The Penal Laws – Irish Revolutionaries
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The Penal Laws

The Penal Laws

After the treaty of Limerick in 1691, it was hoped Irish Catholics would not be persecuted as long as they swore allegiance to King Billy as the pope had backed his war against King James II.

But the Catholic church switched sides in 1693 and now backed King James II, this gave both the Irish & English parliaments the opportunity to bring in anti-Catholic laws known as the penal laws.

From 1695 onwards many laws were passed which included:

Exclusion of Catholics from holding a public office such as Judge, MP, solicitor jurist or barrister, civil servant, sheriff, or a town councillor.

No Catholic could vote or be elected to office.

A ban was imposed upon Catholics from owning land.

Catholics could not lease land for longer than thirty-one years and the rent was to equal two-thirds of the yearly value of the land.

Catholics were not allowed to hold arms nor be members of the armed forces, nor own a horse worth more than £5.

If a Catholic landholder died, his estate could not be passed to the eldest son unless that son was a Protestant. Otherwise, it was to be shared by all the surviving sons.

A ban imposed upon intermarriage between Catholics and Protestants,a Catholic could not be an orphan’s guardian.

Catholics were barred from living in many provincial towns.

Catholic clergy were to be registered and required to take an oath of loyalty, but friars, monks, hierarchy and Jesuits were to be exiled.

No cleric could wear distinguishing clothes.

Places of worship could not have a steeple nor display a cross.

Catholics and dissenters were required to pay tithes to the Anglican Church of Ireland which was the Established Church.

Catholics could not establish schools or send their children abroad for education.

These laws caused much suffering for the vast majority of the Irish people and sowed the seed for further discontent and rebellion.


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