Things went wrong with the Treaty of Limerick after it was signed

I often wonder how many of us think of the Treaty of Limerick beyond the words 'The Treaty broken ere the link with which 'twas written could dry'. Did we ever take a deep look at the words of the Treaty or what happened when it was broken. Strange as it may seem, in the circumstances under which it was made, the treaty itself was fair enough, it was in the aftermath of its signing that things went wrong. William of Orange had declared that he had come to Ireland to help Protestants but not to persecute Catholics. The main provisions of the Treaty were - 1. Roman Catholics were to have the same freedom rights as under the reign of Charles II. 2.Those in arms for King James were to keep any estates they had at the time and to be free to exercise their calling and professionals without hindrance. 3.The Irish Garison in Limerick was free to march out of the city with colours flying and drums beating and with weapons and baggage. The soldiers were permitted to go to any foreign country they liked or to join William's army. (Of the garrison of Limerick about 20,000 entered the French army, 1,000 joined William's army and 2,000 returned home.)

William restored many of the Irish their land and granted others pardons but he rewarded his own troops very well. Ginkel was made Earl of Athlone with an estate of 26,000 acres and others were also well rewarded. It was in 1692 that the real harm was done. In October of that year Lord Sidney, the Lord Lieutenant, summoned a parliament meeting in Dublin. This was a year after the Treaty of Limerick and the parliament was all Protestants. This was the result of a clause which said that every member had to take such an oath. (According to the Treaty they were only obliged to take an oath of allegiance.)

Sidney, representing the King, opposed this motion but was out-voted and as a result all the Catholics walked out.

One of the first things this parliament did was to declare itself independent of the English Parliament. Lord Sidney was so angry at this snub to the English Parliament that he suspended the Dublin parliament twice and finally dissolved it in November of 1693. In 1695 a new Lord Lieutenant, Lord Capel was appointed and he at once summoned a new parliament which sat for several sessions, and it was during these sessions that the Penal Laws were really brought in to the country in a manner which, to say the least, was almost inhumane where Catholics were concerned. It was this set of Penal laws that was to remain in force until the Catholic Emancipation Act was passed in 1829. One of the first acts of this parliament was to tear holes in the Treaty and although their acts went through the house of commons easily enough, some peers, seven bishops and seven laymen condemned this braking of the Treaty.

It was the opening of the door to really grinding the Catholic population into the dust as one bill followed another in quick succession, one worse than the other. Some of the most important bills were 2. Catholic parents were forbidden to send their children abroad for education. 3. Catholics had to hand in their arms, and magistrates could forcibly enter homes to search for arms. 4. If a Catholic had a valuable horse any Protestant who offered £5 for it had to be given it. 5. All existing parish priests had to be registered and were not allowed to have curates. 6. All other clergy - bishops, priests, member of religious orders, etc, had to leave the kingdom by 1st of May 1698. (These last two laws meant that after existing Catholic clergy died out there would be none to take their place). 7. Catholic priests who came into the country could be hanged. 8. Catholics were forbidden to travel more than eight kilometres from home, to keep arms, to take cases to court, or to be guardians or executors of wills. 9. Catholics were forbidden to wear swords.

These are only a few of the Penal Laws but they were only the first installment; worse was to come. When the Duke of Ormond became Lord Lieutenant he passed further penal regulations. 1. If the eldest son of a Catholic declared himself a Protestant he became owner of all his father’s land. 2. On the death of a Catholic landowner all his property had to be divided between his sons. 3. If any other son declared he was a Protestant he was placed in the care of Protestant guardian and his father had to pay all the expenses for his upkeep. 4. No Catholic was allowed to vote with out first taking an oath that the Catholic religion was false. Later on they were not allowed to vote under any circumstances.

In a court a Catholic would come before a Protestant judge and jury and he represented by a Protestant lawyer. The Lord Chief Justice Robinson declared, 'The world does nor suppose any such person to exist as an Irish Roman Catholic.' (It must be remembered that elsewhere in Europe similar penal laws were passed by Catholics against Protestants and Protestants against Catholics.) The Penal Laws had the effect of eroding respect for the law among the Irish. It must be remembered that the ordinary Protestant had no responsibility for the enactment of the Penal Laws and in many instances actively circumvented them. The foregoing was just part of the conditions at the time in Ireland. Today Protestants and Catholics live as good neighbours should and are prepared to help each other in times of trouble. Let us hope that the future will be as we would all like it be be, a time of peace and goodwill in every part of Ireland.

Courtesy of the Carlow Nationalist