Edexcel AS History; Unit 2: Ireland: The Irish Question: Key Themes

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The Union and British Rule in Ireland

· By the terms of the Act of Union, Ireland and GB would were united in the UK from January 1st 1801

· Under the Act of Union, the Dublin Parliament was scrapped and 100 MPs from Ireland were sent to Westminster, Irish trade was aligned with British customs and the Churches of Ireland and England (which had been sister churches) were united BUT Catholic Emancipation was rejected

· Large tracts of land were taken by the government from the Catholic landowners and given to Protestant settlers from Britain to secure British Rule

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Daniel O’Connell wanted the repeal of the union, but didn’t want to cut ties with Britain all together; he wanted the keep certain trade links, for example. This was unpopular in the House of Commons, but his ideas were popular in Ireland, and the Nationalist movement really took off in the 1840s with the creation of the Loyal National Repeal Association. They were generally peaceful, but the authorities did start to fear violence, and started to ban meetings (e.g. at Clontarf in October 1843) and eventually imprisoned O’Connell on charges of ‘sedition

Predominant in the South.

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·  Largely Protestant cause led by Henry Cooke; wanted to remain in the UK (for security purposes). The Protestant cause had largely been in support of the Whig Party (who wanted more limited powers for the crown and more power for the government) but was becoming increasingly conservative (who wanted to keep things as they were (i.e. in the union)) and Cooke said that the Church of Ireland and Presbyterians should be united in this fight

·  Predominant in the North (O’Connell not well received in Belfast in 1841)

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Church and Land

·   Large tracts of land were taken by the government from the Catholic landowners and given to Protestant settlers from GB to secure Protestantism in Ireland

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The Penal Laws and Catholic Emancipation

·  The defeat of the Catholic King James II by protestant King William III at the Battle of the Boyne 1691 led to the discriminatory Penal Laws (discriminated against Catholics and other non-conformists (e.g. Presbyterians who did not recognize the Queen/King as their head, to a lesser extent) e.g. not allowed to be MPs or own a horse above the value of £5 in order to force them to convert to the Church of Ireland). These laws were relaxed in 1707 (for most) and 1790s (for Catholics) but some still called for them to end completely

· Many people didn’t want Catholic Emancipation (for Catholics to have the same rights as everyone else), but it was achieved in 1829, largely due to the campaigning of Daniel O’Connell (an upper class Catholic MP who hadn’t been able to take his seat in parliament) and the Catholic Assosciation

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The Tithe War

Tithe War – Tithes were payable to the Church of Ireland regardless of religion which many people violently opposed. The government originally increased the power of the police (84 people killed 1826-1830) but violence only escalated so the Peace Preservation Act 1831 introduced harsh penalties for those who fought against the Tithes, and the Tithe Rent Charge Act 1838 removed many of the Tithes

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The Impact of the Famine

·         Caused by an overreliance on the potato as a source food

·         In the years 1845-51 1 million people died of starvation or related illnesses and 1½ million people emigrated to England or America

·         Irish people often took the situation into their own hands and used violence to try to get the food to feed their families

·         The government were generally not sympathetic (they took a laissez faire attitude) but did encourage the setting up of local relief agencies (which provided work (a source of income) and some food for local families) but these were not large enough to solve the problem so they scrapped them in 1847 and introduced soup kitchens; again not large enough

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The Impact of the Famine

·         The work houses were over-run and couldn’t deal with the demand

·         Many landlords were kind to their tenants in this situation but some simply evicted the starving people

·         The anguish caused by the famine caused many people in Ireland to point the finger of blame at the British (accusing them of an ‘artificial famine’)

·         The Famine showed the limitations of both the Irish Land System and British Rule. It’s main impact was to tie these two issues together at the forefront of British Politics for the next 50 years

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Constitutional and Revolutionary Irish Nationalism

·         1798  - Uprising led by Wolfe Tone led to the Prime Minister (William Pitt the younger) drawing up the Act of Union

·         An organization called ‘Young Ireland’ was founded in 1842 in part to support Daniel O’Connell’s Nationalist cause as well as to promote cultural Irishness and a complete split from Great Britain. They disagreed with O’Connell over many things (including the use of violence; they wanted it, O’Connell didn’t) so split from the Repeal Movement in July 1846

·         Encouraged by the French Revolution of 1848, William Smith O’Brian (the leader of Young Ireland) led an armed revolt which ended in him and several other leaders of the uprising being deported to Tasmania

·         The bitter relationship between Constitutional and Revolutionary Irish Nationalists is clear, and shows that not all Nationalists, or indeed Unionists, were always agreed on political matters

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