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Profits or People

During the Irish potato famine of 1845 to 1848, the worst year is known as Black '47, when 400,000 people died of starvation and disease. During that time, vast quantities of food continued to leave the country's shores. 4,000 ships carrying grain and livestock sailed from Ireland to the ports of Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow in 1847, according to Dr Christine Kinealy, a fellow at the University of Liverpool.

"I know all the difficulties that arise when you begin to interfere with trade," wrote the Irish Lord Lieutenant at the time, Lord Bessborough, who pleaded unsuccessfully for help from the government in London. "But it is difficult to persuade a starving population that one class should be permitted to make 50pc profit by the sale of provisions whilst they are dying for want of these."

In the world today, just as in Black '47, when wagon-loads of food were exported under guard by the army, there is enough capacity to feed everyone that is in need yet 2.3 million children die from malnutrition every year.

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