Tag Archives: Penal Laws applied to 18th century Catholics and Presbyterians

Bellaghy Historical Society – January 2011

Penal Laws applied to 18th century Catholics and Presbyterians.
They had little to do with religion-they were to do with property.
The ascendency classes owned 90% of the land by the end of the 18th century.
With the penal code 1698/1700 onward, the native Irish owned 5% of the land.
catholic land was divided among all the family as opposed to being passed to the first born
Under penal law, Catholics and Presbyterians had no vote; could not stand for parliament;
were deprived of education; couldnʼt join the professions; rents were absurdly high; were
subject to great poverty-which reduced them to slavery.
The native Irish were aligned to the stewart cause.
The law of the land assumed no such thing as Irish Catholic.
They were not barred from the trades and some of them made money.
Regular priests had to leave Ireland at once.
All diocesan priests had to go to the nearest town to register (with two guarantors) with the
local magistrate and to give such information as where they were born; where they were
living; where they were ordained and by whom; their parish. (many Protestant names
were used to guarantee catholic priests).
No catholic church buildings could be used until 1745.
Mass was held at Mass Rocks-can still be seen at Lavey, Swatragh, Moneyglass and The
Loup. At Milltown Chapel Magherafelt, a barn owned by a Protestant was given to
Catholics for Mass.
An oath of loyalty (ab-duration) to the king which denied the authority of the pope, was to
be taken by all priests. Only 30 took the oath-none from South Derry took it.