Does Paul Ryan Have Irish Amnesia?


An Irish family is evicted.

An Irish family is evicted.

In Saturday's New York Times, writer Timothy Egan suggests that when Paul Ryan talks about poverty he is forgetting his own family's history.   Ryan's great-great grandfather was apparently a survivor of the Irish famine (or The Great Hunger as it is sometimes called)  of the 1840's. It's   something he apparently makes mention of when taking about his heritage.

What seems to be missing from his Irish pride is an awareness of what really caused The Great Hunger. We all know that it started with an agricultural disaster.   A disease infected the potatoes that were the staple food of the Irish peasantry and they had nothing else to eat.

Except there was food to eat. The mass starvation could have been prevented. The country produced enough non-tuber-based food, but it was not made available to the poor Irish tenant farmers. In fact, British bureaucrat Charles Trevelyan was on record as saying -- and I'm paraphrasing -- that the potato blight was great opportunity to allow the pesky Irish die off.

Egan is by no means accusing Ryan or the GOP of being guilty of de facto genocide, but he is   suggesting that the language that Ryan, et al. use when talking about the poor is not unlike the language used by the British when deriding the 19th Century Irish.

Here is an excerpt:

A great debate raged in London: Would it be wrong to feed the starving Irish with free food, thereby setting up a “culture of dependency”? Certainly England’s man in charge of easing the famine, Sir Charles Trevelyan, thought so. “Dependence on charity,” he declared, “is not to be made an agreeable mode of life.”

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