Over 500 child skeletons from the potato famine were unearthed and studied, indicating that they were under a great deal of stress while at a mass workhouse in Kilkenny.

“Young children need a lot of emotional security and comfort for their wellbeing and I’d say they lost a lot of that when they went into the (Famine) workhouse. There are many studies that tell how lack of emotional comfort and care increase the risk of death in small children that are institutionalized.”

Donald Trump’s separation of children from parents is not new. It could have come right out of the British government's treatment of Irish kids during the Great Hunger when half the one million victims were children.

Indeed, the British did it to Irish kids during the Famine what Trump is doing now to Latino kids.

During the Famine parents entering workhouses were forced to separate from any children they had over two years of age.

Read More: Irish government condemns Trump's immigrant family separation policy

It had to be an agonizing choice, keep your family together and starve or save yourself but likely never see your kids again as they were transported to children’s workhouses, often far away.

Bio-archaeologist Dr. Jonny Geber, from UCC, who examined the skeletons of over 500 children in a mass famine grave in Kilkenny said the evidence shows they suffered greatly before they died.

An advertisement for workhouse workers

An advertisement for workhouse workers

Geber told The Irish Examiner the stress on children who were removed from their parents caused massive problems.

“It is really sad when you now think about the youngest children trying to cope with this situation and then how many of them ended up dying in the workhouse.

“With this research, I can tell the story of those who did not survive the Famine, which is a story that has never been told. Through interpreting their skeletons you can get a unique insight.”

Read More: Toronto Irish seek to honor victims of the famine with a new cultural center

“It would have been a severely traumatic experience to have entered the workhouse. Especially for the children, as they would have lost their parents through segregation if they weren’t already orphans”, said Dr. Geber.

A journalist's sketch of mother and children during the famine.

A journalist's sketch of mother and children during the famine.

“Young children need a lot of emotional security and comfort for their wellbeing and I’d say they lost a lot of that when they went into the workhouse. There are many studies that tell how lack of emotional comfort and care increase the risk of death in small children that are institutionalized.”

Over 500 child skeletons from the potato famine were unearthed and studied, indicating that they were under a great deal of stress while employed at a mass workhouse.

These were some of the youngest victims from the famine who were buried sometime between 1847 and 1851 near Kilkenny Union Workhouse, according to The Irish Examiner. The study conducted on them focused on the indications of stress in their skeletons, often showing stalled growth and instances of scurvy.

Wiki Commons/The Irish hunger memorial in New York

Wiki Commons/The Irish hunger memorial in New York

There were 545 children in total, but of these, two-thirds were less than six years of age, yet the workhouse recorded that the mortality rate of infants under the age of two was four times higher than these older ones.

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Even though the famine was already brutal enough with the prevalence of malnutrition and highly contagious diseases, these children had an extra layer of suffering through the intense distress they were caused by intensive work and no parents.

The study also highlighted that during this time, infants between six and 12 months old suffered with stunted growth. Similarly, around 75 percent of children aged one through 12 were determined to have signs of stunted growth on their skeletons.

Geber concluded in his study that most of the deaths from the famine were not necessarily because of starvation, but rather, were caused by rampant contagious diseases among the population.

 

The Irish Famine show's what happens to children when policies like Trump's go into effect. Wiki Commons/Gage Skidmore/Collage