Famine sent to punish Irish - tract

March 1st, 1847: A heightening of sectarian tension adds to the misery of the people

March 1st, 1847: A heightening of sectarian tension adds to the misery of the people. The Rev Edward Nangle has established a Protestant colony on Achill Island. He publishes a monthly journal, the Achill Missionary Herald, "exhibiting the principles and progress of Christ's kingdom, and exposing the errors and abominations of that section of the rival kingdom of Antichrist commonly called the papacy".

He has just issued a tract on the Famine. It starts: "Fellow Countrymen - Surely God is angry with this land. The potatoes would not have rotted unless He sent the rot into them, God can never be taken unawares; nothing can happen but as He orders it. God is good, and, because He is, He never sends a scourge upon His creatures unless they deserve it - but he is so good that He often punishes people in mercy ... " This analysis, based on a fundamentalist reading of the Old Testament, is profoundly conservative. Protestants are suffering now as well as Roman Catholics - "for, although they are not dying of hunger, they cannot get their rents".

Mr Nangle, who belongs to the evangelical wing of the Church of Ireland, thinks we have incurred divine wrath by removing the Bible from schools: "The Pope's priests hate the Bible because it exposes their false religion, and they raise a disturbance whenever people are striving to get their neighbours to read the book of God. So these wicked priests never were easy as long as the Bible was in the national schools..."

The second sin which had provoked God to send a scourge of famine was murder: for the past 12 or 13 years, a month had not passed without some dreadful murder being committed.


Thirdly, Rome was guilty of idolatry: "When you consider that the more devout Roman Catholics, in using the Rosary according to the teaching of their priests, say 10 prayers to the Virgin for every one they (say to God, you will see what horrid idolatry the Church of Rome teaches. And next consider what a Roman Catholic worships when he goes to mass; he worships a wafer made of flour and water by the hands of a man...

Mr Nangle also blames the grant to Maynooth College in 1845: "As soon as ever this daring affront was offered to the Almighty, He sent the rot into the potatoes, and, because there was no repentance for this sin, His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still."

He urges his readers - who fortunately do not include the Irish-speaking poor - to have done with "Romish mummery", the "cursed wafer made in the priest's saucepan" and "cease to trust in the Virgin Mary, in saints or angels or masses".

As Mr and Mrs S.C. Hall have observed, this evangelical mission is a failure: "The principles upon which it has been conducted have not been in accordance with the divine precept of charity."