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It is said that all political careers end in failure. The great Daniel O’Connell’s final slide into earthly oblivion was heralded by the now familiar sight of journalists descending on his estate at Derrynane, Co Kerry, the year before he died. They had scented a whiff of scandal, and like today, doorstepped him.
Earlier this year Galway Diary discussed the evictions implemented by Marcella Netterville and John Gerrard on their 7,000 acre estate at Ballinlass, near Mount Bellew Co Galway. In 1846 more that 400 families were heartlessly thrown out on the road, without any compensation. The land was being cleared to fatten cattle, which would have been far more profitable than tenants; many of whom, as the Great Famine tightened its terrible grip, were unable to pay their way. The Times of London famously commented that the Ballinlass evictions showed ‘the sublime indifference to social considerations of which no one but an Irish landowner is capable.’
I made two mistakes last week. I got my months mixed up. Instead of a period of less than two years from the battle at his home Muintir Eoin in the Maam Valley to when he was appointed Leas Ceann Comhairle (deputy speaker) of the new Irish Dáil, I said it was less than ‘eight months’. Secondly the photograph. An utter mystery! It just appeared from cyber space by magic. No idea where it came from.
Between 1869 and 1909 a revolution took place in land ownership in Ireland. A succession of Land Acts gradually reduced the powers of the landlord, and gave their former tenants the means and the opportunity to buy out their tenancy, and to own their own farms. Generous terms were given to tenants by the Wyndham Act of 1903. £100 million was advanced for land purchase, which was immediately availed of by the great majority of tenants. Tenants were advanced the whole purchase price of their holding, at a little over three per cent to be repaid over 68 years. Most landlords were pleased to accept the ready cash, and a whole new social structure emerged throughout the island. However, initially landlords were not compelled to sell, and the independently wealthy marquis of Clanricarde of east Galway refused to cooperate. But his days of evictions, disparaging remarks about his tenants, his bully boy land agent Edward Shaw Tener and his henchmen, were numbered.