Tuesday, January 14, 2014

It's Illegal to be #Irish in Ireland

Don't you know......
It's Illegal to Irish in Ireland!

The Penal Laws of the 17th and 18th century formed much of the conflict that we still see today in Northern Ireland. Although the laws are gone they have left a devastating effect on the Irish people.  The Irish have always been a prideful, lively people. They should be. They have survived invasion after invasion of their lands. Yet the one invasion that had a more devastating effect on the Irish people were the English. The English passed a series of laws that would dehumanize the Irish and forced thousands of her people to abandon their home.

The Penal Laws were a series of laws created by the English government from 1691 to 1760 in order to persuade anyone who did not practice the Anglican faith to abandon their believes and become a member of the Anglican faith. Although we hear much about the Penal Laws of Ireland, they were not the only place where the laws were enforced. In face, England had passed Penal Laws against the Catholics in the American colonies, Scotland and in England during this timespan as well. The Anglicans feared the Catholics would join together and revolt agains them because they had experienced several uprisings the more they placed pressure against the Catholics. 

The Penal Laws has a deep psychological effect upon the native Irish Catholics. They were treated as second class citizens in their own country.  As the years went by more and more laws were passed to further suppress the Catholics. Some of these laws included:

Exclusion of Catholics from most public offices (since 1607), Presbyterians were also barred from public office from 1707.

  • Ban on intermarriage with Protestants; repealed 1778
  • Presbyterian marriages were not legally recognized by the state
  • Catholics barred from holding firearms or serving in the armed forces (rescinded by Militia Act of 1793)
  • Bar from membership in either the Parliament of Ireland or the Parliament of England from 1652; rescinded 1662–1691; renewed 1691–1829, applying to the successive parliaments of England (to 1707), Great Britain (1707 to 1800), and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1800 to 1829).
  • Disenfranchising Act 1728, exclusion from voting until 1793;
  • Exclusion from the legal professions and the judiciary; repealed (respectively) 1793 and 1829.
  • Education Act 1695 – ban on foreign education; repealed 1782.
  • Bar to Catholics and Protestant Dissenters entering Trinity College Dublin; repealed 1793.
  • On a death by a Catholic, his legatee could benefit by conversion to the Church of Ireland;
  • Popery Act – Catholic inheritances of land were to be equally subdivided between all an owner's sons with the exception that if the eldest son and heir converted to Protestantism that he would become the one and only tenant of estate and portions for other children not to exceed one third of the estate. This "Gavelkind" system had previously been abolished by 1600.
  • Ban on converting from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism on pain of Praemunire: forfeiting all property estates and legacy to the monarch of the time and remaining in prison at the monarch's pleasure. In addition, forfeiting the monarch's protection. No injury however atrocious could have any action brought against it or any reparation for such.
  • Ban on Catholics buying land under a lease of more than 31 years; repealed 1778.
  • Ban on custody of orphans being granted to Catholics on pain of 500 pounds that was to be donated to the Blue Coat hospital in Dublin.
  • Ban on Catholics inheriting Protestant land
  • Prohibition on Catholics owning a horse valued at over £5 (to keep horses suitable for military activity out of the majority's hands)
  • Roman Catholic lay priests had to register to preach under the Registration Act 1704, but seminary priests and Bishops were not able to do so until 1778
  • When allowed, new Catholic churches were to be built from wood, not stone, and away from main roads.
  • 'No person of the popish religion shall publicly or in private houses teach school, or instruct youth in learning within this realm' upon pain of twenty pounds fine and three months in prison for every such offense. Repealed in 1782.
  • Any and all rewards not paid by the crown for alerting authorities of offenses to be levied upon the Catholic populace within parish and county.
The once noble, powerful, wealthy Catholic families was slowly subjected to a life of desolation and despair.  Although the laws seemed to be religious based they were actually an effort by the English to control Irish held lands and it worked. By 1778, only 5% of Ireland was controlled by Catholic families. 

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