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The Troubles of Northern Ireland

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The Glorious Revolution was set to overthrow King James II due to his new policies of religious tolerance his and continued ties with the French. After consolidating financial and political power with the help of Parliament William set a large invasion fleet, totaling around 18000 men and 250 ships, heading towards England. Upon seeing William arriving (Nov 1688) with his army in tow James fled from England with no attempt at resistance and sailed for France.

The Glorious Revolution was a severe blow to King James but despite this he attempted to reclaim the throne. With the help of France arming him he sailed to Ireland where he was in favor of Irish Catholics in attempts to regain the throne. The compensation for doing so was a Catholic-dominated parliament in Dublin and the reclamation of land by Catholics. Dublin was to be besieged and taken with the accompaniment of 6000 French troops and once taken King James agreed to a Catholic Parliament that the crown would have no say in passing laws for Ireland and to restore land to Irish Catholics. But this victory was short lived as Williams’ forces arrived to pacify the revolt. Despite the use of guerilla tactics, the burning of food supplies and breakouts of disease by James’ army Williams’s forces was still able to defeat James’ attempt at reclaiming the crown. This outcome was mostly due to James’s ordering his forces to retreat and thereby demoralizing the Irish army. (Murtagh 1993) James then fled back to France once again and upon Williams’s victory Parliament declared that James had abdicated and the throne of England in February of 1689 and offered sovereignty to William and Mary thus making them the monarchs of England and later Scotland as well.

During this time Catholics in Ireland were regaining positions in office and Irish armies and were well on their way to reclaiming the Irish parliament. But Protestants felt threatened by these turn of events and by the outcomes. Being against King James Protestants was very welcoming of King William III and upon his taking the throne, through Irish Law, William also became king of Ireland.(Murtagh 1993)

For Protestants the new monarchy brought a new dominance to their faith. King William still continued with religious toleration in the form of the Toleration Act of 1688 but it allowed religious freedom for all but Catholics. Because of loss at the rebellion and the Toleration Act being passed the Protestants gained dominance in Northern Ireland to the point where they controlled roughly 90% of Northern Ireland over the next couple decades and due to this hostility increased between the Catholics and Protestants.

This act would not be the last to be made as the ruling classes in financial, religious and political power would implement the Penal Laws in 1695 that would last till 1728. These laws were passed with predominantly negative effects on Catholics in Ireland. They ran the gambit of restrictions from not being able to own land, restriction to their education, not being allowed to vote, to not being allowed to serve in any official office or military. To teach the Catholic religion was also considered a felony as well as a member of the Catholic religion marrying a Protestant. (Sanderson 1898, 2015) From the Irish Catholic point of view it is easy to see why they would be resentful towards unjust laws such as these. But these laws were a taste of what was to come.

In 1800 King George III signed the Act of Union, which was brought about because of the previous riots and rebellions and the need to assure control was maintained, despite heavy opposition by the Catholic Irish. It stated a few stipulations: 1) That Ireland was now part of Britain 2) Dublin’s Parliament is replaced by Anglican representation in Westminster 3) That the Anglican Church would be the official church of Ireland 4) That free trade would happen between Ireland and England 5) Ireland was to keep a royal treasurer of England in charge of two-seventeenths of the UKs expenses to foreign trade. Ireland was allowed to keep its courts although no Catholic could hold public office. (Bloy 1997) These two sets of restrictions did nothing to help out the Catholic Irishman and all they did was make the Catholic Irishman destitute, homeless, and hungry while also hurt a great deal of people economically as land owners would most likely find more money using the land for farming and grazing rather than renting to people. They solved no issues politically, fiscally, nor religiously. These restrictions seemed to be put into place to wear down the resolve of the Irish Catholic in hopes they would convert.

Through hardships, bigotry, and famine the Irish endured but they were becoming more and more resentful. But soon an individual named Charles Parnell would come to their assistance. Charles Parnell became the Irish MP in 1875 and by 1886 began working on the Home Rule Bill. The principals of this bill were that a separate parliament needed to be set up in Dublin as Ireland’s national parliament free from Britain’s control and that Westminster would have no Irish representation in its Parliament and that Ireland should be allowed to control its affairs. (McCarthy n.d.) This was rejected in the House of Commons on the criticisms that an Irish self-government would break up the UK and many, mostly Protestants, were unsure if future Irish legislations could be trusted to protect all Irishmen.

The Home Rule Bill was reintroduced in 1893 as The Second Home Rule Bill and went in a different direction than the original attempt at an Ireland separate from Britain. The principals of this version were to set an Irish Parliament to manage Ireland with Irish representation in the British Parliament. While this was an improvement and it did pass to the House of Commons it was still rejected in the House of Lords due a heavily Conservative lead House of Lords. Despite this defeat the bill was evolving and gaining better approval. (McCarthy n.d.) In April of 1912 the Third Home Rule Bill made it through Parliament, despite Protestant opposition, with the creation of a bicameral parliament in Ireland that would allow Ireland to continue electing MPs for Westminster and also made their constituent size larger. Upon being accepted the bill was going to be sent to the King for assessment, unfortunately at the time Britain was embroiled in a bigger concern called the World War I. Unfortunately because of this the bill was not continued afterwards. (O'Brien 1923)

During the war uprisings occurred and concerns about the Home Rule Bill began to manifest. The main concern being the Home Rule Bill could lead to what many thought could be a full scale civil war in Ireland which many wanted to avoid especially since World War I was going on. Because of this


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