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1829 Catholic Emancipation Act

After the Reformation, many people believed that religious unity under the
Church of England was essential to maintain the peace. Parliament only gradually removed restrictions on worship outside the Church of England, as well as the role of non-Anglicans in political life. Roman Catholics were subject to the greatest suspicion. The Act of Union 1800 brought Irish MPs to Westminster, but despite the fact that Catholics formed the majority of the Irish population, they could not become MPs.

Nationalist leader and lawyer Daniel O'Connell formed the Catholic Association to campaign for greater political rights. In the 1828 County Clare by-election he won a large majority, forcing the Government to pass the Catholic Emancipation Act, which allowed Catholics to sit as MPs and take public office, but reduced the number of Irish peasants entitled to vote. In 1858, Jews were allowed to sit in Parliament, and in 1888, following a campaign by atheist Charles Bradlaugh, those of any or no religion could too.