Lush green fields dotted with sheep, mountain high cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and waves lapping at the foot of the cliffs. Scenic views that call those with a bit of Irish blood from around the world to come and visit. It’s a peaceful place. A place to sit on one of the hills and listen to the splashing water, meditate, and wonder how life used to be in this idyllic situation.
The windowless hallway leads the way; steel doors sealed shut with padlocks. I bump into someone, a member of my tour. We are in prison, but at the end of the tour, we will be out of prison. Unlike the men, women, and children who spent days, months, and years in this prison for stealing food because they were starving.
Ireland experienced a very dark time in its history. Men could not make the payments on the rents of their homes owned by English landlords who lived not in Ireland but England. The Great Famine also referred to as the Great Hunger began in 1845 with a pest infecting the potatoes. Potatoes turned black and the farmers lost their only source of income.
The English grabbed healthy potatoes and sent them to England. The Irish had only the rotten potatoes to feed their families. Irish men had only a few choices left for supporting their families. They worked in pensions owned by the English. They gave up their land and possessions to gain admittance to the pensions which paid little. Irish women had to seek food and shelter for their children. They became desperate and began to steal to provide food for their families.
The families were left destitute and ended up in prison.
This was a time when families collected money from their relatives and took out loans to send their children to North America to find jobs because there were none in Ireland. Tourists who visit Ireland go to the Guinness beer museum, hike in the lush grass, and eat at the numerous bars and restaurants. Not many people venture into the dark history of Ireland’s past, something that should not be forgotten.
Early immigration began with the Irish seeking a better life. No different than those traveling now to the US seeking a better experience. No one wanted the Irish when they first arrived to the US. They were dirty and known for drinking and being lazy. The same view people have of the recent asylum seekers to the U.S. They are criminals, lazy, and must be feared. These people are no different from the Irish. They are fleeing poverty, political problems, and crime.
Tourists go to Ireland because they want to drink and have fun. Some go to look for their roots, grandparents, cousins, uncles, and aunts. Visits to cemeteries and small villages give them a small window to look into and get a glimpse of what life may have been.
I saw people with freckles and red hair, and I found people who were darker in color. Immigrants from Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Arab. East Indians owned the local hotel where I stayed.
The US government has caused a severe problem. Keeping people from crossing the border is no different than keeping the Irish immigrants on their ships and refusing them permission to embark on American soil. They were said to have diseases. Some of them died on the boat before they were able to get much needed medical help.
Now, we celebrate the Irish. We have big parades on St Patrick’s day. We turn many lakes and rivers green. Every one declares they are Irish even if they aren’t. The US has more Irish living here than in the country of Ireland. Some of these recent immigrants are returning to Ireland. Life in the US is not what they want. Ireland has become more prosperous and can offer high tech jobs.
The immigrants coming to the U.S. are of color. Our current government wants to keep them out. This is sad and neglectful. We have no right to discriminate against those who are not white.
Let’s not forget why Irish parents were willing to send their teenage sons and daughter on a ship so far away. For the same reasons, people do it today: better opportunities in education and employment. They want their children to do better than what they can do in their own countries because of corruption, crime, and poverty.
Think about that when you go to Ireland and drink glass after glass of Guinness beer.