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In response to the campaign for Home Rule which started in the 1870s, unionists, mostly Protestant and largely concentrated in Ulster, had resisted both self-government and independence for Ireland, fearing for their future in an overwhelmingly Catholic country dominated by the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1912, unionists led by Edward Carson signed the Ulster Covenant and pledged to resist Home Rule by force if necessary.

The security forces of the Republic played a smaller role.Anglican dominance in Ireland was ensured by the passage of the Penal Laws that curtailed the religious, legal, and political rights of anyone (including both Catholics and Protestant Dissenters, such as Presbyterians) who did not conform to the state church, the Anglican Church of Ireland.As the Penal Laws started to be phased out in the latter part of the 18th century, there was more competition for land, as restrictions were lifted on the Irish Catholic ability to rent.The British security forces focused on republican paramilitaries and activists, and the "Ballast" investigation by the Police Ombudsman confirmed that British forces colluded on several occasions with loyalist paramilitaries, were involved in murder, and furthermore obstructed the course of justice when claims of collusion and murder were investigated.The Troubles were brought to an uneasy end by a peace process that included the declaration of ceasefires by most paramilitary organisations, the complete decommissioning of the IRA's weapons, the reform of the police, and the corresponding withdrawal of the British Army from the streets and sensitive Irish border areas such as South Armagh and Fermanagh, as agreed by the signatories to the Belfast Agreement (commonly known as the "Good Friday Agreement").Unionists and Home Rule advocates were the main political factions in late 19th- and early 20th-century Ireland.

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