By Frank Neal (auth.)
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Extra info for Black ’47: Britain and the Famine Irish
However, when the middle class investigators turned their attention to the phenomenon of widespread poverty, two separate strands of analysis entered into their comments on the working class. There was a recognition diat low income and casual employment contributed to poverty stricken lifestyles. In 18 Black '47 addition diey incorporated into dieir texts, moral judgements on the poor, attributing much poverty to fecklessness and a lack of moral fibre. To support such a view, cases were often cited in which families on die same income level displayed, on die one hand, cleanliness and decency while on the other hand, families in similar economic circumstances, lived in dirt, squalor and dissoluteness.
His other target was the poor law, which at this time, was under investigation with a view to reform. He believed that the system of outdoor relief encouraged significant numbers of the workingclasses to rely on poor relief, removing the incentive to provide for the future. Thus the poor law had to be reformed, reintroducing the distinction between deserving and undeserving poor. For Kay, the Irish encouraged the English to use poor relief as a fall back position to be used when current income was spent, thus becoming welfare dependent.
They consist chiefly of Irish and are affected by all the causes of moral and physical depression which we have enumerated. 55 Kay went on to argue that the Irish had had a deleterious effect on the morals of the English working-classes with whom they were in contact. Kay's view that the state of the handloom weavers was 'transitory' was undoubtedly true but it took nearly a generation of hardship for the handloom weavers to adjust to the new market situation. Occupational mobility was hindered by unlimited competition in all the alternative unskilled jobs open to die weavers.