I remember seeing this ad on TV, in which unlimited french fries were offered to mark the Irish potato famine. I don't think it was intentionally insensitive. But can you imagine TV ads invoking the Holocaust or famines in Africa to get people to come to a restaurant? No, it wouldn't happen.
Denny's "Irish Famine" Ad Raises Ghost of Past Racial Scandal
March 1, 2010
Denny's (DENN) appears to have withdrawn a TV ad commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Irish Famine with a free pancake special, according to IrishCentral.com. The ad, from agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners, is currently nowhere to be found on the Internet but was running as recently as two days ago. The Irish Echo reports:
The commercial is for their new promotion of endless fries and pancakes and it uses the Irish famine as a joke. To paraphrase the commercial: "In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Irish famine, Denny's is offering free endless fries and endless pancakes, though we haven't ever heard of a pancake shortage before" ...
Many Irish famously regard the famine as unfairly neglected in history books and worthy of the designation "holocaust." (In the 1845-1852 famine, 1 million Irish died and 1 million more emigrated, largely to the U.S., as a potato blight coupled with British intransigence left the entire country short of food.) It's surprising that Denny's of all chains would make this mistake. In the 1990s, Denny's was successfully sued by several Secret Service agents who had waited an hour for service at an Annapolis restaurant while their white counterparts were served immediately. That incident followed the beating of some black customers in a Denny's parking lot after they complained the restaurant had refused to serve them...
The native Irish were allowed to eat only their potato crops; they were required to turn over all other crops to their landlords as rent. If they didn't pay the rent, the constables would come in and "tumble" the roofs of their houses.
Irish Holocaust, ethnic cleansing, and diaspora
by CT yanquiFollow
Jun 22, 2012
...The British Empire was maintained by so-called English beef, English wheat and barley, and English pork, all of which was produced in Ireland.
Exports of Irish produce ("English beef") continued unabated throughout the famine. The potato blight did not just affect Ireland, but extended its reach all across Europe. Potato crops failed in France, Germany, Poland, and Russia but those countries stopped exporting food so they could feed their own people. No such thing happened in Ireland.
It took weeks or months during 1846 for the news of the ghastly condition of the Irish people reached the United States and other countries. In the states, the Quakers and wealthy Jews from New York collected money and shipped shipped vast numbers of foodstuffs to the starving Irish. The ships were stopped when they entered Irish ports and were required to be offloaded into English ships, which ended up distributing the food to horses owned by the British Army...
International Relief Efforts During the Famine
By Christine Kinealy, Contributor
August / September 2009
...Just as relief efforts were getting underway in India, a committee was established in Boston, Massachusetts...At a meeting in early December 1845, at which $750 was raised for the Irish poor, one speaker claimed that, due to “the fatal connection of Ireland with England, the rich grain harvests of the former country are carried off to pay an absentee government and absentee landlords.” These fundraising efforts were short-lived, drying up at the beginning of 1846, when it was suspected that reports of the distress had been exaggerated.
...In the summer of 1846, the blight reappeared even more virulently than in the previous year. And it appeared earlier in the harvest period. The impact was devastating and immediate. As early as October, deaths from hunger and famine-related diseases were being reported...
The involvement of the Quakers was particularly important because it was direct, provided in the communities where it was most needed, and given without any religious or other stipulations.
An even larger relief organization was the British Relief Association. It was formed in January 1847 by Lionel de Rothschild, a Jewish banker in London...
Despite the shortages, the British government decided not to interfere in the marketplace to provide food to the poor Irish, but left food import and distribution to free market forces. Moreover, they allowed foodstuffs – vast amounts of foodstuffs – to be exported from Ireland. Merchants made large profits while people starved.
At the same time, public works, which entailed hard physical labor building roads that led nowhere and walls that surrounded nothing, were made the primary form of relief. By the end of 1846, deaths from hunger, exhaustion and famine-related diseases were commonplace. No part of the country, from Belfast to Skibbereen, had escaped...
Another head of state to send money to Ireland was the Sultan of Turkey. He had an Irish doctor but he was also trying to create an alliance with British government. According to local legend, Abdulmecid tried to compensate for his reduced monetary donation by sending two ships to Ireland, laden with food. Allegedly, but there is no documentary proof of this, the British government refused to allow the ships to dock in either Cork or Dublin so, surreptitiously, they docked in Drogheda...
On 17 March 1847, foodstuffs were loaded onto The Jamestown. It left Boston for Cork a week later, taking only 15 days and three hours to complete the transatlantic journey. All of the crew were volunteers. The captain, Robert Forbes, caustically commented that as the food supplies had taken only 15 days to cross the Atlantic, they should not take a further 15 days to reach the Irish poor. His comment was apt. The labyrinth of bureaucracy attached to the public works had meant that it had taken between 6 and 8 weeks for them to be operative – far too long for a people who were starving.
Forbes declared himself to be impressed with the women of Cork – because ‘they shake hands like a man.’...
Throughout 1847, subscriptions to Ireland came from some of the poorest and most invisible groups in society. This included former slaves in the Caribbean, who had only achieved full freedom in 1838, when slavery was finally ended in the British Empire (Daniel O’Connell played a role in that). The British government had given the slave-owners £22 million pounds compensation for ending slavery; the slaves received nothing. Donations to Ireland came from Jamaica, Barbados, St. Kitts, and other small islands.
Donations were also sent from slave churches in some of the southern states of America. Children in a pauper orphanage in New York raised $2 for the Irish poor. Inmates in Sing Sing Prison, also in New York, sent money, as did convicts on board a prison ship at Woolwich in London. The latter lived in brutal and inhuman conditions, and all of them were dead only twelve months later from ship fever.
A number of Native Americans, including Choctaw Indians, also sent money to the Irish poor. The Choctaws themselves had suffered great tragedy, having been displaced from their homelands and forced to move to Oklahoma in the 1830s – the infamous Trail of Tears. They sent $174 to Ireland...
Even more callous than the English response to the Irish potato famine was the holocaust that took place in Ireland in 1649-53 under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell.
"Estimates of the drop in the Irish population resulting from the Parliamentarian campaign vary from 15–25%, to half and even as much as five-sixths. The Parliamentarians also deported about 50,000 people as indentured labourers."
The 50,000 young Irish men and women sent by Oliver Cromwell to the Caribbean to work in slave conditions with no choice over how many years they would serve. They seldom survived very long, but did produce descendents, part Irish and part African, who can be found in the hills of Barbados today, still speaking some of their ancestors' Irish language.
Africans and Irish in Barbados
During the 1600's, African slaves and Irish natives shared a common fate on the island of Barbados. Slaves first arrived on the island in the 1620's with the first white settlers and continued to be brought there as the need for labor created a new market for the international slave trade. By 1645, the black population on the island was 5680, and by 1667, there were over 40,000 slaves on the island. In the early years of the colony's growth, Barbados also became a destination for military prisoners and Irish natives. Oliver Cromwell "barbadosed" Irish who refused to clear off their land and allowed other Irish to be kidnaped from the streets of Ireland and transported to Barbados. Those who were barbadosed were sold as slaves or indentured servants, to British planters. They lived in slave conditions and had no control over the number of years they had to serve. The number of Barbadosed Irish in not known and estimates very widely, from a high of 60,000 to a low of 12,000.
Both groups suffered in harsh conditions and joined together to revolt against British settlers.
The colony had its own set of problems, including raids by Spanish and French pirates, and turbulent weather that decimated crops and precipitated African and Irish slave revolts. Slave revolts often coincided with raids or uncontrollable weather when slave owners were distracted and sent slaves to other settlers or towns for help. The ability to move about gave slaves an opportunity to pass on information to other rebels. The rebellions increased the fear of white slave owners and added to the image of Irish natives as wild savages.
The enslavement of Africans in Barbados continued until 1834 when slaves were emancipated, and then apprenticed for a period of four years. By then the kidnaped Irish had disappeared into history and the census of the 1880's did not identify any Barbadians as Irish. What did remain was a small population of poor whites, often called 'redlegs', who may be the descendants of the Barbadosed Irish.
...In Ulster, the Cromwellian period eliminated those native landowners who had survived the Ulster plantation. In Munster and Leinster, the mass confiscation of Catholic owned land after the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, meant that English Protestants acquired almost all of the land holdings for the first time. In addition, some 12,000 Irish people were sold into slavery under the Commonwealth regime and another 34,000 went into exile, mostly in France or Spain....