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The success of the early linen industry in Mayo is often overlooked, especially in terms of the numbers it brought into regular employment. The growing of flax in Ireland for the production of linen was encouraged by English monarchs from the 17th century in order to reduce the Irish woollen industry which was competing with its English counterpart. The Crown's chief governors in Ireland supplied flax seed, sold looms at cost to farmers and employed linen experts from the continent to instruct the Irish in how to get the most from their flax harvest. The industry exploded as a result, and by the end of the 1700s, linen accounted for almost half of Ireland's total exports. Mayo benefited greatly from the linen boom. The Binghams of Castlebar and Brownes of Westport developed massive linen markets in both towns. Castlebar catered for all linen trading from the south of the county. By 1834, 30,000 people were employed in the linen industry in Mayo. That equated to over eight per cent of the county's population which had increased in tandem with the growth of the linen trade.
In what has been a tumultuous year to date – an inconclusive general election result in February, the shock of Brexit in June, and then the judgment in the Apple case at the end of August – last week’s Budget arguably posed the biggest challenge to date to the minority Government and the much vaunted ‘new politics’.