Challenge to Unionist Dominance
After the March election of 1882 Thomas Breen and Mr. Mulhall were unhappy at how the votes were counted in the Northern district and put down the following motion at the April meeting of the Guardians: "That two candidates at the recent election accompanied by on friend each be allowed to inspect books, papers and documents connected with the election".
This was a first shot in the Nationalist challenge to Unionist domination of the Board of Guardians in Carlow. In other parts of the country, notably Tralee, the Unionist/Landlord dominance was successfully over thrown. The struggle in Carlow took longer and never achieved a break through.
The Sentinel and Nationalist were both partisan players in the conflict. While Land League candidates (Kealy and Toole) were defeated in Hacketstown in 1881 the Land League was successful in the Carlow Division in March 1882. The Sentinel commented that this was down to voting privileges being extended to occupiers of rated premises by the Local Government Board.
Out of thirteen seats contested in 1883 the Conservative/Loyalist party gained five.
An article in the Nationalist on 29th March 1884 clearly indicates how the voting system was weighted in favour of the Conservatives. While Nationalist/Land League candidates won the occupier vote the proprietor proxy votes gave the election to their opponents.
1885 saw further gains for the Tories and the Nationalist challenge began to fade. In 1886 the strength of the parties remained the same.
In 1887 Conservatives gained two seats. They now had a majority of 28 on the new Board. The number of contests decreases in 1888 and 1889 with only four and two contested elections respectively.
By 1891 the Poor Law election was shaping up to be a trial of strength between Parnellites and "seceders". Only one contest took place. Jeremiah Maher the anti-Parnellite and sitting Guardian defeated Phillip Brennan of Tinnegraney by a 52 vote majority.
The decade of Nationalist effort to unseat the Tories petered out in the Parnellite split.
Nationalists in Carlow would have to wait until the setting up of the County Councils in 1898 before mounting a more effective challenge at county level.
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