Co. Galway was a large county, but thinly populated and very poor. In 1785 it was considered to be 'very extensive and in parts wild. Roman Catholics 40 to 1 Lord Clanricarde (5009), Mr Daly, Mr Martin, and the Blakes have the chief interest. Mr Kirwin and Mr Martin stood upon the independent interest at the last election.'178 They were unsuccessful. In areas such as Iar Connaught the law was unknown. Although the electorate was probably under a thousand for most of the century, the balance of the interests ensured that there would be controverted elections, and there were at least nine in the course of the century.
In 1768 the Co. Galway poll ended in a riot and the return was successfully petitioned against by William Power Keating Trench, who alleged that one of the candidates, Lord Dunkellin, had by expending £1,900 acquired 'a large and leading interest' and 'that many who would otherwise have given their second voices to Mr Trench, were by undue influence, by corruption, by menaces, and when these failed, even by stripes compelled to vote for Lord Dunkellin.' Acccording to the evidence of a Mr Dennis Kelly, the 'large and leading interest' so acquired amounted to 23 votes. According to Lord Dunkellin the £1,900 was paid to Charles Daly to defray 'the expenses attending the poll during the election', for which the candidates were responsible.179 This defeat rankled, as on 18 September 1799 Edward Cooke, who was not in the country at the time of the election, wrote to Chief Secretary Castlereagh, who was not born at the time of the election, saying that 'I enclose a philippic from Lord Clanricarde [Dunkellin]. Lord Kilconnell [Trench] and his Lordship had once a contested election before the Grenville Act [O'Brien-Lucas Act, which was modelled on the British Grenville Act] took place. Lord Clanricarde had the real majority, but Lord Kilconnell beat him through his superior management in Parliament.' All too often the election was only the first step.180
On 14 October 1783 the poll for Co. Galway closed. It had lasted 52 days and the final result was: Denis Daly and William Power Keating Trench 588 votes each, Mr Kirwin 450 and Mr Martin 383.181 After the death of Denis Daly in 1791 the Martin interest became more dominant, assisted by Catholic enfranchisement and his vast estates, while the Daly interest remained strong in Galway town, which retained one member after the Union.
Co. Galway had the boroughs of Athenry and Tuam as well as Galway town.