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Old 07-12-2021, 03:02 PM   #133 (permalink)
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Epilogue: One nation, indivisible, under an English God - The Act of Union

The rising of 1798 probably marks the only time Catholics and Protestants would join common cause; after its failure Protestants would look to not only the atrocities perpetrated by the “papists” (ignoring of course those carried out on their own side, and vice versa) and see the often treacherous behaviour of Catholics as proving they could not be trusted. From here on in, the word sectarian would be forever engraved into the long and bloody history of Ireland, culminating in the rather bland-sounding Troubles, which would last well into the second half of the twentieth century and ensure Ireland was, and remains to this day, deeply divided along lines of religion and belief.

In the wake of the Rebellion, and with support growing for Catholic emancipation, to say nothing of the renewed fear of further invasion from France, William Pitt, Prime Minister of Great Britain, decided that military suppression alone was never going to quell the tensions in Ireland, and to that effect he proposed the Act of Union, which would unite the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain to form the United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland, and merge the Irish Parliament with the British one. This measure met, not surprisingly, with stiff resistance from the Irish Parliament (almost all of whom were, after all, Protestants and had no interest in equal rights for Catholics and worried their own power would diminish) but a combination of bribes, coercion and promises allowed the Act to scrape through on a 158 - 115 vote when brought before the House again in 1800. On January 1 1801 it became law, and the Irish Parliament was abolished.

What this meant for Ireland we will see in the next chapter, but one thing was certain: while the cause of Irish independence may have been defeated it was not dead, and would rise again only a few years into the new century to threaten the British establishment again, even though it would take another century and more before we would finally be free. Before that, Ireland would be devastated by a harrowing famine that would rob her of the flower of her youth, either to death or emigration, an even greater divide would develop between north and south - a divide which would never really be healed - and, against all expectations, Irishmen would serve the king as the entire world burned under the threat of a new horror: not just a war, but a world war.
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