A Brief History of Ireland
The history of Ireland could be described with some justification as a sad catalogue of invasion upon invasion, of petty tribal infighting between each successive group, providing the opportunity for the next invaders who were usually better armed and more experienced in warfare, to gain a foothold. This lack of cohesiveness and tendency towards personal material enhancement appears to have been the ultimate downfall of almost all of Ireland’s invaders, as they fought among themselves, and with previously arrived groups to control the land.
In many of these conflicts the main protagonists were related by blood or marriage, to give three prime examples, the battle of Clontarf, the invasions of Edward and Robert the Bruce and the battle of the Boyne.
The Irish nation of today is descended from a rich cultural and genealogical mixture of peoples, who came conquered and in the fullness of time integrated, giving rise to the phrase 'More Irish than the Irish themselves.'
We have attempted to present this page as an impartial account of historical events as they unfolded in Ireland. Our sources were many and often presented conflicting accounts, as of course is only to be expected. It is difficult for authors to avoid applying his or her own personal political and religious allegiance to the interpretation of events and situations they are describing. Not forgetting also that the original source material from which history is compiled is usually written, sanitized and often embellished by the victor, to the detriment of the vanquished and the truth.
The original provinces, sometimes called the five fifths of Ireland, were probably Ulster, Leinster, Munster, Connaught, and Mide. But the number of provinces and their boundaries were in a state of constant flux. According to tradition, King Cormac mac Airt built a splendid palace at Tara, in County Meath, forming the new kingdom of Meath, and called himself Árd Ri (high king). Though he was never the ruler of whole of Ireland, his descendants claimed that he founded the high kingship of Tara.
In 431, Pope Celestine sent Palladius as first bishop to the Irish, Pallidus died shortly after arriving in Ireland. He was replaced by Patrick who landed in Ireland in 432, he become the patron saint of Ireland.
Patrick was a native of Britain, the son of a wealthy official. When he was about 16 years of age, he was captured by Irish raiders (probably acting under the orders of the Irish king Niall Noigiallach 'Niall of the Nine Hostages') And taken as a slave to Ireland.
For six years, he herded sheep for his Irish master, it is said on Slemish mountain County Antrim. He escaped, legend tells us that he stowed away on a ship bound for England, loaded with Irish Wolfhounds. From England he went to France and studied under Saint Germanus. There he became a bishop and returned to Ireland with the intention of converting the pagan Irish to Christianity.
According to tradition in 432, Patrick landed at the mouth of the Slaney river which flows into Strangford Lough near Saul, in County Down, he made contact with the local chieftain Diohu who after a conversation with Patrick gave him his barn the Irish word for barn was sabhall, Patrick converted it and so it became his first church in Ireland.
Later he was called before the high king, Laoghaire, at Tara, Laoghaire was impressed with Patrick and he gave him permission to preach. For thirty years he travelled the country, founding churches and ordaining priests. He died in 461 and was buried at Downpatrick County Down which had become the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland.
Modern scholars dispute this traditional account of St. Patrick's life and argue that a number of missionaries converted the Irish to Christianity, indeed it seems entirelypossible that small pockets of Christianity already existed brought to the island by traders. Some scholars are of the opinion that the Patrick story was invented entirely by the Catholic Church, but all scholars agree that the people eventually accepted the new religion without much opposition.
The early church in Ireland incorporated many of the Pagan ceremonies and rituals into their services and church calendar. It has been suggested that some of the early monastic sites occupied land previously used as Druid colleges and may have taken over from them. Certainly early church sites tended to be sited in or near oak groves, the oak was sacred to the Celts. This policy was eminently successful in making converts, and may have been one reasons which led the Irish church into conflict with Rome, the dating of Easter was a particularly contentious issue which was not settled until 703.
St. Patrick and other missionaries divided the country into dioceses and put a bishop in charge of each of them. In the years that followed, many monasteries were founded throughout the country. Gradually, monasteries became an important feature of Christian life in Ireland. The chief founders of Irish monasteries were St. Enda of the Aran Islands, St. Finnian of Clonard, St. Columba of Derry and Kells, who is also called Columcille, St. Brendan of Clonfert, St. Brigid of Kildare, St. Comgall of Bangor, St. Finbarr of Cork, and St. Kieran of Clonmacnoise. The monasteries became so important that the system of dioceses founded by St. Patrick broke down. Each monastery was independent, and the abbots of the monasteries eventually became more powerful than the bishops.
During this period generally called the Dark Ages in Europe religion and scholarship almost disappeared in some other countries. But during this time, Ireland became a great canter of education and scholarship. Many students came from Britain and Europe to Ireland to study in its famous monastic schools.
At least two kings from overseas were educated in Ireland: Dagobert II, King of the Western Franks, who's citadel of Rennes le Chateau, central in the mystery of the Holy Grail, the Knights Templar and Mary Magdalene, popularized in the thriller by Dan Brown in the Da Vinci Code, and Aldfrid of Northumbria was another. Scripture and theology were the chief subjects of study at these schools.
The Irish monks believed that the greatest sacrifice they could make was to go into exile "for the love of Christ." St. Columba of Derry was one of the first [Monastic buildings.] missionaries to leave Ireland, although it could be said there were extenuating circumstance. In 563, he founded a monastery on Iona, a small island off the coast of Scotland. From there, he and his successors taught the Christian religion throughout much of Scotland and northern England. Other missionaries went to the mainland of Europe. Columbanus went to France and Italy; Gall, to Switzerland; Kilian, to Germany; and Livinius, to the Netherlands. They founded monasteries in many of the places that they visited. The monasteries of Bobbio, Iona, Lindisfarne, and Luxeuil were among the most famous of them.
In time, a decline in the religious fervour of the monks set in. Some monasteries passed into the control of lay people, and many kinds of abuses resulted. In the 700's, a reform movement began, led by men called Celi De (servants of God), who preached a return to the former strictness of monastic life. But, before they could achieve much, bands of warriors from Scandinavia, called Vikings, began to raid the country.
Long before the coming of the Vikings Irish kings and chieftains had become notorious for their depredations of ecclesiastical properties. The greatest of the Irish raiders was Feidlimid mac Crimthainn, king of Munster, who is reputed to have burned the monasteries of Kildare, Clonfert, Durrow, and Clonmacnoise among others. Feidlimid was himself in holy orders, probably of Episcopal rank As such sympathies lay with the Celi De, and justified his raids as a crusade to stamp out corruption in the church. Although his victims were probably chosen because of their affiliation with the Ui Neill kings of the north.
The arts owed much to the monasteries. Some of the finest metalwork [The Ardare Chalice.] of this period was specially made for them. Examples of such metalwork are the Ardagh Chalice, the Innisfallen Crosier, and book shrines called Cumdachs. The supreme artistic achievements of the period were the illuminated manuscripts written by the scribes in the monasteries. Among the best known are the Book of Kells, the Book of Durrow, and the Book of Armagh.
The first Viking raid is recorded as happening in 793 at Lindisfarne Island on the coast of Northumbria in England and in Ireland in 795, when they plundered the monastery on Lambay Island, off the Dublin coast. At first, they came in small parties, made surprise attacks on places along the coast, and sailed away with their plunder. But, after about 830, the Vikings changed their tactics.
The monasteries [Vikings raid Strangford Lough.] were the main target of the Vikings, although the monks had other raiders to contend with, their Irish neighbours. According to historian Donncha O'Corrain in the first quarter of the ninth century the Vikings committed twenty six recorded acts of violence against some eighty seven by the Irish themselves.
It is perhaps the perception that the arrival of the Vikings on the shores of Ireland, found a native people unprepared and ill equipped to deal with the invaders. There is an element of truth in this perhaps it was the scale of the invasion that was to follow that overwhelmed them, at least initially.
The Norwegian Vikings especially, came from a higher less hospitable latitude, when the first raiders returned home with tales of a verdant island to the south, with land and booty to be seized, it must have precipitated the outfitting of many ships, with a view not only to plunder but to to colonization.
The fact is that Ireland had its own naval fleets, the Ulaid of Ulster were in possession of war galleys some four hundred years earlier, when after the Roman withdrawal from Britain they began raiding the western seaboard of that country, in fact St. Patrick was probably captured in one of these raids. The fact that Ulster has no identifiable long term Viking settlements, save for a burial in Ballyhome bay near Bangor in County Down, would indicate that the Ulaid while failing to protect the monasteries from occasional raids, did hold overall control of the land.
Ulster was not the only provence with defensive capability's, in 796 a Viking chief called Thorgestr brought a fleet up the river Shannon into Lough Ree. King Malachy attacked the invaders and after a conflict which lasted three months half of Thorgestr's fleet were sunk, Thorgestr was captured and drowned in Lough Owel by Malachy. The Vikings first over wintered, at the mouth of the River Liffey, in 841-842 this is considered as the date of the founding of Dublin city.
At this time in history and for a long time after Ireland was a country of fragmented kingdoms, vying with each other for supremacy. The Irish failed to drive the Vikings from Ireland, around 914 new waves of invasions began, by now the Irish were in a better position to defend themselves, perhaps they had increased their naval force and learned the Vikings battle tactics.
Whatever the case in 926 we see the Vikings being defeated in a sea battle on Strangford Lough (Co Down) by Muirchertach, son of Niall Glendubh, in that year the annals report that he beheaded 200 Vikings in Carlingford (County Louth). Muirchertach known as [Odin Viking God.] Muirchertach of the Leather cloaks, must have been the scourge of the Vikings, he defeated them on many occasions not only in Ireland but on the west coast of Scotland, up until his death at the battle of Ardee County Louth in 943. See chronology.
he Irish counter attacked with increasing success, and in 944 the kings of Tara and Leinster sacked Dublin.
By this time, the Vikings had settlements at Wexford, Waterford, Cork, and Limerick, as well as Dublin. These were the first towns in Ireland, and the Vikings who lived in them began to develop trade. They also married into Irish families and, eventually, became Christian. Viking leaders became like other rulers in Ireland and often hired themselves as mercenaries in the wars between rival Irish kings.
The struggle for power among provincial kings went on, in spite of the Viking invasions. By the end of the 900's, Brian Boru, the king of a small state in Clare called Dal Cais, had conquered his greater neighbours and made himself the strongest king in the southern half of Ireland. Brian Boru had set aside his troublesome wife Gormlaith, a 'bartered' princess of Leinster. By an earlier marriage she was mother to Sitric Silkbeard, King of Viking Dublin. The name Boru is a shortened version of Brian Boroimhe, meaning Brian of the tributes referring to his tendency to exact tributes by taking hostages from defeated enemies, this was a practice in which most rulers of the time engaged.
Gormlaith, and her brother Maelmora, encouraged Sitric to rally their Viking allies from Scandinavia and overthrow the powerful Boru, thus completing their conquest of Ireland. Maelmora made an alliance with Sitric, who got help from the Vikings of the Orkney Islands and the Isle of Man. Boru, in the meantime, sent word to his allies in Ireland, both his Viking allies and the great Gaelic clans. Amongst those who responded were the O' Kellys of Uí Maine who, under their chieftain Tadhg Mór O' Kelly, marched to Clontarf to side with Boru.he powerful O' Kelly chieftain and his army were the only Connacht chieftain to rally with Boru. A great battle was fought at Clontarf, near Dublin, on Good Friday, 1014. It ended in victory for Brian's army, at this time he was an old man, prior to the battle he addressed his assembled troops with great eloquence, exhorting them to fight for their freedom and rid their country of foreign repression, Brian himself was killed after the battle by fleeing Vikings who came upon his tent by chance.
Brian's remains were conveyed to Armagh. With Brian, some accounts say, went also the bodies of Murrough (Brian's son), Conaing, and Moltha. The body of Brian was deposited in a stone coffin on the north side of the high altar in the great cathedral, the body of Murrough, it is said, being interred on the south side of the church.
Other sources report that Prince Murrough was buried in the west end of a chapel in the cemetery of Kilmainham. Over his remains was placed a stone cross on which his name was engraved. It is said that this cross fell from its pedestal in 1798. Under the base were found Danish coins and a sword in a good state of preservation, supposed to be that which the prince Murrough used at the battle of Clontarf.
In 1843 this sword hung in the headquarters of the commander of the forces at Kilmainham.
After Brian Boru.
For a hundred years after the death of Brian, rulers of powerful provincial kingdoms fought, bitterly for supremacy. But none of them had any lasting success.
In 1106, Turlough O'Connor became king of Connacht, he was a skillful warrior, and strengthened his kingdom by building fortresses and bridges over the River Shannon, enabling him to launch lightening attack the other provinces, in this he made great use of his naval fleet non the Shannon. He astutely tried to weaken his rivals by dividing their kingdoms. He partitioned Munster and Meath among a number of petty kings.
For a time, he was the most powerful king in Ireland.
The Synod of Kells in 1152
The period after the Viking invasion was a time of recovery for religion and culture, in spite of the disturbed political life of the country. The Irish Church was reformed and reorganized into dioceses. At the Synod of Kells in 1152, the country was divided into 36 dioceses, and grouped into 4 provinces under the archbishops of Armagh, Dublin, Cashel, and Tuam. St. Malachy of Armagh was the greatest of the religious reformers and introduced the Cistercian Order into Ireland. In 1142, the first Irish Cistercian monastery Mellifont Abbey was founded in County Louth.
Many of Bishops Seats where hereditary between 1000 and 1100's, the economy of the country was mainly pastoral. A person's wealth was reckoned by the number of cattle he or she owned. The social unit was still the Tuath, which was based on family groups. The ruler of a Tuath lived in a fortified house called a rath, or dun, together with a brehon (lawyer), minstrel, physician, and several craft-workers. The ruler's subjects lived in huts of wattle and clay. The people were poorly armed and no match for the warlike Normans who invaded Ireland in the latter part of the 1100's.
Between November 1155 and 1156, John of Salisbury a friend of Theobald of Canterbury, Thomas Beckett, and Bernard of Clairvaux, spent three months with Pope Adrian IV (Nicholas Breakspear, the only English Pope) and persuade the Pope to issue the 'Bull Laudabiliter' which gave full Papal approval for the Anglo Norman invasion of Ireland.
In 1153 Dermot McMurrough, king of Leinster attacked the lands of Tiernan O'Rourke, king of Breifne (Leitrim Cavan area) he carried off large numbers of livestock, as well as O'Rourke's wife Dervorgilla, opinions differ as to whether or not she went willingly, however she was eventually returned.
In 1156 Turlough O'Connor king of Connacht died, Murtagh MacLoughlin, king of Ulster, with the help of Dermot McMurrough, king of Leinster, made himself king of Ireland. Ten years later, he was overthrown, and Turlough's son, Rory O'Connor, became the one who was to be the last native king of Ireland.
Eventually in 1166 MacMurrough was expelled from Ireland by Roderick (Rory O'Connor) high king of Ireland. MacMurrough went to England where he sought help from King Henry II. Henry eagerly seized the opportunity of expanding his kingdom and gave gave him permission to enlist several Anglo Norman Lords, the chief of which was Richard FitzGilbert de Clare (Strongbow) MacMurrough promised his daughter Aoife's hand in marriage to Strongbow as well as succession to his kingship of Leinster.
The Normans were descended from Vikings who had been granted a large province in northern France in the 900's, on condition that they ceased to raid the rest of the country, this area came to be known as Normandy. In 1066, its ruler, William Duke of Normandy, claimed the throne of England, he crossed the English Channel [Dundrum Castle Co Down built by John de Courcy. ] with a large army, and won a decisive victory at Hastings.
The previous year 1065 Harold Godwinson succeeded Edward the Confessor to the throne of England, Harold's brother Tostig, Duke of Northumberland desired the throne for himself, he mounted an unsuccessful insurrection against Harold which led to his banishment.
Tostig made his way to Norway and enlisted the help of the Norwegian King Harold Hardrada, a [Norman castle.] fleet of some three hundred ships were assembled. Setting sail for England they landed on the coast of Northumbria where they won some small skirmishes. They were met at Stamford bridge near York on 25th September by the main body of Harold's army which inflicted a crushing defeat on the invaders, both Tostig and Hardrada being killed. The magnitude of the defeat is indicated in the fact that of the original three hundred ships only twenty four made the return journey to Norway.
Two days later on the 27th William Duke of Normandy set sail for England with his army, they managed to evade the English fleet in the channel, landing at Pevnsy on the 28th.September.
Harold learned of William's invasion on 1st of October, on the 3rd he and his army embarked on an eight day forced march south. The two army's meeting at Hastings on the 14th the battle that ensued cost Harold his country and his life, it is said shot in the eye by a arrow.
The Norman Invasion
In 1169, a party of Normans under Robert Fitzstephen landed in Bannow Bay, on the south east coast of Ireland. In 1170, Strongbow brought his forces ashore near Waterford and captured the town, shortly after the battle he married Eva MacMurrough, the first part of the agreement had been kept. The second part soon followed. After the Normans had captured Dublin, MacMurrough fell ill with a mysterious illness he died some time later. Strongbow assumed the title king of Leinster, and he other Norman barons began to seize territories.
Henry II was alarmed by these events, he had no intention of allowing any of his subjects to set up independent kingdoms in Ireland. In 1171, he crossed to Ireland to assert his authority over Strongbow and to find out whether he could repeat the rather easy successes his barons had already achieved. The Normans submitted to him at once, as did many Irish kings and princes. The Irish may have believed that, if they recognized Henry as their overlord, he would protect their property. They were to be disappointed. Henry confirmed Strongbow in his possession of Leinster. He made Hugh de Lacy his Justiciar (viceroy) and granted him the kingdom of Meath.
After Henry II returned to England, the Normans continued to seize the lands of the Irish princes. In the Centre's of Ireland, the territories under Norman rule stretched from Dublin across the central plain. The De Lacy's held lands in Meath and Westmeath and the De Burghs controlled large areas of Connacht. In the south west, the Fitzgerald's held lands in Leinster and on the south bank of the Shannon estuary, and the Butlers controlled territories in East Munster. In the north, John de Courcy seized the old kingdom of Ulster and ruled an area east of the Bann, from Fair Head to Carlingford Lough.
On the 24th April 1185 Prince John [Portrait of King John.] of England (Son of Henry II) landed in Waterford with 300 Knights and a large number of men at arms, intent on curbing the power of his Barons. Upon his arrival the Irish chief in the area came to welcome and pay homage to him, .John appears to have derided his Irish subjects, it is said that their beards were rudely pulled in reticule, by the clean shaven members of John's retinue. The ever proud and sensitive Irish withdrew and took their grievance's to the Kings in the west and south of Ireland, with the result that John's visit to Ireland was a disastrous failure and he returned to England on 17th December.
John de Courcy was born in Somerset he was tall and slim with fair hair, in battle he led from the front. Life to de Courcy was perpetual warfare The years between 1197 and 1199 were spent in unending conflict with the Irish and building castles to keep them in check. De Courcy became embittered in 1197 when his brother Jordan was killed by an Irishman of his household. He avenged his brothers death on some petty chief's and gave large tracts of their land to a Scotsman named Duncan Galloway who aided him. There appears to have been a Scottish settlement near Coleraine where large grants of land were given to the Scots of Galloway. Other families established in Ulster by de Courcy were the Savages, White, Chamberlain, Riddell, Jordan, Manderville, Stokes, Staunton, Russell, Logan, Martell, Copeland, Fitzsimons, Bensons and Crowley.
De Courcy's rule in Ulster seems to have aroused envy in Hugh de Lacy, who appears to have misrepresented De Courcy to John as destroying the Kings land in Ireland, at this time De Courcy was minting his own coinage [The standard of John de Courcy.] , so possibly he had designs on an independent Kingdom, which King John had no intention of allowing.
In 1201 De Courcy was arrested by De Lacy but was released when his followers agreed not to Plunder De Lacy lands in future. Two years later De Lacy came north again and defeated him in a battle at Downpatrick, banishing him from Ulster. On 31st August 1204 De Courcy was summoned to appear before King John, "as he had sworn and given hostages to do", in default his lands were to be confiscated. De Lacy returned north again and after a struggle took De Courcy prisoner. He was again set free on condition that he went to the holy land. Again he did not comply. The King's patience exhausted, on the 29th May 1205 he granted to Hugh de Lacy all the lands of Ulster, to hold to the King in fee, and created De Lacy Earl of Ulster.
John landed at Waterford on 20th June 1210 [King John's flag.] he was joined by Justiciar, John de Gray, bishop of Norwich and a body of Irish troops. One of the reasons that King John came to Ireland (was to suppress the power of the lord of Breton, William de Breos, Hugh de Lacy's father in-law).Because after the battle of Mireabeau in 1102 and the capture of his nephew Arthur of Brittany , who as the son of his brother Geoffrey was the only other claimant to the English throne. After the battle Arthur had been placed in the custody of de Breos, and after his disappearance there was much speculation about his death, many believed at the hands of King John personally; as de Breos, who knew the truth about Arthurs disappearance and had used this to overreached himself in the kings eyes, leading John to curtail his power.
With the King was De Courcy who seems to have ingratiated himself to John, they pursued De Lacy northwards and were at Dundalk on the 8th July, where they were joined by 400 soldiers who had deserted De Lacy. De Lacy's men destroyed and set fire to their castle's in the county, De Lacy fled to Carrickfergus. The King took the De Lacy castle at Carlingford. De Lacy appears to have came south to Dundrum castle then known as the castle of Rath, when John's army approached he fearing having his retreat path cut returned to Carrickfergus his strongest castle, De Lacy did not await John's arrival and took boat to Scotland. The castle surrendered some thirty Knights being taken prisoner. The king stayed in Carrick from the 19th to 28th July
From The History of Ulster by Ramsey Colles LLD MRIA F.R. Hist.S
By around the 1300 the Normans controlled most of the country. But they did not succeed in conquering Ireland as they had conquered England. Ireland had no central government which they could take control of. The Normans were not a united group.
The various barons vied with each other to enrich themselves and fought not only with the Irish but among themselves. This continuous warfare gradually reduced their strength, and they were not replaced by fresh settlers.
Those in remote areas of the country began to adopt the language and customs of their Irish neighbours. Some Norman families adopted Irish name forms. The De Burgh family took the name Burke; the Barry family, MacAdam; and the Staunton family, McEvilly.
From about 1350, the Irish chieftains began to recover their territories. They had acquired many of the weapons used by the Normans, and had learnt some of their tactics. They also hired Scottish mercenaries, called gallowglasses, these were large fierce men of Scottish Norman ancestry, based in the western isles of Scotland, they were more than a match for the Normans.
In 1366, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, son of King Edward III, summoned a parliament at Kilkenny that passed laws forbidding the Normans to adopt Irish customs. 'The Statutes of Kilkenny', as these laws were called, also forbade the Normans to intermarry with the Irish, to speak the Irish language, to wear Irish dress, to sell horses, armour or food in time of war. Englishmen who adopted Irish dress or customs risked forfeiture of their lands. It was made a penal offence to receive or entertain Irish harpers or minstrels within the English pale. But in spite of these laws the number of Gaelicised Normans continued to increase.
The MacCarthys clan regained power in Munster, Art MacMurrough Kavanagh became King of Leinster, and the O'Neill and O'Donnell families established strong kingships in Ulster. Finally, the area under the effective control of the English in Ireland was confined to a narrow stretch of territory on the east coast called the Pale or the English Pale. The Pale stretched from Dundalk to Dalkey, south of Dublin, and extended inland for no more than 48 kilometres. The lord deputy, who was the king's representative, ruled over the Pale, and a parliament in Dublin passed laws for its people from time to time.
During the Wars of the Roses (1455-1485) in England, Ireland was left largely undisturbed. The Earl of Kildare, who was then lord deputy, became increasingly powerful. After the war, King Henry VII sent Edward Poynings to Ireland as lord deputy to curb the power of the Earl of Kildare and to subdue the country. In 1494, Poynings summoned a parliament in Dublin that passed laws forbidding the Irish parliament to be summoned or to pass laws without the king's consent. But the Kildare family remained powerful, and the next king, Henry VIII, decided to destroy them. He summoned the Earl of Kildare to London, goaded his son, Silken Thomas, into rebellion, and had most of the family hanged at Tyburn in 1537.
Queen Mary was a fervent Roman Catholic who worked hard to restore the old religion in both England and Ireland. Her half-sister, Elizabeth, [Queen Elizabeth I] who succeeded her in 1558, was at first tolerant in her dealings with Roman Catholics. But, from about 1575 onwards, she adopted a harsher attitude, and a number of Irish bishops and priests were executed. This persecution drove the Irish and those of the Anglo-Irish who had remained Roman Catholics closer together. A new national spirit developed that was both Roman Catholic and anti-English in outlook.
The arrangement made by Henry VIII did not endure. In 1559, when Conn O'Neill died, the men of Tyrone elected his son Shane to succeed him. Shane took the Irish title O'Neill, completely ignoring the English title, Earl of Tyrone. But Shane quarrelled with his neighbours and was killed in a brawl in 1567.
Elizabeth was concerned about the south of Ireland, because she feared that the Spanish might make a landing there. King Philip of Spain is reputed to have said "He who holds the key to Ireland also holds the key to England's door" In 1597, James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald, cousin of the Earl of Desmond, raised a revolt and appealed to the Pope and the king of Spain for help. Fitzgerald landed with a tiny band of mercenary soldiers in the pay of the Pope in July 1597 at Dun an Oir near Smerwick harbour in County Kerry. His effort failed and he was killed in a skirmish. The following year a large force of Spanish and Italian troops recruited by the Pope to assist the earl of Desmond, landed and established a fort at the same place. The English besieged the fort by sea and land, and the foreigners surrendered. The Lord deputy at the time Lord Grey delegated to Sir Walter Raleigh the task of massacring all six hundred of the defender.
In an attempt to gain greater control of Ireland, Elizabeth decided to initiate a plantation of Munster. The Crown confiscated 202,000 hectares (500,000 Acres) from the Earl of Desmond and his followers. These lands were divided into estates varying in size from 1,620 (4,000 Acres) to 4,860 (12,000 Acres) hectares. They were given to English gentlemen, called undertakers, who undertook (promised) to plant them with English settlers. Among the undertakers were Sir Walter Raleigh and Edmund Spenser. But few English farmers could be persuaded to live in the Munster plantation, and consequently it failed.
The greatest threat that Elizabeth had to face in Ireland was the combined revolt of Hugh O'Neill of Tyrone and Red Hugh O'Donnell of Tyrconnell in the 1590's. O'Neill, believing that Elizabeth aimed to conquer Ireland, built up an alliance of the Ulster chiefs to oppose her. War began in 1595, and in the early stages O'Neill won victories at Clontibret, in Monaghan, and at the Yellow Ford, in Armagh.
In 1600, Elizabeth made Lord Mountjoy (Charles Blount) Lord Deputy and Sir George Carew president of Munster. Mountjoy strengthened English garrisons in the north and embarked on a scorched earth policy they destroyed crops, murdered people including women and children and all farm animals . Meanwhile, Carew laid waste Munster and Sir Arthur Chichester Ulster. With this scorched earth policy they soon broke the power of the Irish chiefs who would have helped O'Neill. O'Neill's only hope lay in the arrival of foreign aid.
A force of between 3,500 and 4,000 Spaniards landed on September 21, 1601 at Kinsale, in County Cork, they quickly set about fortifying the town against the English, the town of Kinsale is surrounded by high ground and not easily defensible from land attack, they were quickly besieged by Mountjoy. O'Neill arrived at the walls of the town in early December and surrounded the besiegers, but his plan for a coordinated attack on the English at dawn went awry when his forces were surprised and scattered by Mountjoy's cavalry. On December 24, 1601, the English won a decisive battle. The Spanish garrison was allowed to withdraw, but Mountjoy harried the Irish continually until O'Neill's finally surrender on March 30, 1603.
During the war which became known as the ' Nine Year War' the great cruelty and treachery were practiced on both sides. The English adopted a scorched earth policy In order to destroy Irish resistance, they devastated villages, crops, and cattle, slaughtering many people not directly involved in the struggle. The greater part of Munster and Ulster was laid waste, more inhabitants died from hunger than from war.
The Irish lost the war because the English systematically devastated large areas of Ireland depriving not only Irish soldiers but the Irish people of shelter and means of substance. The Irish were not as well equipped or supplied as the English, and because O'Neill did not succeed in building up a real national movement, this may have been because when he returned to Ireland in the service of England he took part in the suppression of the Desmond rebellion which may have made other Irish chieftains reluctant to place their entire trust in him.
After the arrival of Mountjoy and Carew, O'Neill was confined to Ulster, short of food, and blockaded from the sea by the English navy. The Spanish came too late and landed too far away from the centre of Irish resistance in Ulster, no doubt the heavy loss of Spanish shipping on the west coast of Ireland at the time of The Armada 1588, (Estimated 25 ships) made them reluctant to make a winter passage up the west coast which would have been a lee shore to the prevailing winds.
The defeat at Kinsale was a turning point in Irish history. It ended the power of the Irish chiefs and hastened the decline of the old Gaelic way of life.
After the defeat at Kinsale, and the subsequent surrender at Mellifont in 1603, Hugh O'Neill gave up his Irish title, O'Neill, and took the title Earl of Tyrone. He was allowed to retain most of the lands that had been granted to Conn O'Neill in 1542. Rory O'Donnell, younger brother of Red Hugh, became Earl of Tyrconnell on the same terms. The two Earls travelled to London, where the new king, James I, confirmed the Treaty of Mellifont. But the English officials who ruled Ulster were unfriendly and tried to turn the lord deputy in Dublin against the Earls. They spread a rumour that O'Neill and O'Donnell were planning another rebellion, and the Earls were summoned to London for questioning. Fearing for their safety, the Earls decided that the best course would be to leave the country and, in 1607, they sailed from Rathmullen on Lough Swilly County Donegal for the mainland of Europe.
After the flight of the Earls, the government confiscated their lands and decided to plant six counties of Ulster, this became the basis for the subsequent Ulster Plantation. The last vestiges of an independence Irish parliament was destroyed by the creation of 40 boroughs out of small hamlets, a political manoeuvre that secured a permanent majority to the English Crown. When the new settlers arrived they found a barren uncultivated land, most of the native population were dead, killed in warfare although the majority probably died from starvation and exposure after their homes, crops, livestock and food stores were destroyed.
Armagh, Cavan, Derry, Donegal, Fermanagh, and Tyrone were planted with new settlers. The plantations of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I had not been successful, and the government planned the new settlement more carefully. It divided the land into estates of three sizes: 810 hectares (2000 acres), 607 hectares (1500 acres), and 405 hectares (1000 acres). Estates were granted to three kinds of people: English and Scottish settlers, who were not allowed to have Irish tenants; Servitors (men who had served in the English army in Ireland), who might take both British and Irish tenants; and Irishmen, who could have Irish tenants. Rents were low, but settlers were expected to build fortified houses.
The City of London Companies received all the lands between the Foyle and the Bann rivers. They undertook to build up the towns of Coleraine and Derry (renamed Londonderry) and to spend 20,000 pounds in developing their grant. At the same time, two more counties of Ulster, Antrim and Down, were settled, mainly by people from Scotland. The Ulster settlement was the most successful of the plantations. Its success helped to give the area the Protestant character it has today.
The Cromwellian settlement. In the years that followed, the government made other settlements in Carlow, King's County, Leitrim, Longford, and Wexford. Even Old English nobles (descendants of Norman settlers) lost their lands. As a result of these plantations, bitter feelings were aroused, and Roman Catholic landowners became alarmed. Justifiably none felt secure in their lands.
The 1641 Rebellion
Religion was a major cause of discontent. Roman Catholics had enjoyed a certain degree of religious freedom under King James I and Charles I. But they feared that the Puritans under Cromwell, who were coming to power in England, would persecute them.
In 1641 with memories of their ruthless suppression by Lord Mountjoy, Sir Arthur Chichester and George Carew, little more than a generation past, the Irish rebelled, and for 10 years war raged throughout the country.
The Irish Catholics fought for independence. The Old English joined them, but all through the war they declared that they were loyal to the king and were fighting only for religious freedom. The Protestants were also divided into two groups: those who supported the king a those who supported Cromwell's Parliament.
The Confederation of Kilkenny
In 1642, the leaders of the rebellion formed the Confederation of Kilkenny and appointed Owen Roe O'Neill and Thomas Preston as generals, in order to fund the war in Ireland on 19th March 1642 The Adventurers Act was passed in the English parliament the Act invited members of the public to invest £200 for which they would receive 1,000 acres of lands that would be confiscated from rebels in Ireland.
O'Neill won a great victory at Benburb, in County Tyrone on 5th June 1646, O'Neill and Preston didn't work well as a team. Three years later on 6th November 1649 O'Neill died at Cloughoughter Castle in Lough Oughter, County Cavan while on his way to join a Royalist army assembled by the Earl of Ormond.
Cromwell landed in Dublin on 15th August 1649 with an army of twenty thousand, he sacked Wexford and marched north against Drogheda, took the town, and massacred its people. His ruthlessness struck fear into Irish hearts, and many of the southern and eastern towns surrendered without a struggle. When Cromwell returned to England in 1650, the war was almost over, but the Irish army did not surrender for another two years. After the war, Ireland was in a wretched condition. Its population was halved. Most of its leaders were either dead or living in exile, and about 30,000 of its armed men had left to join the armies of France or Spain.
The English government then undertook what it hoped would be the final settlement of Ireland. Irish landowners were ordered to move west of the River Shannon to the province of Connacht before May 1, 1652, on pain of death. (Giving rise to the phrase to 'Hell or Connaught.' attributed to Cromwell.) The provinces of Ulster, Leinster, and Munster were divided among Cromwellian soldiers and adventurers (Englishmen who had subscribed money to pay for Cromwell's campaign in Ireland, see The Adventurers Act). Only the Irish landowners were transplanted. The poor people were allowed to remain as tenants, trades people, and labourer's.
The Cromwellian settlement was not a complete success. Many of the settlers sold their farms and returned home. Others married into Irish families, and their descendants lost their English characteristics. But the settlement did succeed in creating a new landlord class. Before 1641, Roman Catholics owned about three-fifths of the land. By the 1680's, they owned one-fifth.
The Williamite War
James II's accession to the English throne in 1685 raised hopes in the Irish [James II .] Catholics that he would allow them to recover their lands. James a Roman Catholic, appointed Richard Talbot a Catholic, as lord deputy, and made him Earl of Tyrconnell instructing him to give Roman Catholics a fairer share of political power in Ireland. Talbot carried out the king's instructions and also built up a large Roman Catholic army.
In 1688, the English people deposed James and offered the throne to William of Orange, a Dutch prince who was married to James daughter Mary. James fled to France, returning the following year, to Ireland with French support, in the hope that the Roman Catholics there would help him to recover his throne. The Protestants proclaimed their allegiance to King William III and fortified the towns of Londonderry and Enniskillen against James. The Protestants became even more defiant when they learnt that a parliament, which James had summoned in Dublin, had declared its intention of giving back the lands occupied by the Cromwellian settlers to Roman Catholics.
Ireland was unfortunate to have become the theatre of war, for a conflict which was deeply rooted in political power struggles not only in England but Europe also.
The Siege of Derry
In 1689, James unsuccessfully besieged Derry for three months. In the following year, William landed at Carrickfergus, in Antrim, with a large army. The war was short and decisive. James was defeated at the Boyne and returned to France.
The Irish and their French allies continued the fight, but they were again defeated, at Aughrim, and driven back to Limerick. Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan, defended the town, but when no French help arrived he surrendered.
Treaty of Limerick
On Oct. 13, 1691, the Treaty of Limerick was signed. Under this all Irish [Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan] soldiers who wanted to leave the country were allowed to do so, several thousand of them accompanied Sarsfield to France. Many of them became mercenary's and later distinguished them selves on the battlefields of Europe
All who submitted under the Treaty of Limerick were allowed to keep their lands, if they took an oath of allegiance. One clause of the treaty seemed to promise that Roman Catholics would be free to practice their religion. However the English did feel predisposed to honour the terms of the treaty.
The Protestant Ascendancy
The Protestant land owning class created by the plantations ruled Ireland, but the British government did not allow them complete freedom. Restrictions were put on Irish trade, and only the linen industry was encouraged. The Irish Parliament could only pass laws with the permission of the British government, in 1719, the British Parliament claimed to be able to make laws for Ireland.
At first, the Protestant ruling class because of a feeling of insecurity did not protest. But gradually some members of the Irish Parliament, who became known as Patriots, began to resent the restrictions on their power.
When in 1775, the American War of Independence broke out, the government withdrew troops from Ireland to serve abroad. The Protestant landlords formed companies of Volunteers to defend the country. The Patriots gained control of the Volunteers, and, with their help, Henry Grattan was able to force the British government to remove the restrictions on Irish trade and on the Irish Parliament
Independent Parliament in Ireland
In 1782, the Irish Parliament began a period of independence which was to last for only 18 years . These were prosperous years for Ireland. Industry was expanding, and there was a demand in Britain for Irish wheat, beef, and butter. Parliament tried to increase prosperity by giving bounties and subsidies. But the majority of the Irish people had little share in this prosperity.
The Irish Parliament was still corrupt. The lord lieutenant of Ireland was able to control its decisions by distributing titles, posts, and pensions among its members, it was also unrepresentative. By this time most of the penal laws had been repealed, Roman Catholics got the vote in 1793, but they could not become Members of Parliament, Grattan tried to get Parliament to reform.
The United Irishmen
The Presbyterians in Ulster who had been disqualified from holding office, desired a general emancipation including that of the Roman Catholics. They saw America gain its independence from Britain with the American War of Independence, and were inspired to strive for an independent Ireland.
In 1778 the Irish parliament, under the influence of the reformist leader Henry Grattan, passed the Relief Act, removing some of the most oppressive disabilities. Meanwhile Irish Protestants, under the pretext of defending the country from the French, who had entered into an alliance with the Americans, had formed military associations of volunteers, with 80,000 members. Backed by this force they demanded legislative independence for Ireland, and as a result of Grattan’s tireless campaigning the British parliament repealed Poynings’ Law and much of the anti-Catholic legislation. Although suffrage was restored to Roman Catholics in 1793, the Irish parliament remained composed entirely of the Protestants of the established Church.
After the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, a radical movement began to advocate more extreme reforms. It was particularly strong among the Presbyterians of Ulster. In 1791, a young Dublin lawyer, Theobald Wolfe Tone, founded the Society of United Irishmen. The United Irishmen wanted to unite Irish people of all religious beliefs and to make Parliament representative of all the people. Later, they decided to establish an Irish republic with French help.
The French attempted a landing in Bantry Bay in 1796
On the 22nd August 1798 a French force of one thousand men, commanded by general Joseph Humbert landed at Killala Bay in County Mayo. They are reputed to have distributed fifty five thousand muskets to the local population. Together they marched to Castlebar where they defeated General Lake. This became known as the "Races of Castlebar." However victory eluded them on 8th September when they met Lord Cornwallis and his army at Ballinamuck County Longford. After the battle of Ballinamuck, Humbert's "Mayo Legion Flag" came into the possession of John Browne, Lord Altmount, it can be seen at Westport House County Mayo.
The Act of Union. (1801)
The British government decided to resolve problems in Ireland by uniting the two kingdoms. To persuade the Irish Parliament to pass the Act of Union in 1800, William Pitt promised that Britain would grant political rights to Roman Catholics. The first time the act went to the vote it was defeated by five votes, Cornwallis the Lord Lieutenant and his chief secretary Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh set themselves to reverse the decision. New peerages were promised, pensions and ecclesiastical preferment were granted lavishly; the propitiators of boroughs threatened with disfranchisement were assured compensation for their losses; antiunion members were persuaded to vacate their seats.In all some £1,250,000 was expended on what can only be adequately describes as bribery and corruption
When the Act of Union was presented again to the Irish house of commons in January 1800 it was passed by a majority of forty three. The union took effect in 1801.
The Act of Union was a disappoint for most of the Irish. Pitt's promise was not honoured, and political union did not bring economic prosperity. As the population grew, more people needed land. But the end of the Napoleonic Wars caused unemployment and made farming unprofitable. Irish industries were not able to compete with the more efficient British ones. The only part of Ireland to benefit from the union was Ulster, where the linen industry expanded and new industries grew up and prospered, based on coal and iron from Britain. Because of this the Protestants became convinced that their prosperity depended on the union with Britain.
O'Connell was a Roman Catholic lawyer, he believed that the country's problems would not receive adequate attention until Roman Catholics were allowed to sit in Parliament, [Daniel O'Connell.] and until Ireland had a parliament of its own. In 1823, he formed the Catholic Association, to work for full political rights for Roman Catholics. All of the Irish people, except the Protestants of Ulster, backed him. In 1828, O'Connell stood at a by election in Clare, and was elected to Parliament. The government feared a revolution in Ireland if O'Connell was not allowed to take his seat. In 1829, an act was passed allowing Roman Catholics to sit in Parliament and to hold all government offices except those of regent, lord lieutenant, and lord chancellor. But, at the same time in an attempt to offset the act, the voting laws were changed and many tenants in Ireland lost the right to vote.
Initially, O'Connell had the support of a group of young men called the Young Irelander's. In 1842, three of them, Thomas Davis, John Blake Dillon, and Charles Gavan Duffy, founded a newspaper, called The Nation, to awaken interest in Irish history and culture. They tried to win Protestant support, but most Protestants opposed them. They gradually came to believe in the use of force, and in 1848 a group led by William Smith O'Brien tried to raise a rebellion. They failed, and the government transported their leaders to Tasmania.
By 1801, the population of Ireland was about 5 million. Forty years later in 1841 the census revealed a population of 8,175,124. (See census page.) As the population grew, farms were subdivided and dwindled in size. Many [Labourer's home at the time of the famine.] farming families lived on potatoes and little else. In 1845, blight affected the potato crop in widely separated areas. The following year it appeared throughout the whole country. The potatoes rotted in the ground, throughout the country the air was filled with the stench of the rotting tubers, and many people faced starvation.
Charles Treveleyan permanent Head of Treasury under Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, introduced relief schemes in the poorest areas to enable people to earn enough money to buy maize that the government imported from the United States. Maize is a grain which [Drawing of a emigrant ship. in Cork harbour.] needs to be ground exceptionally finely to deliver its nutritional value, the Irish did not have the means to do this, the coarsely ground maize passing through their systems largely undigested. These measures proved to be totally inadequate, and the next government, under Lord John Russell, had to distribute food free of charge. But these relief measures were also inadequate. Hundreds of thousands died, along the roadsides or in their huts, where sometimes entire families lay unburied, their corpses gnawed upon by stray dogs and rats. In a hovel in County Mayo a old woman was found barely alive with parts of the arms and face eaten off by rats, she died shortly after.
During the winter of 1847-8 it is estimated that £17,000,000 worth of grain, cattle, pigs, flour, poultry and eggs were exported to England, much of this may have been transshipped to England's other overseas colonies. Also no relief from other countries was allowed into Ireland unless it were carried in an English ship, the Nation newspaper dubbed this "British Commercial Christianity" During this period tenants had no means with which to raise their rents which were due twice yearly on 'Gale Day' Many landlords, particularly the absentee ones had their tenants evicted and their houses demolished, leaving them with neither food nor shelter. Josephine Butler an Englishwoman living in Ireland at the time wrote.
"Sick and aged, little children, and woman with child were alike thrust forth into the snows of winter. And to prevent their return their cabins were levelled to the ground. The few remaining tenants were forbidden to receive the outcasts, the majority rendered penniless by the famine, wandering aimlessly about the roads or bogs till they found refuge in the workhouse or grave."
As a result of the Great Famine, the population of the country dropped from 81/4 million to 61/2 million. It is believed that a million people died of hunger and disease. And nearly a million more [Deserted village in western Ireland.] emigrated, most of them to the United States and Canada. They left Ireland with bitterness in their hearts, believing that Britain was the cause of all their suffering. The poignant drawing on the left depicts a deserted village in the west of Ireland, scenes like this were common in post famine Ireland.
Many [Click for larger image and information about the artist.] books have been written about this period. One particularly well researched and written is Paddy's Lament' by Thomas Gallagher, published by The Poolbeg Press Ltd. Dublin.The Silent People by Walter Macken is perhaps one of the best. Apparently Treveleyan, after his retirement wrote his version of the famine.
The famine is [Eviction scene in County Kerry Click for more images.] remembered in the traditional music of Ireland one particularly poignant tune is Skibbereen a town in County Cork which was particularly hard hit by the famine, click to read the words and hear this haunting melody played on the Irish harp by Rosemary Marr a musician from County Down.
Irish artists have produced many images from the famine period, one particularly beautiful example displayed above is entitled Emigrant Ship in Dublin Bay Sunset, by Edward Hayes, click on the image for a larger view.
See also the famine of 1741 and Life on an Irish Farm) Ireland also suffered famine in 1315-16 partly as a result of the Bruce invasion and a famine which took hold in Europe at the same time.
In 2007 tests crops of potatoes genetically modified to resist blight are to be grown.
The Fenian Brotherhood.
On St Patrick's day 1858, exiles in the United States led by John O'Mahony formed the Fenian Brotherhood, a secret, oath-bound society that aimed to establish an independent non-sectarian Irish republic, if necessary by force.
At the same time, James Stephens founded a organization in Dublin, called the Irish Republican Brotherhood. The two movements soon merged. At the end of the American Civil War, some disbanded soldiers joined the Fenian's and other members were recruited from the British army.
The Fenian's smuggled ammunition into Ireland and made plans for a rising. But spies kept the government informed of their preparations and, in 1865, most of the leaders were arrested.
An uprising took place in 1867, but it was soon suppressed. The Fenian movement failed, but, together with the Great Famine and the activities of Irish agrarian societies that terrorized landlords, it drew the attention of British statesmen to the need for reforms in Ireland.
William E. Gladstone, who became Prime Minister in 1868, was greatly influenced by these outbreaks of violence in Ireland. At first, he tried to pacify the country by passing a Land Act that gave tenants some security of tenure and by disestablishing the Church of Ireland that is, abolishing its connection with the state.
But the Irish were not satisfied and, in 1870, Isaac Butt, a Protestant lawyer, founded the Home Rule movement. It aimed to establish a subordinate parliament in Dublin to deal with purely Irish affairs, leaving such matters as defence and foreign policy to the British government. Butt was a poor leader, and the movement made little progress until 1878, when a young Protestant landlord, Charles Stewart Parnell, took control.
In the following year, Michael Davit founded the Land League, to protect tenants against high rents and eviction. Parnell merged the two movements into an aggressive force. He gained the support of many Fenian's and received substantial aid from the United States. In the House of Commons, Home Rule members obstructed the business of Parliament and, in Ireland, the Land League struck terror into the hearts of landlords.
The Phoenix Park Murders
In 1881, the government, under Gladstone, passed a second Land Act, setting up courts to fix fair rents. But the demand for self-government continued. On May 6, 1882, in Dublin's Phoenix Park, Irish terrorists murdered Lord Frederick Cavendish, chief secretary of Ireland, and T. H. Burke, the undersecretary. Gladstone eventually gave way and introduced a Home Rule Bill in 1886. His party split, the bill was defeated, and Gladstone resigned.
Four years later, Parnell became involved in a divorce case, and his followers split into two hostile groups that continued to quarrel even after his death in 1891. Two years later, the Liberal government under Gladstone introduced another Home Rule Bill. The bill was passed in the House of Commons, but rejected by the House of Lords. Irish Protestants bitterly opposed both of these Home Rule bills.
The Conservatives, who held office from 1895 to 1905, adopted a policy of "killing Home Rule by kindness." They passed acts to enable tenants to buy their lands, the most important being Wyndham's Act of 1903, which made available 100 million pounds to enable tenants to purchase land. But the Irish people as always distrustful of England, still wanted self-government.
The Irish Parliamentary Party
Parnell's followers were reunited under John Redmond in 1900, this Irish Parliamentary Party had the support of most of the Irish people. It hoped that the Liberal Party would give Ireland home rule. In 1906, the Liberal Party returned to power. In 1911, it passed a Parliament Act, limiting the powers of the House of Lords, so that a bill would become law if passed by the House of Commons in three successive sessions. In 1912, a third Home Rule Bill was passed by the House of Commons. Though rejected by the House of Lords, it became law in 1914. By this time, new Irish nationalist movements had been founded.
The Gaelic League
In 1893, Douglas Hyde and Eoin MacNeill founded the Gaelic League to preserve and extend the use of the Irish language. The organization was not political, but many of the young men who joined it became ardent nationalists.
In the early 1900's, James Connolly organized the Irish trade union movement. His aim was a socialist republic. During labour troubles in Dublin in 1913, workers formed the Citizen Army, Connolly led it in the 1916 insurrection.
A Dublin journalist Arthur Griffith started a weekly newspaper in 1899, called The United Irishman, in which he advocated the people of Ireland should be more self-reliant. He wanted the Irish members of Parliament to stop attending the House of Commons and to set up a council of three hundred in Ireland. He intended this council to take over as much of the government as possible. Griffith was not a republican.
His aim was to restore the constitution of 1782. In 1905, Griffith founded a party called Sinn Fein (we ourselves) to propagate his views, but at first it had little success. He did not believe in the use of force to achieve political aims, but many of his followers did.
The Protestants of Ulster were determined to resist home rule. They chose a dynamic leader, Sir Edward Carson, and formed a provisional government to rule Ulster in the event of the Home Rule Bill becoming law. They formed the Ulster Volunteer Force and imported arms from Germany, in case the British government insisted on the measure.
Radical nationalists in the south followed Ulster's example and formed the Irish Volunteers. They also imported arms. In 1914, World War I broke out, and it was agreed that the start of home rule should be postponed until the war was over. Most of the southern Volunteers followed the example of John Redmond and supported Britain in the war.
The Easter Rising.
The rest of the Volunteers passed under the control of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who were preparing for rebellion. [Patrick Pearse (1879-1916)] The leaders of the group Thomas Clarke, Patrick Pearse, and Sean MacDermott decided to start a rebellion on Easter Sunday, April 23, 1916. They took James Connolly into their confidence, but they did not reveal their plans to Eoin MacNeill, the nominal head of the Volunteers. Roger Casement had gone to Germany for help, and the leaders hoped that the rising would coincide with the arrival of German arms.
On Good Friday, Casement was arrested shortly after landing in Kerry. MacNeill then heard of the planned rebellion, and tried to stop it. His orders caused confusion among the Volunteers outside the Dublin area. But the rising took place on Easter Monday. The Volunteers hoisted the Republican flag over the General Post Office in Dublin, and Pearse read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. British troops crushed the rebellion in one week. Fifteen of the leaders were shot. Roger Casement was executed in London. One of the commandants, Eamon de Valera, was sentenced to death, but was later reprieved.
The War of Independence.
At the outset the rising had little support, but the execution of the leaders caused the people to turn to Sinn Fein. In 1917, Sinn Fein declared itself in favour of an Irish republic. At the general election in the following year, Sinn Fein won 73 parliamentary seats. The Irish Parliamentary Party held only 6 seats.
The Sinn Fein members assembled in Dublin on Jan. 21, 1919, and formed a parliament, which they called Dail Eireann. The Dail reaffirmed the republic that had been declared on Easter Monday and elected de Valera as its president. The Volunteers became the Irish Republican Army. The Dail authorized the army to wage war on British troops in Ireland.
In 1920, the British government under David Lloyd George passed the Government of Ireland Act, dividing the country into two areas, one consisting of 6 north eastern counties, the other of the remaining 26 counties. Dail Eireann refused to accept the act, and Lloyd George sent over a large force of auxiliary police, recruited from former soldiers, to enforce it. This force became known as Black and Tans. He sent over another force, recruited from former officers, who became known as Auxiliaries. Almost two years of bitter guerrilla warfare followed, until July 11, 1921, when a truce was declared.
Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins, Eamon Duggan, Robert Barton, and George Gavan Duffy were sent to London to negotiate a settlement. On Dec. 6, 1921, a treaty was signed. The 26 counties were constituted the Irish Free State and given the status of a dominion. A governor general was to represent the British sovereign in Dublin. The members of Dail Eireann were to take an oath of allegiance to the Crown. The British Navy was to retain control of some Irish ports. The treaty caused a split in the Sinn Fein party, and Dail Eireann ratified it by only 64 votes to 57.
The treaty was ratified by Dail Eire on the on Jan. 7, 1922, de Valera resigned as president and Arthur Griffith succeeded him. A week later, a provisional government was established, under the leadership of Michael Collins, to take over authority from the British, peace again eluded Ireland. The disagreement between the Free Staters, who supported the treaty, and the Republicans, who opposed it, was so great that efforts to reach an agreement failed. The country drifted into disorder, and in June 1922, a civil war began.
The civil war cost many lives and was a tragic end to the struggle for freedom, Arthur Griffith died, shortly after the war began, worn out by overwork and anxiety, Michael Collins was killed in an ambush near Brandon in his native County Cork on 22nd August 1922. Many of the leaders on the Republican side, including Erskine Childers and Cathal Brugha, also lost their lives. The war went on until April 1923, when de Valera ordered his followers to stop fighting.
The Irish Free State was established on Dec. 6, 1922, and a government had been formed under William T. Cosgrave. De Valera and his followers took no part in these proceedings. They did not take their seats in the Dail, because they were not prepared to take the Oath of Allegiance. In 1926, de Valera resigned from Sinn Fein and formed a new party called Fianna Fail. He announced that he and his party intended to enter the Dail, and indicated that he regarded the oath as "an empty formula." The government party called itself Cumann na nGaedheal (later Fine Gael).
The Fianna Fail Party won the general election in 1932, and de Valera became president of the executive council. The new government abolished the Oath of Allegiance and severed the links that bound the Irish Free State and Britain. It forbade appeals from Irish courts to the British Privy Council. It passed an Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act and, in 1936, by the External Relations Act, removed the sovereign from the Constitution except for diplomatic purposes.
On Dec. 29, 1937, a new Constitution was introduced, which described Ireland as "a sovereign, independent, democratic state," with the name Eire. The head of the state was to be a president, and the Prime Minister was to be called An Taoiseach. The Constitution was accepted by the people in a referendum. In 1938, the British government restored the Irish ports that were held under the Treaty of 1921.
The Republic of Ireland.
In 1948, a coalition government under the Fine Gael leader John A. Costello repealed the External Relations Act, severing the only remaining link between Britain and Eire. The Republic of Ireland was formally declared on April 18, 1949, bringing with it international recognition.
The majority of people and all the political parties in the Republic supported the reunification of the country by peaceful means. But the Irish Republican Army has tried to end the partition, by launching guerrilla attacks in Northern Ireland from time to time since the 1930's.
Between 1926 and 1960, the number of people employed in industry increased by 112,000. But, in the same period, due mainly to the mechanization of agriculture and changing farming practices, the number of people working on the land dropped by 250,000. Enough jobs could not be created for these people, and thousands of Irish workers were forced to emigrate, mainly to the United Kingdom and the United States. From the late 1950's onward, economic conditions improved slowly, with the result that the annual rate of emigration decreased steadily.
Agriculture had always been the main industry in Ireland. Successive governments have tried to create a more balanced economy by the growth of new industries and by introducing tariffs to protect Irish manufacturers. They formed state sponsored companies and boards such as the I D A (Industrial Development Authority) to encouraged businesses from other countries to establish new industries in Ireland.
During the late 1960's, through to the 1980's, the Provisional IRA and several offshoot organizations such as the INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) engaged in guerrilla activities in Northern Ireland aimed at a united Ireland. These operations were financed partly by fundraising activities mainly in the USA and the proceeds of criminal activities such as bank robberies, protection rackets, and smuggling, these activities were engaged in by loyalist paramilitaries also, it is said by some that the two sides colluded in Belfast regarding protection rackets.
A considerable amount of related violence occurred in the Republic during this period, a number of bank robberies occurred, being mostly attributed to Provisional IRA. Loyalist bombings occurred in Monaghan, Clones, Ballyshannon and Dublin these claimed many lives. Since 1869 fourteen members of The Garda Siochana (Irish police) have lost their lives, not all it must be said can be attributed political activities.
On Jan. 1, 1973, the Republic of Ireland joined the European Community this heralded the beginning of a period of unprecedented economic growth, which continues to this day.
In 1985, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom signed an agreement that established an advisory council for Northern Ireland. The council gave the Republic an advisory role, but no direct powers, in the government of Northern Ireland. The Anglo-Irish Agreement was eventually widely accepted by all parties in the Republic, but was bitterly opposed by Unionists in Northern Ireland. Also in 1985, a new political party, the Progressive Democrats, was formed in Ireland.
In elections of 1987 and 1989 Fianna Fail party won most seats in the Dail but failed to gain a majority. Charles Haughey, leader of the party, became prime minister of a coalition government formed by Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats.
Haughey became embroiled in a political scandal and resigned in 1992 Albert Reynolds then became party leader and prime minister. The coalition of Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats collapsed later that year, and Reynolds called an election. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael both lost much support. The Labour Party doubled its number of seats, and the Progressive Democrats gained four. In 1993 Fianna Fail and the Labour Party formed a coalition government with Albert Reynolds as prime minister.
Reynolds' worked tirelessly toward peace in Northern Ireland. In 1993, he and UK Prime Minister John Major signed the Downing Street Declaration an agreement setting out terms for peace in the province. In 1994, Reynolds resigned over controversy surrounding his appointment of a High Court president. Reynolds was replaced by Fine Gael leader John Bruton at the head of a coalition with Labour. Fianna Fail formed a minority coalition government with the Progressive Democrats in 1997, with Fianna Fail leader Bertie Ahern as prime minister.
From 1990 to 1997, Mary Robinson, a Dublin lawyer, served as Ireland's first female president. Mary McAleese, a law professor from Belfast, succeeded Robinson in 1997. McAleese became the first person from Northern Ireland to become president of Ireland. She later became embroiled in controversy when in a speech she referred to northern Protestants as nazis.
In 1998 a peace plan was accepted by all sides
December 2004 a bank official of the Northern Bank in Belfast was kidnapped together with members of his family there followed a robbery, the largest in Irish history, republicans were blamed. In an effort to avoid the robbers spending the money the bank recalled all its currency and issued new notes.
In October 2006 several business premises were destroyed in Belfast by fire bombs, this was attributed to dissident republicans. Later in the year the Sein Fein leadership claimed their lives were under threat from the dissidents, who also were reputed to hold a list of serving and former members of the security forces who were to be targeted.
Although all the political parties claimed the troubles were at an end, the legacy lived on particularly in ghetto areas, such as east and west Belfast, Londonderry and south Armagh. In these areas the rule of law was many claimed, not applied to its fullest extent, mainly through intimidation, not only of witnesses but of people who's job entailed assisting in applying the law, such as bailiffs and those assisting them. The police were seen as unable, or perhaps unwilling to tackle the intimidation, fearful of alienating the communities.