A huge collection of late-19th century / early-20th century land records is sitting in a warehouse in County Laois, and few are granted access. Could fear of political skeletons be the real reason for the sealing of these records?
Thank you Belinda for this interesting thread.
John Grenhams article "Irish Roots: The Land Commission’s forbidden fruit" is enough to whet the appetite of any historian interested in Irelands current social history. I am surprised at the lack of response. Also Terence Dooley's "Land for the People" is a fascinating read and goes into the labyrinthine machinations of the Irish Land Commission. First set up under reforms of the British Government and Balfour circa 1891 they had one million acres returned to Catholics and a further 1.6 million acres handed over to the Irish Government of 1922 along with a land loan of £30,000,000. Quite a sum in 1922.
The formula for distributing these newly acquired lands was supervised by the New Irish Land commission and as the records are now under lock and key for the foreseeable future, one may estimate who got what lands and where. I can tell you that the Anti Treatyites and de Valera were out of favour, until 1933. Soon after coming to power, he picked a row with the British Government over the repayments of these Land Annuities. Britain responded by putting an embargo / tariff on all Irish agricultural exports with devastating results. Many of the Fine Gael (Free State) big farmers who had done so well under the Free State Government, went bankrupt. This ceded the advantage to de Valera who quickly acquired and redistributed these 100 acre plus farms as 25 acre holdings to the "small fella" who became the bedrock of Fianna Fáil support throughout rural Ireland.
The 1937 Constitution which was influenced by de Valera in Article 45.2 decrees..."The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing-that there may be established on the land, in common security, as many families as in the circumstances may be practicable" Its little surprise the Irish Land Commission closed operations circa 1989 and only people with legal qualifications and a specifically stated purpose may access this can of worms ... the land Commission files. This restriction or moratorium has a life of 100 years.
I'm not sure but it was reported in Dooleys fine book that the Land Commission were in receipt of 400,000 letters per annum from small farmers complaining about other farmers breaches of tenant purchase in the hope of their being dispossessed and the land divided up among the remaining farmers. These letters which might have proven to be a wealthy source of research for social historians were ordered to be pulped and are no more. On the other hand these letters could have been a major embarrassment to the myth of Irelands 'salt of the earth'. So much for the Irish hating the informer. Life for the Land Commission staff could also be difficult as we note from the following account...
"Its a rotten life, all right for some maybe, but out there at Tubber- all hours of the day-and often at night...knock-knock-knock,someone at the door."If you's dont repairthe kish that was put down for the right of way at the Ballandine bog, we'll have a qestion asked about it on the floor of the Dáil-the drain between Pat O'Flaherty and Mick Hennigan is choked and Red Jack Dempsey has the water stopped on them below- the big wind on Friday last has stripped the slates off Mick Dolans new house- Tim Casey has put on a jennet for grass where he only had the right of a donkey. I wonder do they ever think up in dublin of all we go through down here."
Official records have an uncanny history of being destroyed, usually by fire. Lets hope there isn't another big fire in any Laois warehouse because if there is, chances are it will be the one with the Land Commission Records.
Michael, I think we have to go all the way back to an Gorta Mor to unlock this mystery. I myself have stumbled upon a trove of records in St Brigid's Church in Manhattan. A Church built by and for Famine immigrants.