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United Irishmen

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A society established in Belfast in 1791 by Wolfe Tone and others with the aim of bringing about religious equality and parliamentary reform in Ireland. Inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution, it drew its support from both Catholics and Presbyterians. The British government took steps to remove some grievances, notably with the Catholic Relief Act of 1793. However, after the dismissal of Earl Fitzwilliam, the Lord Lieutenant, who sympathized with the demands for religious equality, the society began to advocate violent revolution in order to overthrow British rule and establish an Irish republic. It sought military assistance from France, but a French expedition which set forth in 1796 to invade Ireland was scattered by storms. Repression of its members followed. In May 1798 sporadic risings occurred, especially in County Wexford, but two months later another French force was intercepted and Tone captured. Thereafter the society went into decline.

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