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Chapter 9

Oppression and Dispossession

The agreed terms of the Treaty of Limerick were quickly contravened. In 1678, Lord Lieutenant Ormond barred Catholics from entering Dublin Castle without his expressed permission. Every session of the Irish Parliament, from 1695 to 1746, brought into law draconian measures against Catholics and assigned them a subservient position in Irish society. Their aim was to exclude 'Papists' from political life, dispossess them of their remaining lands and to encourage conversions.

The Banishment Act of 1697 exiled all Catholic Bishops, registered resident Priests and forbade their replacement 'under pain of death'. Rewards of £30 were offered to Priests to convert and £5 paid per capita to 'Priest Catchers'. Inherited Catholic land had to be divided among all sons - unless one converted and so obtained the entire holding. Due to the 1704 Popery Act, Catholics could not purchase land - only rent it for less than 31 years.

This 1704 Act, by barring all non-Anglicans from political and government offices, also discriminated against Presbyterians, Quakers and other 'dissenters'. They were treated less severely than Catholics, in that their land holdings were unaffected. However they resented the policy of discrimination and the fact that they had to pay tithes to support the Anglican clergy. Many thousands emigrated to the American colonies.

Lord Lieutenant Harcourt (1772 - 1777) wrote that "the Presbyterians in the North are in their hearts American". Eleven Presidents of the United States were descendants of Ulster Protestant emigrants (as were Davy Crockett and Elvis Presley).

  The Penal Cross
The Penal Cross is unique to Irish folk art, The arms are short to allow it to be hidden up the sleeve.

In 1726 the Lord Chancellor, Richard West, declared that: "The law does not suppose any such person to exist as an Irish Roman Catholic". The right to vote was removed from Catholics by act of Parliament in 1727. Other Penal Laws included the closure of Catholic schools (which forced education of Catholics underground) and the barring of Catholics from entering a profession, the army, or attending Catholic worship - however they were required to attend Anglican service.

The Dubliner and Member of Parliament, Edmund Burke, whose statue stands in the front lawn outside Trinity College, summed up the Penal Laws as "a machine of wise and elaborate contrivance, as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people and the debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man".

Jonathan Swift, the Dean of St. Patrick's and author of the literary classic 'Gulliver's Travels' and many satirical pieces, reacted to the widespread abject poverty of the downtrodden Catholics and Huguenots made unemployed because of England's restrictive Irish policy. He satirised the politicians for their pride, greed and small mindedness and mankind itself for being blighted by depravity. He lampooned the Viceroy, John Carteret, with these bitter lines: "So to effect his monarch's ends, from hell a viceroy ascends. His budget with corruptions crammed - the contributions of the dammed, which with unsparing hand he strews".

Swift was born at No. 7 Hoey's Court, immediately outside the Castle's western wall. There is a plaque commemorating him at the 'Forty Steps' outside Ship Street Gate and his sculptured bust is above that of St. Peter's, at the entrance to the Chapel Royal.