Lismore was enfranchised by a 1614 charter, 11 James I which granted that the town of Lismore and all lands should be a free borough and that there should be therein a corporation consisting of a portreeve, burgesses - not fewer than 13 nor more than 24 - and a commonalty. The charter was procured by Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork, with a view to establishing a corporation in the town, but whether he ever acted on it or such a corporation ever existed is unknown. Certainly in 1783 it was considered:
a Manor. Number of electors, supposed to be about 50 but not contested these very many years. Right of election in Potwallopers and Freeholders within the Manor. Number of inhabitants above 300. Seneschal of the Manor appointed by the Duke of Devonshire, is Returning Officer and [the] same man is Seneschal for Lismore and Tallow. Supposed Patron, Duke of Devonshire.
In 1785 it was reported that 'The representation of this Borough belongs to the Duke of Devonshire. He gives Sir Henry Cavendish (0381) a seat without any stipulation. The other seat the Duke gives to Mr Ponsonby who returns Sir Richard Musgrave (1509) and he goes with him in support.'395 In 1790 the psychological background was explained as follows:
Though nominally free, as its electors are composed of the Protestant inhabitants at large, this Borough is complete private property vested in the House of Cavendish by the marriage of the present Duke of Devonshire's mother, who was daughter and heiress of the last Earl of Cork and Burlington, to whom it belonged. The voters, from the consciousness of favours received and protection bestowed, were long attached to the noble family of Boyle to whom principally Munster owes its civilisation and the Protestant religion in that province its steadiest support. Although deprived of the residence of their ancient Lords in their Castle of Lismore, they look up with reverence to their descendants and support their political consequences with a degree of zeal warmed with the ardour of affection. From whence the Duke of Devonshire's recommendation is all-powerful in their election of representatives, the candidates favoured with his countenance being certain of success.396
Nevertheless, the 1790 election was controverted as Robert Paul (1644), with the support of Lord Grandison, successfully challenged the sitting MP, Sir Henry Cavendish.
Lismore was disfranchised by the Act of Union and the £15,000 compensation was paid to the Duke of Devonshire for the use of those entitled under the will of the late Earl of Cork and Burlington, a copy of which, with other documentation, was provided for the Commissioners.