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Charitable Objectives

County Wexford

Co. Wexford was dominated by the Loftus interest and that of their heirs, the Tottenham-Loftuses. They were the descendants of an Elizabethan Archbishop of Armagh and Dublin, who was also Lord Chancellor, and his second son Adam, also an archbishop, who was one of the founders and the first Provost of Dublin University. Their eighteenth-century descendants were successively in two creations, Lords Loftus and Earls of Ely and finally Marquesses of Ely. Their power was concentrated in Co. Wexford, which returned 18 MPs, and they returned at least nine: six for the boroughs of Bannow, Clonmines and Fethard, one for Wexford town, one for New Ross and one for the county. In 1790 it was thought that:

To account for the great number of Boroughs in this region, it must be recollected, that it was the first place settled by the English adventurers, who, in the reign of Henry the Second, came to the aid of Dermod McMurrough. That Prince, with a fatal generosity, having divided the greater part of Leinster, and almost the whole of the County of Wexford, amongst Earl Strongbow and his followers, English manners and English laws were, at a very early period, spread over this district. From whence, when Parliaments were called in Ireland, the right of choosing representatives was more liberally extended to this, than to later planted places. All these Boroughs have, in the course of time, fallen into the hands of private persons but to relate the manner in which the representation of so many once important towns has been thus appropriated, would be to relate the history of craft, of fraud, and of meanness.425

Co. Wexford was described as 'this great and opulent County', and there were a number of smaller landlords. At the beginning of the century the Savages and the Fordes sat for the county, but the Savages probably and the Fordes certainly had their roots in Co. Down. The Colcloughs had a consistent interest, as did the Stopfords, Earls of Courtown, and the Rams of Gorey. In 1730 Sir Arthur Gore married Jane Worth née Saunders, the heiress of Richard Saunders (1881) of Saunders Court, which brought him a large estate and the consequent political influence, which was reflected in the return of his son in 1761. Perhaps the best known of the eighteenth-century Co. Wexford MPs was the Rt Hon. George Ogle, 'a gentleman respected in public, and beloved in private life', who sat for the county from 1769 until 1797. There were also the ill-fated Grogans (0905), the unfortunate Jones-Nevills and the Leighs of New Ross, one of whom was declared not duly elected for the county in 1755. Most of these families found that an alliance with the Loftus family was useful in furthering their political ambitions. Lord Loftus (2088), afterwards Marquess of Ely, was described with reasonable accuracy as 'the great Leviathan of this County'. Electorally Co. Wexford appears to have been a fairly quiet county with well-defined electoral alliances. In 1790 the return was: John Loftus 1,225, George Ogle 1,072, Sir Frederick Flood (0761) 841, Cornelius Grogan (0905) 477, Caesar Colclough 11. Allowed votes cast numbered 3,626, which would give (without allowing for plumpers, absentees, etc.) a minimum of 1,813 voters and a probable figure of about 2,200: there were about 7,500 in 1818.

Co. Wexford had eight parliamentary boroughs - Bannow, Clonmines, Enniscorthy, Fethard, Gorey, New Ross, Taghmon and Wexford town. Of these, only Wexford and New Ross survived the Union. The excess of representation was almost certainly due to the area's early settlement.

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Registered with The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland NIC100280