In 1785 Co. Limerick was described as having:239 'Many Catholics. Much pasture. Protestant interest well disposed but subject to popular influences. Mr Oliver (1585), Mr FitzGibbon (0749), the Speaker (1671), Mr Massy (1355), Sir H. Hartstonge, Lord Southwell (1970), Mr Massy and Lord Courtenay have the chief interests Sir H. Hartstonge almost always opposes. Mr Massy well inclined', while in 1790 the county was described as of considerable extent:
whose soil is peculiarly rich and whose wealth is said to be great, the number of electors is in no degree correspondent to these favourable circumstances which naturally excite the expectation of a numerous and independent yeomanry. This principally arises from the prevalence of the Romish religion in this, as well as in all the other Southern counties and is increased by the predominance of pasturage over agriculture in a district whose fertility is so great that an acre of its surface, in many places, is more than sufficient to fatten a bullock. But the smallness of their numbers is of less consequence than the propriety of their conduct and prejudice itself must allow that, in that respect, the Limerick Freeholders are not entitled to the warmest praise as in all their disputed elections for a series of years past, during which time they have been frequently disputed, the contest has always been for the choice of the chief of some leading house, without the least attention to the imbecility of his head, or the depravity of his heart and not for the selection of an able, a spirited and an uninfluenced supporter of their constitutional rights. If they met with such a representative, which in our memory they once did, they had more reason to bless their good fortune, than to applaud their discernment.240
Limerick was a prosperous county divided between several major interests, many at least partly resident, whose coalitions decided the return. At the beginning of the century the Ingoldsbys exercised considerable influence, which passed through the 'marriage' of Frances Ingoldsby to Hugh Fitzjohn Massy.241 The Ingoldsbys and the Wallers, who were connected by marriage, enjoyed considerable influence during the reign of Queen Anne; Sir Richard Ingoldsby was a Lord Justice in 1710. Another interest was that of the Southwells: Sir Thomas Southwell had been a Revenue Commissioner under Speaker Conolly (0460) and was ennobled in 1717 as Baron Southwell. A later influence resulting from a great legal fortune made in the second and third quarters of the century was that of John Fitzgibbon Sr (0748) and exercised by him and his son, Lord Chancellor Fitzgibbon (0749), who at the end of the century exercised a dominant interest in the county. Members of the Evans family represented the county in the parliaments of William III, Anne, George I and George II. George Evans was Deputy Governor of Co. Limerick in 1699 and Custos Rotulorum for the county in the reign of Queen Anne. The Ingoldsbys had been Tory but the Evanses represented the Whig interest. The Olivers were a highly respected gentry family who controlled the borough of Kilmallock and had been sheriffs and deputy governors of the county. At the general election of 1768, the poll for Co. Limerick concluded on Monday 18 July and the votes were: Silver Oliver 661, Hugh Massy 631, Sir Henry Hartstonge Bt 374.
Hugh Massy was elevated to the peerage in 1776 as Baron Massy; his son sat for the county from 1783 until the death of his father in 1788, and another son from 1790 to 1797. Before the 1790 election a commentator reflected on the relative strengths of the possible candidates: 'Sir Henry Hartstonge, the present Member, who again means to be a candidate, will scarcely, we believe, be successful, though his affinity with Lord Pery (1671), the late Speaker, is recommendatory, his fortune ample and his family weight considerable. Although sufficiently bustling, he cannot withstand such a combination as he will have to oppose and whilst the spirit of his effort may merit praise, its prudence seems not so obvious.' So it proved, as 'The Massy interest is too strong in this County and its connections too wide-spread, to admit any reasonable doubt of his election', and 'Should however Mr Oliver, at the conclusion of the present Parliament, retire from his present situation of representative of the County, as it has been said he intends, Sir Henry's prospect of success will not be much aided by that circumstance, as Mr Waller of Castle Waller, will come forward to take his place.'242 The principal interests in Co. Limerick remained fairly stable throughout the century and any deviation appears to have been by common consent. Odell was the candidate of the Lord Chancellor, John Fitzgibbon, Earl of Clare, both before and after the Union. In some ways he was a curious choice, but John Beresford (0115) described him as 'an honourable independent country gentleman'. However, he became embroiled in family litigation, and after 12 years' confinement in 1831 he died in the Marshalsea - a very untypical Co. Limerick MP.
Co. Limerick had the boroughs of Askeaton and Kilmallock, as well as Limerick city.