Proving the Irish Famine was genocide by the British — Tim Pat Coogan moves Famine history on to a new plane
“The Famine Plot”, published by Palgrave MacMillan, was released in America last week and Coogan should have been here to launch it but in a separate but equally confounding plot he was denied a visa to come here by the American Embassy in Dublin.
The conclusion from his book is unmistakable. Ireland’s most prominent historian, who has previously created definitive portraits of both Michael Collins and Eamon De Valera, has now pointed the finger squarely at the British during the Famine and stated it was genocide.
It is a big charge, but Coogan is a big man, physically, intellectually, and in every sense and makes a very effective accusation. Coogan has painted a portrait of devastating neglect, abuse, and mismanagement that certainly fits the genocide concept.
I mean if we go back to that time, Ireland was the equivalent of Puerto Rico or Samoa, massive dependencies on the United States today.
If there were a massive food shortage in either of those two countries, we know the US would step up to the plate, literally.
Back in Famine time, the same potato crop disease occurred most heavily in Scotland, outside Ireland, yet there were relatively few casualties as the landowners and government ensured, for their own sakes as much as anything, that there was no mass death.
That was not the case in Ireland, where a very different mentality prevailed. The damned Irish were going to get what they deserved because of their attachment to Catholicism and Irish ways when they were refusing to toe the British line.
As Coogan painstakingly recounts, every possible effort by local organizations to feed the starving were thwarted and frustrated by a British government intent on teaching the Irish a lesson and forcing market forces on them.
Charles Trevelyan, the key figure in the British government, had foreshadowed the deadly policy in a letter to the “Morning Post”, after a trip to Ireland, where he heartily agreed with the sentiment that there were at least a million or two people too many in the benighted land and that the eight million could not possibly survive there.
“Protestant and Catholic will freely fall and the land will be for the survivors.”
Shortly after, he was in charge of a policy that brought that situation about.
One Trevelyan story and one quote suffice.
“British Coastguard Inspector-General, Sir James Dombrain, when he saw starving paupers, ordered his subordinates to give free food handouts. For his attempts to feed the starving, Dombrain was publicly rebuked by Trevelyan…”
The Trevelyan quote is “The real evil with which we have to contend is not the physical evil of the Famine but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the people.”
Tim Pat Coogan has done an enormous service with this book.
Read it and weep.
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The barring of Tim Pat Coogan from coming to America for a book tour is disgraceful. He was refused a visa when he applied for one for his new book tour.
It is one in a clear pattern of a number of recent clueless decisions at the American Embassy in Dublin at the consular level that defy logic.
Ambassador Dan Rooney is clearly unable or unwilling to use his own discretion in some of these cases.
Ever since Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith played a stellar role in the Irish peace process by running her embassy with an iron fist, the functionaries have done their very best to keep incoming ambassadors powerless.
Never mind that Kennedy’s role stand suit like a beacon in the annals of American diplomacy in Ireland. An ambassador the bureaucrats cannot control is a dangerous person indeed it seems.
They did not succeed in the Bush era where excellent appointments ensured that many political issues were retained at the ambassadorial level.
That does not seem to be the case today. The Tim Pat Coogan case is a travesty but senior Irish government officials have told me it is by no means the only strange decision emanating from the embassy in recent times.
There seems to be a hardening attitude there to make it as difficult as possible for people to come to the U.S. from changes in how the J1 one year visa program is being administered to several high profile turndowns.
Blink and you might think you were back in the McCarthy era.
Put simply, there was no greater defender of America in Ireland for the past few decades than Tim Pat Coogan, especially at times when the anti-American sentiment there was at its highest.
His pro-American stances, both in his Irish Press newspaper and his writing about the power of the Irish Diaspora were major factors in keeping the American flag flying in Ireland.
He played a key behind the scenes role in the Irish peace process, especially in the early days when his contacts with Father Alex Reid, the unsung hero of the entire process, were vital.
He was deeply trusted by the Kennedy family and it was a famous meal in Dublin he had with Senator Edward Kennedy convincing him of the need for a visa for Gerry Adams that swayed the Massachusetts senator as well as helping bring President Clinton into the loop.
Visiting Irish Americans are always assured of a hearty welcome from Tim Pat and his backing for America and stance against the anti-American rhetoric so often spouted in Ireland made him this country’s prime defender.
Yet this is the 77-year-old man who the American Embassy just refused a visa to come to America too and humiliated him in the process?
Is there no institutional memory whatever at the embassy that can separate and remember a friend? No one who was able to realize the deep insult they had just inflicted on America’s greatest journalistic ally there?
Where was Ambassador Rooney in all this, as we know he was personally aware of the case?
There are so many questions but one undeniable fact. It will be a blot forever on the Dublin embassy that it humiliated one of its greatest supporters and Ireland’s leading historian by refusing a visa to launch his new book on the Irish famine.
Disgraceful is the word for it.
Best selling author and historian Tim Pat Coogan has been forced to cancel a book tour in the U.S. for his new book ‘The Famine Plot’ about how the British government mishandled the Famine.
The Coogan refusal comes as a major shock as he is considered the foremost authority on figures such as Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera.
He is one of Ireland’s best known historical writers, authoring such books as Ireland Since the Rising (1966), The IRA (1970), On the Blanket (1980), Wherever Green is Worn (2000), Ireland in the Twentieth Century (2003).
He has written widely acclaimed biographies of both De Valera and Collins and is one of the best known Irish figures in America. He is a former editor of the Irish Press newspaper.
Coogan was due for a North East tour of the U.S. to promote his new book published by Palgrave MacMillan.
He was set to deliver a lecture at the American Irish Historical Society in New York but they were informed on Tuesday that he was not given a visa.
It is one of a number of recent visa decisions at the Dublin Embassy which have been causing concerns at senior levels of the Irish government.
Experts say it appears that seemingly arbitrary rules are being followed with no definitive explanations.
How a historian of the stature of Coogan is refused access to the U.S. where he is a very frequent visitor and a well known name is a major mystery to most observers and will be seen by some as a major blot on the American Embassy and Ambassador Dan Rooney.