for some people particularly in the west were very poor, even though
some of the farmers now owned their land, the farms were of such
a small size that it was virtually impossible to make a living from
them. It was in this climate the the Congested Districts Boards
were set up in an effort to help people to help them selves. It
encouraged cottage industries such as lace making, the weaving of
tweed, the fame of Donegal tweed an industry which still survives
can be traced to this time. Linen embroidery was also promoted,
as was the making of lace Carrickmacross in County Cavan, the towns
name came to be synonymous with high quality lace today Carrickmacross
Lace is much sought after.
The development of fishing was encouraged
with the building of piers, and funds were made available for the
purchase of boats and nets etc. Bridges and roads were built which
not only gave much needed short term employment opportunities, but
made access to remoter regions more convenient. The West Clare Railway
from Ennis to Kilkee was constructed, previously railway companies
were reluctant for economic reasons to put branch lines in the poorer
The combined effect of the provision of road
and rail facilities encouraged tourists to explore the west of Ireland.
Probably the most important schemes the Board embarked upon was
in buying large estates and dividing them among small farmers giving
each enough land from which to make a living.
Although not directly
connected with the Congested Districts Board, in 1899 the government
set up the Department of Agriculture, in an attempt to teach farmers
modern agricultural practices. An agricultural college was set up
and instructors were sent out to advise farmers. At the same time
schemes were introduced to try to eradicate animal disease, the
head of this department was Sir
Horace Plunkett, who had previously distinguished himself in
the agricultural field, and could be described with some justification
as the father of the Cooperative Movement in Ireland.