County Sligo

CO. SLIGO – 81%, [36,900] c. 1,000 [c. 2,000 (1815)]







Owen Wynne

13 burgesses (unaltered 1800–32)

Co. Sligo - Constituency

Wood-Martin wrote that ‘From the Revolution of 1688, the Gores, Wingfields, Morgans, Cootes and Ormsbys held sway, until the advent of the Wynnes, who appear to have retained with but two short intervals one seat in the county together with the two seats in the borough, from 1727 to 1790.’ Certainly in the middle of the century the Wynne interest in Co. Sligo appears to have been paramount, but this was undoubtedly helped by the forceful personality of Owen Wynne (2264). For instance, in 1768 Joshua Cooper was ‘connected in the county [Sligo] interest with Owen Wynn’, and Wynne and ‘Cooper who was joined to Wynne were returned for Co. Sligo’.

When Owen Wynne’s election for Co. Sligo in 1776 was challenged, he returned himself for Sligo town. What actually happened is confusing: 1,453 votes were cast – Joshua Cooper 467, Owen Wynne 402, William Ormsby 361, Sir Booth Gore 263. Owen Wynne refused to be returned: he was already elected for Sligo town, and in fact was not duly elected. The Commons declared the election void and there was a further election contested by Owen Wynne (2265) and William Ormsby. On this occasion 753 votes were cast and Wynne won by a ‘respectable’ majority. This may have been a ploy on the part of Wynne (2264) to get his less able son established.

People returned for a county did not usually decide to sit for a borough. Wynne (2265) was returned for the county again at the general election of 1783. Wynne (2264) died in 1789, and in 1790 Wynne (2265) was returned for Sligo town. The interests in the county were sufficiently evenly balanced for elections to be hard fought and appeals against the results frequent. There were seven controverted elections between 1695 and 1778.

At the 1783 election Wynne (2264) was joined by Charles O’Hara, whose success represented the re-emergence of an old Sligo interest. In 1785 the situation in the county was as follows: ‘Roman Catholics very numerous. Few gentlemen of fortune resident. Mr Cooper, Mr Wynne and Mr O’Hara have the chief interests.

The former was unsuccessful at the last election. Mr O’Hara is brought in upon the popular interest.’

In 1790 Owen Wynne, who does not appear to have had the interest in or ability for politics that his father had, was defeated by Joshua Edward Cooper, the son of Joshua Cooper, who was returned with Charles O’Hara; they both sat for the remainder of the Irish parliament and then in the united parliament. In 1790 Sligo was described as a county:

where agriculture and manufactures are neither thoroughly understood, nor properly encouraged, the population of the district can never correspond to its extent and where inveterate prejudices are to be overcome and new manners to be formed, neither the introduction of the one nor the improvement of the other are, indeed, easy tasks. But the number of electors must in every County depend, in a great measure, on the state of its population for though religious principles may, in many cases, diminish the due proportion, yet it must ever have a marked reference to the quantity of inhabitants … though there are ten Counties in the kingdom inferior to Sligo in extent, there are only three inferior to it in population and as the Romish faith is here very prevalent, that cause strikingly co-operates to reduce the ranks of those who enjoy the right of suffrage.

Hence the body of Freeholders form but a small part of the community … But save at the last election, when something of such a spirit appeared in the support of Mr O’Hara the same abject reverence for some leading houses, the same submissive obedience to landlords’ dictates, characterise the voters … Mr Wynne, who is joined with him in the representation, was returned, after a hard fought contest, which tried the strength of his purse still more than the power of his popularity. He is at the head of a long established and commanding interest … he has the best interest in this County … Hazelwood his seat is near Sligo and he lives much among them.

Local visibility was important, economically, socially and politically.

Co. Sligo - Boroughs