Background to Rebellion

United Irishmen Summery


FOUNDED: Societies founded in Oct. 1791 in Belfast and Nov. 1791 in Dublin.

GOALS: “To make all Irishmen Citizens – all Citizens Irishmen”, and to substitute the common name of Irishman in place of the denominations of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter.

AGENDA: A radical reform of parliament and the limitation of English influence in government; Catholic emancipation.

PHILOSOPHY: Whig liberal politics married with the ideals of the American War of Independence and the French Revolution. Reform – the Rights of Man -Liberté Equalité Fraternité

REACTION: Fear of French Republicanism led the government to suppress the organisation in 1794. Driven underground the United Irishmen became a republican separatist movement.

FRENCH AID: Wolfe Tone landed in France in 1795 to recruit French aid – culminated in the disastrous Bantry Bay expedition in December 1796.

MILITANT SECRECY: Around 1796 the United Irishmen forged stronger links the Defenders and organised themselves in military fashion with privates, sergeants, captains and colonels; Societies of twelve evolved to form Lower Baronials and Upper Baronials, County Committees and Provincial Committees to report ultimately to the National Committee or Executive. An oath or test was devised for each new member.

“In the awful presence of God,

I, A.B. do voluntarily declare that I will persevere in endeavouring to form a brotherhood of affection among Irishmen of every religious persuasion, and that I will also persevere in my endeavours to obtain an equal, full and adequate representation of all the people of Ireland. I do further declare that neither hopes, fears, rewards or punishments shall ever induce me, directly or indirectly, to inform on or give evidence against any member or members of this or similar societies for any act or expression of theirs, done or made collectively or individually in or out of this society, in pursuance of the spirit of this obligation.”