On 15 February 1833 the Earl of Roden presented to the House of Lords petitions from various places “praying for the better observance of the Sabbath”. Some of the petitioners seemed to be shopkeepers who liked to take Sundays off and didn’t want anyone else taking their custom while they were closed.
Lord Cloncurry, however, pointed to the problems such observance might cause in Ireland, where there were different understandings of what should be done on Sundays. He felt that
[…] care should be taken, in enforcing the law, not to create discord, and do mischief to the people.
Not that creating discord would have bothered Roden, one of the nineteenth century’s prize nitwits.
He was engaged in the Canal Navigation of Ireland, which afforded valuable commercial opportunities to private individuals, and to those of the middling classes the means of maintaining their families in decency and comfort.
He pointed out to his noble colleagues that canal boatmen treated Sunday like any other day: boats left Limerick and other places on Saturdays and kept going throughout the weekend, probably stopping for mass on Sunday morning:
Noble Lords, perhaps, were not aware, that in the Catholic Church, the rule was to attend mass in the forenoon, and it was then deemed allowable to spend the remainder of the day in amusement or business.
However, two magistrates had “at no distant period” ordered the police to stop boats from travelling on Sundays. These were probably the magistrates in Athy and Monasterevan, as described by Nicholas Fanning of the Grand Canal Company in 1830. The result of the magistrates’ action was that the boatmen went to the pub and their cargoes were plundered. The same magistrates had stopped cargoes of cattle from Clare and Galway en route to Dublin port [although it is difficult to see why they would have gone through Athy or Monasterevan].
The act of the Magistrates already alluded to was in violation of law; for the proper course was to have summoned the boatmen for the offence, instead of stopping the boat. It was not, therefore, surprising that law should be held cheap in Ireland, when it was broken by those who ought to uphold it.
Roden said that Cloncurry should name the magistrates so that there could be an inquiry — Cloncurry refused as he didn’t want to bring odium on them — but he reckoned that they were probably only enforcing the law. Roden said
As to the opinions of Roman Catholics relative to the Sabbath, he would say, without meaning them any offence, that Parliament ought to legislate according to its own religious feelings.
He didn’t foresee the rise of the shopping centre.