The disgraceful extended incarceration of four Mayo farmers for protesting the danger to their lives and families from Esso’s high-pressure gas-lines running contiguous to their homes, brought to mind the similar treatment of their forebears a century and a half ago from occupation landlords.
In 1847 the Irish Poor Law Act was revised to give those landlords the right – under the Gregory Clause – to deny public emergency assistance to tenants holding more than a quarter of an acre of land. If they were to be held responsible for their tenantry, the absentee landlords asserted – and since they dominated Imperial Parliamentary representation they could force through any measure they desired – they wanted a reason to remove tenants from what they deemed unworkable parcels of land.
The Earl of Lucan (a more recent Lord Lucan also is recorded in infamy!) who ‘owned’ over 60,000 acres in Mayo removed more than 2,000 tenants and cleared the lands for pasture. Houses were tumbled and the shells levelled or burned to prevent distressed tenants from seeking shelter in the remains.
Often tenants were offered the stark choice between eviction and assisted forced emigration to
Denis Mahon, a similarly harsh landlord, was murdered in November 1847. Already then he had evicted 3,000 tenants from his holding in Strokestown (now the site of the
In the same Famine year refugees from Lord Palmerston’s
‘Undoubtedly it is the landlord’s right to do as he pleases, and if he abstained he conferred a favour and was doing an act of kindness.
If on the other hand, he chose to stand on his right, the tenants must be taught by the strong arm of the law that they had no power to oppose or resist.’
Is this the same lesson being ‘taught’ by the present-day property defenders and the