Ireland - The first Colony
This section is written in two parts. Firstly an extended summary which gives the reader an overall view of Irish history and secondly a longer, strictly chronological section which includes all the important historical milestones.
England's oldest colony. This short section looks at the history of the Irish people, who the English never seemed to be able to understand and always came off second best to other more important territories under English rule. (Particularly in France in the Middle Ages and India under Victoria)
1500 years ago and before
The Irish psyche
Ireland was never invaded, ruled and unified by the culturally sophisticated, logical and practical Romans but remained ruled by hundreds of separate regional Celtic war lords with pagan religions. Some pagan religious customs would give any modern child permanent nightmares. The Irish had the alarming habit of always going into battle stark naked. On the other hand music and poetry were a key part of the local kings pleasures and if their ancient poetry is to be believed so were liberated sexual practices. Women were not the second class citizens as in the Roman and then the Christian world and local Irish queens were not uncommon.
The Irish have always been noted for a complete disregard for time, even worse than Italians, Greeks, Spanish and Arabs from the hot, easy living Mediterranean countries. Very different from those coming from further north in Europe were the harsher climate has always required timescales and forward planning. This can be explained from the origins of the Celts in Ireland and the different Celts in Britain for example. The Irish Celts originated from the Iberian peninsular that is a hot and fertile. Ireland was also noted for an abundance of food notably fish in the many rivers and lakes, and honey. The Celts in England came from north of the Rhine and the English were further interbred with Angles and Saxons, Vikings and Normans. All who settled and all emanating from the north of Europe and bringing with them those disciplines which a harsher climate develops.
Freud claimed that the Irish were the only people in the world he was unable to psychoanalyse. An Elizabethan Jesuit wrote the Irish were, "religious, frank, amorous, hot tempered, hypochondriacs, sorcerers, great horsemen and very generous." And this was after they were civilised by St Patrick.
1500 to 1000 years ago
The influence of St Patrick (400AD) and his version of Christianity. Patricus was the son of a Roman/British priest who, lived in the west of England but was captured by one of the regular and frightening, Irish slave raiding parties and taken back to Ireland. Following a vision he escaped slavery and returned to his parents in England en-route to southern France where he studied and was ordained near Nice. He would have been a contemporary, and influenced by, but did not meet the most influential Western Roman Empire based Christian philosopher, St Augustine of Hippo (near Carthage in modern day Tunisia).
On his return to Ireland he effectively converted the whole of Ireland to his version of Christianity, very much a mixture of Philosophy, Roman Christian theology and Celtic pagan ways. For example the rights of women were maintained and marriage and divorce remained a state function. The puritanical sexual views of St Paul were not part of his sermons. St Patrick's evangelical followers supported by bibles studiously copied in the new Irish monasteries allowed Christianity to be reintroduced throughout the Western Roman Empire which had been razed by the pagan Germanic tribes from north of the Rhine.
The Viking invasion.(800 AD)
As in England and northern France, Ireland suffered the ruthless Vikings, searching for land less affected by the mini Ice Age of the time. In Ireland however the Vikings were more interested with agricultural trade with their home land than permanent land acquisition and created Ireland's first towns for the purpose, including Dublin. (Almost 1000 years after towns were created in England)
1000 to 500 years ago
The Anglo Norman Invasion. 1000 years after the Romans had unified and modernized England, the Irish Kings (better war lords) were still fighting each other for the position of "High King" and one (in 1169) made the drastic mistake of asking the current Anglo Norman king to intervene on his side. The King in question was none other than England's Henry 2nd who is well known as a great contributor to law and order but also was militarily the most powerful King and the largest land owner in the whole of Europe. Quite naturally Henry decided to annex Ireland to his already huge empire.
The Irish were now stuck with ruthless English rule for almost 1000 years and worse as was customary at the time, Henry rewarded his conquering Anglo Norman Barons with large tracts of prime Irish land. The Irish occupation by the culturally very different English had commenced, along with principle of land grabbing by favourites of the English ruling family of the time. Unfortunately for Ireland, during this period the English rulers at home were much more interested in their possessions in sunny and fertile France than the permanently hostile and warlike environment of Ireland which suffered under the powerful English barons accordingly.
500 years ago
The English split with the Pope in Rome under Henry 8th and later adopted a semi Protestant Lutheran version of Christianity which retained many Catholic elements, (Anglo Catholic or Anglican) worked out by the English Queen, Elizabeth the 1st as head of the Church of England in relatively amicable discussions with her Catholic Bishops. At the same time the Scottish adopted the extreme Protestant Calvinistic Christian faith called Presbyterianism. The Irish now ruled by a Protestant England, stoically reject any forms of the new progressive Protestant form of Christianity.
From this moment on the English viewed the Irish as potential enemies who might side with England's traditional and powerful enemies and puppets of the Pope, Catholic France and Spain. The English fear was well founded when Ireland called on Spain to rid them of the Protestant English. The now powerful English made short work of annihilating the combined Spanish and Irish armies in the south of Ireland. In England, worship of the Catholic faith was banned which of course they tried to do in Ireland. This was reinforced by taking away all the rights any Catholic had to property and public service.
500 years ago to 100 years ago
A 400 year period of continuous religious persecution by both sides resulting in a lasting and permanent hatred by extremists on both sides. The English renewed the Anglo Norman policy of rewarding loyal supporters with large tracts of Irish land. But the loyal supporters were now of course Protestant, who had a suspicion of all Catholics and vice versa, plus in the case of Ulster, Scottish Protestant extremists, called Presbyterians. The stage was set for religious jihads which have lasted until today. Most notable of these were: Oliver Cromwell, a fundamentalist Calvinist Puritan, took over the leadership of England from one of the worst kings, Charles the 1st. Charles had infuriated the Irish by imposing taxes to fund his religious aim to make all of his Empire, including Ireland, Anglican.
No wonder the Irish rebelled particularly as no taxes could be raised in England at this time as Charle's religious evangelism made him feel he had the divine right to rule England without Parliament. Cromwell created a formidable, religiously motivated, army which beat Charles supporters in the English Civil War and Charles was beheaded in 1649. Cromwell's next task was to put down the rebellion in Ireland which had turned nasty with Protestants in the north of Ireland together with their churches being razed by the angry Catholics. Cromwell, a religious fundamentalist, was also a formidable general and had honed his "Model Army" to be the best fighting force in the whole of Europe with every man fighting in God's name. Once in Ireland this Crusading force systematically marched from the North to the South massacring any Catholic in its path. By 1655 not a single Catholic land owner remained on the fertile land, east of the river Shannon. The Catholic Irish have not forgotten Oliver Cromwell.
William of Orange.
Some 20 years later, the then King of England Charles 2nd died and was succeeded by his Catholic brother to be called James 2nd who had spent many years in Catholic France close to the legendary French "Sun King" Louis 14th. To Protestant England this was a disaster but to Catholic Ireland, hope of a Catholic revival was on the horizon. The English Parliament, looking for a solution, asked the Dutch Protestant husband of James the 2nd daughter, Mary, namely Holland's William of Orange to fight his way into England and become king. This he accepted readily as he was already in religious skirmishes with the mighty Catholic, Louis 14th and wanted England's military might on his side in the conflict which was to end up as the largest European religious war of all time.
William responded rapidly, and James fled to his natural Catholic power base Ireland where he quickly sought to massacre as many Protestants as he could. In the north many of these Protestants took refuge in the walled city of Derry to which James? forces lay siege. Protestant fundamentalists don?t give up easily and the "Siege of Derry" lasted 105 days with those trapped keeping alive by eating rats, eventually to be rescued by a small advanced landing party of William's forces. (1689). James sought and gained reinforcements from France but King Louis needed his top generals in Europe. William landed in the north of Ireland in June 1690 and swept south to the Boyne River some 50 miles north of Dublin were he was confronted by James? Franco-Irish forces.
The bloody battle of the Boyne eventually won by William's Protestant forces is thought to be Irelands most important battle, neither Spain nor France wishing to come in strength to the aid of the Catholic Irish again. It is interesting to note that much of James? army were descendants from the original Anglo- Norman occupiers of Ireland who were called The Old English and who had remained Catholic and were allowed to flee to France in the mopping up operation by William's general. (Called the flight of the Wild Geese).
The route to Independence. 200 years ago onwards.
Independence from oppressive foreign rule was fuelled all over the world by the 1776 American war of independence, the 1789 French revolution and the liberating of some of the Mediterranean countries from Ottoman rule by the English, notably Greece. In 1798 this gave the Irish, again supported by a French militia, the encouragement to campaign for freedom from the British. These Franco Irish forces were quickly "eliminated" by the powerful English. They were reluctant to give any inkling of a willingness to submit to an agenda of independence as they didn't want to give the 500 million or so inhabitants of the Indian sub-continent or "Jewel in the Crown" any similar feelings. However the steady progress towards Irish independence went ahead step by bloody step. The key was when the English persuaded the Irish Parliament to vote for its own dissolution and under the Act of Union, Ireland became a wholly integrated part of the UK. Thence Irishmen, be they only the Protestant ruling classes (Catholics were not eligible), had seats in the British Houses of Parliament at Westminster.
Daniel O'Connell. The father of modern Irish nationalism.
The Irish had waited for someone to lead them out of hell for centuries and finally in 1775, the man was born. O'Connell was an early beneficiary of the Catholic relief act (1793) which permitted Catholics to be trained for the London Bar (Barristers or Advocates). He returned to Dublin to practice Law. He dreamt of a peasants revolution but avoiding the bloodshed of the French version of which he had had direct experience during his school days in France. In 1823 he formed the "Catholic Association", a peoples movement with a low enough monthly contribution (1 penny) to enable everyone to join. His collectors were the Catholic Church. Using this power base he got himself elected as the MP for County Clare in 1823 but of course no Catholic could sit in the London Westminster, House of Commons.
Following this incredible victory the British Government were forced to bow to a potential popular uprising in Ireland and lifted some of the restrictions on Irish Catholics. O'Connell was permitted to take his seat opening up a Catholic parliamentary route to any seat in Ireland. Eventually and inevitably it would be the Irish Catholics with about 60 seats, who had the balance of power in the two party (Whig and Tory) system at Westminster and independence was a given. (The process however dragged on for another 70 years because the Republic of Ireland was not formed until 1949 following much further acrimony and bloodshed)
The English were then the most powerful nation in the world but had no special place in their hearts for their oldest colony even though they were white, mainly because they were Catholic and apparently economically without hope. While the Dickensian English Empire builders robbed the inhabitants of India and shot the Aboriginal Australian Natives plus 10 million North American Buffalo for sport, they let a million Catholics in the potato fed west of Ireland starve to death in the four year Potato Famine of 1845-49. In the meantime Presbyterian fundamentalists in the north or Ireland, fuelled by their religious work ethic, and owning all the fertile land, remained well fed and went economically from strength to strength as they joined in the English Industrial Revolution. (At this time only 10% of Ireland's land was owned by Catholics and this was the barren West Coast, a mixture of rock and bogs.)
The Irish today.
Catholic Ireland finally gained independence from their Protestant English rulers but the Presbyterian Irish majority in the north voted to remain within the British Empire. Ireland is therefore split just like the other British colonies of India, Cyprus and Iraq, with a bigoted religious minority trapped in a hostile country. Religious leaders unfortunately seem to do all in their power to maintain the hatred of the other sects by, for example, insisting on religiously segregated schools.
Today the Catholic South now the Republic of Ireland has joined the European Community and prosper with the aide of development grants and an Italian style, apparent disregard for the difficult parts of Catholic faith. The Catholic minority in the north which is still part of the UK keep up a steady pressure, some of it violent, for a united Ireland. For the Irish Presbyterian fundamentalists it would be over their dead bodies.
(The previous summary is very brief, the following will add some useful facts in an easy to read and assimilate manner. Facts on other countries are included when they are relevant.)
c. 3000 BC
That is about 5000 years ago. The Newgrange burial mound was constructed showing the importance of death rituals to the early Irish. Stonehenge in England and the Egyptian Pyramids are much the same age. Newgrange is in perfect condition and is only about 40 miles north of Dublin close to the river Boyne.
The Golden Age of Greece, Socrates and Plato etc. Studied by Augustine of Hippo and probably by St Patrick when he was being schooled in Nice, France.
Celts invaded Rome for the last time
Celts from northern Spain invaded and settled in Ireland eliminating the existing inhabitants.
70 BC- 14 AD
The golden age of Rome. Cicero and Virgil etc. Romans invaded Britain for copper, tin and wool but not Ireland, Scotland or Wales. BC 63 The then powerful Jews in Jerusalem who have signed a non aggression pact with the Romans asked the Romans to come into Jerusalem with a small army to sort out a minor domestic problem. As we all now know the Romans stayed and eventually ousted the Jews who did not return to their promised land for some 2000 years. Note the similarities to the Irish situation when they invited in the English Normans to sort out their domestic affairs some 1000 years later. BC 6 Jesus, the founder of Christianity lived in the most eastern part of the Roman Empire, modern day Israel/Palestine.
The Romans invaded Britain for the third time and this time remained, ruled and educated. Note: Britain at this time was already unified under one Celtic ruler, Cassievellaunus of the Catuvellauni tribe. Whereas Ireland, Scotland and Wales were still ruled by local tribal warlords and in the case of Ireland there were more than 150 of them.
Christianity brought to England (Britain) by early Roman converts
Cormac lived as Ireland's first great leader and first Ard-Ri or High King, centred in Tara Hill in Meath.
Roman Emperor Constantine make Christianity the official Religion of the Roman Empire. Jews had their Roman citizenship removed and were persecuted for the next 1500 years. (and the Irish think they were hard done-by.) Constantine made Constantinople his HQ and the majority of Christian theology is now debated and written down as sacrosanct in Ecumenical councils in that region. (Nicea as in Nicene Creed 325 AD was close by Constantinople now called Istanbul.)
Patrickus in AD 401 was kidnapped by an Irish slave raiding party in England when he was 16 years old. The river Rhine in Germany froze over in AD 406 and the barbaric German tribes commenced their flood southwards to eventually raze the Roman Empire. In the same year the Romans left Britain. AD 410 City of Rome razed. AD 430 Patrick returned to Ireland as a bishop and commenced preaching his version of Christianity. AD 461 St Patrick dies. AD 467 The end of the Western Roman Empire. The Byzantium Roman Empire headquartered in Constantinople (Turkey) remained untouched and retained its hosting of the main Christian ecumenical meetings. (3 in Nicea)
AD 557 Columcille of the "St Patrick Movement" in Ireland, set up the first Christian monastery in Iona Scotland. (Mid west coast of modern day Scotland) AD 590 Similarly Columbanus left Ireland and set up monasteries in Gaul (now France) The Irish Christians were now active in teaching reading and writing across much of Europe. Indeed are more active in reviving civilisation following the collapse of the Roman Empire than the Popes of Rome. Note however: cAD 590 Clovis the King of the Franks with headquarters in Paris became a Christian. In AD 597 the Pope did send out an emisrary to England, another Augustine, who baptized the King in Kent.
AD 782 English theologian and monk, Alcuin from the monastery of York, became religious and educational advisor to Charlemagne. Alcuin was obviously influenced by the St Patrick movement but also taught the more fundamental theology of Augustine of Hippo. AD 800 Charlemagne made Holy Roman Emperor by Pope. Once again the Christian Church had a military power base. Remember it was Charlemagne and his Frankish army which had stopped the Islamic movement from establishing itself in France (from Spain), not the Pope. The Vikings who first landed in Dublin, Ireland in AD 793 and settled in York England, looking for new farm land, were prevented from travelling due south, the easy route, because of the power of Charlemagne. (They also traded with Constantinople where they provided the imperial guard.) And eventually landed in Normandy France and were fully established there by 911.
1000 YEARS AGO.
AD 1014 The Irish finally kick the Vikings out of Ireland at the Battle of Clontarf. AD 1066 The Norman-Viking, Duke William conquered the King of England, Harold and brought with him his favourite Norman henchmen, his Barons, and rewarded them with large tracts of English land. AD 1170 Diarmuid MacMurrough the disposed King of Leinster, (he had annoyed his royal neighbough because he stole his wife,) took the fateful step of visiting Henry 2nd to ask his assistance back in Leinster.
Henry was too busy to go himself but saw Ireland as ripe for plucking with no strong leader, no modern weapons, and continuous domestic squabbles. Baron Richard de Clare (Strongbow) was sent instead. AD 1171 Henry went to Ireland himself and received the submission of most of the Irish Kings. Henry now ruled 75% of Ireland, England and all of western France from Calais to Bordeaux. Henry's favourite Barons were rewarded with much prime Irish land. Thus had begun the long and troublesome involvement of the English in Ireland.
750 YEARS AGO.
English Kings took little interest in their Irish territories and the descendents of the Barons ran their own little fiefdoms dropped their mother tongue, interbred with the local lasses and adopted Gaelic customs. They would be called the "Old English". The native Irish learnt English military tactics, bought in mercenaries from Scotland and harried the English landowners, winning back much of their old territories. The FitzGeralds of Kildare headed up the old English and the O?Donnells and the O?Neills in the north west of Ireland were the leaders of the Gaelic Irish.
500 YEARS AGO
From c.350 AD the FitzGeralds of Kildare became enormously rich, and because they were old English stock were recognised by the English Kings as governor generals or "Great Earls" ruling on behalf of the English Royal family. Indeed they could have been called the King of Ireland so little notice was given to them by the English Kings. This cosy situation was turned upside down in the reign of Henry 8th when he left the Roman Catholic Church and England moved towards Protestantism. The Scots went the whole way adopting Calvinism to be called Presbyterianism. Perhaps, unfortunately for Ireland, the Earl of Kildare remained a staunch Catholic, was summoned to London and clapped in the Tower. His son Lord Offaly (better known as Silken Thomas) commenced an uprising which was quickly crushed by an English Army.
In 1537 Thomas was executed and the power of the old Norman Barons, the FitzGeralds disappeared for ever. Henry 8th then continued the work he had started in England to remove the fabulously wealthy monasteries and made himself head of the Irish (Catholic) church. Unlike his Norman predecessors he did not colonise Ireland by giving land to his favourite henchmen. This was left to his daughter Elizabeth 1st. Henry did however claim all of Ireland's land as the King's, as he did in England. Local land owners became the King's tenants. c 1556 Elizabeth gave land to English Protestant settlers in East Ulster and later further south in Munster. One of these was Sir Walter Raleigh who started a potato farm. (there were no takers for potatoes in England for another 200 years). This was the commencement of religious land wars which have continued to this day as Gaelic Irish were steadily pushed west by increasing numbers of Protestants from both England and Scotland. Each time the Catholic Gaelic Irish rose in rebellion, the more powerful Protestant English ruthlessly quelled the uprising steadily taking more land and taking away the rights of property, education and governorship from the Catholics.
400 YEARS AGO
1601 The effective end of Gaelic Ireland; following a "nine years war" between the English forces under Lord Mountjoy and the old O'Neill Gaelic Irish family whose powerbase was Ulster the most Gaelic part of Ireland. The Irish again sought the assistance of the Catholic Spanish who sent a small army which was decisively defeated at the battle of Kinsale. (In Co Cork in the south of Ireland.)
Note for comparison The Spanish Inquisition. 1478-1670 The ethnic and religious cleansing perpetrated by the English in Ireland was barbaric in anybody's vocabulary. It is interesting to note however that the Spanish Inquisition was taking place at exactly the same time. Here the conflict was again religious but in Spain the barbarism was dealt out by the Catholic king and queen, Ferdinand and Isabella, against anybody who wasn?t a Catholic. The victims in Spain were Jews and Muslims who had been happily living alongside each other. As in Ireland the victims fled the country. The message for those who stayed was convert to Catholicism or be murdered. The Spanish Inquisition makes ethnic cleansing in Ireland look like a tea party. The Spanish ethnic cleansing was 100% effective and Spain had no more internal religious wars. The Protestant English were not so brutal and (hence?) religious conflicts have remained until this day. (Click here for more details in the Inquisition programme of the Roman Catholic Church)
1603 With the Gaelic powerbase now in tatters, Hugh O?Neill surrendered to the English and along with the O'Donnells of Donegal fled to France. These families were never seen in Ireland again. (Called the flight of the Earls) The Plantation of Ulster. The seed is now sown for the modern "troubles". There now being no large Irish land owners in Ulster the Protestant English and Presbyterian Scots moved in, and with the blessing of the Queen, took over most of the most fertile land, cleared woodlands and brought in modern agriculture. A radical modernising force was suddenly thrust into an ancient world. The new Protestant colonialists looked down on the local "backward" Irish Catholics and treated them with the same contempt as if they were the "Indians" in both their other colonies in India and North America. Queen Elizabeth 1st of England died in this year.
1641 Catholic uprising and massacre of Ulster Protestants and Presbyterians. During the appalling reign of England's Charles 1st there was no clear leadership in Ireland and the Catholics took the opportunity to rebel and try and get some of their Ulster land back. 1641 saw Catholics burn Protestant churches dig up graves and hurl the rotting corpses about like rag dolls. Relief came from the Scottish Presbyterian, General George Munro who brought a tough rescue party from Scotland.
1642-46 English Civil war. Oliver Cromwell's "Model Army" removed the ineffective King Charles 1st. Cromwell ruled England, not as a King but with a ruthless fundamentalist Christian Puritan doctrine.(like Calvinism or Presbyterianism)
1649 Cromwell held the Irish Catholics responsible for the massacres of 1641 and he took revenge at Drogheda (30 miles north of Dublin) and Wexford. Cromwell justified his cruelty to the English Parliament as they "would tend to prevent the effusion of blood in the future"
1688 England's "Glorious Revolution". William of Orange, the Protestant ruler of Holland and husband of Mary, daughter of England's James 2nd was invited to oust Catholic King James 2nd. James put up no fight and fled to France.
1690 Battle of the Boyne. The powerful French King, Louis 14th backed a request from James to liberate Ireland from the English Protestants. James with a huge French force landed in Ireland and routed the standing Protestant forces there. English King William of Orange immediately responded and won the decisive "Battle of the Boyne" against the most powerful Catholic force of combined French and Irish liberation fighters ever seen in Ireland. All top Irish nobility fled, mainly to France. (Known as the Flight of the Wild Geese). This land mark victory is celebrated in Protestant Ulster to this day. Back in mainland Britain, William's task was not over, he needed to quell a rebellion in Scotland to ensure all Highland chiefs swore allegiance to him. In the "Battle of Glencoe" he massacred the whole of the MacDonald clan "as an example".
1692 All Irish Catholics banned from office. (William of Orange) The Irish could not own land, be a lawyer, pray in church or join the army. Never rigidly enforced. 1695 All Irish Catholics deprived of Civil Rights.(William of Orange)
250 YEARS AGO
The Georgian period in England saw the power of the royal family diluted in favour of parliament and the first elected Prime Minister (Walpole) was created by King George 1st as he could not speak a word of English The Georgians ran Ireland from Dublin via the "Ascendancy" which was made up of wealthy protestant land owners. (No Catholics of course). England was becoming richer and richer through their empire which was expanding rapidly in North America and the Indian Sub-Continent. Ireland was calm but was not benefiting, as it was being exploited like the rest of England's colonies. Modern day Dublin started taking shape with proud Georgian buildings. Catholic Irish ownership of land was now down to below 10% and was the poorest coastal areas from Sligo southwards. A diet of potatoes was steadily becoming the main and in some cases the sole source of food for the increasing large west coast Catholic families. The Ascendancy subscribed to the Anglican Church but retained much of Oliver Cromwell's Puritan views. Any Old English remained staunchly Catholic and the Ulster plantation settlers from Scotland remained fundamentalist Calvinists (Presbyterian) called Dissenters. Neither group liked each other to the extent that the Anglican Ascendancy passed a series of penal laws against both Catholics and Presbyterians. The effect on the Catholics was to make them even further depressed and any differences between old Gaelic Catholics and old English Catholics disappeared. Strangely the effect on the Ulster Dissenters was more marked, as being deprived from holding office, many upped sticks and emigrated to North America.
1740 Severe famine in Ireland. 300,000 die of starvation
1745 Catholic or Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland under Bonne Prince Charlie supported by French King Louis 14th defeated by English Army near Inverness, (Battle of Culloden 1746) Scottish Highland Clearances or Highland Ethnic cleansing. For some years after the Jacobite revolution the English did not trust the Scots and the large English landowners "removed" the many Scottish land workers (Crofters), to be replaced by sheep. The majority fled to North America, mainly Canada and Australia. There was no corresponding Irish uprising at this time.
1775-6 American War of Independence. This battle against the English was triggered by excessive taxes being imposed on the colonists to finance an English standing army in America to discourage any potential threat from France who had been removed from America by the British. The American colonialists won with help from the French. Such a massive loss of British territory sent waves of hope both in Ireland and India.
1778 The Catholic Relief Act. Relieved by there being no corresponding rebellion in Ireland after Culloden and the need for more recruits into the British army during and after the American war of Independence and unrest in India, the English chose to remove some of the human rights restrictions for Catholics in Ireland. Catholics could then, join the army, enter the professions and were given equal voting rights to Protestants.
1789 The French Revolution. The French people revolted against the corrupt nobility and Catholic Church. 40,000 corrupt priests and nuns butchered to death. The concept of liberty, democracy and the rights of man, gave Irish Catholics more much needed motivation. The Anglican English ruled through Dublin Castle and were equally despised by Irish Catholics and Ulster fundamental Presbyterians alike. The Presbyterian Orange order was created.
1798 Revolution both by Catholics and Presbyterian Ulstermen against English rule. Catholic revolutionary Theobald Tone raised two French invading forces into Ireland both defeated by the ruling English. The Orange Order unrest in Ulster also ran out of steam as they saw their fellow revolutionaries fail in the south, even with French assistance. 30,000 Irishmen died in this revolution. The English reaction to this unrest was to persuade the Irish Parliament to dissolve itself and under the "Act of Union" of 1800. Ireland became an integral part of the United Kingdom. The idea of coupling this with Catholic Emancipation which would have given Irish Catholics the right to sit in parliament, was blocked by English Protestant King (German Extraction) George 3rd who felt it was against his coronation oath. A young Irish lawyer in the making, Daniel O?Connell, was watching these events from France.
1829 Catholic emancipation was forced on the English parliament by Daniel O?Connell. The effect was largely neutralised by the English Parliament who took the votes away from the bulk of the poor Catholic Irish by raising the minimum wealth threshold (mainly property) required by an individual to qualify as a voter.
1830-38 The Tithes war. The Tithes were rents on land paid to the Church of Ireland which was of course the Anglican Church of England when all the tenants were Catholic. O?Connell's next main task was to remove it. This war was dirty on both sides. The tenants murdered the rent collectors and the collectors seized cattle and goods from defaulters.
1845 The Potato Famine. One million Catholic Irish died unnecessarily. Three million emigrated. The key Englishman against giving food relief to the West Coast Irish whose diet consisted solely of potatoes was Under Secretary to the British Treasury Sir Charles Trevelyan a man who learned his trade in India where famine was relatively common and deaths due to starvation could be up to 5 million people. A huge rump of Irish immigrants settled in America where because they had no money to buy land, stayed in the towns. Their skill was an ability to survive and argue in the English language which allowed them to make money and get political positions of power. (Mayor Daley of Chicago and President John F. Kennedy were both Irish). These Irish American immigrants hated the English and were soon raising money and arms to get the English occupiers out of Ireland.
1867 The Fenian revolution. The Catholic Irish wanted the English completely removed from their country and the formation of a Republic. O?Connell now dead, had not delivered it. Ireland was still part of the UK with about 55 seats in Parliament which were only valuable when the majority was small and when the Wigs (Liberals) not right wing Tories were in power. Frustrated by lack of action two militants, James Stephens and John O?Mahony formed the Irish Republican Brotherhood nicknamed the Fenians after the Fianna warriors from Celtic Ireland. They had one policy, terrorism which failed purely because the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin refused to back any armed struggle.
1881 The land wars and the land acts. Charles Stewart Parnell, a Protestant Landlord from County Wicklow, in total contrast to the early Fenian, used his cold, logical mind to organise Irish MPs to seek out any legal parliamentary ruse to move towards home rule. He also founded the Irish national land league with Michael Davitt with the object of stopping the cruel habit of removing tenant farmers from their land for temporary non payment of rent following poor harvests. The land wars consisted of such action against landlords as, violence and coercion, cattle maiming and arson. Parnell, used his well organised parliamentary muscle achieved his objectives via three land acts allowing tenant farmers to eventually own the land they were farming using soft government loans. (The land acts 1881, 1885 and 1903)
1912 Home Rule at last? Gladstone, (Liberal British PM) was on very friendly terms with Parnell, and introduced the home rule bill in 1886. Parnell now the uncrowned King of Ireland, might have had the might of the Catholic Church on his side but not the Ulster Presbyterians who also had seats in Parliament. Gladstone lost the next election and the Tories along with the men of Ulster were totally against home rule. But there could still have been time. Unfortunately Parnell had a long term mistress, Kitty O?Shea and Mr O?Shea took this inopportune moment to sue for divorce. O?Connell lost his home support and that of Gladstone overnight. O?Connell died in his mistresses arms at the young age of 45. However all was not lost, Parnell's work was taken up by John Redmond who in 1910 found himself with the balance of power in the British parliament and in spite of the Ulstermen fighting (literally) a rearguard action, the Home bill was passed in September 1914.
AD 1916 The Easter Rising. England was now at war and implementation of home rule was suspended for the duration of the conflict with Germany. Redmond pledged men to help the English but various militant groups were about, including the Fenians and some new boys called Sinn Fein, who sent men to seek arms from the Germans. Well armed the Fenians stormed and took the Dublin Post Office, raised the Irish Tricolour and Patrick Pearse read a public proclamation for the Republic of Ireland. The English took a week to quell this riot helped by sailing a gunboat up the Liffey which shelled and destroyed many buildings. This was immediately followed by hanging the leaders as traitors, an unwise act immediately condemned by the Catholic Church, John Redmond, George Bernard Shaw and W.B. Yeats. The scene was set for another revolution.
1919 The Irish War of Independence. The First World War ended in November 1918 and in the same year the election in the British Isles produced an overwhelming victory for Sinn Fein winning 76 seats to the old Nationalist Party's 6. Sinn Fein refused to sit in the House of Commons in Westminster London but the Assembly of Ireland (Dail Eireann) met in Dublin on 21 Jan 1919. That same day the IRA (then called the Irish Volunteers) commenced the civil war by shooting dead two policemen. The war lasted two and a half years, lead on the Irish side by a brilliant man from Cork, Michael Collins, and on the English side an ill disciplined armed auxiliary police force nicknamed the Black and Tans because of their uniform. With large parts of the country controlled by Sinn Fein and the IRA and with the Black and Tans good for nothing except terror, arson and murder a truce was called to be followed by the Anglo-Irish treaty of December 1921.
Chief negotiators for Ireland were Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith who agreed a dominion status for Ireland (like Canada) with the British Government. This was fine for the Irish people but not De Valera and the IRA which unfortunately resulted in a short Irish civil war when Collins and Griffiths were killed. In the mean time the British Government separated Ireland territorially with Presbyterian Ulster remaining as part of the UK and the south becoming the "Irish Free State". As with the separation of India some 30 years later such an artificial split always traps differing religious groups into smaller parcels of land which causes them to feel threatened. The scene was set for religious sectarian battles in Ulster which have lasted until today and may be insolvable.
1932 The Irish Fianna Fail party under Eamon de Valera. The Irish in the south had now been independent of the English for 10 years and demonstrated this independence by remaining neutral in the 1940-45 Second World War. De Valera wanted to govern for the people and the Church wanted to create an isolated community free from the sins of the rest of Europe. After the war (1950s) the Irish people voted with their feet and emigrated to economically more prosperous English speaking countries. This caused panic and Ireland decided to apply to join the European Community, gaining membership in 1972. The result, looks good so far perhaps even an economic success story.
1922 When the Republic of Ireland with capital city Dublin gained independence from England, in Ulster the majority who were either Protestants and Presbyterians voted to remain as part of the "United Kingdom". This created a religious cauldron. The minority being Catholics, who very much against their wishes, were not part of the new independent republic and remained in Ulster as second class citizens. Catholics are generally therefore called Nationalists while almost to a man the Protestants are Unionists. That is they want to remain part of a union between Britain and Ireland. Belfast is the capital city.
1968 "The Troubles". In Northern Ireland, following partitioning the minority Catholics in the north had to put up with the sort of treatment that should have been predicted from arrogant Presbyterians and less so Protestant Anglicans. The former continued to think they were the chosen race and produce leaders like Ian Paisley who is an embarrassment to all reasonably minded Protestants. Ian Paisleys supporters still feel Catholics should be treated as second class citizens and hence all the best jobs are not available to them. Similarly with housing and education and work in the police force. Hence the "Troubles" which began as civil rights marches by the oppressed Catholics which the Presbyterians read as Nationalism. Finally this erupted into armed warfare as in desperation the Catholic marchers attacked the Protestant police. The British government responded by sending in the troops, then the IRA for a long time asleep, armed to protect Catholic neighbourhoods. This urban gorilla war lasted 25 years until a truce was negotiated in 1994 under an Anglo-Irish agreement. The parties involved being, the IRA represented by Sinn Fein for the Catholics, supported by the Government of Ireland and a mix of Anglican and Presbyterian parties headed by David Trimble of the Ulster Unionists and supported by the British Government. In the mean time many of the civil rights issues have been corrected but Northern Ireland remains effectively an Apartheid society with separated schools, churches, streets and housing estates and a police force almost 100% non Catholic. This does not bode well for the immediate future.
1972 Bloody Sunday. The British Government decided violence had risen to totally unacceptable levels and internment (imprisonment without trial) was introduced for those were intelligence pointed to terrorism. NIRCA announced it would hold a protest rally in the town of Derry on Sunday, 30th January 1972. The British Paras were given the job of policing but although starting peacefully something caused the Paras to open fire and carnage ensued. (13 dead). Despite an inquest nobody knows why it all went wrong. NIRCA=Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association which is non sectarian. Paras= British elite parachute regiment.
1985 The Anglo Irish agreement signed by Margaret Thatcher (PM England) and Garret Fitzgerald (PM Ireland) paved the way for the affairs of Ulster to be directly influenced by both England and Ireland. The trigger was the death of two Catholics "terrorists/freedom fighters" who had been imprisoned without trial by the British and starved themselves to death. (Bobby Sands and Francis Hughes)
1998 The Good Friday Agreement moved the joint Anglo Irish initiative further forward involving the creation of three new bodies. A Northern Ireland (local) Assembly; A North South(of Ireland) Ministerial Council: and a "Council of the Isles" involving representatives from the English and Irish Governments and the devolved bodies of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. This was coupled with a controlled release of political prisoners and a simultaneous decommissioning of military hardware. The latter belonging to the IRA has been a problem even under the independent eye of a retired Canadian General.
2002/3 Progress towards peace is stop-start but must make the world wonder if peace can be achieved in a land were different fundamental religious sects live side by side? The land still has an apartheid feel with Catholics and Protestants still separated by street and schooling. A Catholic teenager of 16 is unlikely to have ever met his/her Protestant counterpart. There is no move to change this dangerous divide.