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Word Count: 983
According to the United Nations the term genocide is very clear It is the systematic killing of or a program of action intended to destroy a whole national or ethnic group This definition very clearly describes such modern horrors as Auschwitz and Dachau or more recent ones such as Cambodia Bosnia Rwanda and Kosovo Yet this clarity breaks down when discussing such events as the Irish potato famines of 1845 to 1849 The term genocide has been bandied about by many since the horrible events occurred more than 150 years ago But do and should these events be classified as genocidal Is this a fair description of the potato famines that ravaged Ireland more than 150 years ago First however the facts Between 1841 and 1851 the population of Ireland declined from approximately 83 million to 65 million Out of the nearly 2 million drop it is estimated that a little over 1 million emigrated to the United States Canada Australia and Great Britain during the years of the famine They were the lucky ones as a little under 1 million of their fellow countrymen and countrywomen perished in the last great famine ever to hit Europe 1 They perished from a series of potato famines caused by the fungal infestation Phytophthora infestans which began ravaging Irelands potato crop in September 1845 While the initial effects were quite serious about 13 of the total potato crop was ruined the first season many British officials tempered by their stereotypes of the Irish as being lazy and backward did not believe that the Irish were in serious threat of starvation Sir Robert Peel the Tory PM at the time did organize some food relief efforts and the British government secretly bought Indian maize corn to use for food relief if need be The food purchased was only enough for about half a million people for three months far below the actual need 2 Yet the
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