Poor Law Unions and their Records


At the beginning of the nineteenth century the London government instituted a series of reforms in the government of Ireland. One key strategy was to take responsibility for local administration out of the hands of local gentry and the church, and to establish Boards of Commissioners to run such services. Most significant in this context was the reorganisation of the Board of Works in 1831 and the establishment of the Commissioners for National Education in the same year.

A range of government-sponsored inquiries were also undertaken in the 1830s into various aspects of Irish life, including that on Municipal Corporations. On 25 September 1833 a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the condition of the poor in Ireland. The extensive report (generally known as the Poor Enquiry), with a large number of detailed appendices, setting out the evidence that had been collected, was presented to parliament and debated in May 1836. The report contains a great deal of local data for all parts of Ireland and is probably the single most important historical source for social conditions in Ireland before the Famine.

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