Vol. 7: Kennedy, Denis.

Type: Article

Kennedy, Denis. ‘The Irish Opposition, Parliamentary Reform and Public Opinion, 1793-1794.’, Eighteenth-century Ireland/Iris an dá chultúr, Vol. 7 (1992), Pp 95-114.

This article focuses on the period leading up to the Irish Whig party’s reform bill of 1793. The Irish Whig party aimed not only to bring forward a programme of legislative reform but also to amend the electoral system to strengthen the role of public opinion. This was essential if the substantial catholic tenants throughout the country were to be prevented from supporting the revolutionary side. Kennedy explains the problems such reform would bring to the Whigs themselves but shows how the Whig members were won round during the early 1790s and how the aristocrats were persuaded to part with their rotten boroughs. Kennedy addresses the question of why this bill, which had been so long in the making, was received with such apathy when it was finally debated in 1793 and concludes that, by this time, the campaign of intimidation against loyalists in Ulster and the question of Catholic emancipation had become more important issues than electoral reform. “Thus the Irish opposition’s important project to reform the political system of Grattan’s parliament by giving a greatly strengthened role to public opinion was badly defeated, with fatal consequences for Irish history”.