After the Williamite war, eighteenth century Ireland groaned under the severity of English rule. Catholics who numbered over eighty percent of the population were forced to take an oath of abjuration to the established Episcopalian church, which publicly denounced their own faith as idolatrous and blasphemous.
Failure to take the oath excluded them from practising law, ownership of land and most of their other rights. Although the Presbyterian community were marginally better off, they also suffered severe exclusion and marginalisation and along with Catholics they were forced to pay a Tithe to the established church.
Despite this the economy was growing but throughout the century became stifled by restrictive acts of legislation, which culminated in the Act of Union in 1801. The middle of the century saw mass emigrations to America. In Ireland growing disaffection was encouraged by the French and American Revolutions.
Belfast became the crucible where national grievances were stirred and ignited with these revolutionary ideals into popular agitation and then armed insurrection. The rebellion was plotted and carried out by the Society of United Irishmen, founded in October 1791, which was forced into armed revolt by the futility of all peaceful and democratic pleas for reform.
The uprising cost the lives of over fifty thousand people including most of the prominent leaders, but created a legacy of Republican ideology that would inspire future generations. This tour will visit the locations, monuments and meeting places associated with this turbulent period in Irish History. Locations include High Street Belfast and Clifton Cemetry.
Weather permitting it will also include a visit to Mac Art’s Fort overlooking Belfast City where the leaders took their oath of resistance to English rule.