United Irish Parliamentary Reform Plan

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United Irish Parliamentary Reform Plan

March 1794

In many cases, a seat in the Irish House of Commons represented a borough whose elections could be easily controlled by the government or a wealthy landlord. Reform of this corrupt system was one of the principal objectives of the United Irish movement from its foundation in 1791. In this document the Dublin Society of United Irishmen set forth a detailed plan for such reforms. The plan would have extended the vote to all adult males "of sound mind" but stopped short of enfranchising women.

SEE ALSO Eighteenth-Century Politics: 1795 to 1800—Repression, Rebellion, and Union; Neilson, Samuel; Tandy, James Napper; Tone, Theobald Wolfe; United Irish Societies from 1791 to 1803


Prepared for Public Consideration by the Society of United Irishmen of Dublin

I. That the nation, for the purposes of representation solely, should be divided into 300 electorates, formed by combination of parishes, and as nearly as possible equal in point of population.

II. That each electorate should return one representative to parliament.

III. That each electorate should, for the convenience of carrying on the elections at the same time, be subdivided into a sufficient number of parts.

IV. That there should be a returning officer for each electorate, and a deputy returning officer for each subdivision, to be respectively elected.

V. That the electors of the electorate should vote, each in the subdivision in which he is registered, and has resided after specified.

VI. That the returning officers of the subdivisions should severally return their respective polls to the returning officer of the electorate, who should tot up the whole, and return the person having a majority of votes, as the representative in parliament.

VII. That every man possessing the right of suffrage for a representative in parliament, should exercise it in his own person only.

VIII. That no person should have a right to vote in more than one electorate at the same election.

IX. That every male of sound mind, who has attained the full age of 21 years, and actually dwelt, or maintained a family establishment in any electorate for six months of the twelve immediately previous to the commencement of the election (provided his residence or maintaining a family establishment be duly registered) should be entitled to vote for the representative of the electorate.

X. That there should be a registering officer, and a registry of residence in every subdivision of each electorate; and that in all questions concerning residence, the registry should be considered as conclusive evidence.

XI. That all elections in the nation should commence and close on the same day.

XII. That the votes of all electors should be given by voice and not by ballot.

XIII. That no oath of any kind should be taken by an elector.

XIV. That the full age of 25 years should be a necessary qualification to entitle any man to be a representative.

XV. That residence within the electorate should not, but that residence within the kingdom should be a necessary qualification for a representative.

XVI. That no property qualification should be necessary to entitle any man to be a representative.

XVII. That any person having a pension, or holding a place in the executive or judicial departments, should be thereby disqualified from being a representative.

XVIII. That representatives should receive a reasonable stipend for their services.

XIX. That every representative should, on taking his seat, swear that neither he, nor any person to promote his interest, with his privity, gave or was to give any bribe for the suffrage of any voter.

XX. That any representative convicted by a jury, of having acted contrary to the substance of the above oath, should for ever be disqualified from sitting or voting in parliament.

XXI. That parliaments should be annual.

XXII. That a representative should be at liberty to resign his delegation upon giving sufficient notice to his constituents.

XXIII. The absence from duty for should vacate the seat of a representative.

Reprinted in Irish Historical Documents, 1172–1922, edited by Edmund Curtis and R. B. McDowell (1943), pp. 237–238.

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United Irish Parliamentary Reform Plan