Catholic Question in Ireland, 1739-1829
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Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Catholic emancipation - freedom from the restrictions of the penal laws that had successively been imposed on Roman Catholics since the mid-16th century - seemed an inevitable consequence of the 1801 Act of Union with Great Britain, but it is not until 1829, and then only when faced with probable revolution in Ireland, that it was conceded by the British Government. What seems in retrospect a simple question of the granting of civil rights was attended by vehement resistance from vested interests, rebellion and reaction in 1798, a systematic coercion of Irish opinion thereafter, and rural unrest. "The Catholic Question in Ireland" is a collection of ten key works tracing the path of reform, from early claims for Catholic equality to the eventual granting of political and civil rights. They illustrate particular moments in the struggle: the organization of an effective Catholic Committee in 1760; the 1793 Relief Act which gave some Irish Catholics the right to vote, though not sit in Parliament; the Humble Petition of 1805 which resulted in the first parliamentary debate on emancipation since the Act of Union; the short-lived "Catholic Convention" of 1811; the creation of the Catholic Association by Daniel O'Connell in 1823; and the Parliamentary Inquiry of 1824-5 into the state of Ireland. It would be hard to overestimate the significance of the Catholic Question in the determination of national consciousness in Ireland and in signalling the beginning of an eventual transfer of power from a relatively privileged minority to the majority of the Irish people. The books and pamphlets reprinted here, now very hard to obtain, provide information about the debate itself and about contemporary social conditions and public opinion.