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When British TV viewers watched a drama about the true horrors of the Irish famine, they couldn’t believe what they were seeing and took to social media in horror and disgust.
ITV’s drama Victoria saw news of a ‘horrific famine in Ireland’ reach Queen Victoria. While the potato crops had failed there was still food in Ireland. However, the British government were keen to avoid interfering with the market at any cost.
This meant that food was shipped out of Ireland to Britain and the colonies even though people were starving to death. The result was that prices were kept high – and profitable. English landowners’ profits were considered more important than the lives of the Irish people.
The ITV drama, first shown in 2017, saw Queen Victoria adamant that her government should be doing more to help. However, Charles Trevelyan, the man responsible for famine relief, believed that the Irish were being punished by God for being lazy and that famine was a ‘mechanism for removing surplus population’.
Despite pleas from colleagues such Sir Randolph Routh, who said it was a ‘serious evil’ to allow food to go through the ports when people were starving to death in their thousands, Trevelyan stuck to his guns – with the backing of the Westminster government.
It is worth remembering that at the time Ireland was occupied and still a part of Britain – so the British government was prepared to let a million, some say 2 million or more of its own citizens die of starvation as a price for protecting free trade.
While British schoolchildren are made aware that there was a famine in Ireland, they aren’t taught about the decisions their government made during those years. As a result, the content of the show came as a shock to many people. As the show aired, viewers took to social media to voice their horror and disgust at the behaviour of the British government.
One viewer tweeted: ‘I’d imagine the story of the contrived Irish famine will be a first for many in the UK, the unspoken genocide Victoria.’
‘Oh, what a very sad ending and makes you really think of what those poor Irish people went through,’ posted another.
‘Wonderful performance. Such a heartbreaking and shameful part of our nation’s history,’ added a third. A fourth asked: ‘Is the Great Irish Famine taught about in the British education system? Another added: ‘The English really were that sociopathic in their dealings with the 1840s Irish Famine. Glad that’s being portrayed.’
Screenwriter Daisy Goodwin took to Twitter to post about the accuracy of the episode. She wrote: ‘Everything Trevelyan says about Ireland is indisputable and based on historical documents.’
— DAISY GOODWIN (@DAISYGOODWIN) 1 OCTOBER 2017
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One fan posted back: Well done for highlighting the Irish problem with the potato famine that the government ignored. Thank you.’ Source
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