Land and tax reform

Sir, – David McWilliams suggests that, having regard to "the conflict between a land-owning class and a landless class" in our history, it is "hard to understand why the interests of the land and its income – rent – are still regarded as sacrosanct in Ireland" (News Review, November 16th).

He fails to take account, however, of Wyndham’s Land Act 1903 which largely settled the land question by facilitating the transfer of ownership of the land to the tenants. This was part of a programme of reform in Ireland designed to “kill home rule with kindness” pursued by British Conservative governments between 1895 and 1905. It did not stifle the demand for independence, but it did give the former tenants good reason to regard land ownership as sacrosanct. The landless class had become the land-owners.

The result was the conservative, devout country of land-owners and petit bourgeoisie that Ireland became after independence – and, to some extent, remains. The British Conservative prime minister in 1903, Arthur Balfour, could thus proudly boast in 1928 of “the Ireland we made”. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 18.