Land Acts

A series of land acts were introduce into Ireland between 1870 and 1903 to aid the small tenant farmers and prevent civil unrest which had been building up during this period. This changed the type of farm holding around the shores of the Lough. The Act of Disestablishment in 1869 freed tenant farmers from paying tithes to the Established Church (now Church of Ireland) which formerly had to be paid regardless of which religion a farmer practiced. However the main problems faced by tenant farmers were high rents and eviction. Only in Ulster did tenant farmers have any sort of security. The Land Act of 1870 sought to extend this Custom to every tenant farmer in Ireland. Within this act was a clause known as the ‘Bright Clause’. This allowed tenants to buy out their holding by borrowing two-thirds of the cost from the government at 5% interest repayable over 35 years, provided the landlord was willing to sell. There was not much uptake on this as the costs involved were well above their expected yearly income of a subsistence farmer.

In 1878 the Land League was a political group founded by Michael Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell amongst others to protect the rights of poor tenant farmers and advocate the Three F’s – fair rent, free sale and fixity of tenure – which were desired by many tenant farmers. The Land League forced the second Land Act of 1881, whereby the Three F’s were introduced under law. This was swiftly followed by the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act of 1885, more commonly known as the Ashbourne Act whereby £5million pounds was set aside to aid tenants in purchasing their holding. The loan would be repaid over 48 years at four percent per annum. This was much more affordable that the load offered by the first act and many tenant farmers took up the offer.  Finally, the Land Purchase (Ireland) Act of 1903, known as the Wyndham Act, provided compulsory purchase of tenant holdings from Landlords and essentially ended their control over rents.