Ahead of tomorrow's National Famine Commemoration Day in Ireland, we look at the argument that the Irish Famine should be taught in US schools. 

The Irish Famine should be taught alongside Holocaust studies, a lecturer at the University of Southern Maine on Irish Studies has stated.

Robert F. Lyons was reacting to a Holocaust bill before the Maine Senate, “An Act To Require Education about the Holocaust,” which would require public school students to learn about the extermination of six million European Jews during World War II.

Lyons writes that the new bill “would require Maine’s education commissioner to develop a Holocaust curriculum about the ‘discriminatory and genocidal laws, policies or actions targeted against groups of individuals based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation.’”

Read more: How to honor Irish Famine Commemoration Day in the US

Illustration of people begging for food during the Great Hunger.

Illustration of people begging for food during the Great Hunger.

Lyons believes that “this bill should follow the example of New York, New Jersey and other states and be expanded to include the study of the Irish Famine in the 19th century so that students might ‘grasp the consequences of ignoring those who hate’ as the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education stated in January 1996.

Read more: 50,000 Famine Irish in US were deported back to Ireland

“The linking of these two searing episodes in the life histories of 6 million European Jews who died as victims of Nazi persecution, and 1 million Irish who died during the Great Hunger with an estimated 2 million forced to emigrate as result of England’s 19th-century laissez-faire economic policy will always stimulate great debate and heat,” he wrote.

“But few would argue that ‘the hunger-stricken exodus of people from the island [Ireland], speaks of the odour of racial hatred surrounding the emigrant’s treatment … [It] … bears more resemblance to the slave trade or the boxcars of the Holocaust than to the routine crossings of a later age,’ according to Robert Scally in ‘The End of Hidden Ireland.’”

the pained faces on the Great Hunger memorial on Dublin's Liffey quays.

the pained faces on the Great Hunger memorial on Dublin's Liffey quays.

Lyons argues that “The Holocaust curriculum bill should be expanded to mandate the study of other horrific episodes of national policies which deliberately and systematically strip people of even the least semblance of basic human freedom and dignity and life itself.

“The teaching of the Holocaust and genocide and the Irish Famine will help our students form a conscience that affirms that our state’s ethnic, religious and cultural diversity remains one of its strengths.”

Do you agree Irish Famine Studies should be included as well as Holocaust Studies? Let us know below.

Read more: Why real Irish-American history is not taught in schools

An illustration of Bridget O'Donnell and her children, the first victim of the famine to be interviewed by the press. NLI