Conservative MP, Priti Patel, has wished Derry’s Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin success with the forthcoming ‘The Great Hunger’ art exhibition as she expressed shock over media reports.
Priti Patel was responding after Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin wrote inviting her to the opening of the exhibition in Derry on January 17 and expressing concern over comments attributed to her in relation to the Brexit impact on Ireland and negotiations with the EU.
In her reply to Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin, the Witham MP said she was “very grateful for your kind invitation to attend the official opening of the ‘Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger’ on 17 January 2019.”
She wrote: “Unfortunately due to existing commitments I will not be able to attend. However, I certainly wish you success with the exhibition as art has a unique way to inform people about history and to promote greater learning and understanding.”
Responding to a succession of media articles and comments made by politicians, Ms. Patel said that at no point did she ever make any comments relating to food shortages or using the threat of food shortages.
In her letter to An Culturlann, which she has also shared with the ‘Derry Journal,’ Priti Patel said: “I have never commented, insinuated or suggested that the UK should use “food shortages” as “a means to pressurise Ireland” in relation to the Brexit negotiations. Having served in government as Secretary of State for International Development, I have seen at firsthand the devastation and hardship that people in the poorest parts of the world and those in conflict areas face when suffering from hunger and malnutrition. The suffering and misery of people in these situations is shocking and in that role I took action to help support those in need of food.
“In relation to my comments, they were distorted and misreported in the media. As an advocate of free trade I wanted to highlight that in general terms both the Brexit Deal negotiated between the UK and the EU and the possibility of there being a ‘no deal’ scenario could have an adverse impact on trade between the UK and Ireland.
“That is something that should be avoided and the potential impact on both countries should help encourage further negotiations to secure a better deal.
“Consequently, I was also deeply disappointed by these news reports and shocked and appalled at how my comments about trade were distorted in this way. Having seen some of the headlines and comments from other public figures it is clear that some have deliberately taken my comments completely out of context and conflated them with the history of famine in Ireland to cause alarm, anger and distress.
“The divisive nature of the reporting and the associated comments have served to stoke up fears rather than focus on the important issue of working at a way to ensure that in the future UK-Ireland trade can continue freely and in a manner that benefits us all.”