See Press Release Below:

BOSTON – Boston City Councilors Ed Flynn, Michael Flaherty, and Liz Breadon are sponsoring a resolution at this week’s Council meeting to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the Great Famine, also known as the Irish Potato Famine, or An Gorta Mor in Gaelic.

The Great Famine was a main reason for many Irish to flee as refugees to the United States during the mid-1800s. From 1845 to 1849, Ireland experienced a potato blight that devastated the country, when its potato crops were destroyed by a strain of water mold. This led to massive starvation and suffering, and it was estimated that one million died from starvation and malnutrition-related diseases, and another million left as refugees. Even prior to the potato blight, many Irish faced discrimination and socioeconimc hardship at home, as they were prohibited from owning or leasing land, as well as voting or holding elected office because of their Catholic faith. Tenant farmers were also forced to pay rent to the landowners and export large quantities of food to Great Britain.

On account of these issues, many Irish refugees fled Ireland to the United States on overcrowded and poorly-provisioned “coffin ships” to cities such as Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, and many were suffering from famine-induced illnesses such as cholera, measles, tuberculosis, and other respiratory infections. Between 1841 and 1850, it was estimated that almost 50% of the total immigrants to the United States were Irish, and by 1850, the Irish had made up a quarter of the population in these cities.

More than 175 years after the Great Famine, food insecurity unfortunately remains a critical issue in our country, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. In an October report published by Feeding America, Massachusetts has seen the highest increase in the percentage of residents facing food insecurity of all states, with more than one million people who are struggling to get enough to eat. Children, immigrant families, as well as many in the Latinx, Black and Asian communities are disportionately impacted. With this resolution commemorating the 175th anniversary of the Great Famine, we must not only remember the hardship that many Irish immigrants had to endure during the famine and living in poverty in America, but to also recommit ourselves as a city and country to those who are currently facing hunger during the public health and economic crises of today.

“The Great Famine remains a painful and stark reminder of how hunger can bring suffering to so many, and it is important that we recognize how food access continues to be a critical issue for many families and neighbors in need,” said Councilor Flynn. “On this 175th anniversary, let us reflect on how the Great Famine impacted millions of Irish people, and use this reminder of our past to recommit ourselves to supporting families and people struggling with food security during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”

“We have seen near-unprecedented food insecurity across the country as our nation has struggled to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Councilor Flaherty. “As both the pandemic and the Irish Potato Famine remind us, events beyond our control can arise at any moment, and we need to ensure our systems of public support are strong enough to provide meaningful and timely aid to all those in need.

“The lesson I take a way from reflecting on the tragedy of the Great Hunger in Ireland in the 1840s is that government action in a crisis has consequences,” said Councilor Breadon. “One million people died of starvation or disease, millions more were displaced or migrated out of sheer desperation in order to survive. It was a disaster that was compounded by the indifference and inaction of the British Government of the day. Ireland was a net exporter of food while millions starved. Sadly tenant farmers around the world face similar problems today due to displacement and climate change. Our collective action can impact the lives of so many people, we need to help our food insecure neighbors and we need to work together to address the global challenge of climate change.”

For more information, please contact Councilor Flynn’s office at 617-635-3203 and  [email protected].

Image via

Leave A Comment