The Catholic Committee or Catholic Convention was an organisation in 18th-century Ireland that campaigned for the rights of Catholics and for the repeal of the Penal Laws.

In 1757 the Catholic Committee was formed by Charles O'Conor; others involved included the historian, doctor, and activist John Curry and Thomas Wyse of Waterford.[1]

The committee met in Essex Street, Dublin, in 1760. Before long, every county in Ireland had a committee usually headed by Catholic merchants and landed gentry. From the death of the Old Pretender in 1766, the Papacy started to recognise the Hanoverian kings, and Catholics were seen to be less of a threat to the state than before. Assisted by parliamentarians like Edmund Burke, and with pressure from Catholic groups in Britain, the Catholic Relief Act of 1778 was their first success.

In 1792 Theobald Wolfe Tone was appointed assistant secretary of the Catholic Committee. The businessman John Keogh served as chairman.[2] The French Revolution and the outlawing of the more militant United Irishmen in 1795 saw a number of the landed gentry and aristocrats leave the committee.[3] Many had heard about the Dechristianization of France during the French Revolution.

Back Lane ParliamentEdit

Members of the committee met on 2 December 1792 in Tailors Hall in Back Lane, Dublin, referred to as the 'Back Lane Parliament'.[4] During this meeting, a petition to the king and the Irish Parliament was prepared, asking for certain rights for Catholics such as the franchise to vote for "Forty-shilling freeholders", and some other privileges like taking degrees and being allowed to study at Trinity College Dublin on taking an oath.

In 1793 many of the measures requested were sanctioned with the relaxation of the Penal Laws, although Catholics still could not sit in Parliament or hold certain offices. The Act was pushed along by Prime Minister William Pitt, who had already enacted the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1791 in Great Britain. The main committee was therefore dissolved in April 1793, but did establish a committee for lobbying for Catholic Education.[5] As a result Maynooth College was funded in 1795 by the government.

Daniel O'Connell's Catholic Association, organised by counties, was in some ways a follower of the Catholic Committee system.

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