Monday 16 September 2019

Backlash grows against famine TV comedy

The Famine memorial sculpture near the International Financial Services Centre in Dublin. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
The Famine memorial sculpture near the International Financial Services Centre in Dublin. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Jennifer McShane

More than 20,000 people have signed an online petition against Channel 4's plans to make a comedy about the Irish Potato Famine.

The petition, set up by Glaswegian Fairlie Gordon, calls on programmers not to make a comedy series about the Great Famine, which took place between 1845 and 1852. More than one million men, women and children died from starvation and disease during the famine.

Mr Gordon's petition - on www.change.org - aims to stop Channel 4 from making a comedy series about the Irish famine.

The series, titled 'Hungry', is in the writing stage.

"Famine or genocide is no laughing matter, approximately one million Irish people died, and another two million were forced to emigrate, because they were starving, any programme on this issue would have to be of serious historical context, not a comedy," reads the petition.

Channel 4 has been criticised since revealing it intended to make a comedy series set in this time of mass starvation, disease and emigration. During this period taxes, rents, and food exports worth £6m were sent to British landlords.

Script

It confirmed it commissioned a script set in 19th century Ireland by Dublin-based writer Hugh Travers and Irish-based production company Grand Pictures.

Popular Irish blogger Leanne Woodfull was among those who voiced her opinion on the matter on social media.

"How dare Channel 4 even consider a 'comedic' TV show that surrounds one of the most fatal and devastating events in our history," she said.

Famine historian and author Tim Pat Coogan said he had serious reservations about the prospect of such a series.

"It does seem an unsavoury thing, with such agony, and it being such a horrendous thing that it still has a bad effect on relationships between Ireland and England," said the multi-award-winning historian.

Mr Coogan writes in his book, 'The Famine Plot', that the famine was an act of genocide by the British authorities. "We could be all pleasantly surprised, but my initial reaction is one of dismay. Would they make a comedy series about the Holocaust? It really does defeat your powers of comprehension.

Channel 4 said the sitcom remained a work in progress. "This in the development process and is not currently planned to air... It's not unusual for sitcoms to exist against backdrops that are full of adversity and hardship."

Irish Independent

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