The Society of United Irishmen

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The Society of United Irishmen was formed in Belfast by a group of liberal minded Presbyterian merchants in 1791.  They hoped to bring about radical reform of the Irish Parliament.  Inspired by the revolutions in France and America, their ambition was to create a new democracy that included Irishmen of every class and religious persuasion - "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity".

In the north of Ireland, where the population was predominantly Presbyterian, the principles of the United Irishmen had considerable appeal as the Society’s ambitions reflected Presbyterian ethos.

Shortly after the formation of the Society, they began to publish their own popular newspaper, The Northern Star, which helped to spread their political manifesto throughout the country.  By 1796, the Government became concerned that the United Irishmen posed a dangerous threat. Membership became illegal.  In response, the Society formed a secret army and began to plot rebellion.

The ill-fated rebellion took place in May-June 1798.  It was swiftly crushed and the armies of the Society of United Irishmen were mercilessly defeated.