Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Plan of Campaign

On the 20th of April 1888 the Vatican issued a Papal Rescript condemning the Irish Plan of Campaign and what was described as the evil of boycotting. The Plan of Campaign was devised by John Dillon, William O’Brien and Timothy Harrington two years previously in an attempt to force landlords to lower rents for their agricultural tenants. Landlords were expected to offer rent reductions and if they refused to do so the tenants united to offer a reduced rent. If the reduced rent was not accepted tenants under the Plan of Campaign paid the rent into a fund controlled by the campaign leaders and used to support evicted tenants. Boycotting, so called after Captain Boycott who clashed with the Land League in County Mayo in 1880, led to the ostracising of anyone who took over the holding of an evicted tenant. The 1880’s were a notorious period in Irish history for evictions. In nearby Clongorey there were several series of evictions which commenced in February 1883 and only ended nine years later. The Coolgreany evictions in County Wexford of 1887 and the Vandeleur evictions of County Clare the following year were part of a countrywide destruction of Irish rural social order. Nearer to Athy occurred the evictions of 1887 and 1889 on the Luggacurran estates of Lord Lansdowne which saw 64 families evicted. The National League also known as the Irish Parliamentary Party emerged from Isaac Butt’s Home Government Association of the 1870’s. Under Parnell’s leadership that party achieved great success in the general election of 1885 with the election of 86 nationalist members of parliament. Amongst those elected were John Dillon and J.L. Carew who were the principal speakers at a meeting held in Kildare town on Sunday, 27th of May 1888. The meeting, described in local newspapers as a ‘monster meeting’, was organised to oppose the Coercion Act passed in 1887 which would be later used to jail John Dillon and many other leaders of the Plan of Campaign. The meeting was also called to condemn evictions in Ireland and to consider the Papal Rescript at a time when the Irish clergy were largely supportive of the Plan of Campaign. The local papers described the arrival at the Kildare meeting of members of several of the Gaelic clubs in the county, dressed in their ‘Gaelic jerseys’ and marching with ‘Gaelic camáns’ on their shoulders to the music of the bands. ‘Amongst the first to arrive being the Athy men who bore a beautiful banner at their head and were accompanied by about 40 members of the Gaelic club of the town, in full fighting costume, walking four deep to the music of their efficient fife and drum band.’ The platform party included Athy men John W. Dunne who was chairman of Athy Board of Guardians, PJ Corcoran and J Whelan. A letter of apology for inability to attend was read for another one-time Athy resident, James Leahy M.P. Other Athy men in attendance included Town Commissioners J. Whelan, M. Doyle and M. Heffernan as well as Athy GAA officials E.J. O’Reilly, T. Dinan, R. Scully and P. Lawler. John Dillon M.P in his speech referred to Dan Whelan of Athy ‘who alone of the Barrowhouse estate took his stand with the Luggacurran tenants.’ The reference was to Whelan’s decision to give outdoor relief to evicted tenants for which he was subsequently surcharged by the Local Government auditors. He was supported by the Athy Board of Guardians who would suffer disbandment as a result. The Papal Rescript was described by Dillon as a document founded on falsehoods ‘concocted by a gang who frequented the Papal Court.’ Mr. E. Fenelon, chairman of Naas Board of Guardians, referred to the Papal Rescript as a document that would do very little harm: ‘I am not saying anything against my church but as an Irishman and a Kildare man I adopt the views expressed by O’Connell when he said he would take his theology from Rome but would prefer to have his politics from Constantinople.’ The Plan of Campaign would continue until the jailing of John Dillon and William O’Brien in 1890 and finally end following the Parnellite split in the Irish Parliamentary Party. The campaign did have some limited success locally as evidenced by a front page advertisement in the Leinster Leader of the 2nd of June 1888 under the heading ‘Apology’ inserted by Christopher Calmey of Coolelan, Rathangan. ‘I beg to apologise to the general public for having interfered with Quinn’s evicted farm at Ballinure but state in explanation it was not my intention to take it without satisfying the tenant, and in proof of this statement I have since paid to Quinn’s £40 for their goodwill, and they are perfectly satisfied.’

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