The Marquis of Westmeath presented a Petition, from certain landholders of the county of Tipperary and another from the inhabitants of Navan, in the county of Meath, against the Grand Jury Laws of Ireland, and praying for their repeal. He trusted, their Lordships would permit him to make a few observations on the matter of these petitions, and the subject to which they related. […]
He had to call their Lordships’ particular attention to some anecdotes, which he could relate respecting the manner in which this system worked, odious as it was, and deservedly so to the people of Ireland. He would begin with one occurring in the county of Roscommon — with which he was connected. In the year 1817, a presentment was made with his knowledge from the parish of Kilglass, for a road to connect it with the river Shannon, which washes its shores.
The population of that parish was immense, and it contained upwards of 5,000 Irish acres. It had no road whereupon any farmer could convey a loaded cart; and the case then was, as it now remains, that, though in a county groaning under crops of oats, the produce was brought out piecemeal, to be consigned to the river Shannon as it might; and, although within twelve miles of the great market of Longford, no loaded conveyance could travel into or out of it, nor could then, or can now, any farmer transport manure, or any other load, in that county, except upon horses’ backs.
Their Lordships would learn, with astonishment, that this county was all heavily taxed by the Grand Jury, to the amount of from 2s[hillings] to 3s annually per acre; concurrently, indeed, with those parts of the county where the Gentlemen who compose the Grand Jury disport themselves and reside; but, while one part of the county had not a single passable carriage road, its wealth was extracted to form easy communications and gravel-walks in another part of the county with which it had neither sympathy nor interest. Was it to be supposed that such a system could be endured? He himself, in 1817, had been examined before that Grand Jury, as to the oppressed and neglected state of this part of the county; and from that hour to this, it had remained precisely in the same state. […]
Irish Grand Jury Presentments in
House of Lords Debate 5 July 1831