Why was catholic emancipation such a big issue?
In Ireland there had been a long period of hostility and injustice towards Catholicism, the Church of England was funded by taxes which had to be paid by non-Angelicans, for instance non-conformists or Catholics and up until 1829 Catholics were not allowed to vote, sit in parliament or serve public office. The Corporation Act (1661) and the Test Act (1672) had imposed religious tests on all public officeholders, effectively excluding all Roman Catholics from taking any kind of position. within parliament and any who did not take the test were legally discriminated against.
The established church in Ireland was the Church of England but as the Roman Catholics were the majority within Ireland the Church of England felt severely threatened by them. It's response was to suppress the Roman Catholic people in Ireland with a series of laws and imposed taxes. The Church of England was a broad church but due to it's origins it was united by a common theme of anti-Catholicism.
Catholic emancipation was the action of giving the Roman Catholics in Ireland their freedom back, allowing them to vote and hold positions of power within parliament.
The insignificantly small membership of the Roman Catholic church within England presented little threat, however within Ireland Catholic's were in the majority, this meant that Catholic emancipation within Ireland caused a very large threat to the Protestant character of the constitution and the continuance of union between Britain and Ireland.
Catholic emancipation was supported by the Whigs and a small group of influential Tories. Pitt attempted to introduce a form of Catholic emancipation believing that it would strengthen the Union between England and Ireland and help to ease the economic crisis in Ireland however he was met by strong opposition from George III...