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Penal Laws

If you are interested in the history of events as to why our ancestors were forced to lose their language and how so many were uneducated peasants or why they may not have been able to read or write or why they may have changed their names or their religions ... read a bit of this:

Penal Laws*

"In 1695 harsh penal laws were enforced, known as the 'popery code': Catholics were prohibited from buying land, bringing their children up as Catholics, and from entering the forces or the law. Catholics could no longer run for elected office, purchase land, or own property (such as horses) valued at more than 5 pounds. In the early years of the 18th century the ruling Protestants in Ireland passed these laws designed to strip the "backwards" Catholic population of remaining land, positions of influence and civil rights.

By 1778 Irish Catholics would own a meager 5% of Irish land. Furthermore, the Catholic educational system was outlawed and priests who did not conform to the laws could be branded on the face or castrated. As a result, much of Catholic church services and education and record keeping was forced underground, to operate only under extreme secrecy. The religion and culture were kept alive by secret open-air masses and illegal outdoor schools, known as 'hedge' schools. All Irish culture, music and education was banned. By the time of the census of 1841 the Irish were impoverished, landless and leaderless by the eve of the famine.

Professor Lecky a British Protestant and ardent British sympathizer, said in his "History of Ireland in the 18th Century" that the object of the Penal Laws was threefold:

"To deprive Catholics of all civil life; to reduce them to a condition of extreme, brutal ignorance; and, to disassociate them from the soil.:

Lecky said, "He might with absolute justice, substitute Irish for Catholic, "and added a fourth objective: "To expatriate the race." Most scholars agree that the Penal Laws helped set the stage for the injustices that occurred during The Great Famine and fueled the fires of racism that were directed against the Irish by the British. Lecky outlined the Penal Laws as follows:

* From:  MacManus " the story of the Irish Race" 1921.Devin-Adair Publishing Co., New York.

Read more about In the Penal Days


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