MINUTES OF EVIDENCE TAKEN BEFORE SELECT COMMITTEE Mr.
â€¢iS April 1876.
next and mott general form of government is that under the Towns Improvement Act, Ireland, 1854.
The towns u^der that are Dundalk, Lurgan, Queeustown, Newtownards, Ballymena, Lisburn, Carlow, Carric-k-on-Suir.
Fermoy, New Ross, Portadown, Athlone, Dungarvan, Ennis, Iviubale, and Coleraine ; that makes 16 in number.
Then, the next class of towns are those under town councils, which I divide into two sections.
There are five of those which have adopted either in whole, or in part, the Towns Improvement Act, 1854.
"Waterford has adopted it in part; then come Drogheda, Kilkenny, Wexford, and Clonmel, which have adopted the Act of 1854 entirely.
Then the towns that are governed by town councils under Local Acts are Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Limerick, Londonderry, and Sligo.
That makes 11 under town councils ; five governed under the Act of 1854, and hix governed under local Acts.
Then the towns governed by commissioners under the local Acts are 11 in number, including in them the townships which are really a part of Dublin, viz.,
Pembroke, Rathmines (and Rathgar), New Kilmainham and Clontarf, with the towns of Kingstown, Gal way, Newry, Blackrock, Bray, Enniukillen, and Dalkey.
Five of those have a population of less than 6,000 inhabitants: Bray, Enniskillen, New Kilmainham, Clontarf, and Dalkey; but, nevertheless, they are sanitary authorities, because they are under special Acts.
You referred first to the Act of 1828 ; can you give us a brief sketch of the system of town authoiities, which the authorities under that Act replaced ?â€”That
is very clearly indicated by the Acts which are repealed by it.
The first clause 1 e-pealed a number of Acts of Parliament, those of 1765,1773, 1785, and 1796.
Those were all tempoÂ¬ rary Acts of the Irish Parliament, and the British Parliament in 1807 renewed all of them for 21 years, and that renewal came to expire in the year 1828.
It was then renewed for one year for that Session of Parliament to allow legislation to take place.
Those Acts are all founded upon the vestry system of management of towns.
Some of the large towns had by local Acts got lighting and other matters under vestries in the parishes, and all those Acts were founded upon the idea of extending the vestry system to the management of towns; but the vestries never made the way in Ireland which lhey did in EngÂ¬ land, because there was no poor law.
The basis of vestries being so popular in England, being on account of the poor law administraÂ¬ tion.
There was no poor law in Ireland until 1833, and the vestries had no real basis to rest 011; and in 1828 they were in a most unpopular portion, because the agitation which overthrew them in 1833 by the extinction of what is called parit-li cess, the same as the church rates in England, was just at its height.
1828 was within five years of the total extinction of Irish church rates, to that they had become quite unpopular and unmanageable bodies.
Did all the Acts to which you have referred, which were continued or expired in 1827 or 1828, relate to this vestry system?â€”Yes,
all those Acts.
But besides that there was an attempt by several of the corporations, where they could not work the vestry, to have local taxation through the corporation grand juries, and the leet grand juries.
Bui the agitation that overthrew the corporations 11840) had begun at that time too, and the legality of the corporation grand juries
was questioned, and the legality of the leet grand juries was questioned, so that those powers were found impossible to manage.
All the corporation authorities in Ireland at that time (the old corporations) were in a state of complete decay.
They^ arc fully reported upon in the Report on Municipal Corporations in 1834.
Out of 99 that were in existence at the time of the Union, 33 had become totally extinct, and eight had become partially extinct, so that there were only 61 corporations in existence, and of those 61 corporations no less than 38 were self-elective, irresponsible bodies, and of the remaining 23 there were only four from which Roman Catholics were not almost entirely e\cluded.
The Report of the Commissioners on Municipal Corporations in Ireland of 1834, of which Mr.
Justice Perrin was the Chairman, and which was presented in 1835, says at page 16 :
" The laws which for a series of years operated to exclude those professÂ¬ ing the Roman Catholic religion from corporaÂ¬ tions were repealed in the year 1793 by the statute of the 33 Geo.
21, but the Roman Catholic* have hitherto derived little practical adÂ¬ vantage from the change.
In the close boroughs they are nlmost universally excluded from all corporate privileges" (the close boroughs are those 38 which I mentioned that were sell-elective).
" In the more considerable towns they have rarely been admitted even as freemen, and, with few exceptions, they are altogether excluded from the governing bodies In some, and among these is the most important corporation in Ireland, that of Dublin, their admission is still resisted on advowed principles of sectarian distinction.
Eyen in those corporations where rights to freedom are acknowledged and conceded, the long operation of the penal code having prevented the acquisiÂ¬ tion of freedom by the immediate ancestors of the present Roman Catholic population, very few have been enabled since its repeal to establish the requisite titles.
The admis-ions which have taken place whether upon a claim of right or by favour, have, for the most part, been either the result of personal influence with the members of the governing body or compliments to individuals of wealth or popularity.
With the exceptions of Tuam, G-alway, Wexford, and Waterford, the rule is exclusion."
One of the great complaints in 1828, just before the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, was besides the total exclusion of Roman Catholics from corporate offices.
The result of it all was that in 1S40 those corporations were entirely abolished.
Of those old corporations that you have told us of, I think there were 61 in existence in 1834, 3rf of which were self-elective ?â€”Yes.
What was the basis of the franchise in the rest ?-
-Freemen; and the Roman Catholics were practically excluded from the freemen, because they must come in by birth or by servitude ; the old penal laws operated to throw very much diffiÂ¬ culty in the w.iy
of their showing any servitude, or their being descended from freemen.
Then it was a corporation of freemen, not of householders ?â€”It
was originally the inhabiÂ¬ tants, but the freemen had gradually displaced the inhabitants in effect, because freemen alone had the privileges of the inhabitants.
Were the freemen necessarily inhabitants ?
â€”No; they were not necessarily so, but the bulk of them in those large towns were really inhabitants^