The background is heightened political and religious tensions arising from the imminence of Catholic Emancipation.

Judging from the evidence of Daniel O’Connell, a few months before he was elected MP to a British Parliamentary Enquiry, the balance of economic advantage at least in bank deposits and shareholding in the Bank of Ireland had shifted to the Catholics. Also in Cork the Catholic butter and provisions merchants amassed huge fortunes while many of the landlord families were on the edge of insolvency.