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Irish rebellion

Irish rebellion, 1798. The 1798 rising occurred in the summer, and involved between 30,000 and 50,000 insurgents and around 76,000 government troops. The intellectual leadership came from the Francophile United Irish movement (1791), originally middle class and urban and in favour of constitutional reform; but after 1795–6 there was an overlap between the United Irishmen and a rural protest organization, the catholic Defenders. As the possibility of non-violent reform diminished in the 1790s, the militancy of the United Irish movement and of popular protest developed: the prospect of French military aid after an abortive invasion at Bantry Bay (1796) also encouraged rebel preparations. The revolt was precipitated by the government's brutal efforts, especially in April–May 1798, to suppress sedition and conspiracy. There were two main centres of rebellion: in eastern Ulster, where the insurgents were decisively defeated at Antrim and at Ballynahinch; and in south Leinster, where the critical rebel defeat occurred at Vinegar Hill (Co. Wexford) on 21 June. A French landing, at Killala (Co. Mayo) in August, came too late to assist the Irish insurgents, and was defeated at Ballinamuck (Co. Longford) within a week of arriving. The rising cost perhaps 30,000 lives. It further discredited the Irish government with William Pitt, and reinforced his sympathy for a constitutional union between Britain and Ireland. As the first expression of popular militant republicanism, the rising, though a failure, had a lasting symbolic significance for physical-force nationalists.

Alvin Jackson

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