HomeHistoryThe Irish and Armenian Genocides

The Irish and Armenian Genocides

The destruction of huge numbers of Irish people in the middle of the nineteenth century and the liquidation of two thirds of the Armenian people of Asia Minor at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries were state organised genocides which were carried out without retribution. In both cases powerful neighbouring states had occupied ancient Christian countries and throughout the following centuries had inflicted grievous wrongs on the conquered peoples.

The Famine Lie

In the Irish case a rapidly increasing population of 8.17 million by 1841, about three million of whom lived a subsistence existence, threatened the economic stability of Britain. For twenty years before that many governments reports and leading political economists advocated the reduction of the population of Ireland by 2 million. The arrival of potato blight in September 1845 presented the looked-for opportunity to achieve their objective. Two major lies immediately came into play – the use of the word famine while Ireland remained a major food producing country throughout the crisis and the transferring of responsibility for what was allowed to happen from the British government to God who according to the British had sent this visitation of suffering to his people.

Laiss’ez Faire

The only honourable act of the British was the purchase of £100,000 of Indian corn from America, which was done by the Peel administration in November 1845. Seven months later they were replaced by the Whigs under Lord John Russell. The failure of the potato crop was much more severe in 1846 than the previous year and on attaining power the new British government hardened their attitude towards the huge destitute underbelly of Irish society. An extreme version of laiss’ez faire in commerce was adopted and the task of importing food was passed to the private sector who always insisted on maximising their profits. Public Works were established to allow the poor to earn a pittance to buy food. The head of each household, a large number of whom were widows had to work for eight hours a day breaking stones irrespective of the weather to qualify for a pound of meal a day for each adult and half a pound for children under 14 years. If any insubordination occurred or assault on Public Works officials took place the entire works would be closed down for weeks on end resulting in an increasing death toll.

Itrish Genocide

Relief Committees were established in most districts and at the beginning were well supported. The return of the potato blight year after year and the British decision that Irish property should support Irish poverty with the wholesale inability of tenants to pay their rent quickly dried up this source of relief for the starving poor. But for the Christian charity of a small Protestant sect The Society of Friends the desperate situation prevailing in Ireland would have been truly catastrophic. The first American vessel to bring food to the starving poor of Limerick anchored off Askeaton in early May 1847. Two weeks later the 500 tons of provisions from Philadelphia had not been touched as government agents were demanding the payment of port charges. Total indifference to the mass wholesale starvation of the Irish poor was the hall-mark the Russell administration which retained power until February 1852. The census returns of 1851 showed a population reduction of 20% from the 1841 results and according to the attached report justifies British government actions over the previous years.

Armenian Genocide

The genocide of the Armenian people took place between 1894 and 1922. The Congress of Berlin in 1878 liberated most of the peoples in the European area of the Turkish Empire. Their African territories were being occupied at will by the Western powers. The Turks feared that their six eastern provinces which were heavily populated by Armenians would unite with Eastern Armenia which was under Russian rule and form another Bulgaria on their eastern border ending the pan-Turkish hopes of expanding into the Turkish speaking areas of Central Asia. The solution arrived at by the Sultan’s government was the extermination of the Armenians thereby ending the Armenian question.

Massacres of Armenians

In 1894 the partial massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire was replaced by massacres on a mass scale. The Turkish army, Kurdish part-time cavalry units and Muslim mobs all participated in the crime which was carried out with demonic cruelty. In some areas the Armenians were able to defend themselves and reduce their losses. Despite this their destruction was gigantic. Reports from European ambassadors and contemporary press releases show that 300,000 were killed in the pogroms of 1894-1896, about 100,000 were forcibly converted to Islam, 3,000 Armenian villages were razed and pillaged, many areas were deserted and 300,000 emigrated. The severity of the first genocidal wave would pale when compared to the second assault which was carried out during the First World War.

Pan-Turkish Ambitions

The Young Turk government dreaded the approach of the on-coming war and the ability of Turkey to survive it. They were uncertain which side to join as all major European powers had ambitions on the Turkish Empire. Germany decided that alliance with Turkey was necessary to close off the Black Sea from Allied support and as the war began made a secret treaty with the Turks who remained inactive until Britain declared war on them on 5 November 1914. By this stage they believed the Germans would win the war and Russia would be defeated facilitating Pan-Turkish ambitions in Central Asia. More importantly it provided an ideal opportunity to carry out the long desired demand to annihilate the Armenians.

Mass Murder of Armenians

The genocide was premeditated and well planned by the Turks. Under the pretext of a general conscription, all Armenian males from the age of 16 to 60 were conscripted and assigned to labour units. From late 1914 to early 1915 they were marched into remote district and liquidated. On 24 April 1915 the leadership of the Western Armenians, political and religious and the intelligentsia were arrested. After brutal torture they were all murdered. These actions left helpless women and children and old people defenceless and at the mercy of those who would destroy them.

Christian Wipe Out

The third phase of the 1915 genocide was the mass murder, deportation and exile of an ancient Christian people who had populated the area for millennia. The cruelty of their enemies was unprecedented in the long history of persecution suffered by the Armenians under the crescent moon. A total of 1.5 million people perished in the 1915 genocide. The Armenians who escaped the massacres can be divided into three groups. The first group, mainly women and children converted to Islam. They numbered 200,000. A second group of about the same number fled to Eastern Armenia. The largest numbers of survivors were those who did not perish on the forced deportations to the Syrian Desert. They numbered 586,000.

In the spring of 1916 the Turkish government ordered the destruction of the deportees. In three terrible massacres 320,000 Armenians perished. By 1916 none were left in Western Armenia.

Withdrawal into Eastern Armenia

The collapse of Czarist Russia and the withdrawal of the Russian army from Armenia meant that the former Russo-Turkish front had to be defended by newly formed Armenian military units. This lasted from January to May 1918 when the Armenians were forced to withdraw into Eastern Armenia. In the struggle for survival all able-bodied men and women fought the Turks and stopped the advance. 300,000 Eastern Armenians perished at the hands of the Turks.

Abandoned by the West

The final stage of the genocide took place between 1920 and 1922 under the Kemalist regime. The appearance of the Red Army in the Caucasus quickly changed the policies of the Western powers and they abandoned their former junior ally and remained neutral. This allowed the Kemalists to capture large areas of Armenia where they murdered 200,000 people. Today these districts are peopled by Turks and Kurds.

Major Food producers Starved to Death

The deaths of more than a million Irish people from starvation and hunger related diseases between 1845 and 1852 took place in a country which continued to be a major food producer throughout the period. The failure of the British government to prevent these deaths came from a calculated decision taken at the highest level not to do so. This happened in what was then the most advanced society in the world, a country which controlled the wealth of fifty colonies world-wide. The inability of the Catholic leadership to protect the teeming masses they had mobilized to achieve Catholic Emancipation and again for the Repeal campaign illustrates the degeneracy of a class which had abandoned the national language and fifty years earlier had provided several thousand officers and men for the British Army in the suppression of the 1798 rebellion. That this genocide has gone without retribution is partly due to the failure of Irish academia until the 150th anniversary to properly record what was allowed to happen between 1845 and 1852.

No Accountability

The genocide of the Armenian people was the working out of an atavistic culture which allowed Asiatic tribesmen to conquer country after country while always remaining an alien minority in these new societies. The collapse of their European empire fostered beliefs among the Turks that only Turks should live in Turkey and this was facilitated by the tenets of militant Islam.

Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans and other Christian minorities suffered the same fate as the Armenians. But for these atrocities the Christian population of Asia Minor would today number 16 million instead of a few thousand. The failure of the great powers to intervene was due to selfish interest and bitter rivalries. The Turks appeared to have gained from the slaughter. Neither they nor the British were ever held to account for the crime of genocide.


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