The Rise of Irish Nationalism in the Nineteenth Century

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Discuss the significance of the political developments within revolutionary and constitutional Irish nationalism from the period 1798 to 1867

Word count 1592

The nineteenth century was a revolutionary and constitutional period in Irelands history, that somewhat shaped the Ireland that we live in today. This essay will explore the political developments, within revolutionary and constitutional Irish nationalism in the period 1798 to 1867.

The late eighteenth century marked the beginning of what was to map Ireland’s future through the nineteenth century and to the present day. Ireland at this time was a deeply divided society. Catholic’s and Presbyterians made up eighty five percent of the population, yet they had no power what so ever and were very ill treated. That power belonged to the Church of Ireland. It was they who held all the parliamentary and government jobs. But this was a time in Irish history that was about to see a change. For too long had the lower class been subject to penal laws and below standard conditions. The French revolution rekindled the dream that Ireland could one day become a free and independent nation again. And it was a young protestant lawyer called Theobald Wolfe Tonne, who would go on to be known as the father of Irish republicanism, who ignited the flame in the search for a free Ireland.

The formation of the United Irishmen in 1791 was the catalyst of Irish nationalism. After achieving their original goal of alleviating religious discrimination, Wolfe Tonne and the United Irishmen, inspired by the French revolution, turned their attentions to freeing Ireland thus creating an Irish Republic.

Wolfe Tonne travelled to France in 1796 to gain the support of the French revolutionists. Together they would return to Ireland to mount an attack on the British to break the connection with England. However this revolt never was in vain as high winds and rough seas prevented the French ships from landing. The significance of this failed invasion resulted in England being able to recover and strike back. They did so using ferocious methods. With martial law being declared, many rebels and those suspected of being rebels were severely dealt with, eventually resulting in the capture of most of the United Irishmen’s hierarchy. Not being deterred by military intervention, the rebels continued in their quest resulting in rural guerrilla war in Wicklow, Leinster and Kildare against military and loyalist forces. However, without the necessary leadership on the ground the rebellion eventually failed. (Pelling 2003).

One significant outcome from the 1798 rebellion is that it was the start of a revolutionary period in Irish history. It was seen more as a retreat by the United Irishmen into secretive underground societies planning for the future, rather than defeat. (Pelling 2003).

The 1798 rebellion also resulted in bringing Britain closer to Ireland. Fear of further rebellions and possible invasions by the French, the Act of Union came to pass in 1800 and Ireland’s parliament was voted out of existence. Protestants initially opposed the act on grounds of their Irish patriotism and the feeling within Catholics was that the rebellion was a cause of mistreatment of the Protestant ascendancy towards the public. Therefore it was deemed that union with Britain would lead to a more pacified and fair system for the Irish people. However Catholic opinion quickly reversed and was no longer in favour of union as promises of Catholic Emancipation were not fulfilled and led to disillusion and unrest. As a result of this self-determination for Ireland and nationalist ambitions grew stronger. The Catholic Church began to play a larger role in society with new church buildings opening over the country. Belfast’s economy began to prosper with the linen and brewery industries attracting more nationalists to the city. (Irishhistorylinks.net). The expansion of linen manufacturers in ulster sparked other...
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