Militia Regiments raised in Ireland

Friday, 1 April, 1796
Louth Rifles Irish Militia 108th Regiment
108th Regiment, The Irish Militia

The Army in Ireland, up to the 1790s, had been tasked with defending against invasion and maintaining the King's Peace. This had been achieved by a small number of regiments stationed across Ireland, but in the early 1790s, the ideology of the French Revolution found favour with diverse factions in Ireland as civil unrest grew. War in Europe loomed and military preparations were made before the inevitable declaration of war by Republican France against Great Britain on 1 February 1793. Regiments were removed from the establishment of the Army in Ireland to fight in campaigns and expeditions not just on the continent but also in the colonies.

In December 1792, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl of Westmorland, wrote to the British Prime Minister, William Pitt, informing him that the Irish cabinet had decided to form a regulated militia for the defence of Ireland. On 1 April 1793, the Privy Council received the Bill from the Irish parliament for its final processes before it received Royal Assent on 9 April. The Militia Act raised thirty-eight Militia Regiments, one for each county as well as from cities such as Dublin, Limerick and Cork.

Following the Militia Act 1793, a proclamation by Westmorland forced the disbandment of many unregulated volunteer corps of various political and religious persuasion; the 'sword of Ireland' was now back in the government's hand. Numbers were allocated to these regiments not by any seniority but by a ballot which resulted in titles such as the 1st Monaghan Militia, the 8th Armagh Militia and the 18th Cavan Militia. Policy dictated that the Militia Regiments served in various garrisons across Ireland, rather than in their own counties, in an attempt to avoid any local political subversion.

The first general emergency that Militia Regiments dealt with was the threatened invasion by General Hoche's French expedition at Bantry Bay in December 1796. However, the French fleet was scattered with tragic losses by western Ireland's Atlantic gales and the only landings were by ships that ran aground.