seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA

The Ballinglass Incident

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ballinglass-evictionsDuring the Great Famine (An Gorta Mór) in Ireland, the Ballinglass incident occurs in Ballinglass, County Galway, on March 13, 1846, when 300 tenants are evicted by their landlord, a Mrs. Gerrard who wants to use the land for grazing purposes.

During this period, Ireland is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, governed directly by its parliament in London. Many working class Irish farmers are tenants under landlords, producing cereals, potatoes, and livestock. But only the potatoes remain as food for the farmers themselves. A portion of the other products are used for paying the rent while the remainder is exported from Ireland to Great Britain. These exports continue even after the potato crop fails in 1845.

Farmers who are not able to pay the rent during this period are evicted from their homes and land. It is estimated that tens of thousands are evicted during the famine.

The 300 inhabitants of the townland of Ballinglass in Galway County, in the Barony of Killian, northeast of Mountbellew, are relatively “wealthy” and able to pay their rent. But despite this fact, they are evicted because their landlord intends to establish a grazing farm where the village is situated.

The houses of Ballinglass are demolished by army and police. The evicted tenants sleep in the ruins that night. The next day, police and army return to evict them permanently and their neighbours are not allowed to take them in.

The eviction of the entire village receives wide publicity. Even the London Times, never a supporter of Irish rights, rails against this particular injustice. Lord Londonderry “personally investigates” the evictions and issues a statement on March 30, 1846 saying, “I am deeply grieved, but there is no doubt concerning the truth of the evictions at Ballinglass. Seventy-six families, comprising 300 individuals had not only been turned out of their houses, but had even – the unfortunate wretches – been mercilessly driven from the ditches to which they had been taken themselves for shelter…these unfortunate people had their rents actually ready…” Despite widespread condemnation, the eviction order is not rescinded.

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