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The Disestablishment
of the Church of Ireland.


Some Irish politicians had long tried to convince the English government that social and religious reforms were needed in Ireland. One politician who became a supporter of these reforms was William E Gladstone, the leader of the Liberal Party. In 1868 he successfully fought a general election under the slogan 'Justice for Ireland' When he heard the result he stated "My mission is to pacify Ireland"

The census of 1861 showed that Ireland had a population of 5,798,967 of which 690,000 were Anglican about 9%. Being the established church meant that it was supported by a tithe paid by the entire community, its Bishops were appointed by the Monarch and it was controlled by parliament. Gladstone considered this an unjust arrangement and in 1869 the act was passed, which disestablished the Church of Ireland.

Under the Disestablishment Act the Church was made independent of the state. It was allowed to keep its churches, but its, estates valued at the time at £16 million were taken over and sold to the sitting tenants. £10 million was given back to the church, the rest was set aside for public charities. At the same time the annual grants given to the Presbyterian Church and the Catholic College at Maynooth were ended. From this time no church in Ireland has received state aid.

The newly independent church, quickly put their independence to good use, it set up a general synod, consisting of the bishops and representatives of the clergy and laity, to make its laws. In the following years many of its churches and cathedrals were rebuilt. The Church of Ireland set up schools and a college for training teachers. Missionaries were sent abroad especially to China, where in 1895 the Rev R W Stewart and his wife were martyred.