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.