The Penal Laws were introduced into Ireland in the year 1695 (having been in use in other countries before this). They had a pronounced effect, disenfranchising the majority of the Irish population, who were Roman Catholic or Presbyterian and in favor of the minority established Church of Ireland. Though the laws also affected adherents of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (who were concentrated in Ulster), their principal victims were members of the Roman Catholic Church, meaning over three quarters of the people on the island. The British had punished the faith of the overwhelming majority of the "mere Irish" (in contemporary English, 'mere' meant 'pure' or 'fully').
The laws were eventually repealed largely due to Irish political agitation organized under Daniel O'Connell in the 1820s, but effects of the laws in terms of sectarianism between Catholics and Protestants can still be seen, particularly in Northern Ireland, today.
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