An Irish Village

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The parliamentary contributions of Garrett Byrne as MP for west Wicklow, 24 November 1885-4 July 1892

The parliamentary contributions of Garrett Byrne as MP for west Wicklow, 24 November 1885-4 July 1892


The mid-1880s was a time of great political excitement in Ireland. The county Wicklow landlord and champion of Home Rule, Charles Stewart Parnell had forged the Irish Parliamentary Party into a well-oiled machine, with the focus firmly fixed on achieving Home Rule for Ireland. The Irish party was the first to adopt the party whip system, and their policy of sitting, acting and voting together en masse (although Captain William O’Shea was a sometimes singular and notable exception to this general rule) gave the party a unity and strength not seen before in Westminster. When Gladstone’s Liberal government fell in June 1885, the Irish Party voted with the Conservatives and Lord Salisbury replaced the Grand Old Man as prime minister.[i]  At the time, it probably seemed to Parnell that the Tories were more open to doing a deal on Home Rule. Lord Randolph Churchill indicated that he was sympathetic and Lord Carnarvon also seemed receptive to the idea. Gladstone’s Whigs were less forthcoming on the matter and so Parnell chose to support the Conservatives. In November 1885 the general election results in Ireland saw eighty-five Home Rule MPs returned, seventeen of them in Ulster. Among them, Garrett Byrne was returned as the MP for west Wicklow. This election was to be first to operate under the newly enlarged franchise. The £12 valuation threshold had been abolished and Gladstone’s ballot act made secret voting possible. In west Wicklow Garrett Byrne defeated W. W. F. Hume Dick (Conservative) by 3,721 votes to 871.The voters of west Wicklow had spoken.[ii]

The Irish Party now effectively held the balance of power in Westminster.[iii] However, in December 1885 Gladstone’s son Herbert famously flew the ‘Hawarden kite’ by telling journalists that his father was now in favour of Home Rule for Ireland. When parliament met in January 1886, Salisbury decided not to introduce Home Rule for Ireland, and went a step further by deciding to re-introduce coercion. Parnell therefore withdrew the support of the Irish Party and voted with the Liberals. The Hawarden kite had galvanised Unionists into action and in January 1886 the Ulster Loyalist Anti-Repeal Union was established. Lord Randolph Churchill fuelled Unionist fears at a rally in Belfast on 22 February when he spoke at a large meeting, telling a receptive audience that ‘The loyalists of Ulster should wait and watch, organise and prepare’, and promising to support their opposition to Home Rule.[iv] Gladstone, on the other hand, was busily drafting the First Home Rule Bill.

Nationally a political crisis was looming, but meanwhile the newly elected Garrett Byrne was discharging his duties in parliament. He began by contributing a question regarding the appointment of a superintendent registrar to Baltinglass Poor Law Union. On 12 March 1886 he asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, ‘whether the board of guardians of the Baltinglass Union, county of Wicklow, were within their absolute legal rights in re-appointing Mr. J. R. Dagg to the office of Superintendent Registrar for the district of Baltinglass, under the powers vested in them by 26 Vic. c. 11, secs. 23, 26, and 27 Vic. 90, sec. 10; and, whether, on the other hand, the appointment of Mr. Middleton to the office of Superintendent Registrar by their Excellencies the Lords Justices was illegal; and, if so, whether he will take steps for the removal of Mr. Middleton, and the adoption of the officer selected by the Guardians’? The Chief Secretary, Mr John Morley of Newcastle upon Tyne replied as follows: ‘Sir, this matter is at present under the consideration of my right Hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland. He has directed further inquiry to be made. If the Hon. Member will be good enough to repeat the question in about a week’s time, I hope to be able to give an answer’.[v]

Two months later, and following the introduction of the first Home Rule bill in the House of Commons, Garrett Byrne again entered the political fray with another question, this time regarding the state of Ireland. On 11 May 1886 he asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland ‘if his attention has been drawn to the proceedings at the Spring Quarter Sessions, held at Wicklow, as reported in The Wicklow People on the 24 April. When the Chairman, Mr. Darley, said “I congratulate you and all other officials connected with the county Wicklow. I have just come from the counties of Kildare and Carlow. In the county of Kildare I was presented with white gloves, equally handsome as those which I have just had the pleasure of receiving from Mr. Kennedy, there being no criminal cases there. In Carlow also there was no criminal case, and at Baltinglass there was only one case upon the calendar, and that was taken out of our court and sent to assizes. The consequence is that I have had no criminal cases to try in the county of Kildare, the county of Carlow, or the county of Wicklow. That speaks very well for the peaceful condition of these counties. I hope such a state of things may long continue. So far as the county of Wicklow is concerned, I must say that, from my experience, I have been always able to point out that there has been no crime of a very serious character within its borders. Therefore, I have greater reason now for congratulating the magistrates, you gentlemen of the grand jury, the high sheriff, and the other county officers, upon the peaceful state of the wide and important area over which their duties extend; and, is the peaceful condition of these counties a fair specimen of the state of most Irish counties”’? His reply from Morley was that: ‘The state of the county of Wicklow, and of the neighbouring counties of Kildare and Carlow, is eminently satisfactory as regards crime of every kind; so satisfactory, indeed, that I hardly think it would be correct to take those counties as representing the state of Ireland generally. At the same time, it is right to say that the Returns of agrarian crime from the whole country do not show any serious amount of such crime at present’.[vi]

Later that month Garrett Byrne contributed to the debate on the supply of civil services and revenue departments, specifically in relation to the harbour at Arklow. He stated: ‘I beg to emphasize the observations which have been made by the Hon. Member for East Wicklow, who has for a long series of years taken a very special interest in the question of Arklow Harbour, and done good and valuable work in regard to it; and I hope, therefore, that his appeal will be attended to. I would remind the Committee that the prosperity of the population of Arklow depends upon Arklow Harbour; and, therefore, it is essential that the work of repairing the pier should be done as soon as possible. No doubt, the question of site and direction of the pier was one of some difficulty; but what we complain of is that the Board of Works declined to employ the engineer who so successfully carried out the work at Wicklow Harbour, and who knew the peculiarities of the coast exceedingly well, but employed one who designed and carried out the works in a very shameful way; and, therefore, it is a gross injustice to the population of Arklow to call upon them to repay money which has been wasted, or to guarantee any new loan. They have sufficient burdens already, without being called upon to pay this money, which has been wantonly thrown into the sea. There is not a member of this committee who knows the slightest thing about marine engineering who could not have seen at once that these plans were bad. The pier and harbour were so constructed that the pressure of the sea was certain to crush them; but although the pressure is very extreme indeed at Arklow, it was not the pressure which damaged and injured the pier, but it was because the plans did not provide for a proper foundation, and the consequence was that the first small storm (a very small storm) undermined it and washed it away. It is a fact, moreover, that the works were not carried out in full accordance with the plans. The Board of Works engineer sent in a report which was so disgraceful that, if it had been sent in by a person in private employ, it would have at once caused him to be sent about his business. It was a misrepresentation altogether. I contend that engineers employed on works in tidal waters should be persons of local experience. It is more necessary that this should be the case in regard to tidal than in regard to smooth waters, for in tidal waters it is necessary to make provision for enabling boats to get to sea in a safe and effective manner. The Board of Works official stated that it would cost £2,000 to carry out the necessary alterations and reparations of the works; but Messrs. Stevenson and Stoney fix the cost at £10,500. The repairs were effected by throwing rubble stones over the side, which will, of course, be washed away by the scour of the first heavy tide that happens at that place. The special report of Messrs. Stevenson and Stoney admitted that the pier had not been properly extended, and recommended that the work should be done in situ or solid block, instead of blocks, which could be washed away. The engineer Mr. Manning, agrees that that would be an improvement; but the recommendation also is that stones of about 35 cwt. each, such as you have at Kingstown and Holyhead, should be put over the side. However, the stones that have been used have not been of that class. They have only weighed some 10 or 12 cwt. each. There is a quarry accessible to those who direct the works, where the large stones can be got if they so desire. I do not know what the Board of Works contemplates by this operation of putting stones over the side, as so staying or shoring up the work can only serve as a temporary purpose. If they were to drive down piles first and then put down stones of great weight they would obtain the necessary protection for the piers. Then they actually contemplate putting down stones inside the harbour. Should this be done, boats coming in in rough weather will be in danger of getting wrecked. I would point out to the committee that the livelihood of 3,000 people depends upon this harbour. There are using the harbour a number of large boats which are managed by as able and as hardy a set of men as are to be found in the United Kingdom; and if the harbour gets silted up through bad designing and mismanagement of the works and repairs thereof, these boats will be unable to come in or leave the harbour, and the result will be not only that the livelihood of these people will be affected, but the neighbourhood, the city of Dublin and other places, will be deprived of the fish these boats would bring in. The bad design, execution, and management of this harbour and pier is not only a public grievance, but a public scandal. The Board of Works seem to have no shame on account of their own mistake and the inefficiency of their own officer. They support him, and are going to spend a further sum of £10,500. On what condition are they going to spend it? On condition that the people of Arklow guarantee repayment. First they misapply a large sum, and then come and ask the people of Arklow for more money to give this Mr. Manning a further power of mismanagement. I think the Secretary to the Treasury should give us an assurance that this matter will be looked into carefully, and that the Irish officials will not be permitted to patch up the harbour. I hope he will tell us that some practical engineer will be employed from Hull, or any other place, so long as he is able to deal with tidal waters. Further, I trust he will visit the harbour himself, and not permit himself to be coached by the officers of the Board of Works in Ireland. I am sorry I have had to detain the committee with this matter; but it is one of great importance to the people of Ireland, and, as is the case in regard to all other affairs affecting that country, the people have waited so long to have their wishes carried out that they have grown tired of waiting. It is really too bad, after all the attention that has been given to this matter in the House, and the amount of money that has been voted upon it, and the way in which the Board of Trade have met this case – and I know what has happened in the past in that respect – that this grievance should continue. The Treasury have done their part by giving this money as freely as they have given it in other cases. It is too bad that this money should be wasted before the eyes of the people of Arklow against their earnest protest. It is well known that a captain who is able to take his ship across the Atlantic is bound to take a pilot before entering a port, not because the captain is not an able seaman, but because the pilot has local experience. In the same way, in regard to these Arklow harbour works, I maintain that the works being local require to be carried out by someone possessing local knowledge. The government should send away the men at present employed – the commissioners of the Board of Works themselves, if necessary – and get better ones in their place’.[vii]

The following month was a momentous one in Irish and British politics. On 8 June parliament voted on the First Home Rule Bill. It was to be expected that the Conservatives would vote against the bill, but the Liberal party was also divided on the issue and split when a breakaway faction led by Joseph Chamberlain and Lord Hartington voted against their leader. Gladstone’s bill was defeated in the House of Commons and another election loomed. The Irish Party’s planning and organisational skills were needed again in July when Gladstone dissolved parliament ‘that the constituencies might vote whether Ireland was to be granted Home Rule.’ West Wicklow was again contested and in July there were 3,531 votes for Garret Byrne against 856 for W. Hume Dick.[viii] Despite another overwhelming majority in for the Home Rule Party in Ireland (except in Ulster), the overall election result did little for the Irish national cause as Gladstone’s Liberal party was decimated at the polls. Lord Salisbury again took office and the 1886 election had many consequences. During the election campaign Joseph Chamberlain mooted the idea of partition for Ulster – an idea that would resurface in the early twentieth century. From 1886 onward the Irish Unionist Party represented Ulster’s anti-Home Rule stance in parliament. Also, abject defeat in the election weakened Liberal support for the cause of Home Rule. Moreover, Parnell’s support for Gladstone meant that the Irish Party now had little or no wriggle room in the political arena, leaving them unable to approach both the principal British parties in the hope of obtaining concessions by playing one off against the other. Parnell’s hopes now rested on another Liberal government being voted into office, but the two decades after 1886 were a period of almost total Conservative dominance in the British parliament!

Garrett Byrne could not have foreseen these far-reaching consequences however when he swept to victory in west Wicklow in the summer of 1886. He made three contributions to parliamentary proceedings in September of that year. His first concerned the vote on the army estimates. On 6 September he addressed the House, saying: ‘I object to this vote on several grounds. First of all, this is a vote to keep up a force of Volunteers for England alone; and the people of Ireland object to bear any portion of the expense. Another ground of objection is, that we are not allowed to have a similar force for our protection. Again, I say that the system of getting up the Volunteer movement is not an efficient one; usually two or three gentlemen get together and start a movement, and these gentlemen become the officers of the regiment. Now, Sir, in the selection of officers you want efficiency; but I have known officers who, if they were required to shoot at an enemy from the distance at which I am from the Chair, could not see him. I am satisfied, Mr. Chairman, that at this distance they would not be able to distinguish you from another Member of the House. My next point is, that money enters too much into this question. I was myself asked in one case for £1,200, and for what? That I might become a full-blown colonel. I am speaking now in the interest of the people of England. I say that the object of having Volunteers is the protection of people at home, and that efficiency ought to be the first qualification for every officer of Volunteers. But I have known cases where the uniform was the attraction and not the service. I believe that there are amongst the Volunteer officers men who, if you were to go to war to-morrow, could not ride a horse at all. I believe that men have been made officers who have passed through no test whatever as to qualifications, and of this I can give many instances. I repeat that so long as you have Volunteers you ought to have officers who are thoroughly efficient, and the rule should be laid down in every case that before this position is attained the men should be in all respects capable of performing their duties. As I have said, the money qualification has a great deal to do with the position of officers in the Volunteer force, and I am convinced that unless a man is rich it is impossible for him to get on the officers’ list. I have heard of colonels and officers being obliged to pay for the clothing of the men as well as incur other heavy expenses; and, with these facts before me, I say that we ought to have a promise from the Minister in charge of these estimates that, so long as the Volunteer force has to be paid for by the people, the first consideration shall be the efficiency of the officers’.[ix]

On 13 September Byrne spoke in relation to the salaries and expenses of civil departments, this time with regard to Scotland: ‘I also congratulate Hon. Members from Scotland on the interesting discussion which has taken place on the question before the committee—the question of the Scotch [sic] Fishery Board. I beg to support the amendment proposed. It appears to me to be a very proper amendment. I think Scotland is very much more favoured than Ireland, although that is no reason why either I, or any of my colleagues, should be jealous of the Scotch in this respect. On the contrary, I should like to see the Scotch sea fisheries very much better developed than they are. And it seems to me that the best way to bring about this development would be to appoint Scotch fishermen on the board, and give them the management of their own affairs. I cannot believe that the best thing for these fisheries – and in this I differ from the right Hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) – is to appoint gentlemen to manage them who know nothing whatever about fishing. I think there should be at least two or three individuals on the Board who are well up in nautical affairs and understand all about fishing. It appears that the Chairman of the Scotch Board receives the large salary of £800 a-year, and that he is not a fisherman, nor in any way connected with nautical matters. He only gets his appointment as a matter of patronage. It seems to me that the government are not doing their best in the interests of Scotland, or of Scotch fisheries, when they foist a man of this kind upon the Fishery Board. There is another thing upon which I congratulate the Scotch fishing industry, and that is that the government have not only given them a grant for piers and quays, but have also granted £2,000 for scientific investigations. I do not object to that at all; but I think it desirable that a thorough investigation should be made into the subject of preserving fish, and the best method of sending them into market; because, as well as being a benefit to Scotland, a satisfactory settlement of this question will conduce to the introduction of a larger quantity of fish into the centres of consumption in the United Kingdom and all over the world. The right Hon. Gentleman says that the Scotch Fishery Board has employed a very clever and experienced engineer, although he admitted that this gentleman made serious mistakes. The right Hon. Gentleman went further, and said that the making of mistakes in this manner was inevitable. Well, if you employ a man who does not understand the business, if you engage upon the construction of piers and harbours a fresh-water engineer who knows nothing about marine matters, no doubt he must make mistakes. A watchmaker may know a great deal about the wheels of a watch; but when he comes to deal with the wheels of a mill he may find himself without experience, and altogether incapable of turning out good work. Therefore, I contend that you should have upon the Scotch Board gentlemen who understand fishing matters. The Scotch people know perfectly well what they want and what they ought to have in this matter; and I trust that the committee will assist in carrying out their wishes. A reformation is required on the board, so that the fishing industry of the country can have the business of the board more under its control’. Byrne’s (and others’) intervention in this debate drew a scathing retort from Mr. Caldwell of Glasgow who stated ‘I cannot join in the condemnation of the Chairman of the Fishery Board which has proceeded from Hon. Gentlemen who are not connected with Scotland’. Evidently not everyone appreciated Garrett Byrne’s parliamentary rhetoric![x]

Finally, on 15 September 1886, Byrne re-entered the same debate and did not mince his words, saying: ‘I do not propose to detain the Committee many seconds. I simply want to protest against the action of the Local Government Board, and of one officer of the board in particular. The conduct of this gentleman has been complained of over and over again. He makes many mistakes; he makes mistakes at every election. On one occasion it took him three days to count the votes—indeed, politically, he is dishonest; and, physically and mentally, he is stupid. I think that the Right Hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary should make inquiries concerning this official, and that if he finds my statement is correct he should put another gentleman in the place of the officer of whom I complain’. Garrett Byrne made no further parliamentary contributions in 1886.

In February 1887 the issue of public works and buildings in London prompted Garret Byrne to ask another parliamentary question. On 28 of that month Byrne spoke in the House, saying: ‘I wish to put a question to the right Hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works in reference to a reconsideration of the site and plans for the new Admiralty and War Offices. I will ask him whether it is not possible to reconsider the proposed site for the Admiralty and War Offices, with a view of setting the building back very considerably from the point shown on the plans now before the House? I would also ask if it is the intention of the Government to utilise the whole of the site at Charing Cross, including Messrs. Drummond’s Bank, in order to open up The Mall to Trafalgar Square? Most of our public buildings have been spoiled in consequence of there being no point from which they can be seen, because of their not being set back far enough from the street. Take St. Paul’s, for instance; it is impossible to obtain anything like a view of it without going to the top of some of the houses in the neighbourhood. I hope that such a gross blunder will not be perpetrated in the year 1887. On the other side of Charing Cross and Whitehall there is land having frontages to these streets and the Victoria Embankment which the Government have or could acquire that would add to the beauty and importance of these handsome buildings; and I think something should be done to preserve the view of the new public offices. I am informed, in reference to Messrs. Drummond’s Bank, that a very unwise promise has been given that it will not be interfered with. Now, that appears to me to be a very shopkeeping view to take. The preservation of Drummond’s Bank will destroy very nearly the whole of this magnificent building for the Admiralty and War Offices. I think it would be far better to provide some accommodation in the new building for Messrs. Drummond’s if it is found impossible to get rid of them in any other way. I cannot help thinking, however, that Messrs. Drummond or any other bankers would be only too glad to take the proper value of their property if the site is required by the public. Certainly, the site ought not to be spoiled by confining it to too small a piece of land; and, therefore, I trust that some arrangement will be made to set the proposed new building back and open up The Mall to Trafalgar Square’. Mr Plunket’s reply to this was noncommittal: ‘I am afraid that I cannot satisfy the Hon. Member. It is not for the Government to decide the question, seeing that the whole matter has been referred to a committee. Therefore it is not for me to say what they will or what they will not do when the question comes back from the committee. The Hon. Member is quite right in saying that the taking of Drummond’s Bank is no part of the present scheme; but I cannot give the Hon. Member any further explanation until the committee shall have concluded their investigation and presented their report’.[xi]

On 1 March, Garrett Byrne turned his attention firmly to matters in west Wicklow. A case at the criminal quarter sessions at Baltinglass had evidently come to his attention and he asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach: ‘If his attention, has been called to the proceedings of the criminal quarter sessions for the Baltinglass division of the county of Wicklow, before Judge Darley, on 15 January last, when Myles Doyle and Michael Nolan were charged with having, on 11 December 1886, thrown timber upon the railway, near Baltinglass, with the intent thereby to upset the train, and upon a second count with having thrown timber upon said line endangering the safety of persons travelling thereon; whether the prisoners pleaded guilty, and were sentenced to one month’s imprisonment each with hard labour; and whether, in view of the serious character of the offence, he will call the attention of the Lord Chancellor to the matter’? Hicks-Beach replied simply: ‘It appears, on the face of the question, that the judge, in disposing of this case, exercised the discretion with which his office invested him. A judge is responsible to Parliament alone, and neither the Lord Chancellor nor the Executive has any right to interfere’.[xii]

On 4 April the focus of Byrne’s contribution to the House was once again the harbour at Arklow. He stated: ‘that the Board of Trade was composed of gentlemen who were by no means capable of deciding questions as to the construction of harbours. He felt bound to complain of the manner in which the Board of Works in Ireland performed its duties in connection with the construction of harbours. It was the slowest Board in all Ireland, and was largely composed of worn-out public servants. He held that the responsibility of determining when and where harbours should be built ought not to be divided. One board ought to be constituted having supreme control. The loans granted under the present system were often too small, and the result was that many harbours lacked stability and were not large enough. The time for the repayment of the loans should be extended from 60 to 63 years, and the interest should be lowered to such a rate that local bodies should take advantage of them. With regard to the Arklow harbour, it was a glaring example how the work was done by the engineers of the Board of Works. The engineers of the board knew nothing about the local tides. They drew plans which were not practicable, the result being that the works were unstable and inefficient. Instead of adopting their present cheeseparing policy, the Government should grant such an amount as would enable the works to be carried out in an efficient manner. He urged the importance of providing piers and harbours for fishermen on favourable terms, being convinced that whatever money was granted in this direction by the government they would get ample value for it. The loans made to harbour boards ought not to be repayable within less than 50 years, and the cost of harbours of refuge, like that at Arklow, should be defrayed partly out of imperial funds, the interests which they served being by no means exclusively local’.[xiii] Byrne’s concern with the issue of Arklow harbour demonstrates that the members for both the maritime east and the landlocked west of County Wicklow acted in tandem in relation to matters which would bring economic benefits to the county.

Despite the high profile of the Irish party, the land question was still a burning issue at local level. The Plan of Campaign was introduced in 1886,[xiv] but Parnell did not support it. Nevertheless the Plan had some successes at local level. Even the intervention of the Pope, who issued a Papal rescript in April 1888 condemning the Plan, had little effect.[xv] The Catholic Home Rule MPs met and issued a statement to the effect that ‘We… recognise no right in the Holy See to interfere with the Irish people in the management of their political affairs’.[xvi] Early in 1887 Salisbury had appointed Arthur Balfour as Chief Secretary. Balfour had little sympathy with the Irish tenantry and he made it clear that he would be ‘as relentless as Cromwell in enforcing obedience to the law’.[xvii] On 6 May 1887 Garrett Byrne put a question in the House regarding the failure of the Irish land commissioners to visit County Wicklow. He asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland: ‘why the land commissioners have not sat in the County of Wicklow in March or April this year, as they have done in previous years, for the purpose of fixing fair rents; whether it is a fact that tenant farmers, who have served originating notices on their landlords long since, have to wait unusually long periods to have a fair rent fixed; and, whether the sub-commissioners, who are announced to be at the courthouse of Shillelagh on 9 May instant, to fix rents of plots of land for labourers’ cottages in that Union, could then fix fair rents for tenants in the district’? The Under Secretary, Col. King-Harmon replied stating: ‘The land commissioners report that there is no fixed time in the course of a year for the sitting of a sub-commission in any particular county. The last sitting in County Wicklow was in August, 1886, and all the cases then listed for hearing were disposed of, with the exception of seven, which had to be adjourned for legal reasons. There has been no unusual, or unavoidable, delay in hearing Wicklow cases. It would not be practicable to carry out the suggestion in the last paragraph of the question. The sub-commission referred to consists of two members only, the legal member being with difficulty spared for one day from his work of fixing fair rents in the County Louth, and it will have a special delegation to dispose of labourers’ cottage cases under the provisions of the Labourers’ Acts. The circumstances would not, therefore, admit of its being employed in fixing fair rents’.[xviii]

Despite Garrett Byrne drawing attention to the matter, the commissioners did not sit in Wicklow over the summer, so in August 1887 he returned to the topic, asking in the House: ‘the cause of the delay of the sub-commissioners of the land court holding a sitting in the County Wicklow; and, whether they are likely to hold one soon, as any further delay will cause great hardship to a large number of tenants who have been kept so long waiting to have fair rents fixed’? Balfour, replying, said that ‘no unusual or unavoidable delay had occurred in the hearing of land cases in Wicklow. The sub-commissioners sat in Wicklow in the September of every year since 1884, and would sit there again next September’.[xix]

In February the following year Byrne addressed the question of the Labourers’ (Ireland) Act, specifically in relation to the erection of cottages in Rathdrum union. He asked: ‘whether it is true that two years ago the Rathdrum board of guardians appointed a solicitor under the Labourers’ Act at a remuneration of £160 a year, determinable at three months notice; how many cottages have been sanctioned by the guardians, how many have been erected, and how much money has been paid to the solicitor for his services; whether, in consequence of the persistent delay and negligence of the solicitor so appointed, he was dismissed by the board on the first day of February; whether advertisements were then issued by the guardians, inviting other solicitors to send in proposals for the vacant office; whether, although a number of highly-qualified solicitors sent in proposals to the meeting of the guardians on the 15th instant, the solicitor so previously dismissed for gross negligence was, by the votes of the ex officio guardians, as against an equal number of the elected guardians, retained to conduct the proceedings under the Labourers’ Act; whether the Local Government Board (Ireland) will sanction the retention of this official; and, whether he is aware that during the same period the Wexford Union has completed 190 cottages’? King-Harmon told him ‘It appears from the report of the clerk to the Rathdrum Union that the facts are substantially as stated in the first, third, fourth, and seventh paragraphs of the question, except that the rate of salary was £165 a-year, and the date of removal from office 20 January last. The solicitor, however, alleged that his delay was caused by a failure of one of the guardians’ officers to furnish him with certain necessary information; 85 cottages have been sanctioned, 10 erected, and two are in course of erection. The amount of salary payable for the period to the solicitor was £316 5s. Seven solicitors, including the former holder of the office, applied for the vacancy in response to an advertisement; and on 15 February the latter was re-elected by a majority of one vote, apparently on the ground that his terms were the lowest, and that it would be undesirable to change solicitors during proceedings still pending; 20 guardians voted for him, 6 of whom were elected guardians. The guardians’ minutes relative to this re-election did not reach the Local Government Board until Saturday last. They will give the matter their careful consideration’.[xx]

In April 1888 Byrne tackled the question of the election of guardians to Baltinglass union with his next contribution to the House. He was very specific, asking Balfour: ‘whether his attention has been called to the statement in The Leinster Leader of the 7th instant, in reference to the recent election of guardians for the Baltinglass Union, that an ex-Ggardian and a candidate, W. R. Douglas, commanded the rate collector, Mr. Driver, to put a false date to a receipt for rates, in order to give a qualification to one John Plant, in the following terms: “Confidential. 5 March, 1888. Dear Mr. Driver, John Plant, of Ballyhubbock, has been nominated (in case Mr. Wynne succeeds in Stratford). See that his receipt for the Eadestown rates is dated 3 March. The money is ready any time you call for it. Mr. Dennis asked me this morning to write to you about it. Yours very truly, W. R. Douglas”, and whether the Mr. Dennis referred to is Mr. E. A. Dennis, the present chairman of the Baltinglass board of guardians; and, whether he will order an inquiry into the facts’? Balfour, in reply simply stated that ‘he was informed no such letter was received by the rate collector referred to’.[xxi]

Later that month, Baltinglass union again featured in Byrne’s next parliamentary question.  He asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, ‘whether his attention has been drawn to the allegation that a letter purporting to be signed by a Mr. Douglas, and inciting a rate collector of the Baltinglass Union to put a false date to a receipt for rates, was written but not delivered, because it was intercepted, and that the letter referred to is now in the hands of The Leinster Leader, who offers to have its genuineness tested at a public inquiry; and, whether, in consequence of this allegation, and in consideration of the serious charge it involves, he will order a sworn inquiry into all the facts of the case’? The Chief Secretary, Balfour, replied: ‘I have no knowledge with regard to the letter referred to beyond the fact that its existence was alleged in the Hon. Member’s previous question, and therefore I cannot give an answer one way or the other. I would, however, suggest to the Hon. Member that the best course to take would be to arrange that the letter should be sent to the Local Government Board, with full proofs of its authenticity, and the method of its interception.[xxii]

Garrett Byrne’s next contribution highlighted the continuing dominance of the land question in County Wicklow, as it concerned the threat of eviction at Rathdrum. Byrne asked Balfour ‘whether, in view of the approaching visit of the land commissioners to fix fair rents in County Wicklow, a landlord named Littledale, on whose estate rents have been raised 800 per cent on the tenants’ improvements, is about to evict a tenant named Mooney, of Newbawn, Rathdrum, whose case is pending a hearing by the commissioners, and whose rent is double the valuation; whether notice of the eviction has been served on the Relieving Officer; and whether the eviction of Mooney, his wife, and seven children, will have the support of the Irish constabulary’? Balfour informed Byrne that ‘The County Inspector of Constabulary understands that the tenant referred to is shortly to be evicted for non-payment of three years’ rent, amounting to £432. He also understands that the landlord has not only not raised the rents on any part of his property, but, on the contrary, has reduced them; and that, in the case of the tenant in question, he recently offered to reduce the rent from £144 a-year to £85 a-year, the Poor Law valuation being £81 a-year, and to accept £100 in lieu of the arrears. The tenant refused to accept this proposal. Notice has been served on the Relieving Officer. I am unable now to say whether the authorities responsible for the peace of the district and the due administration of the law will find it necessary to have police present should the proposed eviction be carried out. The County Inspector is not aware whether this tenant has made application to the Land Court. There is no power for the court to stay eviction in this case, the valuation being over £50 a-year’. Byrne responded by saying he ‘was informed, and he would be able to prove the statement, that the rents during six of the eight years had been increased to the extent stated’, to which Balfour replied that he did not know there was any contradiction between the statement made by the Hon. Gentleman and the statement he (Balfour) had made to the House’.[xxiii]

Almost a month later, in May 1888, Garrett Byrne returned to the Land Question when he referred to the sub-commissioners of the Irish Land Commission in County Wicklow. He asked the Chief Secretary ‘whether it is true that a large number of originating notices have been served to have fair rents fixed by the sub-commissioners now sitting in the County Wicklow; whether only 22 applications have been listed for hearing from the Shillelagh Union, 42 from Baltinglass Union, and 134 from Rathdrum Union; and, whether, considering that a very large number of cases will be left undisposed of in the county, he will arrange to have a supplemental list issued for the present sub-commission, or have another sub-commission granted to sit on an early day’?  Balfour said: ‘The Land Commissioners inform me that the numbers stated in the question are correct. All notices received from the County Wicklow up to and including 27 September last have been listed for hearing at the present sitting. The commissioners cannot, having regard to the claim of other counties, extend the existing list of cases, or arrange at present for a further sub-commission sitting for the County Wicklow’.[xxiv]  The reference to the ‘claim of other counties’ indicated that agrarian tension was at a very high level. The whole period 1886-90 witnessed a rural power struggle. The Papal rescript of 1888 had no effect on the Plan of Campaign and, with Balfour’s Perpetual Crimes Act of 1887 allowing landlords to proclaim districts where agrarian disturbances were occurring, there was much disquiet throughout rural Ireland. Moreover, the activities of the National League heightened tensions in many parts of the country. Balfour’s support for the landlords led to dramatic eviction scenes, which attracted journalists, illustrators and photographers and whose work helped to win sympathy for Irish tenant farmers. New wooden houses were erected for many evicted tenants. The temporary town of New Tipperary, constructed for evicted tenants, attracted many headlines, but it had cost £50,000 to build and by 1889 supporting the thousand or so tenant families living there was using up c.£3,600 per month. The struggle for land reform was costly, but the National League continued to press for fair rents.[xxv]

Garrett Byrne tackled the issue of fair rents in his next parliamentary question. In June 1888 he enquired in parliament ‘whether a great many notices of application to have fair rents fixed were lodged in the land courts by tenants in the County Wicklow on 28 and 29 of September last; and, if so, could he state how many; whether those applications ought to have been listed for hearing at the recent sitting of the sub-commission in that county; and, when these tenants, who are now eight months in court, may expect to have their fair rents fixed’? Balfour was ready with his facts and figures. He said that ‘The land commissioners inform me that the number of fair rent originating notices from the County Wicklow received at their office on 28 September last was 388, and on 29 September four. As already stated, in reply to a previous question, the cases listed for hearing by the sub-commission now sitting in the county were those received up to and on 27 September, it being necessary to fix this limit, having regard to the claims of other counties. The commissioners are not at present able to state the date of the next sitting of a sub-commission in the county. Two hundred and nine cases are listed for the present sitting, which commenced on 8 May, and will be continued for a portion of June.[xxvi] 

The issue of fair rents was a burning one with many local variations and intricacies however, and Byrne returned to it in the House the following month when he asked Balfour ‘whether he is aware of the serious loss and inconvenience which 42 tenant farmers in West Wicklow have been subjected to who served notices to have fair rents fixed in the beginning of September, 1887; whether the application for Baltinglass Union did not appear on the first list for the sitting of No. 6 Commission at Rathdrum, on 8 May last; whether only a portion of the cases of the district were heard, leaving the whole of the Baltinglass Union applications undisposed of; whether he is aware that, in consequence of several tenants having so applied, their landlords demanded payment of one year’s rent, up to 29 September last, within a few days thereafter, with an intimation that unless the same was paid in four days all the powers of the law would be put in force against them; whether, in the event of this being done while the applications were pending, he will refuse the assistance of the forces of the Crown at evictions; and, whether he can state when the sub-commissioners will sit to hear the great number of cases now waiting a hearing’? This time Balfour stated: ‘The land commissioners inform me that it is the case that 42 applications to fix fair rents were served by tenants in the west district of the county of Wicklow in September last; also that the facts are as stated in paragraphs 2 and 3. With respect to paragraphs 4 and 5, I am not aware of the landlords having acted as alleged. But, even if it were the fact, the court before which the proceedings in ejectment would come has full power to suspend any such proceedings until the hearing of the application for a judicial rent; and in cases where the holding is valued at not more than £50 a-year, it has further power to order the payment of the arrears by such instalments as it may see fit to direct. The commissioners are not at present in a position to state the date of the next sitting of a sub-commission’.[xxvii]

Continuing agrarian tensions led to sectarian division in some places, and the west Wicklow village of Donard was the scene of a sectarian ‘outrage’ in August 1888.[xxviii] The ‘outrage on Donard church’ prompted Garrett Byrne to ask ‘whether it is a fact that the Roman Catholic Church at Donard, County Wicklow, was some days ago decorated with Orange lilies at dead of night, the doors chalked with Orange texts, and the chapel bell rung at dead of night; whether he is aware that the Orange parochial meeting room is also the National School at Donoughmore, County Wicklow; and, whether any steps are being taken to bring the perpetrators of this outrage to justice’? In reply the chief secretary said ‘The Constabulary authorities report that a bunch of Orange lilies was recently suspended at night on a door of the Roman Catholic church at Donard; that the bell also had been rung; but that no text had been chalked upon the doors. They further report that the Orange meeting room is not also the National School at Donoughmore, but that they adjoin each other. The police have the matter still under investigation, with a view to discover the guilty party’.[xxix] The incident at Donard church sparked a flurry of Nationalist activity in west Wicklow. A meeting was held in Donard on 5 August 1888 and was attended by more than 3,000 people. Dunlavin’s Fr Frederick Donovan, who was parish priest, did not attend the meeting. He was based in Dunlavin, and it was Donard church which had been violated, so he was quite content to let his Donard curate, Patrick Brennan take the platform, even though the young Brennan had been only newly ordained from Maynooth when he replaced Thomas Lynch in June 1887. In the event, Brennan did not disappoint his audience, which included large contingents from Baltinglass, Hollywood, Blessington, Ballymore-Eustace, the Glen of Imaal and Dunlavin. Before the meeting started the grand master of Donoghmore Loyal Orange Lodge 1798, Rev. Timothy Clifford O’Connor, mounted the podium and tried to speak but he was shouted down and ‘put off the platform by a man called Hurley’. There had been an Orange lodge in the Donard area for about 90 years, and generally the Orangemen were tolerated locally, but the crowd at the meeting were obviously not in a tolerant mood! When the chairman, John Magrath of Castleruddery, called on Fr. Brennan to speak, the curate delivered a fiery address. He was, he said ‘sent to Donard by our holy and patriotic archbishop, Dr. Walsh, to aid his flock, save their souls and defend the honour of God’s house.’ Brennan would not tolerate the outrage, and went on to say that he had ‘never interfered in politics, but he would put his foot down to stamp out Orangeism.’ The next speaker was poor law guardian E. P. O’Kelly from Baltinglass. He was even less tolerant than Brennan: ‘Orangemen had too much toleration in Donard. There, on 12 July, they assembled, and brought out all their old shanderadans . . . and decorated their old horses, their mules, their asses, their old wives and mothers and ugly orange coloured daughters – there wasn’t a good looking girl among them – wait until 12 July and he would see if they have their peaceable nonsensical display unmolested’. Despite this threat and other anti-Orange speeches delivered by the next speakers, Mr. D. Fay, poor law guardian and Mr. H. J. Mullally of Lemonstown, there is no record of any violence in Donard on the following 12 July.[xxx]

August 1888 saw Garrett Byrne successfully raise the question of an irregular conviction at Wicklow assizes in the House of Commons. He enquired whether Balfour had ‘received a memorial for the release of the 10 men who were convicted at Wicklow on 28 July by a jury not selected according to law, the judge having subsequently quashed the array, but stated he was powerless to discharge the prisoners, and that the Executive should be applied to in the matter; and, whether the men have been, or will be, discharged’? In reply Balfour stated that ‘the Lord Lieutenant has had the case of the prisoners in question before him; and though His Excellency could not recognize the objection on the ground of the panel, by which the prisoners were not in any degree prejudiced, and though the conviction was strictly regular in law, yet in deference to the recommendation of the jury who tried the prisoners, and in view of the improved state of the County Wicklow, His Excellency was of opinion that he could, without detriment to the interests of the law, exercise clemency in favour of the prisoners, and has accordingly ordered their discharge’.[xxxi]

In November Garrett Byrne returned to the topic of the Irish Land Commission sitting in west Wicklow asking ‘when the Land Commissioners will hold their next sitting in west Wicklow; whether it is true that the tenants on an estate in Donard, County Wicklow, have had ejectments served on them for one year’s rent three days after it was due; whether the County Court Judge, in the case of Terence Higgins, accepted half a year’s rent in settlement; and, whether, on a rent of £18 5s., valuation £13, the tenant was mulcted £2 in costs’. The Solicitor General for Ireland, Dodgson Hamilton Madden of Dublin University, told Byrne that ‘the land commissioners report that it is intended to have a sitting of a sub-commission at Baltinglass next January for the western portion of the County Wicklow. I understand that there were only two cases of ejectment entered at last sessions from the Donard estate, and that in one of these only was there but one year’s rent due. This was the case of Terence Higgins, which is mentioned in the question; but it is not the fact that it was settled by the County Court Judge in the manner alleged. He made a ‘nil’ order in the case. As regards the last paragraph, assuming that it relates to the case of Higgins, whose rent, however, was £18 9s., not £18 5s., there were no costs awarded by the court’. Byrne responded with another question, asking Madden ‘whether he is aware that numerous applications to have fair rents fixed in the Baltinglass district were lodged with the land commission so long ago as September last year, and have not yet been heard or even listed for hearing; and, if so, whether he will draw the attention of the land commission to the extreme desirability of having listed and heard, at the next land sessions for Baltinglass, all cases in which applications have been lodged for at least a period of three months and upwards’? Madden replied stating ‘The land commissioners report that the number of cases now outstanding in the County Carlow portion of Baltinglass Union is 58; in the County Wicklow portion 273; and in the County Kildare portion 65. A sub-commission will sit in Baltinglass on 22 January; the list will contain 42 cases from County Wicklow and 41 from the County Carlow. All applications received up to, and including, 27 September 1887, are listed for Wicklow; and all applications received up to, and including, 7 November 1887, are listed for Carlow. No date has been fixed for that portion of the union in County Kildare. It would not be practicable to adopt the course suggested in the concluding portion of the question, having regard to the claims of other unions’.[xxxii] Evidently, the setting of fair rents and ongoing evictions were still live issues in west Wicklow in 1888.[xxxiii]

Byrne’s next contribution to the House in December 1888 addressed a perceived unjust system and an indirect manifestation of sectarianism in Wicklow, namely the practice of ‘jury packing’, in which exclusively Protestant juries were sworn to decide the fate of defendants in courts. In a lengthy exchange, Byrne said he ‘desired to denounce in the most emphatic manner, on behalf of the Catholic jurors of the County Wicklow who had been insulted time after time in court, against the present system of jury-packing in Ireland. His own constituents had been insulted, and almost spat upon, when they had presented themselves at the court as jurors. When their names were called they were told to stand aside, implying that they were not fit to take the oath and that they were not qualified to perform the functions of an ordinary juror. He repudiated in the strongest manner possible the action of the Crown officials for the manner in which they treated the jurors in the County of Wicklow. He protested against the Wicklow jurors being made the political washing-tub in which the government washed their dirty linen – he protested against men whom the government wished to have punished, and those whom they wished to screen, being brought into Wicklow for trial. The government had brought emergency men into Wicklow, and had them tried and acquitted, and it was patent to everybody that the government could have been actuated by no other intention in bringing the men there. They, on the other hand, brought men from their homes in other counties long distances to have them convicted. They had even brought men from Belfast, who had been guilty of serious crimes, because it was assumed that the intelligent jurors in Belfast would not have let the men off. He was surprised at the Hon. Member for South Tyrone  [T. W. Russell’s] statement as to the Catholic Members contending that Protestant jurors were perjurers. He denied that that statement was true, and he doubted very much whether the Hon. Member who had given them an opinion upon the subject knew anything about the matter. He made the Hon. Member a present of the honour and credit of having sat on the jury who found that most contemptible member of the Dublin Castle clique, Mr. French, guilty of a heinous offence. No man who had any respect at all for his oath could have done otherwise than the Hon. Member did. He (Byrne) had some knowledge of the jurors of the County Wicklow and also of the Sheriffs, the High Sheriff and the Sub-Sheriff, as well as the officers of the court. It was a familiar fact to everyone who knew anything of the locality that these men had, to use a common expression, been ‘ruling the roost’ there for a very long time. Rightly or wrongly they had kept all these offices in their own hands. The High Sheriff was only a political figurehead and did not attend to any of the duties of the office; in fact, it was not necessary that the High Sheriff should be anything but a figurehead. He (Byrne) was personally acquainted with the Sub-Sheriff, and did not wish to say anything against him; but the fact was that Judge O’Brien had quashed the jury panel because it was not properly impanelled…’ The chairman intervened at this point, saying ‘The Hon. Member is wandering from the point under discussion’. Byrne resumed, saying ‘he did not wish to stray from the subject before the committee, but he thought he had a right to refer to a subject which had already been introduced in the debate. The subject of jury-packing had been referred to more than once, and he could not help complaining here, in the presence of the Hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland, of the way in which juries had been packed in Wicklow. He thought he had a right to protest against the bone and sinew of the jury panel in Wicklow being told to stand aside. In the face of what had been said by a judge, and in the face of public opinion in Ireland, it was idle to say that Wicklow juries had not been packed. He challenged the Hon. and learned Solicitor General to say that Wicklow juries had not been interfered with. It had been stated that instructions had been sent by the greatest jury packer in Ireland, namely, the Attorney General, to exclude all landlords and agents from the panel; but he challenged the government to produce these instructions, because he maintained that if such instructions had been sent the authorities had also been told to exclude more than landlords and their agents. He had known occasions when every Catholic and every Liberal Protestant had been told to stand aside, presumably because they did not please the Attorney General, and because it was necessary to carry out the instructions which had been given that such people should not be put upon the panel. If the Hon. and learned Solicitor General would venture to produce the instructions of his chief, the committee, he (Byrne) would undertake to say, would have some very interesting information. The jury panels were so rigorously framed in Wicklow that it was no wonder that in many quarters in Ireland it was said that the Wicklow juries would soon be known under the name of the ‘Hanging Juries’, because they were obliged to do what the Attorney General for the time being required of them. As to the murder of Kinsella, the right Hon. Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland admitted that a murder had taken place. Kinsella was a hard-working and industrious and honest man, who had for years paid his rent. It was within the knowledge of the committee that Freeman had said to Kinsella that if he did not leave swearing by his Maker, he, Freeman, would shoot him, and, following upon that, Kinsella was shot. The right Hon. Gentleman attempted to show that someone else had shot Kinsella or that someone had said he had shot him, and he had tried to make capital out of the fact that Freeman’s pistol was not discharged. But was the right Hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that Freeman changed his pistol with another of the gang? Had he inquired into that circumstance? The right Hon. Gentleman further stated that the bullet found in the body of the murdered man would not fit the pistol found on Freeman. Of course it would not, because it was not fired out of that pistol, the six barrels of which remained undischarged. But, even supposing the bullet had come out of that pistol, it would not be surprising if, after having been fired, and having struck Kinsella, it had expanded and got out of form. There could be no doubt whatever that it was fired out of one of the revolvers of these Emergency men. The committee were not to forget that these men, with whom Kinsella was in company, and who were defending themselves, were on their own land, for which they had paid rent. The Emergency men, a band of hired ruffians, had gone there because they were paid for doing so’. This prompted another intervention from the chairman, who said: ‘The Hon. Member is again travelling away from the subject before the committee. I must implore him to adhere to the subject under discussion’. Byrne continued saying that he ‘must express his surprise at the hardihood of the Solicitor General for Ireland in standing up and saying that jury-packing did not take place at Wicklow. He did not wish to occupy the time of the committee at any length, but there was one item in the vote to which he objected. The medical officer got £800 for five years, when he received another £100 making £900. Now he found…’ At this point the chairman interjected ‘The Hon. Member seems to have got hold of the wrong vote’. Undeterred, Byrne went on, telling the house ‘he wished to complain of a certain duplication of officers which he and others had objected to for a long period, and which was reproduced in this vote. He protested against men superannuated from other offices being appointed to places in which it was impossible for them to discharge their duties with satisfaction. He had always objected to this and he always should, and he trusted that in future when the government had offices to give they would select men for them who were not already in office’. Following contributions from two other MPs (Russell and Sexton), Byrne said ‘what he desired to do was to protest on behalf of the electors of the County of Wicklow against the exclusion of Catholics from the jury panels in that county. He did not mean to suggest that Protestant juries would not return fair verdicts, but his complaint was that the juries selected were such juries as the Attorney General had ordered to be selected’.[xxxiv]

Garret Byrne did not contribute to the proceedings of the House of Commons again until March 1889, when he asked about the salary and qualifications of the Valuer to the Irish Land Commission. He asked Balfour ‘whether it was true that the Chief Valuer attached to the Irish Land Commission was in receipt of £1,000 a-year for said office; whether he is a pensioner of Greenwich Hospital; whether he is in receipt of £300 a-year pension from that institution; and, what are his qualifications for the discharge of the important duties of Chief Valuer to the Irish Land Commission’? Balfour replied tersely ‘The land commissioners inform me that the facts are as stated in the first three paragraphs. The gentleman in question was for many years general estate manager for Greenwich Hospital at a salary of £1,400 a-year, and has many years’ experience in valuing land’. Byrne pressed the point again: ‘Has this officer any qualification whatever? Does he know anything about the valuation of land’? Balfour, perhaps tellingly, gave an even shorter reply: ‘I cannot express an opinion upon that point’.[xxxv]

In April 1889 evictions were once again making news in County Wicklow and Garrett Byrne asked the Solicitor General for Ireland Dodgson Madden ‘whether his attention has been drawn to the case of Richard Cullen, a leasehold tenant on the estate of Charles Frizelle, Castlekevin, county of Wicklow, who applied to the land commission to fix a fair rent immediately after the passing of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1887, but has never been able to get his case heard; whether he is aware that in September last he was served with an eviction notice; that his rent was £19 14s. 4d. a-year, while the government valuation of his farm was only £12 10s.; that in 1885 the then agent of the estate accepted, in respect of the last gale of that year, a rent equal to the valuation; and that a newly-appointed agent, named McDougall, was offered last October by Cullen one and a-half year’s rent, computed at the valuation, but refused the offer; and, if these allegations are well founded, whether the Government are prepared to lend the forces of the Crown for the eviction of Cullen, or whether they intend to propose any legislation to prevent evictions from similar causes in the future’? In reply, Madden stated ‘The land commissioners inform me that it is the case that Cullen served an originating notice, as stated in the first paragraph. I have not received a reply in regard to the details in the second paragraph. The tenant had full power to apply, under the act of 1881, to the court to stay the proceedings in ejectment, and also under the act of 1887, to likewise stay the proceedings, pending the hearing of his application to have a fair rent fixed, and to have the arrears of rent declared payable by instalments spread over a given period, should the court consider the circumstances of the case required it’.[xxxvi]

In July 1889 the procedure for tendering in the Baltinglass union caused Byrne to ask Balfour ‘whether his attention has been called to a report of the proceedings of the Baltinglass Union, at their meeting, held on 15 June instant, for the purpose of accepting tenders for supplies, and other business, when a tender which was not the lowest was accepted; and, whether he will cause the Local Government Board to inquire into this misapplication of the ratepayers’ money, and have the lowest tender accepted’? Balfour informed Byrne that ‘The clerk of Baltinglass Union reports that the contract for the supply of beef to the workhouse was given to a person whose tender was one farthing in the pound higher than the amount in the lowest tender, while the price for mutton in both tenders was the same, and that the consumption of mutton is greater than beef. The guardians, in their advertisement inviting tenders, distinctly declined to bind themselves to accept the lowest or any of the tenders, and they considered that under the circumstances of the case they were justified in accepting the particular tender above referred to. The Local Government Board see no cause for their interference’.[xxxvii]

Later that same month it became evident that the issue of fair rents had not been resolved in west Wicklow when Garrett Byrne asked the Chief Secretary ‘whether he is aware that although the tenants on Mr. Graves Cathrew’s estate at Donard, and others in West Wicklow, have made applications to the land court to have fair rents fixed nearly two years ago, the landlord is more stringent than ever in collecting the rents at the old rates, and that the tenants are unable to hold out any longer; and, whether he will urge the land commission to hold sitting on an early day’? Balfour replied to this by saying: ‘The land commissioners report that eleven applications from the estate of Mr. Cathrew remain still undisposed of. They will in ordinary course be included in the next list for Baltinglass Union. It appears that such of these tenants as are in poor circumstances are receiving an abatement pending the fixing of the judicial rents’.[xxxviii]

The ongoing land agitation and widespread poverty meant that some, notably from the landless and cottier classes, continued to live on the breadline. While larger farmers were the beneficiaries of Tory concessions under the policy of Constructive Unionism (or ‘Killing Home Rule with Kindness’), the plight of farm labourers remained pressing,[xxxix] and sometimes these families had no option but to seek shelter in the workhouse. In August 1889 conditions in Baltinglass workhouse prompted Garrett Byrne to ask the Chief Secretary ‘whether his attention has been called to the half-yearly report of Mr. Robinson, Local Government Board Inspector, dated 20 April 1888, on the Baltinglass Union, drawing attention to the engineer’s report on the defective drainage of the workhouse, pointing out that the health of the inmates demanded a prompt and immediate remedy; whether the guardians are prepared to have this work done at once but, being without funds for this purpose, desire to borrow the money under the Public Health Act or Poor Relief Act; and, whether he will induce the Local Government Board to advance the requisite funds for this urgent outlay’? Balfour told Byrne ‘My attention has been called to the report of the Local Government Board Inspector, drawing attention to the defective drainage of the workhouse of the Baltinglass Union. The board of guardians are willing to borrow money to remedy the defects, and the Local Government Board are in communication with the Public Works Commissioners, with a view of ascertaining if a loan can be granted’. Byrne used the opportunity to again enquire about the land commission, asking Balfour ‘whether he is in a position to state when the land commission will hold their next sitting in Baltinglass for the fixing of fair rents for Donard and other districts in West Wicklow’? Balfour replied: ‘The land commissioners report that a sub-commission is at present sitting in east Wicklow. It will continue its sitting after the vacation, taking up the west Wicklow district in its turn; but it is not possible at present to give the exact date of the sitting’.[xl]

However, applying for a loan was one thing, granting it was another. Evidently, workhouse guardians were encountering difficulties in this regard, and later in August, Byrne contributed the following snippet to a debate relating to the Charitable Donations and bequests office: ‘I desire to bring under the notice and consideration of the Chief Secretary as head of the Local Government Board, the difficulties that stand in the way of guardians obtaining loans for carrying out necessary improvements in workhouse buildings. In this connection I would refer him to the correspondence that took place last year between the Board and the guardians of the Rathdrum Union, and I would impress upon him the desirability of some clear definition of how far works in relation to workhouse buildings come under the provisions of the Public Works Loans Act. In the matter of labourers’ cottages, I think the Local Government Board is to blame for not facilitating the adoption of the act. Undoubtedly there is no great disposition on the part of guardians to avail themselves of the act; but if the Board of Works prepared designs, which being lithographed, could be available all over Ireland for the use of guardians, professional expenses in relation to the act would be reduced, and uniformity in providing cottages would be secured. One other point deserves attention in connection with this vote, and that is the improper and dishonest manner in which votes for the election of guardians are manufactured by the connivance of members of a family’.[xli] In addition to difficulties regarding financial matters, Byrne’s contribution implied that nepotism was alive and well in Wicklow!

Byrne’s concerns about the Rathdrum board of guardians surfaced again in his next question. In August 1889 he asked Madden ‘whether his attention has been directed to the report of the meeting of the Board of Guardians at Rathdrum, County Wicklow, on Wednesday, the 14th inst, when it was stated that the number of inmates was 202; that the salaries of the officials amounted to the sum of £1,691 per annum; and whether he will urge the Local Government Board to insist on a reduction of the staff and expenditure at this union’? The Solicitor General replied: ‘The report referred to has not come before the Local Government Board. The official minutes show that the guardians discussed the question of salaries on the 14th inst., but nothing further was done. There are about 208 paupers in the workhouse, and the salaries of the workhouse officers (without taking into account the salaries of extern officers) amount to about £540 per annum. The Local Government Board see no reason to adopt the course suggested in the last paragraph’.

Byrne was again vocal in the House the same day, this time on the subject of telegraphs to Hacketstown. He asked the Postmaster General ‘whether he has received a memorial from the inhabitants of Hacketstown and district praying for the establishment of a telegraph office at that place; and, whether he will grant the request therein, and order the extension of the telegraph system to Hacketstown’? Sir H. Maxwell of Wigtonshire (a Lord of the Treasury) replied for the Postmaster General, saying ‘The memorial referred to was for the extension of the telegraphs to Kiltegan and Hacketstown. Arrangements are now in progress for establishing a telegraph office at Kiltegan and this will bring the telegraph much nearer to Hacketstown. It is not practicable, under present circumstances, to open an office at Hacketstown’.

In the third of his four questions that day, Garrett Byrne raised the topic of evictions at Castlekevin, asking the Solicitor General ‘whether his attention has been called to the report in the Wicklow People, of 17 August instant, of the evictions on the estate of Charles Frizell, J.P., at Castlekevin, County Wicklow, wherein it is stated that, not only were several tenants evicted, and some of the houses levelled to the ground, but in the case of Mrs. Carroll, in spite of her remonstrations, the evictors, threw out her furniture through the door and windows, literally smashing up everything; whether he will see that compensation be paid for this destruction of property; and, whether he will give orders that at all future evictions the furniture and personal property of the tenant will not be destroyed’? Madden informed Byrne ‘I understand that four evictions only were carried out. Two very old fabrics, built about a hundred years ago, were levelled. Neither the furniture of Mrs. Carroll nor of any of the other tenants was smashed. Mrs. Carroll, it appears, had been treated most generously by the landlord. About four years ago he forgave her up to date all the arrears of rent due (some seven years). She had then a judicial rent fixed; but she has not since made any payment at all’.

Byrne’s last question that day was addressed to the Postmaster General, enquiring ‘whether he has received pressing representations from all classes of the inhabitants of Roundwood (Togher), County Wicklow, of the very great necessity that exists for a telegraph office being established there; and whether he can see his way to grant what is asked for’? In reply, Maxwell stated ‘In pursuance of a promise made in answer to a previous question the Postmaster General caused inquiry to be made respecting an extension of the telegraphs to Roundwood, and the Hon. Member was informed by letter on 31 January last that the post office could not make the extension except under guarantee. Since that date the Postmaster General has not received any communication or representation on the subject and it now rests with those who are interested to furnish the guarantee’.[xlii] These were Byrne’s final questions in 1889.

In May 1890 Garrett Byrne raised an irregularity in the election of guardians to Baltinglass poor law union. He asked Balfour ‘whether it is a fact that at the last election of poor law guardians for the Ballinguile electoral division of the Baltinglass Union, County Wicklow, an appointment of a person named John Driver to vote as proxy for a person named Anne Hudson was lodged with the Returning Officer; and whether it is a fact that the document referred to purported to have been signed on 1 February by Anne Hudson, though she died on the previous 3 January; and, if so, whether he will direct inquiry to be made as to the author of the forgery, with a view to enforcing against the delinquent the penalties which the law prescribes for such offences’? Balfour had to admit that such was indeed the case, stating ‘I believe the facts are as stated in the first paragraph of the question. It is open to any person aggrieved to proceed for the recovery of the penalty provided by statute, and in addition the papers will be laid before the Attorney General’.[xliii]

A week later, the west Wicklow MP returned to the question of land reform, referring specifically to possible biases and cronyism the work of the land commission,[xliv] when he asked Balfour ‘whether he is aware that on 24 April last the land commissioners (No. 6 sub-commission), whilst inspecting holdings on the Greaves Cathrew Estate at Donard, Baltinglass Union, County Wicklow, drove the landlord and his bailiff from holding to holding on the commissioners’ car, although they were visiting the lands in their judicial and official capacity; that, although the tenant gave evidence as to value and produced an experienced valuer, the landlord elected not to do so; whether the judicial rents fixed by land commissioners on the holdings of Francis and Thomas Redding were 22½ and 47½ per cent over the government valuation; whether the rents on the Bookey estate, adjoining Reddings’ land, were reduced to from 35 to 50 per cent below the government valuation; and, if he can explain this difference in the judicial rents on adjoining estates’? Balfour replied by saying ‘The land commissioners report that the assistant commissioners who inspected the holdings on Mr. Graves Cathrew’s property at Donard state that as Mr. Cathrew had no conveyance they, after inspecting one holding, asked him to accept a seat on their car to the other holdings, which were some distance off. They did so in order to save the time which would have been lost by driving on and waiting for Mr. Cathrew. It was getting late and they had other holdings to inspect. The commissioners think that the assistant commissioners, under the circumstances, acted properly in giving Mr. Cathrew a seat on the car. The assistant commissioners, having heard the evidence in court, and inspected the holdings, and considered all the circumstances of the case, fixed what they considered fair rents. The commissioners cannot enter into any statement concerning the judicial rents fixed by the assistant commissioners or by themselves in court in the exercise of judicial functions’. Byrne pressed the point however, asking the chief secretary ‘Does the right Hon. Gentleman think that the proceeding of the commissioners was a proper one? Acting as they were as judges, was it right that they should favour either one side or the other’? This evidently drew both supportive and sceptical reactions from opposite sides of the House, causing the Speaker to intervene, saying ‘Order, order! The Hon. Member is asking for an expression of opinion which is not within the limits of a question’. Amid continuing clamour, J O’Connor, the MP for South Tipperary, continued by asking Balfour ‘Is it not usual on such occasions for the landlord to provide himself with a car? Is it upon record that the sub-commissioners ever gave a tenant such a ride upon a car’? Balfour’s reply was brief when he said: ‘I am not aware that such questions are made a matter of record’, bringing this particular parliamentary exchange to a conclusion.[xlv]

In July 1890 Byrne raised the evidently touchy subject of shadowing, or police surveillance in the House when he asked the Attorney General for Ireland ‘whether his attention has been called to a paragraph in the Leinster Leader, of 5 July instant, which states that Mr. P. J. Healy, Baltinglass, still continues to be the subject of more persistent police surveillance. At Tinahely Fair, on Wednesday, the police were on his track wherever he went through the town in the transaction of his private business. Not only did they follow his every movement in the public streets, but when Mr. Healy had occasion to enter private houses to make visits to friends in the town, the police forced an entrance after him and refused to leave while Mr. Healy remained in the house; whether he is aware that this Mr. Healy was acquitted by two Resident Magistrates of any criminal act; whether he will cause the police not to interfere with this man in future; and whether he will consider the advisability of putting a stop to following persons into private houses’? Madden replied: ‘The constabulary authorities report that it is the case that, at the fair held at Tinahely on 25 June, the movements of Patrick Healy were watched, there being reason to believe that he is engaged in conjunction with the local branch of the National League, in endeavouring to promote the boycotting of a man who took the farm from which Healy had been evicted. But that it is not the case that the police followed him into any private house, the only places they entered after him being licensed premises. It is the case that Healy was subsequently charged at petty sessions with having committed intimidation on 21 May, and that the magistrates dismissed the case. In doing so, however, they stated that the case was a very suspicious one, but that they had given the defendant the benefit of the doubt’.[xlvi]
Garrett Byrne did not contribute anything in the House during the remainder of the year 1890, but his voice was heard again in March 1891, this time on the topic of postal arrangements in west Wicklow. He asked the Postmaster General ‘whether there is any truth in the rumour that the mail car which has been plying between Tinahely, Hacketstown, and Kiltegan for the last eight years is about to be discontinued; and, seeing the great advantage and convenience to the commercial and residential community of the existing system, whether he will make arrangements for the continuance of the present postal service through that locality’? Mr Raikes informed Byrne that ‘while a scheme is under consideration for giving a later despatch of the day mail from Hacketstown and Kiltegan, which would involve working the mail car from Baltinglass instead of from Tinahely, I have not as yet full information before me, and I have come to no decision on the subject. I have certainly no desire to make any change which would not be acceptable to the residents generally; and I will take care that their views shall not be lost sight of when the matter comes before me for final decision’.[xlvii]
The theme of communications continued in Byrne’s other questions of 1891. In August he enquired of the Postmaster General ‘whether he is aware that great inconvenience is experienced by passengers travelling to and from Kingstown by the Royal Mail boats by reason of the fact that telegrams cannot be despatched except by the payment of special messengers, not always available, to convey them to the Kingstown office, a quarter of a mile distant, on week days, and on Sundays, when the Kingstown office is closed, they have to be sent to the General Office, Dublin, a distance of eight miles; and whether he will have an office opened on the mail pier, and a telegraphist to attend during the hours of arrival and departure of the mail boats, or make arrangements for a telegraph messenger for the conveyance of messages to the Kingstown and Dublin offices’? Raikes was noncommittal in his answer, saying: ‘I shall be glad to make inquiry into the matter to which the Hon. Member refers, and I will let him know the result in due course’. However, Byrne followed up his first question by again referring to the fate of the Tinahely mails, asking the Postmaster General ‘whether he has ordered the mail car now plying between Tinahely, Hacketstown, and Kiltegan, to be withdrawn; is this car to be run from Baltinglass to Kiltegan and Hacketstown instead; will this arrangement cause the Tinahely letters to Hacketstown and Kiltegan to be sent via Dublin, a distance of a hundred miles, instead of six miles by the car; and whether he could run one car from Baltinglass to Kiltegan, together with the present car from Tinahely to Hacketstown’? Raikes again kicked for touch and his reply indicated that a rationalisation policy was being enacted in other rural areas. He said ‘I do not know that I can add much to the answer which I gave last week on this subject to the Hon. Member for North Longford, and in which I fully explained the reasons for the proposed change. I am afraid that circumstances would not warrant the employment of two cars, as suggested by the Hon. Member; but I will with pleasure make inquiries on this point, and acquaint him with the result’.[xlviii]
In May 1892 Garrett Byrne addressed the topic of educational grants, asking the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether the Excise and Customs grant of £78,000 to the national school teachers for the year ended 31 March 1892, has yet been divided; whether he can state the amount of the capitation grant per head, and, if it has not yet been divided, what is the cause of the delay; and can he state when it will be distributed’? William Jackson, the MP for Leeds North, who had become Chief Secretary for Ireland the previous year, replied by stating: ‘The grant of £78,000 to the national school teachers of Ireland has been long since distributed, except in a few cases where the circumstances do not render it possible to yet pay the teachers, and except with regard to the payments to the poor law guardians which are proceeding. The amount of the capitation distributed amongst the teachers was at the rate of 3s 4d per child in average daily attendance’.[xlix]
In May 1892 Garrett Byrne asked the final question of his tenure as MP for West Wicklow, returning to the topic of rural postal services. He asked the Postmaster General ‘whether he can state the exact financial position of the post office at Knockananna, County Wicklow; the amount of income accruing from its working; the weekly wages paid to the messenger; and if it is working at a loss, what guarantee would be required from the residents of Knockananna to save the department from loss and pay the messenger 7s a week for calling every day at 5 p.m. and carrying the mails to meet the 6 p.m. post at Hacketstown’? In reply Byrne was informed that ‘There is no post office at Knockananna, but a wall box is provided in which letters can be posted for despatch to Hacketstown in the morning. The messenger who delivers the letters receives 5s a week, or £13 a year, and the revenue falls short of this expense by £1 11s. a year. Assuming that the messenger would be willing to make a collection of letters at Knockananna at 5 p.m. for wages of 7s instead of 5s a week, which is very doubtful, the payment to be made under a guarantee would be £5 4s 3d for the first year’.[l] 

Garrett Byrne left the House of Commons on 28 June 1892, coinciding with the general election of that year,[li] and he subsequently died in Dublin in 1897.[lii] On 4 July 1892 he was succeeded as MP for west Wicklow by James O’Connor, who served until 1 October 1900, when he was re-elected, sitting for a further ten years until 12 March 1910. O’Connor was replaced by Edward O’Kelly (26 April 1910-22 July 1914)[liii] and later John O’Donovan (22 August 1914-25 November 1918). The last MP to represent west Wicklow was Robert Barton (14 December1918-26 October 1922),[liv] who was elected on the abstentionist Sinn Féin ticket and made no parliamentary contributions whatsoever at Westminster.[lv]

Garrett Byrne MP was a significant figure in west Wicklow during the late nineteenth century. His parliamentary contributions, meticulously recorded in Hansard, provide an insight into the minutiae of the day-to-day activities at Westminster. However, the overarching themes of his questions go further. As MP for west Wicklow, Byrne was the voice of the people from the area, and his utterances reflect the local history of national events. The topics he touched upon covered a broad spectrum; indeed they constitute an interesting mix. Questions on Irish sovereignty, fair rents, the threat of evictions, outrages involving the Churches, delays in educational grants, inequalities in society and the care of its most vulnerable members, possible corruption in the ranks of the powers that be, inadequate rural services and communications – but no, such issues would not be relevant in today’s Ireland… would they? In any event, as is the case in the early twenty-first century, west Wicklow was also a microcosm of the nation in the late nineteenth century, and the great political issues of the day such as land reform and Home Rule were played out within this area, just as they were an integral part of the broader national tapestry.[lvi]

As we travel through this ‘decade of centenaries’ between 2013 and 2023, there is little doubt that the contributions of the nationalist (and later republican) Physical Force factions will be commemorated. However, we must also remember that throughout Irish history there have been two separate but often intertwined threads working to achieve independence from Britain. One was the Physical Force tradition, in which armed insurrection was the avowed aim of Irish rebels. The other, lesser known but perhaps more successful, was the thread of Constitutional Nationalism, in which the Irish cause was furthered by working within the existing political system. In the late nineteenth century Constitutional Nationalism was dominated by the question of Home Rule; in the early twentieth century Constitutional Nationalists were to the fore in establishing a twenty-six county Irish Free State. The Irish Parliamentary Party made great strides in the decades before 1916 – so great that a Home Rule bill was actually passed. However, the events of Easter Week 1916 and the executions in its aftermath rendered Home Rule irrelevant. The Sinn Féin party reaped the rewards of the consequent shift in public opinion, and it was Robert Barton who represented this change in the west Wicklow election of 1918. The advances made by Barton and his colleagues in the march to nationhood are well documented.[lvii] However, in many ways, Barton and the others were standing on the shoulders of giants – one of whom was the west Wicklow MP, Garrett Byrne.


[i] Mary Bergin, ‘The Wicklow landlord who held sway over the British empire: Parnell and his times’ in Journal of the West Wicklow Historical Society, vii (Naas, 2013), pp 112-3.
[ii] Chris Lawlor, Canon Frederick Donovan’s Dunlavin 1884-1896: a west Wicklow village in the late nineteenth century (Dublin, 2000), p. 47.
[iii] F. S. L. Lyons, Ireland since the Famine (revised ed, Glasgow, 1973), p. 182.
[iv] W. S. Churchill, Lord Randolph Churchill, vol. 2 (London, 1906), p. 62.
[v] The parliamentary debates published under the superintendence of T. C. Hansard (Hereafter cited as Hansard), new series, HC Deb 12 March 1886, vol 303, c631.
[vi] Hansard, HC Deb 11 May 1886, vol 305, c753.
[vii] Hansard, HC Deb 24 May 1886, vol 305, cc1842-971.
[viii] Chris Lawlor, Canon Frederick Donovan’s Dunlavin 1884-1896: a west Wicklow village in the late nineteenth century (Dublin, 2000), p. 48.
[ix] Hansard, HC Deb 06 September 1886, vol 308, cc1327-456.
[x] Hansard, HC Deb 13 September 1886, vol 309, cc188-288.
[xi] Hansard, HC Deb 28 February 1887, vol 311, cc725-67.
[xii] Hansard, HC Deb 01 March 1887, vol 311, cc877-8.
[xiii] Hansard, HC Deb 04 April 1887, vol 313, cc376-426.
[xiv] United Ireland, 23 Oct 1886.
[xv] Papal involvement in Irish political affairs (and vice versa) during the 1880s was not unusual. In 1882, for example, the pope expressed outrage at the Barbavilla murder in Westmeath. Ann Murtagh, Portrait of a Westmeath tenant community 1879-85 (Dublin, 1999), p. 56. One of the earlier entries in Canon Frederick Donovan’s diary, dated 5 July 1885, records that: ‘on 11 February Cardinal McCabe expired. On the following 10 March, the canons and parish priests of Dublin diocese by an overwhelming majority selected Dr. William Walsh, president of Maynooth College as his successor, and after a period of painful suspense owing to English intrigues at Rome, to the great joy of the Irish nation the selection was ratified by His Holiness.’ Lawlor, Canon Frederick Donovan’s Dunlavin, p. 31.
[xvi] Conor Cruise O’Brien, Parnell and his party (London, 1957), p. 222.
[xvii] Lewis Perry Curtis, Coercion and conciliation in Ireland (London, 1963), p. 179.
[xviii] Hansard, HC Deb 06 May 1887, vol 314, c1120.
[xix] Hansard, HC Deb 11 August 1887, vol 319, c57.
[xx] Hansard, HC Deb 21 February 1888, vol 322, cc990-1.
[xxi] Hansard, HC Deb 12 April 1888, vol 324, cc1035-6.
[xxii] Hansard, HC Deb 19 April 1888, vol 324, cc1717-8. Rate collection in Baltinglass poor law union continued to cause problems however. As late as 1890, the Leinster Leader reported, ‘The doings of the Tory deadheads who rule the roost at Baltinglass often afford interesting reading on the law as it is administered by them.’ The reference was to the acquittal of a protestant rate-collector at Dunlavin petty sessions in the face of all the evidence. The collector, John Barrett, had evidently embezzled over £120 before declaring himself to be bankrupt. Leinster Leader, 17 May 1890.
[xxiii] Hansard, HC Deb 24 April 1888, vol 325, cc314-5.
[xxiv] Hansard, HC Deb 17 May 1888, vol 326, c545.
[xxv] There is much evidence in the literature to show that the National League was very active in many areas at this time. See, for example, Proinnsias Ó Gallchobhair, History of landlordism in Donegal (Ballyshannon, 1962; reprint, 1975), pp 67-149 passim; Donnacha Seán Lucey, The Irish National League in Dingle, County Kerry 1885-1892 (Dublin, 2003), pp 34-56 passim; Edward Kennedy, The land movement in Tullaroan, County Kilkenny, 1879-1891 (Dublin, 2004), pp 33-50 passim and Lawlor, Canon Frederick Donovan’s Dunlavin, pp 41-60 passim.
[xxvi] Hansard, HC Deb 04 June 1888, vol 326, cc1019-20.
[xxvii] Hansard, HC Deb 17 July 1888, vol 328, cc1520-1.
[xxviii] Leinster Leader, 11 August 1888.
[xxix] Hansard, HC Deb 07 August 1888, vol 329, cc1828-9
[xxx] Hurley’ could be a reference to a camán or hurley stick. For the pre-existence of an Orange lodge in Donard, see Ruán O’Donnell, ‘The rebellion of 1798 in County Wicklow’ in Wicklow, history and society, (Dublin, 1994) p. 369 [in 1799] and N.U.I. Maynooth, Shearman papers, vol xvii, f. 167 [in 1835] and f. 170v. [in 1862]. Other information in this section comes from St. Nicholas of Myra RC Church, Dunlavin, Canon Frederick Donovan’s diary, unpaginated, August 1888; Leinster Leader, 11 August 1888; Lawlor, Canon Frederick Donovan’s Dunlavin, pp 48-9.
[xxxi] Hansard, HC Deb 07 August 1888, vol 329, cc1845-6.
[xxxii] Hansard, HC Deb 19 November 1888, vol 330, c1505.
[xxxiii] One example was the case before Joseph Pratt Tynte and William Heighington at Dunlavin petty sessions on Wednesday, 25 July 1888. It involved an evicted tenant, Mrs. Brady. She was charged with taking forcible possession of the premises from which she was evicted by George Farrell of Ballymore-Eustace. Mrs. Brady had returned to the house and occupied a pig-sty, from which Farrell again evicted her. At the time of the court case, the Brady family were living under the arch of Lemonstown bridge, and had their furniture there. The bench decided that justice would be served if Mrs. Brady did not return to Farrell’s house, a condition to which her husband agreed and so she was discharged. Leinster Leader, 28 July 1888.
[xxxiv] Hansard, HC Deb 18 December 1888, vol 332, cc651-785.
[xxxv] Hansard, HC Deb 22 March 1889, vol 334, c514.
[xxxvi] Hansard, HC Deb 11 April 1889, vol 335, cc231-3.
[xxxvii] Hansard, HC Deb 01 July 1889, vol 337, cc1147-8.
[xxxviii] Hansard, HC Deb 26 July 1889, vol 338, c1420.
[xxxix] There is much evidence to support this nationally. See, for example, John Cunningham, ‘“A class quite distinct”: the western herds and their defence of their working conditions’ and Carla King, ‘Our destitute countrymen on the western coast: relief and development strategies in the congested districts in the 1880s and 90s’ in Carla King and Conor McNamara (eds), The west of Ireland: New perspectives on the nineteenth century (Dublin, 2011), pp 137-160 and pp 161-183 respectively; Liam Kelly, Kiltubrid, County Leitrim: snapshots of a rural parish in the 1890s (Dublin, 2005), pp 51-60 and William Nolan, ‘The land of Kildare: valuation, ownership and occupation 1850-1906’ in William Nolan and Thomas McGrath (eds), Kildare history and society (Dublin, 2006),  pp 569-581. For the situation in County Wicklow see Ross M. Connolly, ‘A rightful place in the sun – the struggle of the farm and rural labourers in County Wicklow’, in Ken Hannigan and William Nolan (eds), Wicklow history and society (Dublin, 1994), pp 911-26 and Pádraig G. Lane, ‘Wicklow farm labourers: a facet of the 1880s land war’ in Journal of the West Wicklow Historical Society, vii (Naas, 2013), pp 55-61.
[xl] Hansard, HC Deb 06 August 1889, vol 339, cc534-5.
[xli] Hansard, HC Deb 22 August 1889, vol 340, cc137-74.
[xlii] Hansard, HC Deb 23 August 1889, vol 340, cc237-9.
[xliii] Hansard, HC Deb 15 May 1890, vol 344, c963.
[xliv] Judgements made by the sub-commissioners in west Wicklow were the focus of Nationalist attention at this time. This sub-commission, headed by Mr. R. R. Kane, was an organ of the land commission which had been established under the 1881 land act, but whose power and scope were extended under the 1885 Ashbourne land act. The purpose of the Kane sub-commission was to hear appeals made by tenants and establish fair rents on properties. On 1 February 1890 the Leinster Leader carried an article on Edward Sweetman, who was ‘among the best of the Kildare landlords’, but who charged John Harrington of Dunlavin a rent of £490 a year on a property which the Kane sub-commission had now valued at £340 fair rent. On 25 January 1890 the sub-commission met in Blessington to fix fair rents in Baltinglass union, and Harrington’s appeal was one of twenty-two on which Mr. R. R. Kane delivered judgement that day. The twenty-two appeals, taken against seven landlords including Sweetman, all resulted in a rent reduction. What made the Harrington-Sweetman case significant was the scale of the reduction. The average rent reviewed was £62 11s. 6d. and the average reduction was 24.7 per cent. Harrington’s rent of £490 was more than twice as much as the second largest figure, £202, and was reduced by 32 per cent. This reduction of £150 a year was very substantial and ‘such a sum would be taken by many people to provide a good living for the year’. Such a sum, said the article, was considerable – too considerable to be overlooked – and the reporter wondered if Harrington would be reimbursed by £150 a year, and if so, would it be back-dated! Leinster Leader, 1 Feb, 1890.
[xlv] Hansard, HC Deb 22 May 1890, vol 344, cc1580-2.
[xlvi] Hansard, HC Deb 11 July 1890, vol 346, cc1478-9.
[xlvii] Hansard, HC Deb 23 March 1891, vol 351, c1671.
[xlviii] Hansard, HC Deb 04 August 1891 vol 356 cc1252-3.
[xlix] Hansard, HC Deb 19 May 1892 vol 4 c1295.
[l] Hansard, HC Deb 19 May 1892 vol 4 c1296.
[li] visited on 12 Apr 2015.
[lii] The Irish Times, 4 Mar 1897.
[liii] O’Kelly later became the first chairman of Wicklow County Council. Brian Donnelly, For the betterment of the people: A history of Wicklow County Council (Wicklow?, 1999), p. 17.
[liv] visited on 12 Apr 2015. visited on 12 Apr 2015. visited on 12 Apr 2015. visited on 12 Apr 2015.
[lv] Barton did, however, contribute in the Dáil, beginning by reading the ‘Message to the Free Nations of the World’ at its first meeting in 1919. He was later one of the delegates who signed the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921, a decision that he agonised over in later life. Chris Lawlor, The little book of Wicklow (Dublin, 2014), pp 105, 108 and 109.
[lvi] Both land reform and Home Rule were burning issues in late nineteenth century Ireland. Many specialist works have been produced on both topics, but the presence of large sections within standard texts on the period amply testify to this fact. See, for example, J. C. Beckett, The making of modern Ireland 1603-1923 (5th ed, London, 1973), pp 351-434, R. F. Foster, Modern Ireland 1600-1972 (London, 1988), pp 373-430 and F. S. L. Lyons, Ireland since the Famine (revised ed, Glasgow, 1973), pp 141-223.
[lvii] Many published works cover the transition that occurred during and immediately after the ‘Irish revolution’ of 1916-23. Possibly the most reflective treatment of the topic in a general text is found in J. J. Lee, Ireland 1912-1985 (Cambridge, 1989; reprint 1990), pp 1-68. Perhaps the most detailed text devoted solely to the period remains Dorothy Macardle, The Irish Republic (London 1937; revised ed, 1968).


Primary Sources.

Manuscript Sources

Russell Library, N.U.I. Maynooth

Shearman Papers, vol xvii.

St. Nicholas of Myra Roman Catholic Church, Dunlavin

Diary of Canon Frederick Augustine Donovan 1884-1896.

Published Works

The parliamentary debates published under the superintendence of T. C. Hansard, new series, 1886-1892.

Newspapers and periodicals

Leinster Leader, July 1888-May 1890.
The Irish Times, 4 Mar 1897.
United Ireland, 23 Oct 1886.

Secondary Sources.

Published Works

Beckett, J. C., The making of modern Ireland 1603-1923 (5th ed, London, 1973).
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Churchill, W. S., Lord Randolph Churchill, (London, 1906).
Connolly, Ross M., ‘A rightful place in the sun – the struggle of the farm and rural labourers in County Wicklow’, in Ken Hannigan and William Nolan (eds), Wicklow history and society (Dublin, 1994).
Cunningham, John, ‘“A class quite distinct”: the western herds and their defence of their working conditions’ in Carla King and Conor McNamara (eds), The west of Ireland: New perspectives on the nineteenth century (Dublin, 2011).
Curtis, Lewis Perry, Coercion and conciliation in Ireland (London, 1963).
Donnelly, Brian, For the betterment of the people: A history of Wicklow County Council (Wicklow?, 1999).
Foster, R. F., Modern Ireland 1600-1972 (London, 1988).
Kelly, Liam, Kiltubrid, County Leitrim: snapshots of a rural parish in the 1890s (Dublin, 2005),
Kennedy, Edward, The land movement in Tullaroan, County Kilkenny, 1879-1891 (Dublin, 2004).
King, Carla, ‘Our destitute countrymen on the western coast: relief and development strategies in the congested districts in the 1880s and 90s’ in Carla King and Conor McNamara (eds), The west of Ireland: New perspectives on the nineteenth century (Dublin, 2011).
Lane, Pádraig G., ‘Wicklow farm labourers: a facet of the 1880s land war’ in Journal of the West Wicklow Historical Society, vii (Naas, 2013).
Lawlor, Chris, Canon Frederick Donovan’s Dunlavin 1884-1896: a west Wicklow village in the late nineteenth century (Dublin, 2000).
_______  The little book of Wicklow (Dublin, 2014).
Lee, J. J., Ireland 1912-1985 (Cambridge, 1989; reprint 1990).
Lucey, Donnacha Seán, The Irish National League in Dingle, County Kerry 1885-1892 (Dublin, 2003).
Lyons, F. S. L., Ireland since the Famine (revised ed, Glasgow, 1973).
Macardle, Dorothy, The Irish Republic (London 1937; revised ed, 1968).
Murtagh, Ann, Portrait of a Westmeath tenant community 1879-85 (Dublin, 1999).
Nolan, William, ‘The land of Kildare: valuation, ownership and occupation 1850-1906’ in William Nolan and Thomas McGrath (eds), Kildare history and society (Dublin, 2006). 
Ó Gallchobhair, Proinnsias, History of landlordism in Donegal (Ballyshannon, 1962; reprint, 1975).
O’Brien, Conor Cruise, Parnell and his party (London, 1957).
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Electronic Sources visited on 12 Apr 2015. visited on 12 Apr 2015. visited on 12 Apr 2015. visited on 12 Apr 2015. visited on 12 Apr 2015.