Opinion David McWilliams

Tuesday 12 December 2017

David McWilliams: Sacrificing jobs to protect landlords is plain wrong

THERE are few more evocative images in Irish history than the Irish tenant being evicted by Irish police on behalf of a foreign creditor. For many, this injustice sums up the primary reason for our independence struggle.

It is clear that without the legal system that favoured landlords over tenants, great national movements like the Land League would not have been founded. Ironically, a more flexible legal system would have done more to protect landlords than the rigid legal system, which was designed to secure the landlords' interests but led to their undoing.

What is sometimes overlooked is that in some cases the landlords themselves were bankrupt and were evicting tenants at the behest of their own creditors. For much of the second half of the 19th Century, land prices fell in Ireland as global food prices dropped in response to an "invasion" of cheaper food and grain from the USA and Latin America. Many landlords were greedy and venal and deserved what they got, but some were not so evil and found themselves squashed by economic forces beyond their ability to control.

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