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Defenders were Irish catholics who banded together to combat the protestant Peep o' Day Boys. They began to organize in the 1780s and in the 1790s merged with the United Irishmen. There were frequent clashes between defenders and the protestants, numerous murders, arming, and drilling: in one encounter at Ballina in 1794 about 70 persons are said to have been killed. The spread of catholic disaffection culminated in the Irish rising of 1798.

J. A. Cannon

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