March 1887

Coercion Act

The Perpetual Crimes Act (or Coercion Act) of 1887 allowed for the imprisonment of anyone involved in organising rent strikes and boycotts. The act was introduced in response to the growing unrest in rural parts of Ireland.

In the 1880s, prices for agricultural goods had dropped and there had been a number of bad harvests. Many tenant farmers found it impossible to meet the high rents.

A Plan of Campaign was launched in October 1886, led by John Dillon MP and William O'Brien MP. The plan involved tenants on certain estates coming together to negotiate fairer rents with their landlord. If the landlord refused to negotiate, the tenants would withhold payment of any rent until a reduced rate was agreed.

The Coercion Act was introduced by the Conservative chief secretary of Ireland, Arthur Balfour. He sent armed police and soldiers to evict tenants involved in boycotts and rent strikes. Dillon and O'Brien were arrested.

Parliament, Military & Policing, Land Question, Welfare
Political cartoon from the Weekly Freeman's Journal: 'Eviction in the Aran Isles'
Belfast Central Library