Poverty in Ireland – 1904

Poverty in Ireland.—The annual reports of the Irish Local Government- Board, says The Freeman’s Journal, are annual reminders of the nature of that “progress” about which our governors make boast. They give us statistics of Irish poverty covering three decades. The latest report carries us back to the year 1873, when there were 5,327,938 people in Ireland ; and
furnishes us the figures of pauperism for the year ending March, 1903, when the population was about 4,413,655.  [The Irish census taken in 1841 recorded a population of 8,175,124, and that of 1851 a total of 6,552,385 with approximately 1,000,000 dying during the famine. The Irish population dropped by 46%, and 3,000,000 people emigrated] 

With nearly a million people gone, it might be expected that we should have fewer paupers among those who remain. The depopulation of the country, we have often been assured, was a necessary step in its progress. It meant an increase of prosperity to those left behind. Strange, then, that there should be a far higher proportion of paupers in 1903 than in 1873. The five and a third millions supplied only 40,837 inmates to the workhouses at the beginning of the year 1873; the four and two-fifths millions provided 42,784.

In 1873 there were only 206,482 admissions to Irish workhouses ; in 1903 there were 333,729, an increase of 127,247, or over 60 per cent. That is the measure of the ” improvement ” effected by the disappearance of nearly a million of the population. Nor is that the whole story. We gather from another portion of the report that in the decade preceding 1873 the total number of dangerous lunatics certified by the, dispensary medical officers was 6,561 ; while in the decade preceding 1903 it was 21,354. An increase of 60 per cent. in indoor pauperism, an increase of over 200 per cent in lunacy, the blood-letting of a country so strongly recommended by the political “Sangrados”, [quack doctors] produces strange effects upon the national wealth and health. On the average, one out of every forty-four of the population was on the daily paupers’ list during the year ending March 31, 1903.

The above text was found on p.18, 7th May 1904 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

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