Extracts from the Penal Laws (1695-1745)

The Penal Laws were several laws introduced in Ireland during the Protestant Ascendancy. They were designed to maintain Protestant control and dominance by denying Irish Catholics of religious freedom, education and political representation:

(From An Act to Restrain Foreign Education, 1695)

“Whereas it has been found by experience that tolerating at Papists [Catholics] keeping school or instructing youth in literature is one great reason of many of the natives continuing ignorant of the principles of the true religion.. no person of the Popish religion [Catholicism] shall publicly teach school or instruct youth… upon pain of 20 pounds and prison for three months for every such offence…”

(From An Act to Prevent the Further Growth of Popery, 1703)

“Every Papist shall be disabled to purchase any lands, or any rents or profit of lands, or any lease of lands, other than for a term not exceeding 31 years… No Papist shall inherit or take any other interests in land owned by a Protestant, unless the Papist shall conform to the Protestant religion within six months of the time at which he would be entitled to such lands… All lands owned by a Papist, and not sold during his lifetime for valuable consideration… shall descend… to all of his sons, share and share alike, and not to the eldest son only, and lacking sons, to all his daughters.”

(From An Act for Better Regulating Elections of Members of Parliament, 1745)

“Every freeholder before voting, if required by one of the candidates or other voter, shall take an oath, which includes the following language: “I am not a Papist, or married to a Papist, nor do I educate, or suffer to be educated, any of my children under the age of 14 in the Popish religion.”