Canals and popery

Between 1768 and 1774

… means were devised to provide secure investment facilities for Catholics in projects of national and public utility, which at the same time left the whole system of the popery laws intact.

The earliest example I have found of this opening of the back door to Catholic investment was an act of 1768 for improving navigation between Limerick and Killaloe. To encourage Catholics to invest in the enterprise all shares were to be regarded as ‘personal estate and not subject to any of the laws to prevent the growth of popery’. Thus the indirect ownership of land involved in such investment would not be at the mercy of Protestant discoverers.

A blanket concession on similar lines was given in 1772 to Catholic shareholders in all inland navigation companies and in insurance companies. The fact that these acts now made it possible for Catholics to become shareholders and sometimes directors in such companies as the Grand Canal Company, must have served to break down segregation barriers to some slight extent.

Maureen Wall “Catholics in Economic Life” in L M Cullen ed The Formation of the Irish Economy The Mercier Press, Cork 1969, rp 1976

 

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