Court of Claims in Ireland

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXXI

The Bill of Settlement was opposed by the Irish Catholics through their counsel, but their claims were rejected and treated with contempt. Charles had told his Parliament, on his restoration, that he expected they would have a care of his honour and of the promise he had made. This promise had been explicitly renewed by Ormonde for the King, before he left for Breda; but the most solemn engagements were so regularly violated when Irish affairs were concerned, that nothing else could have been expected. A Court of Claims was at length established, to try the cases of ejectment which had occurred during the Commonwealth; but this excited so much indignation and alarm amongst the Protestants, that all hope of justice was quickly at an end, and the time-serving Ormonde closed the court.

The grand occupation of each new reign, for the last few centuries, appears to have been to undo what had been done in the preceding reigns. An Act of Explanation was now passed, and a Protestant militia raised, to satisfy that party. It was provided by the new Act that the Protestants were, in the first place, and especially, to be settled; that any doubt which arose should be decided in their favour; and that no Papist, who, by the qualifications of the former Act, had not been adjudged innocent, should at any future time be reputed innocent, or entitled to claim any lands or settlements. It will be remembered that Ormonde had cut short the sittings of the court to satisfy Protestant clamour; in consequence of this, more than 3,000 Catholic claimants were condemned to forfeit their estates, without even the shadow of an inquiry, but with the pretence of having justice done to them, or, as Leland has expressed it, "without the justice granted to the vilest criminal—that of a fair and equal trial."[2]


[2] Trial.—Chief Justice Nugent, afterwards Lord Riverston, in a letter, dated Dublin, June 23rd, 1686, and preserved in the State Paper Office, London, says: "There are 5,000 in this kingdom who were never outlawed."