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The Tithe War

Read about The Tithe War From 'A Concise History of Ireland' by P W Joyce

Farmers were required to pay a tax called a Tithe, this went to support the local church of Ireland clergyman, most farmers were either Catholic or Presbyterian so naturally resented this tax. There had been disturbances in the eighteenth century, in 1830 matters came to a head again.In Graiguenamanagh, Co Kilkenny some farmers asked the rector to reduce the Tithe because the price they received for their produce had fallen, he refused so they withheld payment totally.

The only way he could get his income was to to get the police to seize the farmers cattle and sell them. The law stated that this could only be done during the hours of daylight, and if the animals were not locked up. So the farmers took to grazed the animals at night and locking them up during the day. If some were seized no one would bid on them or supply fodder.

The campaign was successful and quickly spread to other areas, the original organizers were the larger farmers, priests and sometimes even landlords were involved, they tried to keep it peaceful, but inevitably some secret societies became involved and included rents as well as tithes, many threatening letters were sent, these were quickly followed by beatings, burnings and murder, the country quickly descended into chaos.

The government sent in troops to assist the police in collecting the tithe. In one confrontation in Newtownbarry, Co Wexford in 1831 fourteen people were killed. In 1832 only £12,000.00 was collected at a cost to the government of £26,000.00

The government passed the Coercion Act which enabled them to arrest and transport anyone found outside their house after dark in the disturbed areas, a semblance of order was restored. In 1838 an act was passed reducing the tithe by twenty five percent , and including it in the rent which the tenant paid to the landlord, he passing it on to the clergy. This was a disappointment to O'Connell who had hoped some of the wealth of the church of Ireland would be distributed between the other religious communities.

Read about tithe disturbances in County Limerick, from Lewis' Topographical Survey of Ireland.