Overview This seminar sets out to explore the experience of Southern Protestants between 1900 and 1923, and how they ‘became strangers’ in the newly established and very Catholic Free State. Accounting for 10% of the population of what would become the Free State in the 1911 census, their numbers declined by a third falling to 7% of the population by 1926. The question is not why so many left, but why so many stayed.
In “We shall have to get on as best we can’ – southern Irish Protestantism comes to terms with change, 1900-1923 Dr Ian d’Alton argues that the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1869, a succession of Land Acts between 1870 and 1909, and the Local Government Act 1898 foreshadowed the changes that lay ahead for Southern Protestants, leaving them better equipped to cope with their place in the Free State than might have been expected. In ‘The Beginning of the End? – The Changing World of a Kildare Unionist, 1919-1921’ Dr Ciaran Reilly describes the experiences of William JH Tyrrell whose home was attacked by the IRA, an attempt made to shoot him, and whose family were ostracized by the local community. Dr Connor Morrissey in ‘Protestants in the Irish Volunteers and the IRA, 1916-23’ – reminds us that a distinct group of Irish Protestants fought and died in pursuit of Irish independence, at a time when Irish nationalism was changing from a movement in which Protestants were prominent to a largely-Catholic dominated one.