Lack of knowledge about the Anglo-Irish relationship past and present has deep personal and political consequences
Before emigrating from Ireland to teach in England in 2006, I assumed British people would know as much about me as I did about them. I was put right just one year into the job, in an east London staffroom, when a colleague teased: “Why the salad, Jen? I thought you Irish loved a potato.”
Contrary to the stereotype, Irish people don’t just happen to love potatoes. Pushed on to infertile land in west Ireland, most notoriously at Oliver Cromwell’s command, farmers had been encouraged to grow the ill-fated crop by their British colonisers. But when the blight came, little was done to help them. The resulting Great Hunger brought the death or emigration of 2 million people – more than a quarter of the Irish population – between 1845 and 1852.