Co. Sligo


Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 2,000 in 1815


17 Apr. 1806 O'HARA re-elected after appointment to office
17 Nov. 1806CHARLES O'HARA
21 Oct. 1812CHARLES O'HARA

Main Article

Although the sitting Members, Cooper and O’Hara, opposed the Union, opinion in Sligo was reported by the Castle to be strongly in favour of it. This reflected the solidarity of the resident protestant gentry who, in a county where there was ‘so much of religious discord’ and in which the ‘Thrashers’ subversive activities threatened the peace in 1806, composed a force that ‘it will not do to quarrel in any way with’, so the viceroy was informed. Accordingly no Sligo Member voted for Catholic relief in this period and O’Hara, though a Whig in other respects and alleged by a Catholic spokesman to be a secret sympathizer of the cause, resisted Catholic pressure, and even the threat that the Catholic interest would, in 1810, ‘speedily determine the fate of elections’ did not deter him. He was still, in 1818, more interested in what some 11 ‘greater election powers’ had to say.1

There was in any case no contest in this period. The Cooper brothers sat in succession on their family interest, which secured a Member for the county for a century until 1841. O’Hara, Member since 1783, had handicaps apart from the Catholic question, for he was insolvent and in the Parliament of 1802 muzzled by the fear that his lack of property qualification would be exposed. With about 275 voters of his own to command, he had expected opposition at the election from Owen Wynne*, a former Member who possessed a stronger interest but who eventually proved to be content with the borough seat.2 O’Hara’s part in securing the Sligo port bill in 1803, which his colleague Cooper was too unfit to undertake, caused his stock to rise and Wynne made it clear at the end of that session that he did not aspire to the county seat. O’Hara had less to fear from Lord Kirkwall, whom he suspected Wynne of encouraging to stand. In 1806, although Kirkwall was still thought to have an eye on the county, no contest arose.3

As a placeman in the dismissed Grenville ministry O’Hara again expected trouble in 1807, when the chief secretary urged Wynne to stand with Cooper against him, being confident that he would ‘throw out’ O’Hara, with the help of the absentee Lord Palmerston’s interest. This consisted of about 290 votes, which, however, as Palmerston explained in offering his interest to government in 1817, required registering.4 Wynne declined in 1807, and O’Hara after a bow to the protestant interest was encouraged to form an alliance with Cooper which ensured their quiet return in the next two elections, leaving Cooper the monopoly of government patronage.5 Shortly before the election of 1818, a group of O’Hara’s independent self-styled friends headed by Lord Lorton, Lord Kingston’s brother, urged him to stand down in favour of his son, but he declined, judging that it was a prelude to a challenge to the O’Haras from Kingston’s son.6 The contest that took place on O’Hara’s death in 1822 substantiated this view.

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. Castlereagh Corresp., ii. 328; Bedford mss, Browne to Bedford, 1 Jan. 1807; NLI, O’Hara mss, Everard to O’Hara, 31 Jan., 14 Oct. 1810, C. to C. K. O’Hara, 6 June 1818.
  • 2. O’Hara mss, rental, Nov. 1814; Add. 35735, ff. 76-82 (Sligo).
  • 3. O’Hara mss, O’Hara to Walker King, 15 Mar., 2, 12 June 1803; NLS mss 12925, Irish list, 1806.
  • 4. Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 17, 23, 49; Wellington mss, Long to Wellesley, 11, 24 May 1807; Add. 40269, f. 210; 40293, f. 194.
  • 5. NLI, Richmond mss 64/653.
  • 6. O’Hara mss, C. to C. K. O’Hara, 6 June 1818, Lorton to same, 1 Oct. 1821.