Religious Troubles after the Restoration (1665-1685)

Patrick Weston Joyce

615. At the time of the Restoration the population of Ireland was about 1,100,000: of whom 800,000 were Roman Catholics—including the old English who were nearly all Catholics; 200,000 Non-conformist Protestants, or Puritans, and 100,000 episcopal Protestants, belonging to the Established Church. The new Cromwellian settlers were almost all Puritans. Both sections of Protestants were alike hostile to the Roman Catholics.

During the parliamentary sway the Non-conformists had the upper hand, and the Established Church was repressed, and its clergy removed; while still stronger measures, as as we have seen (603), were taken against the Roman Catholics.

616. One of the first acts of Charles II. was to restore the Established Church in Ireland; and the bishops and ministers returned to their dioceses and parishes. But as the members of this church were so few, most had very small flocks, and very many none at all. Bramhall, a man so much in favour of the "divine right" and extreme prerogatives of the king, that he was called the "Irish Laud," was made archbishop of Armagh, and Jeremy Taylor bishop of Down and Connor. This restoration of the church was bitterly resented by the Puritans, who detested government by bishops.

617. The Act of uniformity was brought to bear chiefly on the Presbyterians, who now suffered a sharp, though short, persecution. Nearly all determinedly refused to comply with the requirements of the act, and the clergy were expelled from their ministry and their homes: some were fined or sent to jail; some were banished from the country. But most held their ground and secretly kept religion alive among their flocks.

A large number of the lay members—sober, industrious, and peaceful people—unwilling to bear these religious hardships, sold their property and emigrated to the Puritan colonies of New England. But by unyielding firmness the Presbyterians at length obtained toleration and justice.

618. While the Presbyterians were suffering, the Catholics were treated with some leniency by Ormond, through the interference of the king. Ormond however soon resumed his severities; whereupon the king removed him in 1669, and appointed lord Robarts, who was in his turn succeeded as lord lieutenant in 1670 by lord Berkeley. This was followed by renewed severities against the Nonconformists, and by further toleration for the Roman Catholics.

619. The Catholic cause was advocated and advanced in London by colonel Richard Talbot afterwards earl and duke of Tirconnell, and by his brother Peter Talbot Roman Catholic archbishop of Dublin.

620. But the leniency experienced by the Catholics was of short duration. It was known that the king's brother James duke of York was a Roman Catholic. The king himself was believed to be a Catholic also; and reports went abroad that he was conspiring to restore the Catholic religion over the Three Kingdoms. Matters were brought to a crisis by the Titus Oates plot in England in 1678. This was an evil turn for the Irish Roman Catholics; for now there were all sorts of wild unfounded rumours of their wicked intentions towards Protestants.

Measures of extraordinary severity—proclamations in quick succession—were brought into play, and the Catholics now passed through a period of great suffering. Several innocent persons were arrested and imprisoned: and Dr. Oliver Plunket archbishop of Armagh was brought to London, where in 1681, he was tried and executed on false testimony.

King Charles died in 1686, a Catholic, and attended by a Catholic priest.