Parliament of Kilkenny

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Preface to First Edition continued

If law could be said to enact that there should be no law, this was precisely what was done at the memorable Parliament of Kilkenny. If Irishmen had done this, it would have been laughed at as a Hibernicism, or scorned as the basest villany; but it was the work of Englishmen, and the Irish nation were treated as rebels if they attempted to resist. The confiscation of Church property in the reign of Henry VIII., added a new sting to the land grievance, and introduced a new feature in its injustice. Church property had been used for the benefit of the poor far more than for the benefit of its possessors. It is generally admitted that the monks of the middle ages were the best and most considerate landlords. Thousands of families were now cast upon the mercy of the new proprietors, whose will was their only law; and a considerable number of persons were deprived of the alms which these religious so freely distributed to the sick and the aged. Poverty multiplied fearfully, and discontent in proportion. You will see, by a careful perusal of this history, that the descendants of the very men who had driven out the original proprietors of Irish estates, were in turn driven out themselves by the next set of colonists. It was a just retribution, but it was none the less terrible.

Banishments and confiscations were the rule by which Irish property was administered. Can you be surprised that the Irish looked on English adventurers as little better than robbers, and treated them as such? If the English Government had made just and equitable land laws for Ireland at or immediately after the Union, all the miseries which have occurred since then might have been prevented. Unfortunately, the men who had to legislate for Ireland are interested in the maintenance of the unjust system; and there is an old proverb, as true as it is old, about the blindness of those who do not wish to see. Irish landlords, or at least a considerable number of Irish landlords, are quite willing to admit that the existence of the Established Church is a grievance. Irish Protestant clergymen, who are not possessed by an anti-Popery crochet—and, thank God, there are few afflicted with that unfortunate disease now—are quite free to admit that it is a grievance for a tenant to be subject to ejection by his landlord, even if he pays his rent punctually.