Why was Griffith’s carried out?

It arose from the first requirement of any taxation system, an actual basis in reality. The only taxes in general operation in Ireland in the early part of the nineteenth century were based on property: taxpayers were required to pay a proportion of the annual value of the property they occupied (i.e. the notional income the property should produce over a year). Obviously, the first question posed by any sensible taxpayer is “Who values the property?” The answer in early nineteenth-century Ireland was the local Grand Jury, invariably composed of the largest property-owners. Unsurprisingly, the valuations they produced were deeply suspect, riddled with exemptions and varying widely from county to county.

The Act of Union of 1800 had made Westminster directly responsible for governing Ireland , a task that was virtually impossible without clarity about the most basic lever of any public administration, the tax base. So the key to getting to grip with Ireland was to produce a consistent island-wide valuation of property.

If there was one thing the Victorians were good at, it was measuring things, but they found Ireland tough going. The production of the valuation took almost 30 years, from the early 1820s to the late 1840s. The first steps were to map and fix administrative boundaries through the Ordnance Survey and the associated Boundary Commission. The next step was to assess the productive capacity of all property in the country in a thoroughly uniform way. Richard Griffith, an English geologist based in Dublin , became Boundary Commissioner in 1825 and Commissioner of Valuation in 1830.

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