I was feeling hungry now; time to head for dinner. From O’Connel Street, I turned left onto Henry Street. It was a pedestrian street and there were many people walking on it. There must be a decent place to eat here I thought. After walking a little further, I saw another turning on the right called Moore Street; a busy street like Jhang Bazaar in Faisalabad. There it was, the “Buffet 79”. I passed in front of it; bustling with customers. I couldn’t resist and went straight in. Wow there was a long long display of dishes from various parts of the world. Restaurant claims to have 79 dishes. It was busy; people from all nationalities were occupying tables and eating food of their choice. All customers were prepaid i.e. pay first and then self-help to food from buffet and eat as much as you like for just 6.50 Euros. Somehow owner trusted & offered me to eat first and then pay so I started. I was not disappointed; all dishes I tried were delicious and authentic. I saw a Chinese person cooking in the open kitchen. Only flaw I could see was that the meat was not of top quality i.e. there were more bones than flesh, but what would you expect for 6.50 Euro anyway? But choice & taste was undeniably great value for money. Satisfied I returned back to hotel to take some rest.
Irish, Potatoes and Great Famine
Potatoes were introduced in Europe in 1500s. Irish were the first ones to adopt it as staple food. Not much you can grow easily in cold rainy weather but these conditions are quite suitable for potatoes; it is an easy-to-grow, easy-to-store & easy-to-eat crop (more on Potatoes here). It was natural for Irish to become dependent on it for their food requirements. But then came 1846; whole potato harvest which provided about 60% of nation’s food needs was destroyed with a disease “Potato Blight”. This disease repeated itself for about 4 years in a row creating a severe starvation known as “Great Irish Famine”. One million died of hunger & two millions (25% of population) left the country. This is sad isn’t it? But hold on…Even sad is, Ireland was even exporting grain (corn & wheat) at the time. So why famine then?
Laws Makers, Land Mafia & Hoarding
Although the Great Famine created such a huge gap in food supply that was not possible to compensate. Yet there was sufficient food in Ireland to limit mass starvation. Then why was it not done? It is the same old landlords, land mafia, bureaucracy and inaction of the ruling class that ensured the fate of poor Irish population. Yes, poorest of the society paid the price. To summarise the incident:
- Land was owned by big landlords; poor farmers had to pay rent to cultivate on it.
- Around 70% lawmakers (politicians) were landowners themselves or the sons of landowners.
- Nearly half a million poor were evicted from their homes and farms as they could not pay rents.
- Instead of feeding hungry, food continued to be exported at the time of famine.
- Food prices shot to too expensive for poor to buy. Food hoarders & poor distribution system were to blame.
- Although Government started exporting food from India etc to Ireland but its distribution was not maintained properly so food did not reach the poor.
- Government also provided soup kitchens in 1847 where poor could eat for free. Up to 3 million were fed by this scheme but it was dismantled just after 6 months.
– All in all, there was no political will to help people. Leaders, Landowners and rich merchants were united with one motive: “Our interest first”.
A full report can be read at BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/famine_01.shtml
I read in the news recently that 8 infant babies died in one night in one of the main Government Hospitals in Sargodha; not because of a disease but there was no oxygen available to give them in emergency. Many children have died in Ther because there is no drinking water & food is short. Yet, there is huge amount of wheat stored in Government Food Stores – there is no will to help people. Can you see striking similarities between the two situations in Ireland & Pakistan? Law Makers, Land Mafia and Hoarders – All in One & All for One Interest!
Immigration / Emigration
Irish story cannot be complete without mentioning emigration & immigration. Let me explain the terms first; I always confuse these two:
Emigration: Exiting or Leaving a country, such as I emigrated from Pakistan
Immigration: Coming in to a country, such as I immigrated to England.
An estimated 20 Million Irish emigrants & their decedents are living all over the world keeping in mind current Irish population is around 6.5 Million (some websites estimate a higher estimate for Irish emigrants). In any way, Irish are unique nation; there are more Irish living outside than inside Ireland!
I visit the world famous & Ireland’s oldest university the ‘Trinity College’. It was established in 1592 as the mother of University of Dublin. Only one college was ever established so you can say that University of Dublin and Trinity College are the same thing. It is ranked among best universities in the world. A lot of tourists visit it each year. As I entered the building I could many taking photos of the historic buildings. The library of Trinity Colleague contains 4.5 million books; it is the “Legal Book Deposit” for UK & Ireland, meaning a copy of the book must be kept here of every book published in UK & Ireland. A large number of famous politicians, scientists, writers (e.g. Oscar Wilde) and celebrities have graduated from here.
After walking around for a while, I left the building. Trinity college was established outside Dublin but city expanded and it has become a kind of city-centre now; crowed, hustling and bustling with tourists & locals and shoppers & onlookers alike.
There is an express bus going direct to airport. I walked in the streets for another few minutes and took the bus to airport. Bye Ireland; for now!