Royal Commission appointed to investigate the conditions of the poor in Ireland

25th September 1833
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Prompted by the increasing concern over the growing influx of Irish immigrants to Britain, yet another Royal Commission was appointed by the British government to investigate: 'the conditions of the poorer classes in Ireland, and into the various institutions at present established by law for their relief; and also whether any and what further remedial measures appear to be requisite to ameliorate the condition of the Irish poor or any portion of them.'

This 1833 Royal Commission, chaired by Dr R Whatley, the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin, reported in 1836. 

In the interim, the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act saw England and Wales adopt a new landmakr workhouse scheme. The 1833 Commission, felt that this scheme would be wholly unsuitable for Ireland.

The Royal Commission reported that the main problem in Ireland was lack of available work (rather than of a reluctance by able-bodied men to undertake it) and proposed the setting up of a Board of Improvement and Development to undertake such measures as:

  • Direct employment of labour for roadworks by local authorities
  • Increased funding for the Board of Works which would undertake useful public works
  • Reclaiming waste land and draining bog-land
  • Increasing leasing and tenure of land to encourage its improvement
  • Provision of agricultural instruction
  • Improvements to housing
  • The development of trade, manufacture, fisheries and mining
  • Sunday-closing of public houses and
  • Preventing the sale of groceries and liquor on the same premises

The Report (read online here) was met with a lukewarm reception.

With that, George Nicholls, an English Poor Law Commissioner, was sent to Ireland to see to what degree the newly established English system could be made to work in Ireland ...