Tonight's Famine Documentary On RTÉ Is Required Viewing

Tonight's Famine Documentary On RTÉ Is Required Viewing
Donny Mahoney
By Donny Mahoney
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175 years later, the Great Famine, which started in 1845, remains the defining historical event of life on this island. More than one million people died and more than one million people emigrated once the potato crop failed, and how the subsequent famine was managed by British crown. Ireland has changed radically over the past three decades but as a people, we still bear the scars of that national trauma.

Tonight on RTE One, a hugely important documentary will be aired exploring how the Hunger happened, how it shaped life in Ireland and why it still affects our lives today. The documentary is narrated by Liam Neeson and based on the hugely important academic book 'Atlas of the Great Irish Famine' which was released by Cork University Press in 2012. It's the first part of a two-part series.


There will be a number of elements of this documentary that will shock contemporary viewers. One of the more disturbing elements of the programme to be addressed are cases of cannibalism that were reported at the height of the Famine.

'Survivor cannibalism is trying to live on the corpses of people that predeceased you. They might be related to you or they might not,' professor Cormac Ó Gráda tells the programme. 'If you don’t believe that this happened or could happen then you don’t understand what famine is about.'


Writing on today, UCC professor John Crowley said the programme will look at political context of the Famine, as well as the very personal tragedies that so many people had to endure.

Beyond the absolute figures lie the individual stories such as that of the young boys found dead on the roadside in the parish of Attymass, Co. Mayo. It is in such reports that the real horrors of the Famine emerge. It is important to understand and remember what happened on such roadsides.


The first part of The Hunger: The Story of the Irish Famine, narrated by Liam Neeson, airs on RTE 1 on November 30 at 9.35. 

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