The problem of enforcing the protestant Reformation in Ireland after 1660 changed in one important way from the situation before 1641. Nearly two decades of civil war and interregnum splintered protestant communities, in Ireland no less than in Britain. Latent dissent from the established Church of Ireland became more open. Episcopacy was proscribed and – in 1647 – the Westminster Parliament’s Directory of Worship was substituted for the familiar Book of Common Prayer. With invasion and re-conquest from 1649, a multiplicity of sects – Presbyterian, Independent, Baptist and antinomian – arrived in Ireland. In this relative freedom, protestants experimented with structures, ceremonies and ideas. These experiments built on and, in some cases, competed against the Presbyterianism which Scots settlers in the north of Ireland had introduced before 1641. The Scottish Presbyterians in Ulster, whatever official connivance they had enjoyed under the early Stuarts, flourished during the 1640s and 1650s. Their institutional base, with presbyteries, synods and kirk sessions, was strengthened; numbers grew, and continued to do so.1 This growth alone would have posed the protestant state within Ireland with a problem different in scale, if not in nature, from anything that it had faced earlier. Yet, the government of Charles II vowed to eliminate religious nonconformity. It aimed also to restore a measure of ecclesiastical congruity between the three kingdoms of Ireland, Scotland and England. The authorities perceived the problem of protestant dissent as one which linked all three territories. In turn, the nonconformists, in resisting the pressures towards uniformity

coordinated their activities, so worsening the very problem which the government had intended to solve.2