Protection of Persons and Property Act 1881

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Act of Parliament
Long title An Act for the better Protection of Person and Property in Ireland.
Citation 44 & 45 Vict., c. 4[1][2]
Introduced by William Ewart Gladstone, Prime Minister, 24 January 1881[3]
Territorial extent Kingdom of Ireland
Royal assent 2 March 1881[4]
Repealed 25 August 1894
Other legislation
Repealed by Statute Law Revision Act 1894
Status: Repealed
The 1881 act was introduced by William Ewart Gladstone

The Protection of Persons and Property (Ireland) Act,[fn 1] also called the Coercion Act, was an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which allowed for internment without trial of those suspected of involvement in the Land War in Ireland.[5] The provisions could be introduced by proclamation of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in any area of the island. Lists of internees had to be laid before Parliament.


William Edward Forster by Henry Tanworth Wells.[6]

The 1881 act was one of more than 100 "Coercion Act"s applied to Ireland under the Union.[1] W. E. Gladstone was returned to office in 1880, during the agrarian violence and civil disturbance of the Land War in Ireland. William Edward Forster was made Chief Secretary for Ireland. He carried the Compensation for Disturbance Bill through the Commons, only to see it thrown out in the Lords. On 24 January 1881, he introduced a new Coercion Bill in the Commons.

The bill was strongly opposed by the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP), which took its obstructionism tactic to new heights by filibustering the second reading for 41 hours. Eventually the Speaker resorted to ignoring IPP MPs requesting the right of speech and put the question. This controversial unprecedented move was soon formalised when Gladstone secured an amendment of the rules of order to allow for cloture ("guillotine") motions. After the bill became law in March, The Spectator commented that it had "virtually occupied the whole time of the Lower House for seven weeks and a day; for though some part of the discussion was nominally devoted to the Queen's Speech, even that debate hardly turned upon any other subject."[7]


A total of 953 people were detained under the act.[8] Many of them were active in the Irish National Land League; this was sufficient for the "reasonable suspicion" required by the act. On 13 October 1881, IPP leader Charles Stewart Parnell was arrested under the act after his newspaper, the United Ireland, had attacked the Land Law (Ireland) Act 1881.[9] The arrest warrant accused Parnell of acting as principal in inciting others to "abstain[ing] rents lawfully due". He was interned in Kilmainham Gaol.[9] United Ireland published a No Rent Manifesto the week after Parnell's imprisonment, and the Land League was banned, only to reappear as the Irish National League.[10] Detention of Irish Americans with U.S. citizenship caused a diplomatic row between London and Washington.[11]


The act was due to expire 30 September 1882.[12][13] A bill to repeal it was defeated on first reading in February 1882, having been introduced by Thomas Sexton, a signatory of the No Rent Manifesto.[14] Forster proposed renewing the act indefinitely to deal with the crisis, but the rest of the government disagreed, and negotiations began with Parnell.[15] These lead to the "Kilmainham Treaty", which ended boycotting such that the act was allowed to expire.[15] Both Forster and the Lord Lieutenant, John Spencer, 5th Earl Spencer, resigned in May 1882.[15]

The act was repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act 1894.[16]


  1. ^ The Act had no official short title. It was referred to as Protection of Persons and Property (Ireland) Act, or with Person in the singular, and/or with (Ireland) omitted.





  1. ^ a b Laura K. Donohue (2003). "Civil Liberties, Terrorism, and Liberal Democracy: Lessons from the United Kingdom" (PDF). In Arnold M. Howitt and Robyn L. Pangi. Countering Terrorism: Dimensions of Preparedness. MIT Press. p. 421. ISBN 978-0-2625-8239-1. 
  2. ^ "THIRD READING. (, )". Hansard. 2 March 1881. pp. HL Deb vol 259 c1. Retrieved 15 November 2016. 
  3. ^ Anne Kane (2012). Constructing Irish National Identity: Discourse and Ritual during the Land War, 1879–1882. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 220. ISBN 978-1-1370-0117-7. 
  4. ^ Joseph Anthony Amato (2002). Rethinking Home: A Case for Writing Local History. University of California Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-5209-3633-1. 
  5. ^ "Gladstone and Ireland". 
  6. ^ National Portrait Gallery, London, accessed September 2009
  7. ^ "News of the Week". The Spectator. London (2749): 1. 5 March 1881. 
  8. ^ Simpson, Alfred William Brian (1994). In the Highest Degree Odious: Detention Without Trial in Wartime Britain. Oxford University Press. p. 4. ISBN 9780198259497. Retrieved 15 November 2016. 
  9. ^ a b The Times, Arrest Of Mr. Parnell, 14 October 1881
  10. ^ Aldous, Rishard; Puirseil, Niamh, eds. (2008). "'No Rent Manifesto' The Land League calls for a rent strike against landlords, 18 October 1881". We Declare; Landmark Documents in Ireland's History. London: Quercus. pp. 90–91. ISBN 978-1-84724-672-1. 
  11. ^ Edwards, Owen Dudley (2009). "American Diplomats and Irish Coercion, 1880–1883". Journal of American Studies. 1 (02): 213. doi:10.1017/S0021875800007866. ISSN 0021-8758. 
  12. ^ Protection of Persons and Property Act 1881, section 4
  13. ^ House of Commons Procedure Committee (14 December 2015). "2 The House's practice". Notification of the arrest of Members. UK Parliament. fn.8. Retrieved 15 November 2016. 
  14. ^ "Protection Of Person And Property (Ireland) Act Repeal Bill; Motion For Leave". Hansard. 9 February 1882. pp. HC Deb vol 266 cc342–66. Retrieved 15 November 2016. 
  15. ^ a b c Nicholls, David (1995). The Lost Prime Minister: A Life of Sir Charles Dilke. A&C Black. p. 108. ISBN 9781852851255. Retrieved 15 November 2016. 
  16. ^ "Statute Law Revision Act, 1894, Schedule 1". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 15 November 2016. 

External links[edit]

Hansard, Bills index
  • "Bills Index: P". Hansard. PROTECTION OF PERSON AND PROPERTY (IRELAND) ACT REPEAL BILL; Protection of Person and Property (Ireland) Bill; PROTECTION OF PERSON AND PROPERTY (IRELAND) BILL No. 40; PROTECTION OF PERSON AND PROPERTY (TRELAND) BILL; Protection of Person and Property Bill; Protection of Personal Property (Ireland) Bill; Protection of Persons and Property (Ireland) Arrests Bill. 
  • "Index: Coercion Bill". Hansard. 1881–1886.