The Age of Revolution inspired Protestants such as Wolfe Tone, Thomas Russell, Henry Joy McCracken, William Orr, Lord Edward Fitzgerald and others who led the United Irishmen movement. At its first meeting on October 14, 1791, all attendees, minus Tone and Russell (two Anglicans) were Presbyterians. Presbyterians, led by McCracken, James Napper Tandy and Neilson would later go on to lead Protestant and Catholic Irish rebels in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Tone did manage to unite if only for a short time, at least, Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter into the "common name of Irishmen", and would later go on to try to get French support for the rising, recalling the failed French Bantry Bay landing.
At that time, the French republicans were opposed to all churches. Such men were inspired by Tom Paine of the American Revolution, who disapproved of organized religions in The Age of Reason (1794-95) and preferred a deist belief. The Roman Catholic heirarchy was opposed to the United Irish movement, though it was supported by individual priests, in part because its new seminary in Maynooth had been funded by the government in 1795.
During the 1798 rebellion the military leaders were also largely Anglicans. After the initial battles in County Kildare the rebels holding out in the Bog of Allen were led by William Aylmer. In Antrim and Down the rebels were almost all Presbyterians, and at the Battle of Ballynahinch the local Defenders decided not to take part. In County Wexford, which remained out of British control for a month, the main planner and leader was Bagenal Harvey. Only in Mayo, where there were few Protestants, was the rebellion led entirely by Catholics, and it only developed because of the landing by a French force under General Humbert. The disarming of Ulster saw several hundred Protestants, tortured, executed and imprisoned for their United Irish sympathies. The rebellion became the main reason for the Act of Union passed in 1800.
The democratic and non-violent Repeal Association led by Daniel O'Connell in the 1830s and 1840s was supported by a number of Protestants; the most eminent being Sir John Gray, who later supported Butt and Parnell (see below).
Other IPP Protestant Nationalist Members of Parliament were: Sir John Gray, Stephen Gwynn, Hanry Harrison, Jeremiah Jordan, J. G. Swift MacNeill, James Maguire, Pierce Charles de Lacy O'Mahony, John Pinkerton and Samuel Young.
From 1897 the artist and mystic George Russell (also known as "Æ") helped Horace Plunkett to run the Irish Agricultural Organisational Society. The IAOS rapidly grew into the main Irish rural co-operative body through which Irish farmers could buy and sell goods at the best price. Plunkett was also a cousin of George Noble Plunkett, father of Joseph Mary Plunkett. Horace Plunkett's home in County Dublin was later burned down in 1922 by anti-treaty Irish republicans during the Irish Civil War, as he had been appointed a Senator in the first Irish Free State Senate.
Russell was also involved in the "Celtic Revival" (or Celtic Twilight) artistic movement, that provided an intellectual and artistic aspect supportive of Irish nationalism. This was also largely started and run by Protestants such as WB Yeats, Lady Gregory, Sean O'Casey and JM Synge.
Several Protestant figures in the early Northern Ireland Labour Party were nationalists. These included MPs Jack Beattie, Sam Kyle and William McMullen and labour leaders James Baird and John Hanna. Meanwhile, trade unionist Victor Halley was a member of the Socialist Republican Party.
The Irish Volunteers were a paramilitary organisation established in 1913 by Irish Nationalists including Roger Casement, Bulmer Hobson and Robert Erskine Childers, all Protestant Irish nationalists (although Casement, who had been secretly baptized a Catholic by his mother, officially converted to Catholicism not long before he was hanged in 1916). The Irish Volunteers were formed in response to the formation of the Ulster Volunteers by Edward Carson and James Craig. The Ulster Volunteers were a Unionist paramilitary movement who feared a Catholic dominated Home Rule parliament in Dublin under the Home Rule Act 1914.
The Irish Citizen Army existed from 1913-1947 and one of its creators was Jack White from Ulster. On Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, 220 of the group (including 28 women) took part in the Easter Rising. The rifles and ammunition used in the Rising had been imported in April 1914 by Robert Erskine Childers on his yacht "Asgard". A prominent signatory to the Anglo Irish Treaty that followed was Robert Barton, a cousin of Childers.
In the subsequent Irish Free State governments Ernest Blythe, a former member of the Irish Volunteers, held various ministerial posts, as did Bulmer Hobson and Robert Monteith. Seán Lester was a League of Nations diplomat. The founder of the Gaelic League and first President of Ireland was Douglas Hyde.
Later figures included Ronnie Bunting of the Irish National Liberation Army and John Turnley who were murdered by the Ulster Defence Association. Bunting was the son of a close associate of Ian Paisley John Turnley, also killed in 1980, was the Protestant Chairman of the Irish Independence Party.
Today in Northern Ireland most Ulster Protestants oppose the reunification of Ireland, traditionally supporting continued union with Great Britain. However there are some who do support reunification, or are indifferent, though it is a small percentage. In the past, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) has had some Protestant councillors, the most famous recent leader of Protestant Nationalism being Ivan Cooper. One SDLP Protestant councillor, Billy Leonard, recently defected to Sinn Féin. (Leonard's wife and children are Catholic).
As far as is known, Protestants in the Republic of Ireland (largely Church of Ireland) support Irish re-unification in accordance with the referendum of 1998. The Irish media considers that the Republic's chief spokesman for Protestant interests is Martin Mansergh, previously a senator and a long-term advisor to the Irish government on Northern Ireland, who was in 2007 elected a TD in the 30th Dail.