Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Free Citizens of Dublin

I recently came across an article dealing with the, "Free Citizens of Dublin." This was the term which was applied to those individuals who held the municipal franchise of Dublin between the years 1192 and 1918. As well as the right to vote in elections to the Dublin City Assembly the Free Citizens had access to certain rights and privileges which were created in 1192 by a charter issued by the Plantagenet John, (son of Henry II), Lord of Ireland. Admission to the franchise was regulated and conferred by the Dublin City Assembly.

There were apparently six categories of admission and in general applicants had to have been born within the City limits although the Assembly had a discretion to admit, "foreigners." Strictly speaking the native Irish were ineligible for the municipal franchise but the names of several of the early admitees would indicate that this was a rule that was not adhered to very strictly. The Reformation as such did not affect the situation but post the defeat of James II in 1690 individuals who espoused the Roman Catholic faith were excluded from the municipal franchise until Parliament interceded in 1792/93.

The six modes of admission to the franchise were as follows :-

a. Service. - Once an apprentice had completed service to a Master in one of Dublin's Trade Guilds he was permitted to apply to the Assembly for the municipal franchise. Once this had been granted he was entitled to apply for full membership of his guild.

b. Birth - The eldest son of a Fred Citizen could apply for the franchise by birth. This usually occurred after the death of the father and the privilege could be passed on to succeeding generations. The daughters of wealthy freemen could also apply for the municipal franchise by birth and some powerful Free Citizens were able to gain admission for their entire families under this category of admission.

c. Marriage - it was also possible to gain admission to the municipal franchise by marrying the daughter of a free citizen or a woman who held the franchise in her own right.

d. Fine - This category of admission enabled gentlemen and also craftsmen whose work was not represented by any of the Trade Guilds to be admitted to the franchise upon payment of a substantial sum of money. They did have to have been born in Dubllin.

e. Special Grace - This was the means of admitting the nobility and dignitaries. It was also used to admit wealthy "foreigners," ie non- Dubliners. The latter individuals might have had to pay a fine.

f. Acts of Parliament - An Act of 1662 provides an early example of this. Many French Hugenots applied for the municipal franchise under benefit of this and later Acts.

Source: Famillia, Ulster Genealogical Review Vol 2 No 2 1986


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