAUST DENIAL, OR
DENOUNCED AS LENDING SUPPORT TO,
IN QUOTES, A SMALL ASCENDANCY
GROUP, "ASCENDANCY" BEING A CODE
WORD FOR IRISH PROTESTANTS AND
IRISH UNIONISTS.
I THINK THERE'S MORE THAN A
TOUCH OF ETHNOCENTRISM IN THESE
REACTIONS, THE AGONIES OF EUROPE
COULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO
DISTRACT, DISTRACT ATTENTION
FROM IRELAND'S HISTORIC WRONGS.
AND THEN, SEEMINGLY INEVITABLY,
THERE'S THE USE OF HISTORY IN
THE SERVICE OF THE PRESENT.
MY GOOD FRIEND, JIM DONNELLY,
FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF
WISCONSIN, SPEAKS OF THE PUBLIC
MEMORY OF THE FAMINE... REVERENT
MOMENTS I CALL THE REPRISALS OF
SELECTIVE RECOLLECTION.
FAMINE IMAGES WERE HONED INTO
POWERFUL IDEOLOGICAL WEAPONS BY
ADVANCED NATIONALISTS, TO USE
THAT QUAINT PHRASE, IN THE
DECADES AFTER THE 1840s.
DURING THE LAND WAR OF THE LATER
19th CENTURY, AS ALSO DURING THE
TROUBLES OF THE EARLY 20th
CENTURY, IMAGES OF, OF FAMINE
SUFFERING, REMEMBER SKIBBEREEN,
SUPPLIED MOTIVATIONAL ENERGIES
FOR, FOR POLITICAL RECRUITMENT,
MOBILISATION AND CONFRONTATION.
I CAN'T HELP SENSING ECHOES
ACROSS TIME AND SPACE FROM THE
ISLAND OF THE 19th AND EARLY 20t
CENTURIES WITH THE USE OF
HISTORY AND MEMORY IN THE
ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT.
OF COURSE THE MEMORY OF THE
HOLOCAUST NEEDS TO FLAME
BRIGHTLY IN THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF
THE PEOPLES OF THE WORLD, BOTH
BECAUSE OF WHAT IT WAS IN ITS
OWN HISTORICAL RIGHT AND WHAT IT
REVEALS OF HUMAN POTENTIALITIES,
FOR EVIL AS WELL AS GOOD.
I WOULDN'T WANT TO GO DOWN THE
ROAD WITH NORMAN FINKELSTEIN, A
FIERCE CRITIC OF THE USES TO
WHICH THE HOLOCAUST
SHOWS HAS BEEN PUT, BUT THERE ARE
CALMER JEWISH AND ISRAELI VOICES
WHO HAVE EXPRESSED CONCERN
REGARDING THE USES TO WHICH
MEMORIES OF THE HOLOCAUST HAVE
BEEN PUT.ONE MIGHT AT
LEAST WONDER IF IMAGES OF THE
HOLOCAUST AND THE VAST
REPRESENTATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE
THAT RECONSTITUTES AND
MEMORIALISES THAT AWFUL EVENT
HAVE ALSO BEEN EXPLOITED TO
SERVE THE INTERESTS OF ISRAELI
FOREIGN POLICY, IN SOME OF ITS
PHASES, AND THE AMBITIONS OF
ULTRA-NATIONALISTS AND RELIGIOUS
ZEALOTS.AND THAT'S
WITHIN, IT'S ONLY FAIR TO ADD,
WHAT IS STILL THE MOST OPEN AND
SECULAR SOCIETY IN THE MIDDLE
EAST.
IF THERE'S ONE OTHER SIMILARITY
BETWEEN THE TWO EPISODES AND TO
THEIR HANDLING THAT I WANT TO
HIGHLIGHT, IT'S THE TYRANNY OF
THE BIG IDEA OF ABSOLUTIST
NOTIONS OF SOCIETY, OF
TOTALISING VISIONS OF WHERE A
SOCIETY OUGHT TO BE.
ONE OF THE CRUEL ABSURDITIES OF
THE GREAT FAMINE IS THAT THE
MOST DOCTRINAIRE ECONOMISTS,
WEDDED TO NOTIONS OF FREE TRADE
AND LAISSEZ-FAIRE, HALF DRUNK ON
THE CONVICTION THAT THEY HAD
UNCOVERED THE LAWS OF NATURE
THAT GOVERN SOCIETY, THE IRONY
IS, THESE WERE NOT MISANTHROPIC
MONSTERS AND YET, THEIR
CERTAINTIES SEALED THE FATE OF
THOUSANDS, PERHAPS TENS OF
THOUSANDS OF LIVES.
THE PHILOSOPHER SIR ISAIAH
BERLIN, SPEAKING MAINLY OF
SOCIETY IN THE 20th CENTURY,
OBSERVED THAT PEOPLE'S LIVES, AS
NEVER BEFORE, HAD BEEN TORN
APART BY FANATICALLY HELD SOCIAL
AND POLITICAL DOCTRINES AND ONE
THINKS OF ACTS OF GENOCIDE
AGAINST THE, ON THE INDIANS AT
THE HANDS OF THE, OF THE TURKISH
AUTHORITIES IN 1915, COMRADE
STALIN'S DRIVE FOR THE
COLLECTIVISATION OF AGRICULTURE
IN THE SOVIET UNION IN THE EARLY
1930s, IN WHICH MILLIONS OF
RUSSIAN, PARTICULARLY UKRAINIAN
PEASANTS, PERISHED, OR OF MAO
TSE-TUNG'S VISION OF THE GREAT
LEAP FORWARD, AN EPISODE IN
WHICH 20 TO 30 MILLION CHINESE
DIED, MAKING IT POSSIBLY THE
WORST FAMINE IN HUMAN HISTORY.
ALL OF THESE CAMPAIGNS WERE
IDEOLOGICALLY DRIVEN, WITH
TERROR AS THE INSTRUMENT,
SEEKING THE REALISATION OF THE
GREAT IDEAL AS DEFINED BY SOME
SELF-APPOINTED ELITE.
I NEED HARDLY DWELL ON THE, THE
BIG IDEA OF THE NAZIS, OF RACE
HATRED IN ALL ITS PERVERSIONS,
OTHER THAN TO EMPHASIS AGAIN
THE, THE SOCIAL AND HUMAN COSTS
ASSOCIATED WITH THESE GIGANTIC
PROJECTS IN SOCIAL ENGINEERING.
ISAIAH BERLIN MAKES THE MORE
GENERAL POINT, TO PRESERVE OUR
ABSOLUTE CATEGORIES OR IDEALS AT
THE EXPENSIVE OF HUMAN LIVES
OFFENDS EQUALLY AGAINST THE
PRINCIPLES OF SCIENCE AND OF
HISTORY, NOW I'M NOT SURE THAT
THERE ARE PRINCIPLES OF HISTORY,
BUT I WOULD ARGUE THAT HISTORY
ITSELF IS A VAST STOREHOUSE OF
HUMAN EXPERIENCE, ONE THAT CAN
BE USED AND MISUSED.
BUT ALSO ONE FROM WHICH WE CAN
LEARN, I MEAN, NOT EASILY, NOT
READILY, IT'S NOT LIKE A FAST
FOOD FIX, BUT WE CAN LEARN
THROUGH PROCESSES OF ANALYSIS,
CREATIVE REFLECTION, MEDITATION,
ADAPTATION.
LET ME MOVE TOWARDS A FEW
CONCLUDING COMMENTS.
COMMEMORATION IS NEVER AN
INNOCENT ACT, NO LESS THAN IS
HISTORY WRITING.
SO LET ME RETURN TO THE OPENING
MOTIF AND ATTEMPTS TO LINK OR
EQUATE THE GREAT FAMINE WITH THE
HOLOCAUST OR SHOWA.
LET ME PUT THE POINT
SPECULATIVELY AND PRIMARILY IN
RELATION TO IRISH AMERICA.
IS IT THE CASE THAT THE URGE TO
ASSOCIATE THE GREAT FAMINE AND
THE JEWISH HOLOCAUST SPRINGS
FROM A SPIRIT OF ETHNIC
COMPETITIVENESS ON THE PART OF
SOME, PERHAPS A MINORITY, OF
IRISH AMERICANS?
THUS JEWS HAVE THE HOLOCAUST,
BUT BY GOD, WE'VE GOT THE GREAT
FAMINE AS A VERITABLE MYTH OF
ORIGIN AND AS AN ETHNIC MARKER.
SIGNIFICANTLY, THERE IS
CONSIDERABLE DIFFERENCE, IN
FACT, TENSION, BETWEEN THE
MANNER IN WHICH THE GREAT FAMINE
IS MEMORIALISED IN IRELAND, AS
COMPARED TO PARTS OF THE IRISH
DIASPORA.
DURING THE 150th COMMEMORATION
OF THE GREAT FAMINE, SOME
SECTIONS OF THE IRISH DIASPORA
IN THE U.S.A, AND IN CANADA, BUT
NOT IN AUSTRALIA, I GATHER,
SEEMED MORE CONCERNED TO LINK
FAMINE COMMEMORATION TO -- LINK
IT TO TRADITIONAL NATIONALIST
CONCERNS, WITH HISTORIC WRONGS
AND BRITISH-IRISH RELATIONS.
BY CONTRAST, IRISH POLITICIANS
FROM PRESIDENT MARY ROBINSON
OUTWARDS, SOUGHT TO GIVE THE
FAMINE A CONTEMPORARY AND
INTERNATIONAL RELEVANCE, LINKING
IT TO ISSUES OF OVERSEAS AID AND
HUNGER IN AFRICA.
MY OWN VIEW AND I HOPE WE CAN AT
LEAST AGREE ON THIS, IS THAT
THERE IS LITTLE BENEFIT, OR
INDEED, DIGNITY, IN SEEKING TO
TRADE ON ANOTHER NATION'S WOUND.
THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE.

[Applause]

Watch: Liam Kennedy on Cry Holocaust