Dunshaughlin - Land Issues

The Guardians are on record for calling on the government of the day to tackle the land problem in Ireland.

In late 1846 the Board passed a motion calling on the administration to "legalise the tenant right of the North of Ireland and extend it to the entire country". The right in question was the famous Ulster Custom, an agreement (not enforced by legislation) between landlords and tenants in Ulster whereby a tenant would not be evicted except for non-payment of rent. If he were evicted, he would be compensated for any improvements he had made on the holding.

This gave a degree of security to Northern tenants, who were generally better off than their counterparts in the rest of the country. However, what the Board requested in their motion did not become the law of the land until Gladstone's first land act of 1870.

In November 1849, the Board formally petitioned Parliament regarding "the depression of the times" and asked them "to save the country form inevitable ruin." The petition was very detailed calling for:

  • The revision of rent every 7 years
  • That the tenant "shall never be deprived of his occupancy, except for non-payment of rent"
  • That the tenant should have the right to sell his holding whenever he wished
  • That improvements in the tenancy should not cause the landlord to raise the rent.

Most of these reforms were later demanded by the Land League and were known as the 3 Fs - fair rent, free sale and fixity of tenure. They did not become law until 1882.

The Dunshaughlin Workhouse was largely a self-contained institution. It appears that the Guardians worked hard to ensure that inmates and staff were treated fairly and were well looked after in the context of the time. Measures to increase capacity and provide medical services just about coped with the distress and disease of the Famine years. In matters of tenant rights the Guardians were progressive and ahead of their time.


Dunshaughlin Poor Law Union - 26.12.1846 - Tenant Right ii -

Dunshaughlin Poor Law Union - 24.11.1849 - Markey Letter i -

Dunshaughlin Poor Law Union - 24.11.1849 - Markey Letter ii -

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