The Great War and Irish Revolution

The 1903 Land Act resulted in a revolutionary change in landownership in Ireland. Its terms were much more popular with both landlords and tenants. Landlords were given a 12 per cent cash bonus if they agreed to sell their estates. Tenants were guaranteed that their annuities (loan repayments) would be less than their former rents.

By 1914, about 80 per cent of Irish tenant farmers had purchased their holdings. That year also saw the outbreak of the Great War, which lasted until 1918. This war was significant in the history of big houses in Ireland. Many families lost sons or other relatives: family life and social life was thrown into chaos. When the Great War ended, Irish landed families had no time to recover. The Irish revolution (if we date it to Easter 1916) had already begun.

During the War of Independence at least 300 big houses were burned for a variety of reasons: for example, some were burned because the IRA did not want them used as barracks by the British forces (the anti-Treatyites did likewise during the Civil War to prevent Free Staters using them); others as reprisals for damage done by the Black and Tans in certain areas; others because locals wanted to drive out the landlords and divide up their demesnes and untenanted lands amongst themselves.

A new phase of land agitation from 1917 to 1923 (preceded by the so-called ranch war

The Great War and Irish Revolution

  of the early twentieth century organised by the United Irish League) led to the introduction of the 1923 Land Act by the Free State government. This act was aimed at completing the transfer of landownership from landlords to tenants. It also set out to compulsorily acquire large untenanted estates and to redistribute them amongst small farmers whose farms were not large enough to be economically viable.

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