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Leinster Leader 26 July 2007
Threat to fence in Curragh mobilises sheep owners
A threat – real or imaginary – to fence in the Curragh plains mobilised the sheep and grazing owners to take action in the summer of 1957. A report in the Leader of 20 July that year says that ‘ Close on 100 owners of sheep grazing on the Curragh plains attended the meeting in Droichead Nua’ at which a body with the rather long-winded title of the ‘Curragh Grazing Right Owners’ and Sheep Owners’ Assocation’ was formed. And clearly showing that they meant business the Curragh owners elected officers and a committee of twenty to put the new Association on a campaigning footing.
The motivation behind the owners meeting in such numbers can be detected from a cryptic mention that the Government of the day was reputed to be considering to ‘ take over certain parts of the Curragh for agricultural and forestry purposes, which would considerably reduce the amount of grazing available and might well be the first step in taking over the Curragh to the complete exclusion of sheep grazing.’
The thought of the Curragh, an open grassland for many centuries, being fenced off for farming and for plantations would be enough to freeze the marrow of any loyal Lilywhite but the sheep owners and graziers had clearly a particular interest in maintaining the plains pristine from encroachment and enclosure. Several members stated that a Government commission was investigating the whole Curragh question and might propose that the ‘ 5000 acres of Curragh land open to the public for centuries, would pass into private ownership and the public would be debarred.’
The Chairman of the new association Mr. C. Mullally emphasised their fears using a pointed historical reference ‘ it would appear as if our Irish Government was now anxious to undertake what the foreign ruler had failed to do down the centuries – take the Curragh plains from the people.’ Another experienced Curragh grazier, Mr. P.J. Cox dismissed any claims by reformers that dividing the Curragh would result in more productivity from the plains. He said he had been reliably informed by one major wool-buyer that ‘ this year 52,000 pounds weight of wool had been purchased in the Curragh area for £15,000. The greater part of that wool had been exported to the dollar area.’ Mr. Cox added that he doubted if any 5,000 acres of best-farmed land in the country earned as much hard cash for the nation as did the Curragh.
Mr. Henry Higgins added that sheep rearing and all aspects of the horse-racing industry must give employment to about four hundred or more on the Curragh.
Mr. Patrick Corrigan made the reasonable point that any other kind of farming on the Curragh would entail immense outlay on clearing furze as well as the ‘staggering cost of proper fertilisation.’
Mr. Thomas Connolly saw even more sinister danger if the Curragh was to be partitioned: ‘ the greater part of the plains might pass into the hands of some wealthy individual or some vested interest – the Curragh might become another Killarney.’
The committee comprising the following members was mandated to protect the plain from any danger of privatisation:
Officers: Chairman, C Mullaly, Athgarvan; Vice-Chair: Patrick Corrigan, Hollywood; Hon. Sec: Mr. P. J. Cox, Droichead Nua,; Hon. Treasurer: Mr. Henry Higgins, Kildare; Committee: M. Orford, Knockaulin; Thomas Connolly, Curragh View; Michael Lawlor, Kilcullen; Simon Houlihan, Kildare; P McGrath, Rathbride; Desmond Sweeney, Walshestown; John Corrigan, Borehard; Larry Higgins, Maddenstown; William Byrne, Ballysax; Michael Halpin, Droichead Nua; William Miley, Gormanstown; George Cardiff, Blackrath; Richard McGlynn, Brownstown.
Whether as a result of the passionate mobilisation of the Curragh sheepowners or not, their worst fears of the enclosure of the plains did not come to pass although the work of the Government Commission on the Curragh did have a sequel in terms of a new legislative framework, the Curragh of Kildare Act, passed four years later in 1961.

A perceived threat to enclose the Curragh lands mobilised sheep owners in 1957 - from Liam Kenny's regular feature, 'Nothing New Under the Sun,' dated 26 July 2007, Leinster Leader. Our thanks as always to Liam.

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