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Poor Relief in Ireland, 1851-1914

Mel Cousins

This book examines the provision of poor relief in Ireland from the immediate aftermath of the Famine in the mid-nineteenth century to the onset of the Great War in 1914, by which time the Poor Law had been replaced by a range of other policy measures such as the old-age pension and national insurance. The study establishes an empirical basis for studying poor relief in this period, analysing over time the provision of indoor and outdoor relief and expenditure levels, and charts regional variations in the provision of poor relief. The author goes on to examine a number of issues that highlight political and social class struggles in relation to the provision of poor relief and also considers in fascinating detail the broader role of the Poor Law and the Boards of Guardians within local communities.

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Chapter 8 The Democratisation of Local Government and the Poor Law, 1892–1906 185

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Chapter 8 The Democratisation of Local Government and the Poor Law, 1892–1906 This chapter provides an overview of developments in the Irish poor law in the period from 1892 to 1906. As will be seen, there was a considerable degree of stability as to the actual operation of the poor law in this period. Ref lecting both the gains won during the 1880s, in terms of control of the boards of guardians, and the divisions arising from the split in the Irish Parliamentary Party, there was a considerable fall-of f in the party politi- cal nature of the poor law in the 1890s. A key feature in the period was the Local Government Act in 1898 which led to very important changes in the composition of the boards of guardians and the establishment of union rating. However, perhaps surprisingly, this appears to have had little impact on poor relief practice (although it did lead to a significant increase in the building of labourers’ cottages). Ref lecting rising political tensions after 1900, a return of politics to the poor law can be seen but again this appears to have relatively little impact on poor law administration. This relative stability led to a growth in the inf luence of the Local Government Board in policy formation. The end of this period sees the establishment of two important bodies to examine proposals for reform of the poor law: firstly, the Viceregal Commission which reported in 1906 and the Royal Commission on the...

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