Desmond's Concise History of Ireland

By Jerry Desmond

Comments to

(c) Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000

Ch. 1. Pre-History: The Coming of the Celts (6000 B.C.-431 A.D.).

Ch. 2. Saint Patrick (432-461) and the Golden Age of Irish Culture (462-800).

Ch. 3. Brian Boru, the Viking Tyranny and the Aftermath (795-1168).

Ch. 4. The Norman Conquest (1169-1269).

Ch. 5. Gaelic Resurgence and Assimilation of the Normans (1270-1484).

Ch. 6. The Tudor Re-Conquest of Ireland (1485-1607).

Ch. 7. Protestant Takeover: 17th Century "Plantations" (1608-91).

Ch. 8. Penal Laws, Ascendancy and "Union" With England (1692-1800).

Ch. 9. The Age of Daniel O'Connell (1801-45).

Ch. 10. An Gorta Mor, a.k.a. Great Hunger, a.k.a. Potato Famine (1845-49).

Ch. 11. Land Reform: Davitt and Parnell (1850-1909).

Ch. 12. The Easter Rising and Independence, But With Partition (1910-32).

Ch. 13. Epilogue (1933-96).


Ch. 1. Pre-History: The Coming of the Celts (6000 B.C.-431 A.D.

Archaeologists believe that the first human settlements in Ireland were made relatively late in European prehistory, about 6000 B.C.

Ireland's original inhabitants were classic Middle Stone Age (Mesolithic) hunter-gatherers who used stone implements. Later, about 3000 B.C., they evolved into classic Bronze Age (Neolithic) people who cultivated crops, raised domestic animals and (even though metals were extremely rare in Ireland) made weapons, tools and jewelry out of bronze. At the same time they fine tuned their stone implements (such as stone axes that were mass produced and traded abroad). Starting about 2000 B.C., they built the massive stone sanctuaries and tombs ("megaliths") that still dot the countryside. By the 1st Century B.C., Ireland (as well as Scotland) was under the control of a race called the Picts, a Neolithic people described in Irish folklore as the "Fir Bolg".

Then came the Celts, and nothing has had a greater impact on Ireland. They dominated the entire Island until 1170 A.D., and further dominated major parts of it until 1600 A.D. The first Celts -- probably a small migration -- arrived in Ireland about 600 B.C., bringing Iron Age skills with them. A major migration arrived about 350 B.C., and it is certain that the Celts were well established throughout the island by 150 B.C.

The Celts originated in central Europe, but at an early date expanded into southern France and northern Spain. They were fair of skin, red-blond of hair, taller and larger than their contemporaries. Their language was a branch of the Indo-Germanic languages that also includes German, Latin, Slavonic and Persian. Eventually, there evolved several dialects of Celtic, including the dialect of the so-called Q-Celts [a.k.a. C-Celts], which eventually prevailed, and that of the P-Celts. The Celts were bound together by a common culture and a common language, but otherwise probably were nothing more than a loose confederation of largely autonomous tribal units, prone to tribal warfare with one another.

The central European Celts were a formidable military force. They used iron weapons, and were fierce in battle. They dominated central and western Europe early in the 1st Century B.C., sacked Rome in 390 B.C., raided Delphi a century later, and founded the kingdom of Galatia in Asia Minor.

Archaeological evidence indicates the Celts arrived in Ireland in two major waves: (1) One wave, probably Q-Celts [a.k.a. C-Celts], came directly (by sea) from the Continent (southern France, and/or northern Spain) to southwestern Ireland, and (2) The second wave, probably Q-Celts but perhaps P-Celts, traveled from France and the mouth of the Rhine first to northern Britain, and thereafter to northeast Ireland. In addition to the major migrations, there would appear to have been virtually continuous smaller migrations of Celts from the Continent to Ireland; this would explain how artifacts reflecting the La Tien culture of 5th Century B.C. Switzerland were present in 2nd Century B.C. Ireland.

The scholarly evidence is reasonably consistent with Irish folklore, which holds that the three sons of King Mileadh of northern Spain -- namely Heremon, Heber and Ir, together "the Milesians" after King Mileadh -- invaded Ireland about the time of Alexander the Great (356-23 B.C.) and vanquished the Tuatha De Danan, who previously had gained superiority over the Fir Bolg (Picts) and the Fomorians. Virtually all of the later Gaelic rulers claimed to be descendants of Heremon or Heber.

These new arrivals in Ireland at some point began to call themselves "Gaels", a term they limited to inhabitants of Ireland who shared their ethnicity. They probably never called themselves "Celts", which was the name given to them and to their language by later scholars, who used the terms to encompass all people (including Scots and other non-Irish) who shared that culture and language.

Politically, the Celts divided Ireland into four provinces: Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connacht. Even before the Celts, the basic units of Irish society were the tuatha, or petty kingdoms, each of which was quite small, perhaps 150 tuatha for a population of less than 500,000. This societal structure perfectly suited the newly arrived Celts, who were predisposed -- by their ancient culture, presumably, or was it in the genes -- towards relatively small and autonomous tribal units. Indeed, a recurring theme throughout Irish history is popular resistance to strong centralized government under a strong monarch, and insistence instead upon a loose confederation of small and autonomous units of government.

Although the tuatha were autonomous, the people shared a common language (Q-Celtic) and religion (Druidism), plus a remarkably uniform rural society -- there were no towns or villages -- which included a variety of social classes, including the Brehons (judges and lawmakers), Fili (professional poets or scholars, custodians of oral history) and Druids (priests). The two principal classes were free and landed nobles, and unfree peasants (slaves, laborers, and workingmen). Nobles and peasants alike passionately loved their land, and this evolved into the ancient Brehon law of gravelkind, under which land was the common property of society, subject to the preferential (but not permanent) rights of families who worked or lived on it; and although the petit king nominally "owned" it, he did so only as trustee, i.e., he could not transfer it. Under another Brehon law, tanistry, during the tenure of any particular king, his successor was determined, and the selection was made not through inheritance, but rather by consensus or election from within a group of extended royal families that included all relations in the male line of descent for four or five generations.

In about 200 AD, Conn Ced-cathach formed a monarchy in the central parts of the island (of which the eastern part was called the "middle kingdom"), while his southern rival, Eoghan Mor, established the kingdom of Munster. Eventually, the two came to an agreement dividing the island along a line from Dublin to Galway into a northern part ("Conn's Half") and a southern part ("Mogh's Half"), a division that lasted until Brian Boru in 1002.

Conn's descendant, Niall of the Nine Hostages (r. 380-405 AD), is generally regarded as the first Ard Ri (high king) of Ireland, but it is doubtful that his commands were followed everywhere on the island. Although no one was more powerful, Niall's position should be compared to that of presiding officer of a voluntary confederation of petit kings. He ruled from Tara, and claimed to be descended from Heremon. Late in Niall's lifetime, two of his sons -- Eoghan (who was the older of the two) and Conall Gulban -- conquered northwest Ulster in about 400 AD, and founded a new kingdom. Another of Niall's sons, Laeghaire, succeeded him as Ard Ri, while still other sons established kingdoms elsewhere on the Island. Niall's descendants, who were called the Ui Neill, continued to dominate Ireland until the emergence of Brian Boru in 999.

Ch. 2. Saint Patrick (432-461) and the Golden Age of Irish Culture (462-800).

For most of Europe and the British Isles, the period between the sack of Rome by the Visigoth (410) and the crowning of Charlemagne (800) was the "Dark Ages". For Ireland, this was the era of Saint Patrick, which evolved seamlessly into Ireland's Golden Age.

Saint Patrick (c.389-461), the patron of Ireland, was a real person, a bishop and missionary. He came from England to Ireland to convert the inhabitants to Christianity -- at the time the only Christian religion was Catholicism -- and to educate them. He succeeded beyond any rational expectation, as Ireland eventually became almost exclusively Christian, as well as a center of scholarship and culture. Even when the Protestant Reformation swept through Europe and England in the 16th Century, Ireland remained staunchly Catholic, thereby triggering the Catholic versus Protestant conflict that plagues Northern Ireland today.

Patrick was born in Roman-occupied Britain. At the age of 16, he was captured by a party of Irish raiders -- perhaps in one of the many raids on England led by Niall of the Nine Hostages -- and was brought to Ireland as a slave. During his captivity he turned to religion. After 6 years of slave labor as a shepherd, Patrick escaped back to England, determined to convert the Irish to Christianity. This led him to Gaul, where he studied, was ordained (c.417) to the diaconate, and spent 15 years in the church of Auxerre. His first nomination as bishop to the Irish was rejected because of a sin in his youth. On the death of Palladius -- appointed first bishop of the Irish in 431 by Pope Celestine I -- Patrick was ordained a bishop (432) and began his mission in Ireland.

Patrick's success in converting the peasants was not surprising -- peasants everywhere were adopting Christianity -- but his task with the aristocracy was a daunting one, since much of their power, influence and status was associated with the prevalent religion, Druidism. The Ard-Ri (high king), for example, was also the high priest of the Druid religion. Even the brehons, who formulated law, were threatened by Christianity, which had its own moral law that was interpreted by Christian priests.

Nevertheless, Patrick was able to make important converts among the royal families. By 490, 29 years after Patrick's death, the King at Cashel, who ruled Mogh's Half, was Christian. Eventually, virtually the entire island became Christian. Patrick conducted his mission from Armagh (which ironically is now part of Protestant Northern Ireland) and over a period of 30 years, converted much of the population to Christianity, developed a native clergy, appointed bishops, established dioceses, held church councils, and fostered the growth of monasticism. The Christian religion taught by Patrick was and remained entirely orthodox, except that the populace (and parish priests) from time to time favored the Brehon law's tolerance for easy divorce and remarriage, instead of Christianity's strict teaching.

In terms of church organization, Patrick installed the Roman model of centralized church government, involving territorial dioceses in which parish priests reported to a bishop who in turn reported to the Pope. As a minor adjunct to the diocesan churches, Patrick also established monasteries (with associated schools) that were not directly under the control of the bishop. But the Roman model of centralized administration never took secure root in the Irish church, which was simply another manifestation of the Irish people's historic resistance to any form of large and/or centralized government. Instead, in the centuries after Patrick, a distinctive Celtic type of church organization developed which paralleled secular society. Just as the autonomous tuath remained the basic unit of Gaelic secular society, the autonomous monastery, together with associated school, became the principal unit of Celtic Christianity.

Although Patrick personally was an indifferent scholar, he made enormous contributions to Irish scholarship. Prior to Patrick, the Irish elite were well educated, but their scholarship was entirely oral; indeed, Gaelic educators were hostile to the written word on the theory that it impaired memory and concentration. Patrick, through the monastery schools, introduced the written word -- albeit in Latin -- thereby permitting an island that had no written literature eventually to become the land of poets and scholars. By the death of St. Patrick (461), the Irish elite were a literate and learned people who doubtless recorded their history in writing, but much of this legacy -- indeed most of it -- was destroyed in the Viking raids of the 9th and 10th Centuries.

For more than a century after Patrick, the monastery schools and the secular Gaelic schools co-existed, but eventually, as Christianity overwhelmed Druidism, the monastery schools likewise prevailed. By the second half of the 6th Century, scholarship had become inextricably intertwined with religion, and schools of higher learning invariably were adjuncts of monasteries. The significant scholars all were monks, who revered knowledge and perceived Christian doctrine as the most important component of human knowledge. Not all art and literature involved religious themes, but much of it did. Thus in the monastery schools, religious art, such as the Ardagh Chalice and the Book of Kells and other illuminated manuscripts, flourished alongside secular, even pagan, artistic achievements, such as the Tara Brooch and the great Irish epic "Tain Bo Cuailgne" ("The Cattle Raid of Cooley").

During the 6th and 7th centuries, Irish monastery-schools were among the most prominent centers of scholarship in the western world. Students from all over Europe flocked to them, furnishing a dramatic contrast to the low level of scholarship in Europe during the Dark Ages. Irish monasteries also dispatched scholar-missionaries -- called "Exiles for Christ" -- to the rest of Europe. Saint Columba (521-97), a.k.a. Colmcille a.k.a. "Dove of the Church", the dominant scholar and poet of his era, founded a monastery on Iona, a small Gaelic-controlled island off Scotland, where he spent the last 40 years of his life educating the Scots and converting them to Christianity. And Saint Columbanus (543-615) founded dozens of monasteries (with adjunct schools) on the Continent, including his most celebrated institutions at Luxeuil in France and Bobbio in Italy. By the 9th Century, Irish scholars were among the most celebrated in the western world. The towering intellect among them was Johann Scotus "Eriugena", a native Irishman who traveled to France in 845 to became the preeminent scholar in the Renaissance of Charlemagne, and the chief professor at the Palace school of the Emperor Charles the Bald. Unfortunately, much of the tangible work product of the scholar-monks who remained in Ireland -- the writings and artwork -- was destroyed or carried back to Scandinavia by the Vikings, whose raids began in 795. Indeed, current knowledge of Ireland's Golden Age depends in significant part on the work of European scholars, such as the British historian Bede, plus gold and silver artwork now resting in Danish museums.

This period, the Dark Ages or Early Middle Ages (410-800), was the era of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, the invasions of the barbarians, and the triumph of Christianity. The Western Empire was broken up into barbarian kingdoms, until on Christmas Day, 800, the Frankish king, Charlemagne, was crowned emperor of the West by the pope. His empire had a fundamental weakness, however, in that it depended on the personal rule of the emperor, who could not successfully delegate authority or levy direct taxes. By 900 the empire had broken up into a myriad of duchies, counties, bishoprics, abbacies, and other lordships whose rulers exercised more power than kings and emperors. At that same time the frontiers of Western Europe were being devastated from the north by Vikings, from the south by Muslims, and from the east by Magyars.

Ch. 3. Brian Boru, the Viking Tyranny and the Aftermath (795-1168).

A. The Vikings, Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf (795-1014).

Although Ireland flourished during the European Dark Ages (410-800), it thereafter suffered its own dark period, the Viking Tyranny (795-1014), when the infamous Vikings -- those barbarian sailor-warriors from Norway and Denmark -- took to the sea in their magnificent ships, invading and sometimes settling virtually all parts of the Western World.

They Viking tyranny over Ireland began in 795 when Viking vessels from Scandinavia* landed on the Gaelic-controlled island of Iona and plundered the monastery founded by Colmcille. They returned for a further monastery raid in 802 and came again in 806, killing 68 unarmed monks. By the early 800s, the Vikings were plundering Ireland itself, and doing so on a regular basis. The Vikings did not regard manuscripts as valuable plunder -- they were illiterate, after all -- but manuscripts were destroyed nonetheless when the Vikings routinely burned monasteries, with manuscripts in them, to demonstrate dominion over the natives.

For the first 40 years, the Vikings were interested only in rape, pillage and plunder, coming in single ships, or small groups of ships, and quickly departing with their loot. All of that changed in 831, when Thorgest arrived to subjugate Ulster, Connacht and Meath. In 837, at least 60 Viking vessels arrived, loaded with warriors intent on seizing land for settlement. By 841, Vikings had established small but well fortified settlements in Louth and at a site near what is now Dublin. The expansion continued aggressively through 873, particularly in the southeast coastal areas that were most important to the seafaring Vikings. In 852, Olaf the White and Ivar "Beinlaw" landed in Dublin Bay and fortified the hill above Dublin; shortly thereafter, Olaf declared Dublin to be a separate state, and eventually it was developed into a walled city.

In 914, exactly 100 years before the celebrated Battle of Clontarf, the Vikings commenced their most ambitious expansion. They captured Waterford and built a fortress there, then reimposed Viking sovereignty on Dublin. This triggered a major response from the Ui Neill high king, Niall Glundubh, who in a rare cooperative effort was able to raise an army from all over the island. Niall met the Vikings at the Battle of Dublin (919), where the Vikings easily prevailed, thereby establishing their dominance of the entire island. The Vikings then established a virtual chain of fortified settlements around the southern perimeter of the island, including settlements at Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Cork and Limerick. In 944, Olaf "Cuaran" ("of the sandals") became king of the Viking State of Dublin, and shortly thereafter, the Vikings defeated the Eoganachti, who historically had ruled the southern half of the island. Then they subjugated all of Munster, including Cashel. Shortly thereafter, they conquered Meath and imposed a tyranny so severe that the Gaels called it a "Babylonish captivity". By this time, Vikings were marrying into Gaelic families.

During this period, Ireland was not alone in its inability to fend off the Vikings, but other countries were mounting better responses, principally by using feudal type centralized governments to raise unified armies. But Gaelic society resisted centralized government and unified armies. In the absence of unified resistance, the Vikings were able to succeed by attacking one or two vulnerable Gaelic lords at a time.

Meanwhile, during the entire Viking period (795-1014), the Gaelic lords were busy fighting among themselves. Generally speaking, the Ui Neill, ruling from Tara, dominated the northern half of the island ("Conn's Half"), while the Eoganachti, ruling from Cashel, controlled the south ("Mogh's Half"). The Leinster lords constituted a third major force. Centuries earlier, the Leinstermen had lost their land to the Ui Neill and Eoganachti, but they were constantly plotting to regain their land and power. After centuries of subordinate status, the Leinstermen, led by Flann Sinna, skewed the balance of power in 908 at Ballaghmoon, when they defeated and slew Cormac MacCullenan, the most prestigious priest-king in Eoganachti history. While this did not significantly empower the Leinstermen, it dealt the Eoganachti Dynasty a devastating blow from which they never recovered.

Finally, in those darkest days before the dawn, three remarkable men emerged to liberate Ireland from this Viking tyranny: In the south (Munster), it was the brothers Mahon and Brian Boru; in the north, it was Malachy. A major manipulative role was played by Gormflath, daughter of a Leinster king, who successively married Olaf "Cuaran" (the Viking), then Malachy and finally Brian.

In Munster, it was the decline of the Eoganachti that led to the emergence of a previously obscure clan, the Dalcassions, headed by two brothers, Mahon (925-76) [a.k.a. Mathgamain] and Brian Boru (940-1014) [a.k.a. Brian Boruma], who were the eldest and youngest of 13 siblings. The Dalcassions had been driven into County Clare about mid-century, and Mahon and Brian were raised during the worst of the Viking tyranny. When Viking expansion pressed the Dalcassions even further, Mahon favored a negotiated settlement, but Brian insisted upon armed resistance. The brothers raised an army that prevailed in a number of small skirmishes. Then when the Eoghanacti king Donnchad died in 963, Mahon – who had no hereditary right -- audaciously claimed the throne of Cashel.

By themselves, the Eoganachti lacked the strength to challenge Mahon, so two Eoganachti princes, Donovan and Maelmaud, joined forces with the Viking Ivar in an attempt to topple Mahon. At a decisive battle at Sulcoit in 968, however, Mahon and Brian prevailed. Then almost immediately, they marched on to Limerick, capturing it back from the Vikings, and forcing Ivar to flee Ireland.

The Battles of Sulcoit and Limerick thus ended the Viking tyranny in Munster, as well as establishing that the Dalcassions had replaced the Eoganachti as rulers of the south. Mahon then ruled peacefully for eight years from Cashel. In 976, however, Ivar returned from overseas and with help from Donovan and Maelmaud slew Mahon. Brian immediately avenged Mahon's death by slaying Ivar. Brian also sought out Donovan and Maelmaud, and slew them both, thereby extinguishing any immediate Eoganachti claimants to the throne at Cashel. Brian then took the throne at Cashel (976) as undisputed king of Mogh's Half.

In the north, meanwhile, there emerged another extraordinary leader, Malachy (948-1022) [a.k.a. Mael Sechnaill]. A royal son of the Ui Neill, Malachy became king of Meath at an early age. Then in 980, at the Battle of Tara, he inflicted a horrendous defeat on the Dublin Vikings, after which he claimed the high kingship. One year later (981), he marched on Dublin, forced Olaf to surrender and flee to the monastery in Iona (where he died a year later, after converting to Christianity), thus ending the "Babylonish captivity" of Meath and the North. A few years later, Malachy married Olaf's widow, Gormflath. In 994 Malachy installed Sitric, son of Olaf and Gormflath, as ruler of Dublin.

Brian and Malachy had now established themselves as the dominant forces in Ireland. The Vikings, after their successive defeats at Sulcoit (968), Limerick (969), Tara (980) and Dublin (981), remained a factor militarily, but only in the subordinate role of supporting Malachy. A clash pitting Malachy (and his Viking supporters) against Brian seemed inevitable, but in 998 the two reached an agreement under which Brian would be supreme from Dublin south, while Malachy ruled the northern half.

Then Malachy made an imprudent move. He discarded Gormflath. She promptly retaliated by persuading her Gaelic brother, Maelmora, to assert his hereditary claim to the kingship of Leinster, to form an alliance with her son Sitric, lord of Dublin, and to challenge both Brian and Malachy. The uprising failed, however. At Glen Mama in 999, Brian's forces easily routed the combined army of Maelmora and Sitric.

Inexplicably, Brian (now age 59 with two sons from a prior marriage) married Gormflath, who bore him another son, Donnchad. As a favor to Gormflath, Brian reinstalled her son, Sitric, to his former position as ruler of Dublin, and her brother, Maelmora, to his former position as King of Leinster.

By 1002 Brian determined that he finally was in a position to claim the high kingship of all of Gaelic Ireland. He met Malachy at Tara and issued an ultimatum: Formally surrender the high kingship to Brian, or meet in open battle. Malachy was given time to decide, but was unable to garner support from the northern Ui Neill for a full scale war against Brian. He submitted to Brian without a battle.

Thus in 1002 Brian Boru became the undisputed Ard Ri of all Gaelic Ireland. (His sway over Viking areas remained clouded, however.) But Brian was still not sure that every Gaelic lord recognized his sovereignty. To formalize his power, Brian instituted a ceremony that later became a ritual among Ard Ri. Brian traversed the island, particularly the North, forcing acknowledgments of his sovereignty. He was welcomed with a pomp never before or after equaled, and indeed his sovereignty was recognized throughout Gaelic Ireland. On his second expedition in 1005, Brian visited the church founded by Saint Patrick at Armagh, where he made an offering of 20 ounces of gold, and expressly acknowledged the ecclesiastical supremacy of the Pope and bishops, thus insuring that his secular sovereignty would not be challenged by the Church.

As Ard Ri, Brian regarded himself as a Gaelic Charlemagne, thinking in terms of institutions for the entire island, and launching programs to restore both the physical infrastructure and scholarly preeminence of the country. He built bridges and roads, rebuilt ruined churches and founded others. He upgraded monastery libraries by sending overseas for books to replace those destroyed during the Viking tyranny. He gave art, literature and culture a new impetus. Brian's 12 year tenure (1002-14) as Ard Ri is one of high points of Irish history. At the same time, Brian's actual control over the island was less than absolute. Without the infrastructure of feudalism or other centralized government, even Brian could not consolidate the degree of power and control that was being exercised by the strong feudal monarchs in other parts of Europe.

Now Brian made the same imprudent move as had Malachy. He discarded Gormflath, who naturally retaliated. Once again, she persuaded Maelmora, her brother, and Sitric, her son, to join together in an effort to conquer the island. The plot gained momentum when the Earl of Orkney, Sigurd the Stout, in return for a promise of Gormflath's hand in marriage, contributed his army of 2,000 Vikings in mail. The combined Leinster-Viking army began the campaign by threatening Malachy, who quickly requested help from Brian. Brian, realizing that his tenuous claim of sovereignty over the Viking towns was at stake, marched on Dublin to confront the upstarts.

At the Battle of Clontarf (April 23, 1014, Good Friday), Brian's forces met and convincingly defeated the combined Leinster-Viking army. It was a fierce and pitched battle with terrible casualties on both sides.

Clontarf sometimes is depicted as a glorious Irish victory in which the Vikings were expelled from Ireland and Brian was confirmed as the first universally acknowledged high king of the entire island. This interpretation is highly misleading. In the first place, although Clontarf marked an end to the Viking tyranny over most parts of the island, it did not totally extinguish their presence or influence. Brian's army, because of extensive casualties, was unable to totally expel the Vikings, many of whom returned to their strongholds in Dublin, Waterford, Wexford and other costal settlements, where they continued to hold sway until the Norman invasion more than 150 years later.

More importantly, those slain at Clontarf included three generations of Dalcassion kings and their heirs apparent, namely Brian himself (then age 74), plus his oldest son Murchad, plus Murchad's young son. Since Brian's younger sons, Tadg and Donnchad, lacked stature, the high kingship passed to Malachy, who served well and peacefully until his death in 1022, after which Ireland slipped back into divided and chaotic government.

As for the Vikings, few visible signs remain today of their 150 year tyranny, neither architecture, nor artwork, nor holidays, nor pagan gods, nor language, nor culture. The most that can be said is that they founded Dublin and other coastal cities (all of which have been totally rebuilt), that a handful of Viking words remain in the language (including the place names Dublin, Waterford, Wexford and Cork), and that some Viking blood runs through the veins of many inhabitants who think of themselves as 100% Gaelic.


*Among Vikings who settled in Ireland, the majority came from Norway, but a significant minority of them, including those who settled around Limerick, were from Denmark. The 9th Century Gaels, who had a strong sense of color, used the term "Finn-gall" (or "fair foreigner") to describe the Norwegians, and "Dubh-gall" (or "dark foreigner") for the Danes.

B. From Clontarf to the Normans (1015-1168).

Between Clontarf (1014) and the Norman invasion (1169), very little of historical note occurred within Ireland itself, but in Europe and England, the ascendancy of the Norman Dynasty cast ominous shadows over Ireland.

In Ireland itself, Brian was succeeded as Ard Ri by Malachy, who reigned for eight years. But upon Malachy's death in 1022, there was no clear successor, and Ireland slipped back into divided and chaotic government. There were, of course, self proclaimed high kings, but none was able to garner universal acknowledgment of his sovereignty. Between 1022 and 1069, there were eight different Ard Ri claimants, but each was seriously challenged, leading to a new term, "king with opposition". Among the eight, two were from the Ui Neill and three from Brian's line; later, in the 12th Century, MacLochlainn from Leinster, and two O'Connors, father and son from Connacht, joined the list of claimants to the high kingship.

The Church meanwhile was reforming itself. The Vikings had destroyed monasteries and had fostered a barbaric way of life that had become the norm even in Gaelic society. By 1000 A.D. violence was common, the sacraments were neglected and the ancient brehon law of easy divorce and remarriage was revived. Then, however, a succession of bishops, among whom Saint Malachy was the most prominent, worked with the Pope to rebuild the churches, to expunge the barbaric Viking culture, and even, for the first time in 600 years, to re-institute a conventional diocesan structure of Church administration. By the Synod of Kells in 1152, the Irish Church was in closer alignment with Rome than ever before in Irish history.

The truly important development in this period, however, was the Norman expansion in Europe and England. The Normans originally were Vikings who in the 9th and 10th Centuries settled in western France, intermarried with the natives, and established the Duchy of Normandy, where they developed the feudal form of centralized government and society, and converted to Christianity. Normandy shortly became Europe's most highly organized, militarily efficient, and expansion minded state. Normans already had migrated to England when William, a Norman duke who had a plausible claim to the English Crown, invaded England to press his claim against the half-Danish Harold II, leader of the Anglo-Saxons.

At the Battle of Hastings (1066), William handily defeated Harold and his Anglo-Saxon forces. Commonly known as William the Conqueror, he assumed the English crown as William I in 1066. The Norman Conquest was complete. The Anglo-Saxon governing class was almost totally destroyed, and its culture overwhelmed, except that ordinary people continued to speak English. William moved decisively to install a French speaking military aristocracy to occupy and rule England in accordance with the classic Norman-feudal model, i.e., a strong centralized government under a strong feudal monarch.

William the Conqueror died in 1087, and his Last Will and Testament divided his empire. He bequeathed England to his sons, William II and Henry I. He left Normandy to his eldest son, Duke Robert II (c.1054-1134); but Normandy was seized by Henry I in 1106, became part of the Angevin empire, and was not restored to France until 1206.

The Norman empire expanded quickly and efficiently under William and his second son William II (r. 1087-1100), his third son Henry I (r. 1100-35) and his great grandson Henry II. The powerful Norman military caste settled in and gradually feudalized Scotland. Norman barons also conquered the Welsh border and much of South Wales.

Henry II (r. 1154-89), the great grandson of William the Conqueror, was even more expansion minded than his predecessors. He became the Norman ruler of the vast Angevin empire, which included England, Normandy, Anjou, Maine, Poitou, and Aquitaine, with sovereign claims over Toulouse, Wales and Scotland. Although Henry certainly was King of England, he was French rather than English. He was born in Normandy, reared in France, and spoke Norman French, not English.

As early as 1155, Henry considered an invasion of Ireland. It would appear that at Henry's request Pope Adrian IV, the only Englishman ever to serve as Pope, issued a Bull Laudabiliter authorizing Henry to conquer Ireland and to make himself overlord of Ireland in order to bring the Irish church more into line with Roman standards. (Some historians have doubted this in light of Church reforms already completed by the Synod of Kells.) Henry postponed the invasion of Ireland at that time, but could it be long in coming?

Ch. 4. The Norman Conquest (1169-1270).

The Norman-Anglo Conquest of Ireland began in 1169, when a mercenary invasion force from Norman-occupied Wales captured Wexford and Waterford. A year later they took Dublin, and then, over the next eighty or so years, they expanded in all directions, until they held about 75% of the island.

The mercenaries who invaded Ireland were French in origin: ethnic Normans who spoke Norman-French, not English. Their king was Henry II, the French speaking, ethnically Norman ruler of the vast Angevin empire, of which England was only a small part. They were descended from 10th Century Vikings who conquered western France and intermarried with the natives, and then, as part of the Norman military aristocracy which William the Conqueror had installed after the Battle of Hastings (1066), they had migrated to England and Wales, again intermarrying with the natives. They had no deep seated cultural roots either in England, or in Wales, or in France, or in Scandinavia.

Everywhere they went in Ireland, the Normans built castles and towns, as they had done in England. They also intermarried with Gaelic nobility, establishing the celebrated Norman-Irish feudal families -- Fitzgerald, Burke, Costello, Butler -- who ruled much of Ireland under nominal suzerainty from England until late in the 16th Century. Within a few generations, the Normans were as much a part of the Irish landscape as were the Gaels.

The story of the Norman Conquest resembles a soap opera, pitting the wily, deceitful villain (Dermot MacMurrough) against the well meaning but hapless incompetent (Tiernan O'Rourke). MacMurrough and O'Rourke were mortal enemies. The antagonism between them dated to 1152, when O'Rourke had been humiliated by MacMurrough's abduction of O'Rourke's wife, Dervorgilla. But MacMurrough may not have been as culpable as it seemed. According to Irish folklore, it was Dervorgilla herself, then aged 44, who arranged the abduction, with MacMurrough, then aged 42, simply going along. Nevertheless, MacMurrough was hardly an innocent bystander, having eagerly accepted the invitation, and having staged a lifelike abduction, with horsemen, screaming victim, and all the trappings. O'Rourke recovered Dervorgilla the following year (1153), but he never got the revenge he wanted.

The subsequent hostilities between O'Rourke and MacMurrough were played out in the context of a larger battle between Rory O'Connor and Murtaugh MacLochlain for the high kingship of Ireland. O'Rourke was allied with O'Connor, the eventual winner, while MacMurrough supported, and more importantly was protected by, MacLochlain.

In 1166, finally, after a 10 year war, O'Connor defeated MacLochlain once and for all. O'Connor was magnanimous in victory. He reduced MacLochlain's petit-kingdom to a small area, and took hostages, but otherwise permitted him to live out his reign.

O'Rourke had no intention of extending similar generosity to MacMurrough. He got his revenge later that same year when MacLochlain (MacMurrough's long time protector) died, and O'Rourke, along with several cohorts, forced MacMurrough to flee Ireland.

But MacMurrough quickly regrouped. He sought help from Henry II, the aforementioned Norman ruler of the Angevin empire. To Henry, MacMurrough represented opportunity knocking. Henry had no enthusiasm for personally leading an expedition to Ireland -- after all, he had previously declined to do so, even after seeking and receiving the Bull Laudabiliter – but he had nothing to lose by encouraging MacMurrough. Thus Henry issued an open letter to his subjects, authorizing them to render military assistance to MacMurrough.

MacMurrough then contacted one of the great Norman leaders in Wales, the legendary "Strongbow" (a.k.a. Richard FitzGilbert de Clare, the earl of Strigoil). Initially, Strongbow was reluctant, but then MacMurrough offered Strongbow his eldest daughter, Aoife (Eva), in marriage, together with the right to succeed MacMurrough as king of Leinster. Finally, Strongbow agreed to lead an army into Ireland to restore MacMurrough to power.

With Strongbow on his side, MacMurrough then was also able to recruit a number of Norman and Flemish knights whose names now are common in Ireland: FitzHenry, Carew, FitzGerald, Barry, Prendergast, Fleming, Roche, Cheevers, Synott.

The impatient MacMurrough returned to Ireland with a handful of Normans in 1167, but O'Connor and O'Rourke soon forced him to submit. Always the master of deceit, MacMurrough even paid O'Rourke one hundred ounces of gold as reparation for abducting Dervorgilla. But MacMurrough was not discouraged. He knew that help was on the way.

The first Norman troop ships, about 600 in number, landed at Bannow Bay early in May 1169. MacMurrough and several hundred of his men promptly joined the Normans, and together they marched on Wexford. The Viking inhabitants directly confronted the invaders, expecting to find a rag-tag outfit of enthusiastic but poorly armed Irishmen. Instead they discovered a fully armed and disciplined professional army, ready for the kill. The Vikings were driven back into Wexford, and next day the town was forced to surrender.

Strongbow himself now set sail for Ireland. His advance guard, ten knights and seventy archers, was led by a magnificent young soldier-warrior from the FitzGerald family, Raymond Carew, commonly called 'le Gros' ('the Fat'). Le Gros landed north of Waterford and quickly built earthen ramparts which remain even today. Almost immediately, an opposition army -- several thousand Vikings and Gaelic-Irish from Waterford and the surrounding areas -- attacked le Gros and his contingent of eighty Norman and Fleming soldiers.

Incredibly, le Gros and his vastly outnumbered troops prevailed. Behind the ramparts, le Gros had concealed a herd of cattle, which he suddenly stampeded into the oncoming troops, trampling the front rank of the attackers. In all the confusion, le Gros and his force routed the remaining natives, seventy of whom were captured alive. As a message to Waterford, the prisoners' limbs were broken, their heads severed, and their bodies thrown over the cliffs.

Now Strongbow and his army of about two hundred knights and a thousand other troops joined le Gros, and two days later, they attacked Waterford. Twice the Normans were beaten off, but eventually le Gros breached the walls at a weak point, and captured Waterford.

Now MacMurrough's daughter, Aoife, came to Waterford, where she married Strongbow. A celebrated fresco in the British House of Commons depicts the wedding ceremony occurring at the close of the battle, against a background of burning buildings and dead Irishmen. The fresco is a classic example of artistic license, since Aoife did not arrive until several days after the battle. But the artist captured brilliantly the essential elements of the pact which MacMurrough had made with Strongbow two years earlier in Wales.

Strongbow and MacMurrough now set their sights on taking Dublin, which was a semi-independent Viking kingdom. With the wily MacMurrough leading the way, the Normans evaded an ambush laid by O'Connor and O'Rourke and arrived unscathed at the city walls. The Vikings were inclined to surrender, but while negotiations were still ongoing, le Gros and Milo de Cogan led their troops through a breach in the city walls and routed the city's ineffectual defenders. Asgall, the Viking-Irish King of Dublin, managed to escape with some of his Viking followers. As they sailed away, Asgall vowed to return and retake Dublin.

MacMurrough became deathly ill in April 1171, and while Strongbow was visiting him, Asgall, who had been forced to flee only nine months earlier, made good on his vow to return. He brought with him a fleet of ships carrying about a thousand Vikings, who mounted a fierce assault on Strongbow's Dublin. But even without Strongbow to lead them, the Normans prevailed. Asgall, who was taken prisoner, was tried, convicted and beheaded in the hall of what formerly had been his own palace in Dublin.

Upon MacMurrough's death, Strongbow returned to Dublin, only to be confronted by a revolt of the Leinster tribes, who were challenging Strongbow's right to succeed MacMurrough as King of Leinster. The revolt nominally was led by Murtaugh MacMurrough, Dermot MacMurrough's nephew and heir, who claimed that succession should be determined by Irish (Brehon) law, not his uncle's agreement with Strongbow. Significantly, Murtaugh had military support from the Ard Ri, Rory O'Connor, along with widespread support from the other Gaelic lords. The Gaelic plan was to lay siege to Dublin and to starve the Normans into surrender. But after two months, complacency set in, which gave the Normans their opportunity. Strongbow, le Gros, and Milo de Cogan, each with a contingent of 200 men, snuck out of the city, circled around behind O'Connor, and mounted a surprise attack. The daring initiative succeeded beyond all expectations, decimating O'Connor's army and terminating the siege. The victory established once and for all the Norman's military supremacy over both Viking and Gaelic Irish.

Nominally, Strongbow and his Norman troops were acting on behalf of Henry II, but Henry suspected -- with good reason -- that Strongbow planned to establish an independent kingdom in Ireland. But Henry wanted Ireland to become part of his Angevin empire, with the Normans serving as feudal underlords. To squelch any contrary plans Strongbow might have, Henry promptly traveled to Ireland, bringing with him 4,000 well armed troops as a show of force. The visit was an enormous success. Without a drop of blood being shed, Strongbow and the other Norman warriors capitulated and paid homage to Henry, as did virtually everyone else of importance, the Normans, the Irish, the Vikings, even the bishops. Ireland was now part of Henry's Angevin empire.

In 1175, the Treaty of Windsor was negotiated under which (1) Henry took for himself a large portion of Irish land already in Norman hands, including the area which later became known as "the Pale"; (2) The remaining land already in Norman hands was allocated among the Norman leaders; and (3) Henry agreed to accept Rory O'Connor as Ard Ri (high-king) of the unconquered areas, while O'Connor pledged himself to recognize Henry II as his overlord and to collect annual tribute for him from all parts of Ireland. But the treaty broke down almost immediately, for two reasons. First, O'Connor, the Ard Ri, found it impossible to collect tribute even in his home territory (Connacht), let alone elsewhere on the island. More important, Henry could not restrain his Norman barons from seizing more Irish land. Finally, Henry gave up on the treaty, and personally made several grants of large areas without consulting O'Connor or the other Gaelic kings.

In 1189, Henry appointed a Lord Protector of Ireland: His favorite son, John (then age 17), who served ten years and then became King of England (r.1199-1216).

Henry II died in 1189, and his vast Angevin empire (of which England was only a small part) quickly began to break apart. Henry II was succeeded by his son, Richard the Lionheart (r. 1189-99), who was a magnificent warrior, but a terrible administrator. His glaring blunder was to concede that English monarchs were simply feudal under-lords to Philip II of France and his successors. Richard was succeeded by Henry's second son, the much maligned John I (r. 1199-1216), who had been Lord of Ireland since 1190.

Within five years of his coronation, John I found himself on the losing side of a war with King Philip II of France (1206). As a result of this military defeat, John lost most of the English possessions in France, including Normandy, Anjou and Brittany. Disastrous as these losses were, they would have been worse if they had been allowed to impact England's dominion over Norman-controlled Ireland. But John succeeded in utilizing military threats and intimidation to pressure the Norman-Irish lords into aligning themselves with England rather than France. At the time, England was ruled by a French speaking, ethnically Norman military aristocracy, although the ordinary citizen spoke English. Later when English kings reverted to the English tongue, the Norman-Irish lords -- descendants of the original, French speaking Norman invaders -- found themselves pledging loyalty to the English speaking Kings of England, rather than their French speaking rivals from France and Normandy.

The coronation of John -- truly a weak monarch -- insured that the remainder of the Norman Conquest of Ireland would be chaotic, with no master planning from the Crown. Chaotic or not, by the year 1250 -- only eighty years after their arrival -- the Normans controlled three quarters of the island.

The Normans, assisted by a partly Anglo work force, dramatically changed the face of inland Ireland, which previously had been entirely pastoral. Vastly outnumbered by the natives, the Normans congregated in small communities, which gradually evolved in towns, typically centered around a castle and/or church. Indeed, although the coastal towns of Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Cork, and Limerick were established by the Vikings, the vast majority of inland and other towns and villages in Ireland were founded by the Normans. Munster, under Norman influence, became one of the most French of provinces outside of France itself.

After conquering an area, the Normans typically displaced the Gaelic nobility, or married into it, but the ordinary Irishman was left in peaceful possession of his land to herd cattle and till the soil, just as he had been doing under their native chieftains. But the Normans did insist that the natives adopt modern and more efficient agricultural practices.

Moreover, the Normans customarily built churches in their towns. Virtually all of the medieval cathedrals in Ireland -- St Patrick's in Dublin, St Mary's in Limerick, St Canice's in Kilkenny -- were the work of the Normans.

The original Normans imposed a feudal system substantially identical to that which their ancestors had brought from Normandy to England. They built Dublin Castle and installed a strong central government. They struck coinage for Ireland. They introduced English common law, including the jury system. They appointed Sheriffs. And although it served only the Norman-Anglo colony, an Irish parliament modeled on the English one was created in the late 13th century. Although parts of the feudal system of government were rejected by descendants of the original Normans, other parts survived.

By the mid-1200s, the Normans held about 75% of the island, but their expansion was on the verge of curtailment. At this point, Ireland was divided into three geographic, ethnic and cultural regions:

(1) The so-called "Pale" -- Dublin and a surrounding area about 30 miles long and 20 miles wide -- was the only area which was fully English. The Crown's writs and orders were followed, some English was spoken, English culture prevailed, and most of the inhabitants (Philip II later called them the "loyal English") thought of themselves not as Irishmen but as the Crown's colony in Ireland.

(2) Gaelic Ireland -- principally western Ulster and an area in the South along the western coast -- had never been conquered by the Normans, and naturally retained Gaelic customs and remained completely outside feudal society and English rule. The Gaelic lords (Philip II later called them the "wild Irish") thought of themselves as Irish, never as the Crown's colony.

(3) Norman-Irish Ireland, comprising about 70% of the island (everything except the Pale and Gaelic Ireland), consisted of the quasi-independent fiefs of the great Norman-Irish lords. In these areas, the Norman-Irish lords -- descendants of the original Norman invaders -- not only resisted the tight control of a feudal monarchy, but were beginning to adopt the Gaelic language and culture, and to assimilate into Gaelic society. These Norman-Irish lords (Philip II later called them the "English rebels") remained fundamentally loyal to the Crown, but had no interest in becoming part of a feudal monarchy that would strip them of power.

Ch. 5. Gaelic Resurgence and Assimilation of the Normans (1270-1484).

Beginning in the mid-1200s, there began an amazing "Gaelic Resurgence" -- and Norman retreat -- that reversed and overwhelmed Norman advances in three separate areas: (1) military dominance, (2) culture, and (3) government. Thus by the mid-1400s, (1) the Gaelic lords had taken back over half of their lost territory, so that Norman-held land (including the "Pale"), once 75% of the island, was reduced to about 35%; (2) the Normans had adopted the Gaelic language, dress and culture, becoming so assimilated that they were described as "more Irish than the Irish"; and (3) the descendants of the original Normans, now more appropriately called Norman-Irish, were vigorously resisting two of feudalism's principal tenets, its emphasis on a strong monarch and its system of land ownership.

For all three components of the Gaelic Resurgence, there was a single root cause: The Normans never settled in Ireland in sufficient numbers to fully implement and protect their military conquest. In 1349 the already inadequate ratio of Normans to Gaels was further reduced by the Black Death (bubonic plague), which devastated the relatively crowded villages, where the Normans and Anglos lived, but hit less hard in pastoral areas, where the Gaelic-Irish lived.

The military component of the Gaelic Resurgence should not have been surprising. During their advance, the Norman armies always had been vastly outnumbered, but they nevertheless prevailed because they had better equipment and superior military skills. Over time, however, the Gaelic lords upgraded their equipment and military skills, at which time Gaelic numerical superiority asserted itself. More importantly, the Gaelic lords also "imported" professional soldiers from Scotland, those magnificent fighting troops of Norse-Gaelic stock known as the"gallowglasses", who proved to be better fighting men than the over-extended Normans. Callann (1261) and Ath an Kip (1270) were the decisive battles.

At Callann (1261), the MacCarthys were the heros for the Gaelic-Irish. Already confined to the south-west corner of Ireland, the MacCarthys decided to stand firm against further Norman expansion. They confronted FitzThomas, the Norman, at Callann, in the mountainous country near Kenmare, and defeated him decisively. Thereafter the Norman-Irish found themselves unable to expand southward from the upper half of Kerry, while the MacCarthys and O'Sullivans reigned supreme in the south-west corner of Ireland.

At Ath an Kip (1270), an equally important battle in the north, Aedh O'Connor and his "gallowglass" mercenaries carried the day for the Gaelic-Irish. The Normans -- represented by the royal justiciar and the powerful Walter de Burgo – decided to expand even further into Ulster, and mounted a huge army which (according to the Irish annals) included "all the foreigners of Erin with them". But O'Connor was ready for them. From Scotland, he had brought in "gallowglasses" to supplement his own army. The two armies met at the ford of Ath an Kip, where the Norman-Irish were routed, leaving arms and suits of mail scattered on the field of battle; in the words of the annalist, 'no greater defeat had been given to the English in Ireland up to that time'.

Callann and Ath an Kip turned the tide. Prior to those battles, the Normans held about 75% of the island, including the "Pale". Afterward, the Normans gradually were forced to surrender back more than half of their gains*. By the mid-1400s, the Gaelic lords had taken back all but about 35% of the island.

The military resurgence paved the way for similar Gaelic Resurgence in culture and also in government. The cultural and governmental resurgence was surprising, because each contrasted so dramatically with the Norman experience in England. In England, after the Battle of Hastings (1066), the French speaking military aristocracy installed by the Normans literally destroyed Anglo-Saxon culture and forcibly imposed the Norman-feudal way of life, including the feudal form of government. In Ireland, however, Gaelic culture prevailed.

Within a few generations, descendants of the original Normans gradually distanced themselves from the Norman-Anglo way of life and adopted the Gaelic language, dress and culture, becoming so thoroughly assimilated into Gaelic society that they were commonly described as "more Irish than the Irish". The Crown was cognizant of this dramatic assimilation process, and in an attempt to arrest it, caused enactment of the Statutes of Kilkenny (1366), which prohibited Norman-Irish from speaking Gaelic, dressing like the Gaelic Irish, riding a horse bareback (like the Gaelic Irish), marrying Gaelic Irish, and/or engaging in a wide range of other activities identified as Irish. However, the Statutes were largely ignored.

The cultural component of the Gaelic resurgence was so complete that when Henry VIII was declared King of Ireland in 1541 -- 270 years after Ath an Chip -- the proclamation was read in Gaelic, because only one of the Norman-Irish lords spoke the King's English.

The cultural component of the Gaelic Resurgence is readily explainable by the fact that from the outset, the Norman lords married into Gaelic families. Strongbow himself set the trend by marrying Aoife, MacMurough's daughter. De Lacy married Rose, daughter of Rory O'Connor, de Courcy married Affreca, daughter of the king of Man, and so on. The children of these marriages were half Norman, half Gaelic, and presumably bilingual. Within several generations, the cultures had merged, and since the surrounding culture was predominantly Gaelic, descendants became more Gaelic than Norman.

The Gaelic Resurgence in culture was aided by the fact that although the Normans were pragmatic tyrants on matters of administration and government, they had no deep seated cultural roots of their own, having migrated from Scandinavia to Normandy, then to Wales and finally to Ireland, all in a period of only 150 years.

The feudal form of government and land holding, which the Normans originally installed in Ireland, was also undermined by the Gaelic Resurgence, although the decline of feudalism in this period was hardly unique to Ireland.

Feudal government was a highly efficient form of centralized government under which a strong monarch used his control over land to exercise tight discipline over his subjects through a highly structured "top down" pyramid. The feudal land system placed the king at the pinnacle of a pyramid, and peasants at the base, with land as the key to power, status and affluence. Peasants (at the base of the pyramid) worked the land and paid some species of tribute (e.g., military service and/or share of crops) to their landlords, Norman lords, who in turn owed allegiance and service either to overlords or directly to the king, who was treated as the master landlord of all land within the empire. The feudal land system was specifically designed to foster a strong centralized government under a strong monarch. Indeed, tight control by the monarch was a defining trait of feudalism. Feudalism was developed in Normandy, and was brought to England and Ireland by the Normans.

In Ireland, by early in the 14th Century, the Norman-Irish lords -- descendants of the original Normans who installed feudalism -- were actively resisting two of feudalism's principal tenets, the strong monarchy and the system of land ownership that fostered such power in the Crown. It is fair to say that feudalism never truly took root in Ireland, except perhaps in parts of the "Pale".

The resistance of the Norman-Irish lords to strong centralized government actually began fifty years before other components of the Gaelic Resurgence, during the reign of John I (1199-1216). It was part of a much larger revolt of English (and Irish) barons against John's effort to increase the power of the Crown at the expense of the English (and Irish) barons. The unfortunate John, weakened by his earlier loss of Normandy, lost the power struggle and was instead forced to sign the Magna Carta (1215), incorporating the barons' demands for increased power. The Magna Carta was extended to Norman-Irish lords in 1217. Thereafter, the barons reorganized themselves from an mere advisory body into the Parliament, and over the next 425 years seldom missed an opportunity to grab power away from the Crown, eventually leading to the demise of classic feudalism.

The feudal land system also was a constant source of conflict. The Norman-Irish lords were still resisting it late in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603), who finally succeeded in coercing reluctant Norman-Irish lords into converting their lands into feudal manors through a "surrender and re-grant" program under which the lords would convey ("surrender") their land to the Crown, on condition that the Crown would re-grant them the same land under liberal terms and conditions consistent with feudal land practices.

In the mid-1300s, three extraordinary Norman-Irish earldoms emerged: Desmond and Kildare (each headed by a branch of the Fitzgeralds) and Ormond (headed by the Butlers). These and other Norman-Irish lords were even more secure than English barons in challenging the Crown, because English monarchs never were able to devote to Ireland the resources and attention required to maintain control. Instead, during virtually the entire period 1294 to 1485, the Crown was distracted from Irish affairs by the Hundred Years' War* (1338-1453) and the War of Roses (1455-85). This was one of the principal reasons the feudal form of government failed in Ireland, while succeeding at least temporarily in England.

In 1394-95, King Richard II, who turned out to be the last of the Angevin kings, visited Ireland and described its population as comprising (1) the "wild Irish", (2) the "English rebels", and (3) the "loyal English". Richard was able to hammer out a power sharing agreement with the Norman-Irish lords, but it triggered a series of skirmishes, and in one of them, Richard's presumptive heir, Mortimer, was killed. Richard returned to Ireland seeking vengeance, but while he was away from England, his throne was usurped by Henry Bollingbroke (Henry IV), who eventually executed Richard.

Bollingbroke's usurpation, which led to the War of Roses between the English Houses of York and Lancaster, impacted Ireland dramatically. Essentially, the resulting turmoil rendered the Crown virtually powerless in Ireland. Thus between 1399 and 1534, governance of Ireland fell largely into the hands of Norman-Irish lords who were considered relatively loyal to the Crown. Initially it was the Fitzgeralds of Desmond, but after 1468, governance fell to the Fitzgeralds of Kildare, whose tenure was called the "Kildare Supremacy". For almost 40 years, the eighth Earl of Kildare (the "Great Earl") functioned as the uncrowned King of Ireland. He was succeeded by his son, Garrett Og.

Elsewhere in Europe, meanwhile, gunpowder had been introduced into warfare in the mid-1300s, and the printing press became a commercial success in 1450. Most importantly, demands clearly were growing for reform of the Catholic Church, which had become the object of criticism by virtue of the Inquisitions, the sale of indulgences, and the Pope's powerful influence in affairs of state. (However, it was not until 1517 that Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant Reformation, formally broke with the Catholic Church.


*The resurgence naturally experienced periods of fallback, along with the periods of progress. In 1315, apparently at the invitation of some Gaelic lords, Robert Bruce, King of Scots who had ousted the English from Scotland, dispatched his brother Edward and 6,000 troops to Ireland, where Edward's forces proved unstoppable for over three years, after which he was crowned "King of Erin" (1316). But in 1318, at Faughart, Edward was slain in his only losing battle, following which his troops scattered and returned to Scotland. Edward's campaign seemed momentous at the time, but turned out to be a mere footnote in Irish history.

*The Hundred Years' War is the name traditionally given to the Anglo-French conflicts that occurred between 1337 and 1453, but a more accurate set of dates would be the 150-year period from 1294 to 1444.

Ch. 6. The Tudor Re-Conquest of Ireland (1485-1607).

The five monarchs of the 118 year Tudor Dynasty in England (1486-1603) -- particularly Henry VIII (r.1509-47) and his daughter Elizabeth I (r.1558-1603) -- had an enormous impact on Ireland and its people. In addition to imposing Poynings Law on Ireland, they ousted the Catholic Church (with the Pope as its head), and replaced it with a Protestant Church (with the English Crown as its head), thereby sowing the seeds for centuries of religious conflict in Ireland; they extinguished the "Kildare Supremacy" and established the principle that the King of England automatically became King of Ireland; they partially destroyed Irish culture through an "anglicization" program that imposed England's language, laws, culture and religion on Ireland; and they "re-conquered" Ireland by defeating the Gaelic lords at Kinsale, thereby extinguishing the old Gaelic order and paving the way for plantations and eventually for "union" with England.

The Tudor Dynasty began when Henry Tudor, a Lancaster, defeated Richard III, a York, at Bosworth Field in 1485, thereby ending the War of Roses (1455-85) between the royal Houses of Lancaster and York, who had been vying for the Crown. Tudor then took the throne as Henry VII, after which he united the two houses by marrying Elizabeth of York and executing all other potential heirs from the House of York.

Henry VII's major contribution to Irish history was forcing the Irish parliament to adopt Poynings's Law (1494). This law, which was prompted by Ireland's support of the Yorkist side in the Wars of the Roses, gave the English Privy Council a veto over legislation proposed in future Irish parliaments.

Henry VII died in 1509, and was succeeded by his second son, Henry VIII, the most colorful of the medieval monarchs. Almost immediately, Henry VIII determined to assert a greater degree of sovereignty over Ireland. He was uncomfortable with the fact that his chief deputy in Ireland, the Earl of Kildare, was an "English rebel" who did not even speak English, and who had become "more Irish than the Irish". More importantly, Henry was concerned that Ireland could be used as an ideal launching site for an invasion of England by sea. English monarchs had appreciated this danger for centuries, but the Hundred Years War (1338-1453) and the War of Roses (1455-85) had diverted attention away from Ireland. Now, with those wars over, the time seemed right to address the problem.

Thus in 1519, while Henry was still a fervent Catholic (and 14 years before he broke with the Catholic Church), he seriously considered "planting" Ireland with loyal English colonists who would constitute an English garrison in Ireland. However, Henry's feasibility study showed that a "plantation" program would require huge expenditures for an occupation army. Thus Henry settled instead for a coercive "anglicization" program under which the English language and culture, and particularly feudal land law, would be forcibly imposed on Ireland. Its most important component was a "surrender and re-grant" program under which negotiations and military threats were used to coerce Irish lords to "submit" to the Crown -- i.e., to acknowledge subservience and surrender their lands -- but on condition the lords would receive back the same lands as feudal fiefdoms. The policy proved moderately successful. Meanwhile, by 1527, Henry was finding it expedient to address his marital problems, which quickly became entangled with the "Protestant Reformation".

On the Continent, the "Reformation" began about 1517, when Martin Luther disagreed with the Catholic Church on matters of conscience. In England, Luther's "Reformation" attracted only modest support until 1533 when Henry, in an effort to solve his marital problems, formally embraced it and officially established a "Reformed Church".

Shortly before his coronation (1509), Henry had married his brother Arthur's widow, Catherine of Aragon, who bore him a daughter, Mary. But by 1527, it had become clear that Catherine would not bear him a male heir to continue the Tudor line. Thus Henry asked Pope Clement VII for an annulment and a decree that he was free to marry his new inamorata, Anne Boleyn. When the Pope refused, Henry's chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, engineered two Acts of Parliament (1533 and 1534) which ousted the Catholic Church and replaced it with a new and independent Church of England, which was headed by the Crown (Henry himself) in place of the Pope. Henry promptly appointed a new Archbishop of Canterbury, who annulled Henry's marriage to Catherine, after which Henry married Anne. Henry's new "Anglican" religion was identical to Catholicism in liturgy and theology, and was sometimes characterized as "Catholicism without the Pope".

In 1533, Anne Boleyn bore Henry a daughter, Elizabeth. She was declared heir to the throne in place of Catherine's daughter, Mary, who was now regarded as illegitimate. Anne Boleyn also failed to bear a son, however. For this reason, and because of her alleged infidelity to the king, she was executed in 1536. Finally, Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour, bore Henry a son, Edward. Jane Seymour died in 1537, shortly after Edward's birth. Henry had three more wives, none of whom bore children*.

Shortly after his success in ousting the Catholic Church, Henry summoned Garrett Og, the Earl of Kildare, to England for negotiations intended to expand the Crown's control in Ireland, while curtailing the "Kildare Supremacy". While the Earl was in England, his son, Thomas Fitzgerald, invaded the Dublin Parliament, surrendered the sword of state and announced that he was no longer the King's deputy but his enemy**. Thomas' men wore a silken fringe on his jacket, inspiring his nickname "Silken Thomas". Henry imprisoned the Earl in the Tower of London (where he died a year later), and dispatched an army to Ireland. Henry's army introduced cannons to Ireland and quickly forced Kildare's forces at Maynooth to surrender, after which the survivors were given the "pardon of Maynooth", i.e., they were executed. "Silken Thomas" himself escaped, but eventually he surrendered and was sent to the Tower of London. After two years Thomas was executed, along with five of his brothers, thereby terminating the celebrated 69 year "Kildare Supremacy". Thereafter, no English monarch ever appointed an Irishman as his chief deputy in Ireland.

In 1537, the Irish Parliament declared the Anglican religion to be the "established" (i.e., official) religion of the Church of Ireland. Anglicism also became a part of the "English culture" that Henry was forcibly imposing on Ireland. But this complicated the task enormously because there was virtually no indigenous sympathy for "reform" among either the Gaelic-Irish or the Norman-Irish, who remained totally committed to the Pope.

In 1541 Henry had himself declared King of Ireland.

Henry died in 1547. Although he earlier had sponsored legislation excluding both daughters from succession, Henry's will, which provided for the succession of his three children in classic order, was honored. Thus Henry was succeeded by his son, Edward VI (r. 1547-53), who had little impact, particularly in Ireland. Edward was succeeded by his half-sister, Mary I (r. 1553-58), the daughter of Catherine of Aragon. Mary remained a Catholic and officially restored the Catholic religion, but during her short 5 year reign, she was hostile to Ireland for reasons other than religion, and in fact imposed England's first plantation on Ireland. Mary was succeeded by her sister Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603) who reigned for 43 years, and proved to be one of England's strongest monarchs ever.

Elizabeth adopted the Anglican religion, instituting the "Book of Common Prayer", and imposing "recusary fines" on individuals (of whatever religion) who failed to attend Anglican Church services. In Ireland, the Catholicism of the Norman-Irish (a.k.a. "English Rebels") became another factor distancing them from the Crown, but overall, Elizabeth was remarkably tolerant of her otherwise loyal Norman-Irish subjects, in part because she feared they might align with France and/or Spain, both Catholic and both enemies of England.

Although relatively tolerant in matters of religion, Elizabeth was the most brutal of all English monarchs in crushing other challenges to the authoritarian power of the Crown. Elizabeth and her generals devised a "scorched earth" policy under which they executed every human being who could be found, including innocent women and children, and then, to starve the survivors, they burned all crops, killed all animals, and destroyed every structure. Even the preeminent British historian W.E.H. Lecky, deplored the indiscriminate butchery: "[Complete authority of the Crown within Ireland] dates only from the great wars of Elizabeth, which . . . crushed the native population to the dust . . . The suppression of the native race . . . was carried on with a ferocity which . . . has seldom been exceeded in the page of history. . . . The war . . . was literally a war of extermination. . . . Not only the men, but even the women and children who fell into the hands of the English, were deliberately and systematically butchered. . . . Year after year over a great part of Ireland, all means of human subsistence were destroyed, no quarter was given to prisoners who surrendered, and the whole population was skillfully and steadily starved to death. . . . Long before the war had terminated, Elizabeth was assured that she had little left to reign over but ashes and carcasses. . . [I]n six months, more than 30,000 people had been starved to death in Munster, besides those who were hung or who perished by the sword." Thus when disputes over land and religion precipitated the "Desmond Rebellion" (1579), Elizabeth's generals suppressed it with their "scorched earth" policy; and once the Native-Irish were driven out, Munster was "planted" with loyal English subjects.

The Norman-Irish lords generally were intimidated by Elizabeth's "scorched earth" tactics, and reluctantly accepted the "surrender and re-grant" offer initiated by her father. In Ulster, however, the Gaelic chieftains had no intention of submitting to Elizabeth without a full scale war. As early as 1562, Shane the Proud, an Ulster O'Neill, challenged Elizabeth directly. Although willing to acknowledge Elizabeth's sovereignty, he adamantly refused to permit within Ulster the feudal land system, the English language, or any other part of her "anglicization" program. Surprisingly, Elizabeth backed down.

The Ulster Gaels brought their defiance to a head in 1595. Led by Hugh O'Neill (1550-1615), 2d earl of Tyrone, and his young ally, Red Hugh O'Donnell (1571-1602), they mounted a major rebellion. Fighting began in Ulster, where O'Neill used classic guerilla tactics to achieve a series of successes, including a stunning victory over England's Earl of Essex at Yellow Ford in 1598. In 1600, Essex was replaced by a better soldier, Lord Mountjoy, whose first initiative was to inflict a severe "scorched earth" policy on the Ulster countryside. Then help for O'Neill arrived from Spain: Money, ammunition, and a small Spanish force of 4,000 troops under Don Juan de Aguilla, which landed at Kinsale in September 1601. O'Neill marched south to meet Aguilla. The Spanish and Irish troops did not fit well together, in part because O'Neill's guerrillas were not familiar with the frontal warfare methods of the Spanish. Nevertheless, their combined forces engaged Mountjoy at the Battle of Kinsale (1601). O'Neill and Aguilla had 9,000 troops and 500 horse against Mountjoy's 6,300 men, but Mountjoy's well trained force carried the day. O'Neill himself survived and held out for another 15 months, but in practical effect, Kinsale had decided everything; the six year war was unexpectedly over.

O'Neill submitted pursuant to the Treaty of Mellifont on March 1603, six days after the death of Elizabeth, who is credited with completing the re-conquest of Ireland. James I, her successor, was willing to let the Gaelic lords live on their ancestral lands as English-style nobles, but not as petit kings within the old Gaelic social system. He pardoned them, but only on condition they accept the "surrender and regrant" program.

The celebrated "Flight of the Earls" occurred four years later. Dissatisfied with their new roles, and still fearing retaliation, O'Neill and virtually the entire remaining Gaelic leadership (99 leaders in all), secretly boarded a ship at night at Loch Swilley and sailed for the Continent, never to return. The date was September 14, 1607.


*Henry's fourth marriage, to Anne of Cleves, was negotiated by Thomas Cromwell. But Henry was displeased with Anne's appearance and divorced her almost immediately, after which Cromwell was charged with treason and executed. Henry then married Catherine Howard, who was beheaded in 1542 for alleged unchastity. Henry's last wife, Catherine Parr, survived him.

**Historians disagree on the motivations of "Silken Thomas". One theory is that Thomas was reacting to false information from the Earl of Ormond that his father the Earl had been imprisoned by Henry. The other interpretation is that Thomas and his father were implementing a planned conspiracy to persuade Henry that he could not afford to abandon his reliance on the Kildare earls in governing Ireland.

Ch. 7. Protestant Takeover: 17th Century "Plantations" (1608-1691).

The Battle of Kinsale, along with the "Flight of the Earls", marked the end of the old Gaelic order, and established England as conqueror of Ireland. What followed next -- the 17th Century "Plantations" -- were perhaps the most important development in Irish history since arrival of the Celts. They divided Ireland apartheid-like into two hostile camps.

Under these Plantations -- the Ulster Plantation (1609), the Cromwellian Plantation (1652) and the Williamite Plantation (1693) -- 81% of the productive land in Ireland was confiscated from the native Irish (Gaelic-Irish and Norman-Irish alike, but invariably Catholic), and transferred to new immigrants (invariably Protestant) from Scotland and England. The Plantations impacted Ireland in two major ways. First, they introduced into Ireland a new community -- eventually 25% of the populace -- which differed radically from the natives not only in religion, but also in culture, ethnicity, and national identity. Second, in Ireland's overwhelmingly agrarian economy -- where land equaled wealth and power (and vice versa) -- the Plantations caused a massive transfer of wealth and power to non-native landlords, whose backbreaking rents then thrust 85% of the natives into crushing poverty and degradation. The Plantations are the root cause of the class warfare (rich landlord versus poor tenant) and religious/cultural clashes that have plagued Ireland since 1610.

Plantations were the medieval equivalent of "ethnic cleansing" in that -- in theory at least -- all occupants of confiscated land were to be evicted and resettled in Connacht where they would be less of a military threat. Anti-Catholic animus played a role in the Plantations, but other motivations were more important. For the new immigrants, the principal motivation was fertile land at bargain rents. For the Crown, Plantations would deprive dissident Irish lords of the land that was their only real source of power; and further, there would be established within Ireland a loyal non-Irish minority which would served as an unpaid police force to keep dissident Irish in check. Halfhearted attempts at plantation had been made under Mary in the 1550s, and under Elizabeth in the 1580s, but neither had instilled the pro-English mind set sought by the Crown. But after the "flight of the earls", the time seemed right for a serious plantation program.

Although nominally directed at the aristocracy, the Plantations also devastated peasants, who suffered the loss of their property rights under the ancient Gaelic law of gravelkind*, which previously had virtually guaranteed them a decent living from the soil. It turned out that peasants were needed for hard labor, so many of them, despite the original "resettlement in Connacht" plan, were allowed to remain as farm laborers or tenant-farmers, but at low wages or backbreaking rents that thrust them into abject poverty. Predictably, both in resentful peasants and in their Gaelic lords, there developed a 285 year obsession -- sometimes violent, sometimes political -- to overturn or modify the confiscations via "land reform", a term which (depending on time and place) might mean anything from a complete reversal of the confiscations to a modest improvement in tenants' rights.

The first 17th Century plantation (the "Ulster Plantation") involved confiscation of three million acres (about 30% of the island), all in six counties in west and central Ulster. The Ulster confiscations were directed almost exclusively at the Gaelic lords and their supporters who had been defeated at Kinsale: O'Neill, O'Donnell, O'Reilly, O'Hanlon, O'Doherty and others. The official plantation indirectly encouraged the much heavier unsponsored migration of working class Presbyterians from Scotland to Counties Down and Antrim. These migrations permitted eviction of native Catholics in favor of new Presbyterian settlers, whose descendants remain dominant in Northern Ireland even today**. The Ulster Plantation has been described as England's only successful colony in Ireland.

The Norman-Irish lords -- now called "Old English" to distinguish them from "New English" settlers and the "Gaelic Irish"-- were largely unaffected by the Ulster Plantation; but soon, on a large scale, they found themselves victims of New English "discoverers" whose business was to find defects in native Irish land titles, resulting in land forfeitures to the Crown (plus commissions for the discoverers). Then in 1625 James I, who was thought to be a secret Catholic, was succeeded by Charles I (r. 1625-49). Charles was not particularly anti-Catholic -- his wife was Catholic -- but the "Old English" deemed it prudent to cooperate in a deal proposed by Charles. At Charles' urging, they contributed 120,000 to Charles for his war with Spain, and Charles agreed to modest reforms known as "the Graces", the most important of which was a law (already on the books in England) confirming title in any person who had possessed land for 60 years or more. But after accepting the cash, Charles yielded to pressure from Parliament and reneged on formalizing "the Graces".

The Rebellion of 1641 sought to redress a variety of grievances, including the "Graces" grievance, by exploiting a bitter power struggle between Charles and the English Parliament. By way of background, for centuries Parliament had been wresting more and more power from a reluctant Crown, creating an ongoing conflict. (Supporters of the Crown were called "Royalists", supporters of Parliament were "Parliamentarians".) When Elizabeth died in 1603, James VI of Scotland, a Stuart, acceded to the English throne as James I. This gave Scotland and England a single king, even though the countries remained independent. But this actually escalated the conflict, rather than reducing it. Now, superimposed on the Royalist-Parliamentarian conflict were warring factions of religious zealots: Presbyterians (who dominated in Scotland) versus Anglicans (who dominated in England), not to mention Catholics (who enjoyed considerable empathy from the Stuart monarchs, some of whom were Catholic). When the Puritans won a narrow majority in the House of Commons, Charles (supported by the Anglican church) literally found himself on the verge of a civil war against Parliament, which already was arranging military support from Presbyterian Scotland.

Sir Phelim O'Neill led the Rebellion of 1641, which began with skirmishing in Ulster, during which as many as 12,000 Protestant non-combatants were killed. The rising actually was rooted in disputes over land -- no surprise here -- and to a lesser extent over religion, but O'Neill insisted that his forces were simply supporting the King against a belligerent Parliament. This pressured the "Old English", who had Royalist leanings, to join O'Neill's Gaelic forces in an uneasy alliance, the "Kilkenny Confederation". Soon, no Irishman could avoid taking sides, creating surprising alliances: some Catholics supported Parliament, while some Scottish Presbyterians joined O'Neill's Royalists. Even the Pope got involved; he dispatched to Ireland a papal nuncio, Cardinal Rinuccini, who persuaded the rebels to reject a proposed compromise because it did not restore Catholicism to its pre-Reformation position in Ireland. The rebels mounted a seven year insurgency which, if all had gone smoothly, might have led to a permanent accommodation with a divided England. In fact, however, the principal effect of the rebellion was to trigger the English Civil War, in which the king and parliament finally went to war with each other. Parliament's army, led by Oliver Cromwell (a Congregationalist member of Parliament) defeated Charles in a two phase war. Following a trial, Charles I was beheaded (1649) and the monarchy was abolished.

In 1649, Cromwell brought his army to Ireland and quashed the rebellion with a savagery that has become legendary. After town of Drogheda had surrendered, Cromwell's troops massacred 3,500 residents, including unarmed women and children. At Wexford, he perpetrated a similar massacre. Cromwell regarded the massacres as appropriate retribution for the deaths of the non-combatant Ulster Protestants in 1641. The rebellion was soon over.

Cromwell and his Puritans spelled disaster for all Catholics, but particularly for the Norman-Irish (a.k.a. "Old English"). Puritans were virulently anti-Catholic, and England's traditional tolerance for the "Old English" (vis-a-vis "Gaelic Irish") quickly became extinct, with both communities now treated as Catholic enemies of England. It was during the Cromwellian era (1649-60) that anti-Catholic animus reached its highest level in Irish history. The "New English" enthusiastically embraced the government's anti-Catholic policy, not only because they were anti-Catholic, but also because it preserved their privileged position.

The Cromwellian Plantation followed the war. It was the largest and most acrimonious of the confiscations, reducing Catholic ownership of land another 37%, from 59% to 22% Whereas the Ulster Plantation had confiscated land principally from the Gaelic-Irish, the Cromwellian Plantation took land largely from "Old English" Catholics (who had joined the rebellion hesitantly and only to show their support for the king), and transferred it to Cromwell's soldiers (in lieu of back pay) and to investors in the war effort. By the mid 1660s, the Cromwellian and Ulster Plantations had created a huge landlord class, including the oft-vilified absentee landlords, whose rental income often permitted them to lead lives of leisure, while backbreaking rents had thrust the native Irish into abject poverty, with 85% of the populace living at subsistence level. This laid the foundation for class warfare -- rich versus poor, or more accurately, rich Protestant landlord versus poor Catholic tenant -- which later erupted as the "land wars".

In 1688-90, the old line Irish (the descendants of the pre-17th Century Irish, including both Gaelic-Irish and Norman-Irish Catholics) arose again when they took sides in a war between two claimants to the English Crown. They supported the hereditary and rightful claimant, James II, against the man who had deposed him, William of Orange. In England, James was seen as representing both Royalists and Catholics, while William represented the Parliamentarian and Protestant factions. In Ireland, though, this particular war, unlike the Rebellion of 1641, was seen unequivocally as a war between Catholic and Protestant. Ironically, the Pope supported William, because a James victory would only add to the power of the already worrisome King of France, Louis XIV.

Again, some English history is essential. With Cromwell as the dominant figure in Parliament, the English throne had remained vacant since Charles I was beheaded in 1649. When Cromwell died in 1658, however, the Puritans began to lose control, and in 1660 they resolved their differences with the Royalists through a series of compromises known as the "Restoration". Under it, the Stuart monarchy was restored, but subject to a power sharing agreement with Parliament. Charles II (son of the beheaded Charles I) was brought back from exile to take the throne. The Anglican Church was reaffirmed as the "established" Church, but Charles II, whose father had been executed in part because of religious differences, saw fit to accord Catholics a high degree of tolerance (or benign neglect).

In 1684, Charles II was succeeded by his Stuart brother James II. James, who had converted to Catholicism in 1671, and was an advocate of an absolutist monarchy, unnerved the establishment. In his brief four year reign as King, James II alienated virtually every power base in England through a series of measures designed to increase the power of the Crown and to increase the civil rights of Catholics. James' most ominous initiative was recruiting a predominantly Catholic army in Ireland, and then partly transferring it to England. When a son was born to James in 1688, thereby insuring a Catholic succession, a plot known as the "Glorious Revolution" was hatched to overthrow James II.

James' grand-daughter Mary, and her Dutch Protestant husband, William of Orange (who was also James' nephew), accepted the invitation of several English notables to invade England, to overthrow James and to accede to the throne. When William arrived in England in November 1688, his partisans arose in rebellion in Yorkshire and elsewhere. Meanwhile James' forces deserted, and James himself fled to France. The coup d' etat was bloodless. In 1689, William and Mary were declared joint sovereigns, William III and Mary II. James II had been ousted after only four years.

But James' Catholic army in Ireland remained intact; and in an effort to regain his rightful throne, James promptly began recruiting new Irish and French troops from his exile in France. He shrewdly exploited Irish resentment over land, promising old line Irish that if his war was successful, they would recover their lands and power.

The first confrontation arose when James sent Catholic troops to Derry (then a Protestant city) to replace the existing Protestant garrison. Derry's leaders decided to welcome the new troops in the customary way, but this was highly controversial among Derry's inhabitants. Then 13 apprentice boys took matters into their own hands, seized the keys to the city gates, and slammed the gates in the faces of King James' troops. A lengthy siege of Derry followed, but William's troops finally arrived to relieve the inhabitants. Apprentice Boys Day is still a major Protestant holiday in Northern Ireland.

In March 1689, James arrived in Ireland to take charge of his army (25,000 strong). He also presided over a new and largely Catholic Parliament, which voted to overturn the earlier plantations. In June 1690, William of Orange and his army (36,000 troops, mostly non-Irish) arrived to do battle.

At the Battle of the Boyne (July 1, 1690), William's army handily defeated James' forces. In military terms, it was not a decisive victory, since Irish losses were small and their army lived to fight another day. But James immediately fled back to France, thereby (in European minds) effectively abandoning his claim to the throne.

Under Patrick Sarsfield, the Irish (with some French support) continued the fight for more than a year before suffering a devastating defeat at Aughrim. Finally, Sarsfield negotiated an honorable surrender embodied in the Treaty of Limerick (1691). Because William was anxious to move his troops to Flanders for the war against France, and also because he wanted to put behind him any challenges to the legitimacy of his reign, the Treaty was surprisingly generous to Catholics. It provided (1) that Catholics would have the same religious liberty enjoyed under Charles II, and (2) that those still resisting William, if they took an Oath of Allegiance, would be pardoned and allowed to keep their property, practice professions and bear civilian arms. Sarsfield demanded that these concessions apply not only to his own troops, but also to the entire Catholic community: It was "the first thing insisted upon by them, and agreed to by us", according to one of William's negotiators. But when the formal Treaty was presented to the English and Irish Parliaments for ratification, this latter provision -- the infamous "missing clause" -- was omitted, thereby facilitating the enactment anti-Catholic Penal laws, over the objection of King William.

The Treaty also contemplated that Sarsfield and more than 10,000 Irish troops would leave Ireland for the Continent. They did so -- the celebrated "flight of the 'Wild Geese'" -- and became legendary soldiers in the armies of France and other continental powers.

There ensued the third and final wave of 17th Century plantations (the "Williamite Plantation"), which reduced Catholic ownership of land from 22% to 14%.

Short term, the plantations were enormously successful for England. In 1603, before the Battle of Kinsale, about 95% of land in Ireland was owned by Catholics; by 1701, less than a century later, only 14% was owned by Catholics, an aggregate transfer of 81% of all productive land in Ireland. Further, the percentage of non-Irish in the population had been increased from 5% to 25%. It is possible that the Crown expected the Irish and British cultures to merge eventually (with English culture predominating, naturally), but of course this did not happen. Instead, the Plantations divided Ireland, apartheid-like, into two hostile camps, a socio-economic tinder box virtually certain to eventually explode.

--In one camp was 75% of the populace: Poverty stricken, landless, ethnically Irish (Gaelic-Irish or Norman-Irish), Gaelic speaking, Catholic, and powerless; these descendants of pre-17th Century natives thought of themselves as Irish, not English, and were more hostile than ever before towards their English conquerors.

--In the other camp was 25% of the populace: Affluent landed gentry, ethnically British (English or Scots), English speaking, Protestant (Anglican [10%] and Presbyterian [15%]), and politically dominant; these immigrants thought of themselves as the Crown's colony in Ireland, not as Irishmen (although within a few generations they began to regard themselves as a "Protestant [Irish] nation").

"Catholic versus Protestant" has been the convenient shorthand to describe divisions within Ireland, but this is overly simplistic. The important dividing line was between a conquering people (who happened to be British, English speaking and Protestant) and a vanquished people (who happened to be Irish, Gaelic speaking and Catholic). The conquerors then confiscated the land and wealth of Ireland, thus creating the class warfare which has long plagued Ireland: rich landlord versus poverty stricken tenant. No one would deny that religion, ethnicity, language and culture were and still are important components in the mutual antagonism -- particularly in segregating an individual into one of the two camps -- but the sheer longevity of these hostilities is attributable to enduring disparities in power and wealth.


*Under gravelkind, land was the common property of society, subject to preferential rights of families who worked or lived on it. And although the Gaelic lord held nominal title to land, he did so as trustee for the community, i.e., he had no power to transfer or to extinguish the community's rights in such land. But when English courts ruled that gravelkind was illegal, it followed that confiscations from the Gaelic lords also terminated peasants' rights.

**Created in 1920, Northern Ireland consists of six counties: Armagh, Londonderry (originally Coleraine), Tyrone and Fermanagh (all planted counties), plus Antrim and Down (which received major unsponsored migrations, but were not planted). The historic province of Ulster comprised all of these six counties, plus three counties now in the Republic of Ireland: Donegal and Cavin (both planted counties) plus Monaghan (which never was planted).

Ch. 8. Penal Laws, Ascendancy and "Union" With England (1692-1800).

For more than 100 years after the Treaty of Limerick (1691) -- a period later called the "Age of Penal Laws" or "Protestant Ascendancy" -- Ireland was a powder keg of social unrest due to a repressive and apartheid-like society in which a small Anglican minority (10% of the population) used its ownership of land and its control of government to deny power, influence and civil rights to Catholics (75% of the population) and to a lesser degree to Presbyterians (15%). Nevertheless, despite serious tensions that constantly threatened to erupt into widespread violence -- rich versus poor, landlord versus tenant, Catholic versus Protestant -- Ireland was able to avoid open revolution. Then in 1782 England, while still reeling from the American Revolution, permitted Ireland to evolve into a semi-autonomous (but still repressive) "Protestant Nation", a peaceful transition that contrasted dramatically with the violent Revolutions in America (1775-83) and in France (1789-99). Finally, the Rebellion of 1798, a modest and wildly unsuccessful rising led by Presbyterians, triggered a 180 degree change of direction: The Irish Parliament disavowed its autonomy and entered into a "union" (merger) with England (1800) that nearly destroyed Ireland's separate identity.

Almost immediately after the Treaty of Limerick (1691), Anglicans took decisive action to further strengthen their dominant position. Notwithstanding the Treaty, the Irish and English Parliaments, both dominated by Anglicans, enacted a series of "Penal Laws" (a.k.a. the "Popery Code") which, apartheid-like, created a three tier, Anglican controlled society in which (1) Catholics (75% of the population) would be totally excluded from property and power, and (2) Presbyterians (15% of the population) would remain subordinate to Anglicans.

Catholics and Presbyterians alike were required to tithe to the Anglican Church of Ireland, but were officially barred from government employment and military commissions. Catholics alone were barred from elective office, from entering the legal profession, from bearing arms, and from owning a horse worth more than five pounds. Upon the death of a Catholic landlord, his property by law went to his sons in equal shares, unless one of them converted to Anglicanism, in which case the Anglican son received the entire property, along with the right to immediately wrest management from his parents. Catholics were prohibited from purchasing realty, except leases of less than 31 years. (Between 1701 and 1778 Catholic ownership of land further declined from 14% to 5%). Catholics were barred from educating their children (except in schools proselytizing for the Anglican religion). Catholic bishops were banned from Ireland (under penalty of death by hanging, disemboweling and quartering). The last of the Penal Laws, enacted in 1727, denied Catholics the right to vote.

In enacting the Penal Laws, the Parliament of England was motivated almost entirely by anti-Catholic animus, but the Parliament of Ireland had additional motivation: preserving the privileged position of the New English "haves" vis-a-vis the native "have nots". William and Mary initially opposed the "Penal Laws" as violative of the Treaty, but religious freedom for Catholics was not the highest priority for William, and the Crown soon acquiesced. Except for the Cromwellian era (1649-60), the period 1692-1740 was the most anti-Catholic in Irish history. However, anti-Catholic animus peaked in the mid-1730s, then gradually subsided over the next 130 years, as anti-Catholic laws were gradually repealed, one by one.

The Penal Laws helped create the misnamed "Protestant Ascendancy", which would have been more accurately called "Anglican Dominance". Under it, all of society, and certainly all of government, was dominated by an elitist aristocracy consisting exclusively of Anglicans. The stereotypical Ascendancy gentleman attended Trinity College, lived a hard-drinking, party-oriented life of luxury in a "big house", pursued a respectable professional career in law, government, education or the military, and above all, collected high rents from his Irish tenants. But he also was insecure. His prosperity and privilege were rooted in land confiscations which, if the old line Irish ever regained control, were likely to be overturned. And he knew full well that British troops were critical in keeping the old line Irish in check.

The vast majority of Catholics lived and worked on the farm in abject poverty, degradation and despair, with no way out. Their diet consisted almost entirely of the newly introduced potato, plus milk (with a herring once or twice a year). Shelter, if any, was a mud hovel with leaky roof and no windows or chimney. Even Catholics who labored full time lived in worse degradation than the poorest beggars elsewhere in Europe. A handful of Catholics achieved middle class prosperity in business -- and their numbers grew as time went by -- but they were exceptions. In terms of compliance with law, Catholics were made criminals under the Penal Laws because they refused to turn in their "illegal" priests, and the draconian injustice of these laws engendered in them a culture of disrespect for the law generally.

Presbyterians congregated in Ulster, where typically they adhered to the culture (and religion) brought over from Scotland by their ancestors. Close knit and industrious, they responded to discrimination by distancing themselves from Ascendancy culture, becoming a self reliant community within the larger society. The typical Presbyterian pursued a middle class livelihood in the linen business or in farming.

Anglicans and Presbyterians soon found themselves in serious conflict. The principal problem was that the "established" Church of Ireland, and its Anglican members, treated the Presbyterian Religion as a second class religion, and its members (who generally were less affluent than Anglicans) as second class citizens. Although Presbyterians were treated far better than Catholics -- there were no restrictions on the right to own realty or to bear arms -- they were required to tithe to the Anglican Church of Ireland, and were prohibited from holding government office or military commissions. Many emigrated to America where their descendants served with distinction in George Washington's Revolutionary army.

The Ascendancy also resented Mother England's insistence upon treating Ireland as a subservient colony, useful primarily for enhancing the prosperity of England. British trade legislation, which typically discriminated against Ireland, was particularly grating. For example, in order to protect English manufacturers, the English Parliament prohibited the export of Irish woolen goods to any country except England, where prohibitive duties made such trade unprofitable. This legislation literally destroyed the Irish woolen industry, to the dismay of merchants of all religions. The Ascendancy lobbied constantly for a more balanced alliance, something akin to an equal partnership, provided it could be attained without losing England's military protection. But no serious effort was made to address this problem in the first half of the 18th Century, and even within the Ascendancy, discontent was rampant.

In the latter half of the 18th Century, the Western World was permanently changed by two major "revolutions": (1) The Industrial Revolution, in which labor saving machines, both on farms and in factories, permitted the "necessities" to be produced with far less manpower, thereby freeing surplus manpower to be used in the production of non-necessities, and (2) A series of violent populist revolutions -- exemplified by the American Revolution (1775-83) and the French Revolution (1789-99) -- which erupted against colonial empires and undemocratic governments. Ireland was not totally exempt from either revolution.

The Industrial Revolution, which began in England in the 1760s, bypassed most of Ireland, but it took root and flourished in and around Belfast, which became the linen center of the world, and the industrial center of Ireland. For the northeast, industrialization meant prosperity, along with stronger export and economic ties with Britain, but it also brought the start of urban problems commonly associated with industrialization: overcrowding, pollution, communicable disease, etc. By late century, Ulster Protestants – particularly Presbyterians – had become more convinced than ever that "Ulster is different from the rest of Ireland", based on the indisputable facts that (1) whereas the rest of Ireland was 80% or more Irish-Catholic, Ulster had a British-Protestant majority, or near majority, with Presbyterians outnumbering Anglicans by far, and (2) whereas the rest of Ireland remained largely agrarian, Ulster to a significant degree had become industrialized. This culture of "separateness" persisted into the 20th Century and drove the partition compromise of 1910-22.

Throughout all of Ireland in the 1760s, the long simmering tensions -- landlord versus tenant, rich versus poor, Catholic versus Presbyterian versus Anglican -- began to surface, primarily in rural areas. Secret societies were formed which became governments unto themselves. They ignored duly enacted law and established their own agendas -- primarily anti-landlord, secondarily anti-government and/or anti-tithe – which were enforced through organized violence, principally against landlords and their allies. (The violence euphemistically was called "land wars" by some, "agrarian outrages" by others.) Membership tended to be from a single religion, but religious warfare did not erupt until later in the century, when Catholics and Protestants began to compete for leases. Public attention fell principally on the Catholic societies, the "Whiteboys" and "Defenders", but Protestant societies, the "Hearts of Oak", "Steelboys", and "Peep o' Day Boys", were equally effective.

Some policy makers thought there might be a partial legislative solution to the unrest. In the 1760s, the "Patriot" movement led by Henry Gratton (an affluent and pro-business Anglican), professing loyalty to the King but demanding greater autonomy for Ireland plus concessions to Catholics, emerged as an influential minority in the Irish Parliament. As a result of Gratton's advocacy, a few of the Penal Laws were repealed in the 1770s.

The American Revolution erupted in 1776, triggering obvious comparisons between the situation of the American colonies and that of Ireland. It also forced the reassignment of British troops from Ireland to America. This led to the formation of the "Irish Volunteers", a militia (consisting almost entirely of well armed Anglicans) which ostensibly was formed to defend Ireland but which was used adroitly by Gratton to intimidate the British government.

In 1782, while still negotiating a surrender in the American Revolutionary War, England handed Gratton his greatest achievement. "Gratton's Parliament" (backed by the armed "Irish Volunteers") persuaded the British government to amend English law (including Poynings's Law) to give the Irish Parliament full legislative independence, including the right to enact its own trade and tariff policies. Conventional wisdom among Ascendancy gentlemen was that Ireland had been transformed peacefully into a nearly autonomous "Protestant Nation", but this was a gross exaggeration, since the Crown had retained all executive power, including power over patronage, plus the right to veto legislation of the Irish Parliament.

Legislative independence nevertheless was a triumph for the Protestant Ascendancy, which had long sought greater legislative autonomy, particularly in matter of trade. The Ascendancy thus reacted with pride and satisfaction which manifested itself in visible signs of sovereignty such as an independent Bank of Ireland, a separate Irish postal service, and new government buildings including the Custom House and the Four Courts.

But independence for a Parliament responsive only to the Protestant Ascendancy did little or nothing for the angry lower and middle classes, either Presbyterian or Catholic. Presbyterian tenant-farmers, generally middle class, had grievances over the mandatory tithe, certain penal laws, a wide variety of landlord abuses, and a non-representative Irish Parliament. Poverty stricken Catholics had all these grievances, and many more. Thus Catholics and less affluent Presbyterians, who together made up 90% of the population, found themselves on the same side of the major issues of the day: land reform, Parliamentary reform, elimination of the tithe, and repeal of those penal laws affecting both. Religious differences historically had precluded joint political action, but some radical reformers were beginning to see potential in a Catholic-Presbyterian political alliance.

In 1789, the French Revolution impacted Ireland like a bomb, igniting existing tensions and pushing Ireland toward similar violent revolution. In France, the peasant and middle classes had risen up to topple the government (and to behead the king and queen), to oust the established Church (and to confiscate its property), to abolish tithes, religious discrimination and privilege, and to institute a democratic republic dedicated to liberty and equality. (The French Revolution's first stage was widely admired; but its later stages, particularly the infamous "Reign of Terror", were almost universally deplored.) Now it was becoming clear that the status quo in Ireland could not be maintained, and that radical change was inevitable.

Among intellectuals, Parliamentary reform topped the list of demands for change. Not only were Catholics legally barred from serving, but only freeholders (owners and life tenants in land) could vote, and voting districts were not of equal size or population. Some voting districts -- called "pocket boroughs" or "rotten boroughs" -- had only one or two eligible voters. Among 300 seats in Commons, a majority -- more than 150 seats -- were controlled by only 30 landowners. Ironically, this worked to benefit the Crown, which used patronage jobs and pensions to induce the individuals in control -- called "undertakers" -- to undertake to enact the Crown's agenda. At any one time, between one-third and two-thirds of the Irish Parliament was receiving a salary or pension from the Crown.

Theobald Wolf Tone, an Anglican of modest social standing and the founder of radical republicanism in Ireland, was profoundly influenced by the French Revolution. To Tone, the key to a better Ireland was Parliamentary reform (i.e., a popularly elected one-man-one-vote legislature), and the key to Parliamentary reform was an alliance between Catholics and less affluent Presbyterians. Ultimately, Tone's vision for Ireland was a democratic republic, patterned after the post-revolutionary French Republic; it would be totally independent from England, governed by a popularly elected one-man-one-vote type legislature, and free from religious discrimination and preferences. In 1791, with the assistance of Napper Tandy, Tone founded the Society of United Irishmen, which originally was formed as a "debating society" peacefully advocating Protestant-Catholic cooperation to achieve parliamentary reform and Catholic emancipation. United Irishmen quickly gained wide support from Ulster Presbyterians, and modest support from some Catholics.

The post-revolution French government declared war on England in 1793. Hoping to secure the loyalty of rebellious Catholics, the British government pressured the reluctant Irish Parliament to repeal some penal laws and to grant Catholics the right to vote* (1793).

But unrest did not subside. Instead it escalated in the form of sectarian violence. The "Battle of the Diamond" (1795) near Armagh, which pitted Presbyterian Peep o' Day Boys against Catholic Defenders, left 20 dead. That same evening, Ulster Protestants formed the "Orange Order", a society of affluent and middle class Protestants who pledged support for the Protestant Ascendancy and confrontation with Catholics. Over the next few months, thousand of Catholics were driven out of Ulster by widespread and systematic violence.

About 1794, Tone crossed over the line, converting from advocate of peaceful Parliamentary reform to violent revolutionary. About the same time, the United Irishmen became a para-military force. In 1796, Tone convinced France to invade Ireland as part of its war effort against England. A French fleet carrying 14,000 troops set sail for Ireland, but as luck would have it, bad weather prevented a landing, and the fleet returned to France.

All of the powder kegs now seemed ready to explode at once. An anti-government revolution (ala the French Revolution) seemed imminent. Religious warfare already had erupted at Diamond, and seemed likely to spread. Rural violence against landlords was escalating. And a second French invasion of Ireland was expected at any time.

The government responded with a campaign to disarm the populace (1797). Initially the campaign was directed principally at Ulster Presbyterians -- Catholics already were legally prohibited from bearing arms -- but later it was expanded to include all but a handful of counties. The campaign was conducted by General Gerard Lake, who used brutal tactics with little or no restraint. Suspects against whom little evidence existed, many of them innocent, were flogged and tortured to force them to reveal information, hundreds were forced into the British navy as slave laborers, and numerous houses were burned. Lake's campaign was spectacularly successful in disarming the populace, particularly in Ulster, but it also inspired rumors -- widely believed by Catholics -- that disarmament was the first step in a joint campaign by the Orange Order and the Irish government to solve the "Catholic problem" by massacring the entire Catholic population of Ireland. Tone's followers shrewdly exploited the rumored massacre to persuade some local Defender units to merge into, and became the Catholic wing of, the Presbyterian dominated United Irishmen.

In 1798, Tone and the United Irishmen again persuaded France to invade Ireland. The plan included coordination of the French invasion with a series of local rebellions. When an informer disclosed the plot, the rebels were forced to start early. The insurrection in Ulster, led by Henry Joy McCracken, was almost entirely Presbyterian, while the ones in Dublin, Kildare, Carlow, Meath and Queen's were nonsectarian. All of these risings were serious matters, but because disarmament had been successful, all were efficiently quashed.

The rebellion in Wexford was far more serious, one of the bloodiest confrontations in Irish history. Wexford was an unlikely prospect for insurrection -- no more than 300 United Irishmen and Defenders were operating there -- but violence erupted when Protestant Volunteers, directed to enforce the disarmament order, began flogging Catholics and burning their homes even before the date specified for surrendering arms. Then a Catholic killed a soldier who had burned a barn, and government forces retaliated by burning down another 160 houses. Fully believing that a massacre of Catholics was imminent, Catholics rebelled. Led by Father John Murphy, and armed with little more than pikes against government forces with muskets, the rebels initially took Enniscorthy, then sought to expand into Wicklow. Mass atrocities occurred on both sides. In the end, the rebels were routed at Vinegar Hill (1798). Some historians regard Wexford as an extension of Tone's United Irish rebellion, but elsewhere in Ireland, the perception was that Wexford was a Catholic war against Protestants. This triggered bitter religious animosities, and destroyed (perhaps forever) Tone's dream of a political alliance between Catholics and less affluent Presbyterians.

The local uprisings all had already been suppressed when French warships arrived (with Wolf Tone aboard) and were forced to surrender. Tone was captured, convicted, and sentenced to death. Tone demanded to be shot while wearing his uniform, like a soldier and prisoner of war; the government insisted on hanging him, like a common criminal. He died in prison apparently from self inflicted wounds, almost certainly a suicide.

Despite the effective suppression of the local risings, England's Prime Minister, William Pitt, considered Irish unrest one of the greatest threats to England in history. Thus he revived a long discarded idea. He sponsored legislation (entitled "Act of Union") calling for the "union" (or merger) of England and Ireland into a single "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland" with a single Parliament. To garner Catholic support, Pitt promised Catholics the right to sit in Parliament ("emancipation"); but out of 658 seats in the new Parliament, Ireland would have only 100, and Catholics could expect to fill 70 to 75 seats at most.

Pitt's proposal was one of the most far reaching in Irish history. If adopted, it would totally reverse the Gratton Parliament's most popular achievement, legislative independence. Gratton vigorously opposed union, as did Ulster Presbyterians, the business community, parish priests and nationalists; in favor were the British government, Catholic bishops and absentee landlords. The proposal certainly would have failed in a popular vote or in a representative parliament, but the vote fell to the non-representative Irish Parliament.

When the "Act of Union" was voted on the first time (1799), it failed by only five votes; later (1800), after Pitt's deputy in Ireland had bribed some members by offering peerages and lifetime seats in the British House of Lords, the measure passed the all-Protestant Irish Parliament, and was quickly ratified by the English Parliament. In a betrayal of Catholics, Pitt's promise of Catholic emancipation was defeated in a separate follow-up vote, leading Pitt to resign. After only eighteen years as a semi-autonomous country, Ireland, by the vote of its own Parliament, had been subsumed into England.


*A follow up bill granting Catholics the right to sit in Parliament ("emancipation") failed, however.

Ch. 9. The Age of Daniel O'Connell (1801-45).

Daniel O'Connell (1775-1847), a Catholic advocate of non-violent and lawful political action, emerged in the early 1800s as the sole leader of the great masses of peasant and middle class Catholics, who comprised the vast majority of the Irish population. O'Connell dominated Irish history and politics in the first half of the 19th Century like no other single person ever had dominated a half century. This indeed was the "Age of Daniel O'Connell".

O'Connell's principal achievement was organizing previously dispirited Catholics into an extraordinary political machine which impacted England (and Ireland) for almost 100 years. Long after his death, the political machine was still able to exert disproportionate influence in the British Parliament, particularly when neither major party had the votes to form a government, or pass controversial legislation, without the Catholic voting block.

The emergence of a Catholic leader provides stark contrast to 18th Century Irish history, which is essentially the story of Protestants giants -- Wolf Tone, Henry Gratton, and Jonathan Swift -- agitating both peacefully and violently for greater independence from England, and for greater civil rights for the oppressed. However, within a few years after the Union, Presbyterians* and Anglicans alike had become pillars of the Union and had virtually disappeared from history books.

O'Connell first attracted attention as leader of an unsuccessful 1804-07 movement for "emancipation". The issue: Even though Catholics had been granted the right to vote in 1793, they still were prohibited by law from serving in Parliament. "Emancipation" was the term given to repeal of this prohibition, which (as the most notorious of the remaining penal laws) held great symbolic significance**.

O'Connell made a genuine impact in 1823 when he founded the "Catholic Association". Earlier Catholic societies had been for the affluent and the elite, but the Catholic Association aimed for, and actually attained, grass roots mass membership. It used parish priests to solicit members, and most important of all, it charged a membership fee of one penny per month, which became known as "catholic rent." The amount was so low that even the poorest could afford it, but for their penny, the masses soon came to believe in the association as an empowering institution in which they had a genuine stake.

By 1826, O'Connell's Catholic Association began to flex previously unused Catholic muscle. The first goal, naturally, was emancipation. The association enacted a policy to actively oppose, and vote en mass against, any candidate who was anti-emancipation, or who joined the cabinet of an anti-emancipation government. In the general elections of 1826, as the result of an impressive get-out-the-vote drive funded by Catholic rents and supported by many priests, four sitting anti-emancipation members of Parliament were turned out and replaced by pro-emancipation Protestants. O'Connell immediately began to fine-tune his strategy for a truly massive campaign in the next general election.

Before the next general election arrived, however, Vesey Fitzgerald, who had represented Clare in Parliament for ten years, was appointed to the cabinet. Under the law at that time, he was required to stand for reelection at a special election in 1928. Fitzgerald personally was pro-emancipation, and certainly no enemy of Catholics, but he had joined a government that was anti-emancipation, thereby requiring the Association, as a matter of policy, to oppose him. Fitzgerald was so strong that O'Connell could not find any Protestant to run against him. O'Connell therefore declared himself a candidate, thus exploiting a loophole in the election law. Specifically, although the law clearly prohibited Catholics from being sworn in as a Member of Parliament, it did not explicitly prohibit Catholics from filing as a candidate and running for election.

The election results shocked Parliament. O'Connell won by more than a two to one margin (2,057 to 982) over the well respected Fitzgerald, largely because of O'Connell's now highly effective political machine.

Parliament reacted quickly. To avoid the disorders that were expected to follow its refusal to seat O'Connell, Parliament in 1829 passed legislation that not only granted Catholic Emancipation, but repealed virtually all of the remaining Penal Laws as well.

As a member of Parliament, O'Connell played a significant role in several modest reforms for Ireland. The tithe was restructured as a less ideologically offensive rental charge, the number of eligible voters was expanded, corruption in municipal government was addressed, and some modest land reforms were enacted. Overall, though, O'Connell was disappointed at how little he could achieve with his bloc of Irish votes in Commons.

Thus in 1837, O'Connell launched his second great agitation: a grass roots campaign to repeal the Act of Union of 1800. Now a proven organizational genius and compelling orator, O'Connell devised his campaign strategy around "monster" grass roots political demonstrations, which were to be both non-violent and in full conformity with law. O'Connell believed these demonstrations would call worldwide attention to the injustice of the bribe infected vote in 1800 on the Act of Union, and pressure Parliament into "Repeal".

The demonstrations were enormous, and indeed caught the attention of the government. During 1843, more than 40 monster meetings were held and many attracted crowds in excess of 100,000. One demonstration, at Tara, drew 250,000. As Repeal fever approached its peak, O'Connell scheduled what was to be the largest demonstration of all, at Clontarf in October 1843. Only a few hours before the Clontarf demonstration, however, the government issued an order banning the protest. O'Connell thus faced a dilemma by virtue of his own long held insistence that all demonstrations be in full conformity with law.

Much to the dismay of his militant young supporters -- who were called "Young Ireland" -- O'Connell called off the demonstration. Unfortunately for O'Connell, then age 68, this triggered acrimonious debates during which the young militants challenged O'Connell on a variety of long suppressed but highly divisive issues, including whether violence ever could be justified. O'Connell's Catholic Association already was on the verge of fracture when the Great Hunger (1845-48), a.k.a. potato famine, diverted attention away from grass roots politics. Four years after Clontarf, in 1847, O'Connell was dead at age 72.

O'Connell was a pioneer in using lawful and non-violent demonstrations to energize and organize his followers. Later advocates of peaceful protest -- Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King -- borrowed his tactics, but they also learned from his experience that a protest movement cannot be so dedicated to conforming with law that it acquiesces in a government declaration that a peaceful protest is illegal. If demonstrations (O'Connell's principal weapon) always had to be lawful, the government could and would always win, simply by banning demonstrations.


*The mystery is what happened to change attitudes among Ulster Presbyterians, those 1795-99 firebrands, followers of Henry Joy McCracken, who advocated a republic similar to revolutionary France, who demanded independence from, not union with England, who flocked to the Society of United Irishman and took arms in rebellion against the British, who supported Wolf Tone when he twice invited France to invade Ireland, and who were the most vigorous opponents of the Act of Union? Perhaps they were horrified by the Reign of Terror atrocities in the latter stages of the French Revolution. Perhaps they felt Tone went too far in inviting France to invade Ireland. Perhaps it was the growing prosperity of Ulster. Whatever the reason, by 1820 Ulster Presbyterians had settled comfortably into the Union. Indeed, when Daniel O'Connell started a new movement in the 1830s to repeal the Act of Union, he received virtually no support from those northern Presbyterians whose fathers had been United Irishmen.

**Some observers regarded "emancipation" as a non-substantive distraction from more serious economic issues, since in the unreformed Parliament of that era, few Catholics ever could be elected, and similar representation could be achieved by electing pro-Catholic Protestants. These commentators overlook the value of the issue in energizing and organizing Catholics.

Ch. 10. An Gorta Mor, a.k.a Great Hunger, a.k.a Potato Famine (1845-1849).

The holocaust formerly called "Potato Famine" was not a genuine "famine" at all, because only the potato crop was affected, while the vast majority of farmland was planted to other crops and foodstuffs which were grown in sufficient quantities -- or at least nearly sufficient quantities* -- to feed the populace. Hence the human tragedy -- one million dead -- is now more accurately called the "Great Hunger" ("An Gorta Mor" in Irish/Gaelic). Whatever it is called, the disaster resulted from (1) the fungus that totally ravaged the potato crop in 1845, 1846 and 1848, and partially ravaged it in 1847, and (2) government indifference. It not only devastated the Irish people of 1845-49, it had profound long term effects on Ireland, effects that remain to this day. Specifically:

--Before the Great Hunger, the population of Ireland was 8.5 million. Afterwards, the population was only 6.5 million, a decline of two million (23.5%) in four years. About half of the decline was due to death by starvation or some associated disease (cholera, typhus) which became fatal in the conditions of malnutrition. The other half of the population decline was due to emigration, principally to the United States, but even among those officially classified as "emigrants", a staggering number actually died at sea on the "coffin ships"**. Even after the famine, emigration continued, as Irish newly arrived in the United States urged family and friends to follow them. By 1881, the Irish population had declined to 5 million; by 1921 (partition), to slightly over 4 million.

--Before the Hunger, Gaelic was the principal language among Catholics. Afterwards, English became the predominant language, largely because death and emigration hit hardest in the poorest areas where Gaelic was most common; the Gaelic speaking Counties of Mayo and Kerry, for example, lost half their populations.

--Before the Hunger, early marriages and large families were integral to Irish culture. Afterwards, late marriages and smaller families became the norm. It became an axiom that man should not marry and have children until he had saved sufficient money to weather a disaster.

--The trend toward late marriage dove-tailed with a "devotional revolution" characterized by greater compliance strict Catholic teaching on sexual morality, increased attendance at Catholic mass, expanded church building, and a dramatic increase in the number of priests and nuns.

–Before the Hunger, a full 45% of farmland was held in inefficient farms of 5 acres or less, while only 7% was in farms of 30 acres or more. Afterwards, sub-5 acre farms dropped to 15%, while the more efficient farms of 30 acres or more increased to 26%. Thus the Hunger forced a much more efficient agricultural economy, but at the terrible price of one million dead and even more emigrated.

--Before the Great Hunger, political sentiment ran towards abstract ideas, such as repeal of the Union. Afterwards, the electorate focused on "bread and butter" issues such as agrarian reform.

The cause of the crop failures, we now know, was a fungus called phytophthora infestans, also known as potato blight. It had struck the eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada in 1842, and England in 1845, but had caused no great distress. In Ireland, however, it spelled disaster. In September 1845, the potato blight hit Waterford and Wexford, then spread rapidly until about half the island was affected. It hit hard again in 1846, less hard in 1847, then again destroyed the crop in 1848.

What is shocking about the famine is that throughout this entire four year period of starvation, Ireland was exporting enormous quantities of food. Indeed, up to 75% of the soil was devoted to wheat, oats, barley and other crops which were grown for export, and which were actually exported, all while the populace starved.

The problem was that about half the population -- all wretchedly poor -- worked on farms not for cash wages, but for the right to grow potatoes on tiny plots. They lived on a subsistence diet consisting almost exclusively of potatoes and milk, with a herring once or twice a year. When the potato crop failed, these peasants had neither food for their families, nor cash to buy other food***. Initially, only the poor died, victims of starvation. Then as typically happens in conditions of starvation, epidemics of typhus and cholera broke out, felling the affluent along with the poor. In toto, about one million died.

When the first signs of the crop failure appeared in 1845, Britain's Tory government under Prime Minister Robert Peel took modest initiatives to alleviate the distress. It paid half the cost of jobs for about 140,000 family heads on public works, which (to protect English business) were required by law to be non-productive, and it matched local voluntary contributions to hunger relief. It also imported large quantities of Indian corn and meal from the United States; incredibly, however, the government refused to distribute this food free, instead placing it on the market at low prices to prevent artificial increases in food prices.

Peel firmly opposed more radical measures. The starvation very likely could have been averted entirely by legislation prohibiting the export of food from Ireland; and any hardship on growers could have been avoided by legislation authorizing purchase of their grain using borrowed money, with repayment to be made over a period of years from increased agricultural taxes. But feeding the populace by interfering with exports was never seriously considered by Peel's government, in part because the expense might fall on the growers and/or the public treasury. Instead, Peel used the famine as an opportunity to push through his favored but controversial proposal: Repeal of the protectionist "corn laws", which imposed stiff tariffs on grain (including but not limited to corn) brought in from outside the United Kingdom. Repeal of the "corn laws" reduced food prices (as Peel intended), but did nothing to alleviate the hunger, since the starving poor could not afford food whatever the price.

The controversial repeal of the "corn laws" helped topple Peel's Tory government in June 1846. The Tories were replaced by an even less compassionate Whig government under Lord John Russell, who delegated the potato blight problem to Charles Trevelyan, the career civil service Head of Treasury. At this point, although people were hungry, no one yet had died. But the Whigs (and Trevelyan personally) were committed to the trendy Manchester school of economics, which regarded the suffering of the poor as part of the natural order of things, and prohibited government meddling in the operation of otherwise free markets. The Whig government decided that in the event of another crop failure, there would be no direct relief from the British treasury; instead, relief would be limited to public works jobs funded entirely by Irish self-taxation.

There was indeed a second failure, in autumn 1846, and this time it was complete. Making matters worse, the winter of 1846-47 was the harshest in living memory. Now the dying began. The suffering reached its peak in February 1847, when hundreds of thousands of homeless, freezing and starving peasants left the farms for the towns, hoping for employment in public works, which already had hired 500,000 family heads. Cholera and typhus then broke out, and some died from disease, some of starvation, and some froze to death, hundreds of thousands in all. Finally, the Whig government was forced to relent and extend some direct aid through the "Soup Kitchen Act" providing free soup to the starving. This was augmented by charity from the Quakers and other private groups. The aid was too little and too late, as hundreds of thousands more perished, and Ireland literally ran out of coffins. When sailing weather arrived, panic emigration started in earnest.

Blight hit less hard in the autumn of 1847, but this simply furnished the British government with a convenient excuse for closing down the soup kitchens. Trevelyan wrote: "The only way to prevent people from becoming habitually dependent on the government is to bring operations to a close" [1846] "too much has been done for the people. . . we must now try what independent exertion can do" [1847]. He announced that the government had already done everything it was going to do, even if blight and starvation returned.

Blight indeed did return with the harvest of October 1848, and it destroyed virtually the entire potato crop. And with no government assistance at all, 1848-49 proved to be just as bad, if not worse, 1846-47. Hundreds of thousands more perished, routinely falling dead on the streets; and in the extreme conditions of starvation and illness, their bodies sometimes were left unburied for weeks at a time. One road inspector reported burying 140 corpses scattered along his route. The magnitude of fatalities was so overwhelming that authorities were unable to record the precise number of deaths, but fatalities certainly approached one million.

Finally, with the 1849 harvest, the potato blight and the famine were over. But Irish culture would never be the same. Long standing animosity towards England now became a genuine hatred (called "Anglophobia" by some commentators). Further, a grim "never again" mentality, similar to that of Jewish survivors of Auschwitz a century later, took root among famine survivors who felt embarrassment over a culture that allowed family members to die passively rather than forcibly expropriate food grown on Irish land which (prior to the British) was the common property of society. In the century that followed, otherwise law abiding Irishmen found themselves supporting anti-British terrorist groups, such as the IRA.

In retrospect, no one can be blamed for the potato blight itself, which like earthquake or flood, was a natural disaster; but the British response was wrongheaded, indifferent and utterly devoid of common sense and compassion. The tragedy likely could have been avoided entirely by appropriate legislation which fed the populace with food grown for export. Some commentators have equated the government's non-action with genocide, but a better analysis would be a callous indifference towards an unsupportive ethnic group long perceived as less than 100% human, coupled with an unwillingness to spend taxpayer money on such undeserving and ungrateful people.


*Experts agree that one acre can sustain 2 people if planted to wheat, or 4 people if planted to potatoes. Ireland had 6,000,000 tillable acres in 1845, on the eve of the Hunger. Professor Edmund Curtis (in A History of Ireland) states that 75% (4,500 acres) was planted to crops other than potatoes, while Professor Cormac O'Grada (in The Great Irish Famine) estimates two-thirds (4,000 acres). If Curtis' 4,500 acres is accepted, there was grown enough non-potato food for 9 million people, or 500,000 more than the population, and this does not even include fish taken from the sea or the minimal percent of the potato crop which survived. If O'Grada's 4,000 acres is accepted, there was grown enough food for 8 million people, about 500,000 fewer than the 1845 population, but this does not include fish from the sea or the unaffected potatoes. It must be remembered, however, that distribution is never perfect - there always will be some who discard surplus food while others starve.

**On the seven week ocean voyage to the United States and Canada, the ships' crews typically protected themselves from cholera, which was rampant in Ireland, by nailing the ships' holds shut to keep the emigrants in the unbelievably crowded and unhealthy squalor below board. Based on Canadian statistics, it is estimated that in these unhealthy conditions, about 20% of passengers died at sea, while another 20% arrived sick with fever, so sick that they probably died within weeks. Hence the name "coffin ships".

***Food from Britain and elsewhere in Europe certainly would have found its way to Ireland if the starving peasants had had the cash to purchase it. But the peasants had no cash, so they died. For this reason, some historians and economists regard the Irish holocaust as more of a poverty crisis than a food crisis.

Ch. 11. Land Reform: Davitt and Parnell (1850-1891).

After the devastating famine, lower and middle class Irish-Catholics understandably became obsessed with mere survival. They also became bitterly divided over the merits of peaceful politics. The non-violent ("constitutional") philosophy of O'Connell -- that reform could be achieved through Parliamentary action -- lost credibility*, which is hardly surprising given Parliament's callous indifference during the famine. Disillusioned pacifists tended to seek refuge in the Catholic Church, which attained more influence than it had enjoyed for centuries, while a more violent ("revolutionary" or "physical force") segment of Irish society gained support; they argued that the British government would never respond to "constitutional" measures, and advocated violence to effectuate reform. Then in 1878 a major farm crisis revived demands for genuine land reform, which became a surprising reality through an alliance between"constitutional" politics (under Charles Stewart Parnell) and "revolutionary" intimidation of landlords (under Michael Davitt).

The violent element of society was exemplified by a handful of zealous separatists, adherents of Wolf Tone who called themselves "Republicans". These revolutionaries advocated an Irish Republic totally separate and independent from England, to be achieved by any means required, including physical force. Even during the height of the famine (1848), a group called Young Ireland -- mostly former O'Connell supporters disillusioned over the failure of working within the law -- had mounted an unsuccessful "war of independence". One of the rebels, James Stephens (a Protestant), avoided prison by faking his own funeral and fleeing to France; he returned to reorganize Young Ireland into the "Fenian" movement (1858), with one branch in Ireland (called the Irish Republican Brotherhood, or "IRB") and another in the United States (called the Fenian Brotherhood, later Clan na Gael). The Fenian strategy was to prepare secretly for an armed rebellion to be launched when Britain found itself in a debilitating war or otherwise vulnerable. While some Fenians were willing to exploit issues such as land reform to broaden support for independence, the true believers felt such issues were distractions. In 1867, the Fenians killed 30 Londoners while blowing up the outer wall of the Clerkenwell prison in an unsuccessful prison break attempt; and they sponsored uprisings in 1865 and 1867. Although these Fenian endeavors were uniformly unsuccessful, they kept alive the flame of revolutionary nationalism, not to mention the IRB itself. Indeed, when finally the events of 1916-22 unfolded -- the Easter Rising, the revolutionary government of Sinn Fein, the "troubles", civil war, and near independence but with partition -- it was the Fenian IRB that violently forced the issues. In James Stephens' own lifetime, however, the Fenians were ineffectual except in garnering publicity.

The Fenians' failed risings of 1865 and 1867 had one unintended consequence. In 1869, legislation was enacted abolishing the tithe and repealing the laws that "established" the Anglican Church as the official Church of Ireland (1869). Prime Minister William Gladstone later acknowledged that the Fenians' violent activities precipitated the measure.

The Fenians' emphasis on violence was dramatically at odds with O'Connell's insistence on peaceful political activity within the law, even though both movements sought the same goal: greater independence from England. From this conflict emerged a new two-pronged concept, called the "New Departure", under which the "physical force" (violence-tolerant) and "constitutional" (non-violent) factions would not fight one another, but would cautiously cooperate, each in its own sphere, towards the common goal.

Ironically, agricultural land reform -- the issue which was regarded as a distraction by hard core Fenians, but which had obsessed the populace since the 17th Century confiscations -- became the focus of the "New Departure" strategy. In the winter of 1878-79, an economic crisis -- brought on by crop failures, falling crop prices, and wet weather -- threatened the rural population with a disaster comparable to the famine. It brought to the fore Michael Davitt, a Fenian Catholic, who formed an alliance with Charles Stewart Parnell, a pro-Catholic legislator who was both a landlord and a Protestant, to effectuate comprehensive land reform in Ireland. Davitt and Parnell made strange bedfellows.

Michael Davitt (1846-1906) was the working class son of a tenant farmer who had been evicted from his Mayo farm during the famine because his potato crop failed and he could not pay his rent. The family moved to Lankershire, England, where at the age of 11 Michael lost his right arm in a machine while working in a cotton mill. A Catholic who was taught by a Wesleyan schoolteacher, he accepted religious diversity as a way of life and identified with all workers, English and Irish alike. Upon returning to Ireland, he became a leader in the IRB, where his Fenian activities earned him a 15 year prison sentence, of which he served seven. Unlike the more zealous Fenians, who saw land reform as a distraction from the real issue of independence, Davitt had genuine concern for the tenant farmers, and made agricultural land reform his overriding issue. In 1879, two years after his release from prison (and in the midst of the farm crisis of 1878-79), he founded the National Land League, which became the less respectable prong of the "New Departure" dual approach to agricultural land reform, i.e., the Land League was not above using intimidation and threats of violence.

To achieve what he regarded as justice for tenant farmers, Davitt's Land League used some of O'Connell's perfectly legal methods -- mass meetings and brass bands -- plus societal ostracism. Occasionally, in the tradition of the Whiteboys and the Defenders, it used intimidation and violence or threats of violence. The League would identify landlords who had been guilty of "abuses" -- unfair evictions or rack-renting -- then focus public attention on these landlords, and organize the entire community to refuse them all goods and services, including labor to work the farm. "Grabbers" -- persons who became the new tenant farmer after an unfair eviction -- were ostracized. In one spectacularly successful example, the League used these tactics to bring one absentee landlord from Mayo to his knees. Eventually, the landlord harvested his crop, but only after bringing in 50 laborers at a cost ten times the value of the crop. The landlord's on-site agent was named "Boycott", whose name was added to the dictionary to describe the League's tactics. The Land League had other impressive successes, but absent the emergence of Parnell as their champion in Parliament, it is unlikely that the Land League ever could have effectuated permanent or widespread reform.

Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891) was by inheritance an affluent Protestant landlord, but his heritage was hardly pro-British. On his fathers' side, his great grandfather, an incorruptible member of the 1800 Irish Parliament, had voted against the Union. On his mother's side, his ancestors had emigrated from Belfast to America in the 1770s, and his grandfather had fought against England in the War of 1812. An intransigent nationalist, he was elected to the British Parliament in 1875 from a largely Catholic district in Meath. Initially, he made his name by obstructing other legislation to gain consideration of home rule for Ireland. Then Davitt persuaded him to become the parliamentary champion of land reform, i.e., the second prong of the Davitt's New Departure strategy. Paradoxically, then, this affluent Protestant landlord became the leader of the land reform movement, as well as the Home Rule movement. To the great mass of peasant and middle class citizens, Catholic and Presbyterian alike, he shortly became one of the most beloved men in Ireland. Among affluent Protestants, of course, he was considered a traitor to his class. In 1880, with massive grass roots assistance from Davitt's Land League, a slate of Parnell supporters was elected to Parliament, and Parnell supplanted Isaac Butt as chairman of the Irish party.

The Davitt-Parnell alliance paid dividends almost immediately. Prodded by Parnell, Gladstone and his Liberal government successfully pushed through the Land Act of 1881, incorporating the long standing demands of tenant farmers known as the "three Fs" (1) "fair rents" (legal review of rent fairness by an independent tribunal), (2) "fixity of tenure" (protection against arbitrary eviction), and (3) "freedom of sale" (the right of a tenant farmer to transfer or sell his leasehold in the farm). The 1881 Act paved the way for additional reforms in 1891 and 1896; and much later, after Parnell, Davitt and Gladstone were all dead, the Wyndham land act (1906) completed the reforms by permitting tenants to purchase their farms on easy terms over 68 years, while offering a bonus to selling landlords. The vast majority of Irishmen depended on farming for their livelihood, and for them it is virtually impossible to overemphasize the importance of these victories, particularly the 1881 Act. For over 270 years they had been agitating unsuccessfully for land reform. Now the New Departure, with Davitt and Parnell playing key roles, won had for Irish who worked the land, Catholics and Presbyterians alike, their first genuine bread-and-butter victory in 270 years.

Now the political winds began to shift strongly in Parnell's favor. Parliament enacted a "franchise act" expanding the electorate throughout Britain; in Ireland, it added some 500,000 new voters to the rolls, most of whom were less affluent Catholics who supported Parnell. And since land reform had largely been achieved, the Land League permitted itself to be transformed into a highly efficient political machine under Parnell's control.

Parnell returned to his earlier goal: A subordinate ("Home Rule") parliament for Ireland. The idea was not new. It had been raised in the 1840s both by O'Connell and by Young Ireland, and had been pursued unsuccessfully by Isaac Butt (Parnell's predecessor as leader of the Irish Party). In the 1880s was certain to be killed by the House of Lords. Nonetheless, with Parnell behind it, Home Rule became the highly divisive and defining issue of the 1885 election. Conservatives opposed it as the first step towards breaking up the empire, but the most passionate resistance came from Protestants, particularly Ulster Presbyterians, because any Home Rule Parliament was certain to be dominated by Catholics. The election inflamed dormant religious antagonisms, polarizing anti-Home Rule "Unionists" (generally Protestant) from pro-Home Rule "Nationalists" (generally Catholic), a split that eventually (1910) evolved into private armies. But in 1885, Parnell's Irish party won 86 seats, exactly the separation between Liberals (335) and Conservatives (249). A deal was struck: Gladstone announced support for Home Rule, and with Irish support became prime minister for the third time. But Gladstone's Liberal Party split over his 1886 Home Rule Bill, and it was defeated in Commons, a defeat that was widely viewed as a temporary postponement.

Parnell seemed politically invincible until 1890, when a divorce court revealed that he had been "living in sin" with the wife of William Henry O'Shea. Gladstone forced the Irish party to choose between Parnell's leadership and his own support for a second Home Rule bill. A majority in the Irish Party, and the Catholic bishops, turned against Parnell, who took his case to the country, but in doing so he overburdened his precarious health and died soon after. Gladstone's second Home Rule passed the House of Commons but was killed in the House of Lords (1893). Parliament (but not the Irish Party) then placed Home Rule on the back burner.

With the fall of Parnell and the failure of Home Rule, the passion went out of Irish politics, and there ensued a 20 year period of tranquility plus modest progress for Ireland (1890-1910). After considerable infighting, leadership of the Irish party eventually fell to the docile John Redmond, while successive British governments adopted the policy of placating Ireland in an attempt to "kill Home Rule with kindness". The government spent extraordinary sums in Ireland on two new colleges, plus public works projects such as a railroad to western Ireland. Most importantly, the government passed the final piece of comprehensive land reform, the aforementioned Wyndham Land Act (1903), which permitted tenants to purchase their farms on easy terms over 68 years.

In abandoning politics and rebellion, the Irish populace turned to a nostalgic study of "Irish Ireland", an exploration of their ethnic and national identity. The Gaelic League was founded in 1893 by Douglas Hyde, later President of the Irish Free State, to revive the Gaelic language and culture. The Gaelic Athletic Association, formed in 1884, promoted traditional Irish games -- hurling and Irish football -- in place of "foreign" games. William Butler Yeats, acknowledged as the greatest English language poet of his era, spearheaded a literary revival emphasizing Irish roots and national identity. A series of periodicals advocated a return to Gaelic roots. None of this was overtly political, yet it dove-tailed with the trendy new concept among political scientists that a separate cultural identity justified carving new states out of existing larger states. Thus this "Irish Ireland" movement later became a critical factor in turning world opinion in favor of Ireland in its quest for independence.

One of the few overtly political manifestations of the "Irish Ireland" movement was the formation of Sinn Fein ("we ourselves") in 1905 by Arthur Griffith (1872-1922). Sinn Fein was primarily an Irish nationalist movement, but it also functioned as a minor and largely unsuccessful political party. Under Griffith's direction, it advocated a dual monarchy along Austro-Hungarian lines, all to be achieved by passive resistance rather than physical force. Meanwhile, the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) was infiltrating the nationalist and separatist groups, including Sinn Fein, still waiting for the opportunity to foment rebellion if England should find itself in a debilitating war.


* Disillusionment over the legislative process (vis-a-vis violent revolution) further skyrocketed after the 1852 election. A slate of candidates ran on a "Tenant Right" agenda, pledging to vote as a block and to refuse to serve in any cabinet not pledged to "Tenant Right". When 48 of them were elected, they joined other Irish members (the so-called "Pope's brass band") to help topple Lord Derby's Tory government, but then two of them -- John Sadleir and William Keogh -- broke their pledge and took lucrative cabinet positions in Lord Aberdeen's new government, which did not support Tenant Right. Cynicism only increased subsequently when Keogh committed suicide, and Sadleir was convicted of fraud in an unrelated case.

Ch. 12. The Easter Rising and Independence, But With Partition (1910-32).

The 20 year period of tranquility (1890-1910) -- with England "killing Home Rule with kindness" and Ireland cooperating with England -- proved to be the calm before the storm. In the next dozen years, a series of earth shaking events exploded with bewildering speed: World War I, the Easter Rising, Sinn Fein's revolutionary government, the Anglo-Irish guerilla war, the Treaty granting independence but with partition, and the Irish Civil War.

The era began with the 1910 elections, when neither the Liberal Party nor the Tories won enough seats to form a government without votes from Redmond's Irish party. Once again (as in 1885) a deal was struck. Redmond's Irish party cast their votes in favor of the Liberal, Herbert Asquith, for Prime Minister, and he then was able to form a coalition government. In turn, the new government agreed to force through Parliament a bill giving Ireland a separate Home Rule Parliament in Dublin with relatively modest powers over local issues.

Since the electorate was 75% Catholic, the proposed Home Rule Parliament naturally would be dominated by Catholics. It followed that Irish Protestants, who (on this issue) were called "unionists", continued their passionate resistance to Home Rule, which they characterized as "Rome Rule". Opposition was particularly strong among Ulster Presbyterians, who constituted a majority in the northeast. Legislatively, the overriding priority of unionists was to defeat Home Rule entirely; but among Ulster Presbyterians, there was a fallback position, to exclude Ulster, or some part of it*, through partition. Protestant-unionists found a champion in Edward Carson, a Tory Member of Parliament ("M.P.") from Dublin. Carson's only true goal was to defeat Home Rule entirely, but he urged the exclusion of Ulster as a ploy to split the pro-Home Rule voting bloc. Then Ulster unionists, to protect against legislative failure, formed an armed paramilitary group, the Ulster Volunteers, to wage war against the proposed new government unless it excluded Ulster. Naturally, supporters of Home Rule -- with the IRB playing a major role -- formed their own paramilitary group, the Irish Volunteers, to counteract the Ulster Volunteers. Ireland seemed to be drifting towards civil war, and Redmond came under increasing pressure to agree to the exclusion of Ulster from Home Rule.

World War I broke out in August 1914, pitting Germany (and its allies) against Great Britain (and its allies). Britain quickly realized that Irish Home Rule was not its most pressing issue. Home Rule legislation was quickly enacted, and placed on the statute books, but with provisos that the effective date was postponed (1) until after the war, and (2) until after a vote on some form of Ulster opt-out amendment to be drafted later. Redmond's Irish party, and most Irishmen, supported the English war effort, with 150,000 Irishmen voluntarily enlisting in the British army. But a significant minority opposed the war, and soon 15,000 anti-war (and anti-British) troops under Eoin MacNeill, a respected scholar and Gaelic Leaguer, split off from the main body of Irish Volunteers.

Postponement of Home Rule hardened attitudes, and Home Rule supporters began to demand full or nearly full independence, rather than the limited autonomy provided in the 1914 legislation. For the IRB, meanwhile, Britain's war with Germany was the opportunity it had been awaiting for 50 years. The IRB leadership -- including Padraic Pearse, Joseph Plunkett and Eamon Ceannt – decided to mount an armed insurrection, even though it might be doomed to failure. For its troops, the IRB expected to use MacNeill's 15,000 Irish Volunteers, but this plan was seriously flawed because MacNeill, who had long insisted that any rising have good prospects for success, had to be excluded from IRB planning. For additional troops, the IRB formed an alliance with James Connolly's militant Citizen Army, which arose from the 1913 Dublin strike and lockout of 24,000 workers, and which fused Irish nationalism with Marxist concepts of class struggle and workers rights. On behalf of the IRB, Roger Casement traveled to Germany seeking military assistance, but his efforts failed.

The IRB leadership eventually came to realize that their insurrection had no chance of success in military terms. But Pearse, a poet and Gaelic scholar, believed that a rebirth of Irish nationalism required "blood sacrifice," the making of martyrs each generation, and he was willing to give his own life in the insurrection to achieve that end.

Shortly before Easter 1916, the IRB leaders issued orders to the Irish Volunteers to begin the insurrection. When MacNeill learned of the order, he issued an order countermanding it. Thereafter, "Counter-countermanding orders" were issued by the IRB leadership.

The Rising was intended to commence on Easter Sunday, and to be nationwide, but due to confusion over the orders and countermanding orders, it began on Easter Monday (April 24, 1916) and was largely confined to Dublin. Proclaiming the existence of an Irish Republic, the rebels, 1600 strong, seized and held a number of public buildings, including the General Post Office on Sackville Street, which became command headquarters. Originally, the British fell back in surprise at such an audacious and obviously doomed rebellion, but they soon brought in reinforcements and methodically began to pound the rebels into submission. The fighting lasted five days, during which British forces suffered about 500 casualties, including 112 dead. The rebels surrendered on April 29.

Irish and British newspapers reported that the Rising had been sponsored by Sinn Fein. This was erroneous. The Rising was sponsored by the IRB, and Sinn Fein had nothing to do with it, although some of the rebels may have been affiliated with Sinn Fein.

Four days later, the executions began, secretly, and after abbreviated and secret trials. By May 10, eleven days after the surrender, 15 of the rebels had been shot, including Pearse, whose execution won him the martyrdom that he had sought, and Connolly, who was tied to a chair because his wounds prevented him from standing before the firing squad. Martial law was imposed, during which a number of innocent civilians were shot, including Francis Skeffington, a lovable character and pacifist who had witnessed a British soldier shoot an unarmed boy, but who otherwise was totally unconnected with the Rising.

Originally, the Rising was highly unpopular with the citizenry. Shoppers derisively jeered the rebels as they were marched off to jail, and newspapers expressed shock, horror and dismay. And with 112 British troops dead, no one could have been surprised by the executions. But then, almost inexplicably, the quick executions, after brief trials without customary legal safeguards or appeals, caused the national mood to swing in favor of the rebels. One key factor was George Bernard Shaw's persuasive observation that the rebels were not traitors to Mother England (as charged in the trials), but rather were "prisoners of war" in a 750 year on-going war against England. Another factor was M.P. John Dillon's address to Parliament commending the rebels for their clean fight and suggesting his support. The heavy handed enforcement of martial law by 40,000 troops, and above all Britain's clumsy threat of involuntary conscription all contributed to the reversal in popular opinion. All of this reminded Irish Catholics that Ireland never wanted anything from England except to be left alone, and now Ireland's best and brightest young men were about to be conscripted as cannon fodder in England's war against the Germans, with whom the Irish had no quarrel. Within six weeks, popular ballads and poems were exalting the executed rebels, particularly Pearse, as "martyred prisoners of war", and pictures of the "martyrs" were hanging in virtually every Catholic pub in Ireland. Participation in the Easter Rising became an unbeatable credential for aspiring politicians, including Eamon de Valera, Michael Collins, Cathal Brugha and the celebrated Countess Constance Markievicz** all of whom participated in the Rising.

All of this worked against Redmond and his Irish Parliamentary party, which was regarded as too accommodating towards the British. The beneficiary was Sinn Fein, which had been a near zero factor in Irish politics until 1916, when the media erroneously gave it credit for sponsoring the Easter Rising. World War I ended in October, 1918, and general elections for the British Parliament were held two months later. Redmond's Irish Parliamentary Party, which had monopolized the "Catholic seats" for decades, was directly challenged by Sinn Fein, whose candidates pledged to boycott the British Parliament, and instead to constitute themselves the legislature of a revolutionary Republic of Ireland. When the votes were counted, the Irish Parliamentary party -- formerly the party of Parnell and Redmond -- had won only 6 seats, a humiliating defeat, while Sinn Fein had elected 73 members. (Protestant-unionists took 26 seats.) Many of the victorious Sinn Fein candidates were veterans of the Easter Rising, and indeed 36 of the 73 remained in jail. Most were young, and even some women were elected. Some, including Collins, were members of the IRB, but most were not. Also elected -- a departure from the violent norm -- was Arthur Griffith, the pacifist founder of Sinn Fein, who had taken no part in the Easter Rising.

Honoring their pledge, the successful Sinn Fein candidates met in Dublin in January 1919 and followed an agenda borrowed from the American and French Revolutions. They passed a Declaration of Independence and "ratified" the Republic that had originally been proclaimed at the Easter Rising in 1916. They declared themselves to be the Dail Eireann, and passed resolutions declaring that the Dail Eireann had the exclusive power to make laws binding on the Irish people, and that the British Parliament had no jurisdiction over Ireland. They demanded that England evacuate the entire Ireland. They established Republican courts, which subsequently gained the confidence of the citizenry. The Dail then elected a government, with de Valera as President and Griffith as Vice President. Collins was appointed Minister of Finance, as well as Commander (but not Chief of Staff) of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the name given to the new government's militia, which consisted of former members of the Irish Volunteers; this latter appointment was disingenuous, however, because their Dail's control over the IRA was less than complete.

The Irish revolution was now in progress, but who was really in charge? The Dail, which consisted almost entirely of Sinn Fein politicians, had won the hearts and minds of the people, and therefore could not be excluded from further progress of the revolution, but the Dail was not really in charge. The real power resided in the well armed IRA (15,000 active members, perhaps 80,000 standby), which had an independent leadership -- Cathal Brugha (the most hard line Republican of all), Richard Mulcahey, and Michael Collins -- that refused to cede control to either the Dail or the IRB. (Both organizations were influential in the IRA, however.) The IRB, which had triggered everything by sponsoring the Easter Rising, was overwhelmed by the rapid expansion of its own revolution. Although the IRB remained a player, it found itself unable to dictate strategy or events; indeed, when Michael Collins later was ambushed and killed (1922), the IRB slid into oblivion.

The historically important individuals were de Valera and Collins. Eamon de Valera (1882-1975) was born and baptized Catholic in New York of a Spanish father and an Irish mother. He was reared in Bruree, County Limerick, where he was educated in Catholic schools, later graduating from University College, Dublin. A non-influential mathematics teacher before 1916, he gained celebrity in the Easter Rising as the last unit commander to surrender, for which he received the death sentence, later commuted (perhaps because of his apparent American citizenship). He was president of Sinn Fein (1917-27), was elected to the first Dial, and served as President of the provisional government (1919-22), but opposed the 1921 treaty and resigned from office when it was approved. In 1927, after five years out of office, he formed a new political party, Fianna Fail, was elected to the Dail, and after 1932 became Ireland's most beloved elected official, serving as Prime Minister for a total of 21 years.

Michael Collins (1890-1922), eight years younger than de Valera, was born and baptized Catholic in Clonakilty, County Cork. A natural and charismatic leader, he had no formal education after high school, instead working as a clerk in London, where he joined the IRB. He returned to Ireland in 1915 and participated in the Easter Rising, for which he was interned at Frongoch (Wales), where he emerged as the prisoners' leader. Upon his release, he actively participated in all of the organizations that pushed the revolution forward -- IRB, IRA, Sinn Fein -- and became the rising star in each. After de Valera left for America (June 1919) on an 18 month fund raising tour, Collins became the dominant figure in the revolution. At various times, Collins held positions as (1) President of the Supreme Council of the IRB, (2) Commander of the IRA (1919-21), later Commander-in-Chief of the Free State Army (1922), (3) Sinn Fein member of the Dail, (4) Minister of Finance of the 1919 provisional government, and (5) cabinet member in first post-treaty government.

Following the Dail's 1919 session, guerilla warfare naturally erupted. (The war euphemistically was called "The Troubles", later the "Tan War".) On one side was the IRA, the militia of the new government, about 15,000 troops strong, and fully supported by the citizenry. The key man for the IRA was Michael Collins, a brilliant commander who set up a remarkable intelligence (and counter-intelligence) operation that enabled the IRA to avoid extinction at the hands of the British. On the other side were special British forces known as the "Auxiliaries" and the "Black and Tan" (after their hybrid uniforms), with some help from the British army, 45,000 strong. Each side perpetrated atrocities, but most of the public attention fell on the Black and Tan, whose leaders apparently believed that very brutal and very public atrocities were the best way to discourage the populace from supporting the rebels. In one incident, they deliberately started a series of fires in Cork, then cut all fire hoses brought out to fight the fire. In another notorious and very public incident, called "Bloody Sunday", the Black and Tan, to retaliate for the execution of 16 spies by Collins' counter intelligence unit, fired automatic weapons and rifles into a crowd at a football game in Dublin, killing 12 innocent spectators and wounding 60.

Bloody Sunday and the other atrocities, coming so soon after the British massacre of at least 379 peaceful demonstrators in Amritsar*** India, triggered worldwide condemnation of the British government, which responded by enacting the 1920 Government of Ireland Act, purporting to establish separate parliaments for "Northern Ireland" and "Southern Ireland", each with extensive home rule powers. Northern Ireland quickly accepted the legislation, and began a series of brutal pogroms against Catholics. On July 10, 1921, Protestant mobs killed 15 Catholics, wounded 68, and burned to the ground 161 Catholic homes, all of which was just a taste of what was yet to come.

Dail Eireann refused to accept the new legislation, but did agree to a cease fire in 1921, after which British Prime Minister David Lloyd George invited de Valera to participate in negotiations for a treaty. De Valera, as President, appointed Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins to lead the negotiating team. Details of the negotiations are not fully known, but Griffith and Collins returned with a treaty, subject to approval of the Dail, that partitioned Ireland into two entities: (1) A 26 county self-governing dominion, called the Irish Free State, which had nearly full independence from England, and (2) An entity consisting of 6 counties carved out of Ulster, formally named Northern Ireland, which remained a part of Great Britain, but which (ironically, because Ulster so vigorously opposed "home rule") was given its separate parliament. Since areas near the border were heavily Catholic, a Commission was established to recommend adjustments to the boundary.

The treaty quickly became the most controversial issue in the history of Ireland. The treaty granted the 26 counties greater independence than Ireland had enjoyed in over 700 years, and most impartial observers regarded it as a stepping stone to full independence within a generation or two. Compared to the modest Home Rule Act of 1914, the treaty was a gigantic step forward for Republicans. But the true hard liners -- including the IRA's Cathal Brugha -- found three fatal flaws: (1) It excluded six counties in Ulster, thereby abandoning Catholics and nationalists in that part of Ireland; (2) It did not establish a truly independent Republic, only a semi-autonomous state in which Britain controlled harbors in times of emergency; and (3) It required an oath of fidelity to the Crown from elected officials. President de Valera was furious over the treaty, partly because of its terms (he hated the oath) and partly because it was signed without his explicit approval. He led the opposition in the Dail.

After months of bitter debate, on January 7, 1922, the treaty passed the Dail on a close vote (64-57), and a provisional "Free State" government was formed to implement the treaty. But the controversy raged on. De Valera resigned rather than serve in the provisional government, which he considered illegitimate. He was replaced by Griffith. Shortly after the vote, Sinn Fein split into two warring factions.

The pro-treaty faction, led by Griffith and Collins, acknowledged that the treaty was less than perfection, but argued that it was the best settlement possible, one that was a stepping stone to a true republic in the foreseeable future. They also argued that the Boundary Commission would reduce Northern Ireland to a small, probably non-viable, entity. The pro-treaty faction was supported by the citizenry, which wanted to end the hostilities and knew that no amount of fighting could reverse attitudes in Ulster.

The anti-treaty faction, led by de Valera, Brugha and most of the IRA leadership, felt honor-bound to accept nothing less than a genuine "republic" which at most was "externally associated" with Britain. In addition, de Valera's Republicans refused to sit in the Dail because of the required oath of fidelity to the British crown.

Some IRA units supported the treaty and transformed themselves into the army of the new Irish Free State, giving up the name IRA. Other IRA units were anti-treaty, and under Brugha continued to function under the name IRA. They promptly commandeered the Four Courts building as IRA headquarters.

Five months later, another election was held and the pro-treaty faction received a safe majority (58 to 36). They immediately formed a permanent "Irish Free State" government. Initially, the government was headed by Griffith, but within two months he died of natural causes and was replaced by William Cosgrave (1880-1965). But successful anti-treaty candidates refused to take the hated oath or participate in the Dail. The Irish Parliamentary party -- the party of Parnell and Redmond -- received so few votes it ceased operations.

The Irish Civil War began almost immediately. Using artillery borrowed from Britain, the Free State government, which proved to be highly authoritarian, bombarded IRA headquarters (the Four Courts building) with artillery fire, killing Cathal Brugha in the process. Then, with military assistance from Britain, it brutally and methodically set about destroying the rebellious opposition. The government used the same tactics that had been most effective against them when they were rebels. It executed 77 anti-treaty advocates, some with cause, some without. It burned down homes and imprisoned over 11,000 anti-treaty citizens. Eventually, the numerically superior Free State Army overwhelmed the IRA.

The Civil War ended on May 24, 1923, although de Valera, as political leader of the anti-treaty faction, refused to give Cosgrave's government the satisfaction of a formal surrender. Instead, he simply sent a message to the IRA troops and other supporters that further resistance was futile and the effort was being abandoned.

During the war, Michael Collins was ambushed and killed. It was a devastating blow for the IRB, since Collins was the last of their members to remain a power in Cosgrave's government. The IRB never regained its influence in Irish affairs. More importantly, Collins' death enabled de Valera to eventually become the virtually undisputed political leader of the new state, and to impose (with scant interference) his vision on Ireland.

Beginning in mid-1923, the duly elected government of the new "Irish Free State" -- so named under the 1922 constitution framed by the pro-treaty side -- finally was in a position to function. By now, Cosgrave had reorganized his pro treaty supporters into a new political party, Cumann na nGaedheal, which subsequently (after merger with the quasi-Fascist "Blue Shirts") became Fine Gael. The anti-treaty Republicans -- the IRA and its political wing, Sinn Fein -- put armed hostilities behind them for the duration, but continued to elect Sinn Fein members who refused to take the hated oath or participate in the Dail. Despite the difficulties of governing a state whose very legitimacy was rejected by the major opposition party, the Cosgrave government set up a well-functioning administration that passed some modest reforms. It did suffer one major embarrassment, however. In 1925, on the eve of the Boundary Commission report, word leaked that the Commission had recommended only minor changes, mostly favoring the North; with the entire island on the verge of riot, the three governments formally agreed that the original boundary should remain in place.

In 1927, de Valera reconciled his conscience to taking the oath while denying that he was doing any such thing. De Valera and his supporters, who constituted almost half of the anti-treaty faction, split from the main body of Republicans, which still was operating under the names IRA and Sinn Fein. De Valera formed a new political party, Fianna Fail, and was elected to the Dail. After the 1932 election, Cosgrave's Fine Gael party lacked the votes to form a government, and a coalition government comprised of Fianna Fail and Labour was formed with de Valera as prime minister. Most anti-treaty Republicans eventually joined de Valera and supported the Free State, while the IRA and Sinn Fein were reduced to tiny dissident elements. De Valera became Ireland's most beloved and enduring elected official, serving as prime minister from 1932 until 1948, and again in 1951 through 1954 and 1957 through 1959, 21 years in all.


* The historic province of Ulster encompassed an area which in 1914 was divided into nine counties. Four counties were overwhelmingly (about 70%) Protestant and three heavily Catholic. Two counties had small but clear Catholic majorities. Northern Irish "unionists" originally sought all nine counties, but this was rejected by Britain because the Protestant voting majority was too small (about 53%) to be secure. Some members of Parliament advocated inclusion of only the four Protestant counties, but this was rejected because the geographical area was deemed too small for the statelet to be viable. Eventually a unionist-British consensus developed for a six county statelet which included the four Protestant counties (Antrim, Down, Armagh, and Londonderry) plus the two counties with only small Catholic majorities (Tyrone and Fermanagh). This gave the new statelet maximum geographical area while maintaining a safe 2 to 1 Protestant voting majority. Among the many controversial aspects of partition, the inclusion of Tyrone and Fermanagh was perhaps the most controversial.

** The rebellious daughter of a Protestant Ascendancy family, the affluent Gore-Booths of Sligo, Markievicz (1868-1927) was born in London and educated at elite schools in Paris, where she developed a life long compassion for the poor. A striking beauty, she offended Ascendancy sensibilities by marrying a Catholic count from Poland and converting to Catholicism. She was attracted to politics by the women's suffrage issue and Maude Gonne's Irish women's movement, but soon embraced Irish independence. She became an officer in Connolly's radical Citizens Army, and although she was frustrated by Griffith's pacifism, she also joined Sinn Fein. She participated in the Easter Rising, for which she received the death sentence, which was commuted because of her gender, infuriating her. In 1918, from her jail cell, she became the first woman elected to the British House of Commons, but like all Sinn Fein candidates, she pledged not to take her seat, opting instead for the Dail Eireann. She was twice appointed Minister of Labour in the new government, but when the Irish Civil War broke out, she resigned and joined the IRA/anti-treaty side. She dedicated her later years to helping the poor.

*** According to the British count, 379 Indians were killed, and 1200 wounded, on April 13, 1919, when British troops under General Reginald Dyer fired on peaceful demonstrators protesting British legislation giving emergency powers to the British colonial government. The Indian government claims a much higher number of casualties. At the subsequent hearings, General Dyer showed no remorse, testifying that stern measures of this type were necessary to maintain order in the colonies.

Ch. 13. Epilogue (1933-1996).

In 1937 a new constitution drafted by de Valera was adopted, and the name of the state was changed from "Irish Free State" to "Eire". Formally, the new state remained within the British Commonwealth, but in actual practice it was a republic in everything but name. In the 1930s and 1940s, the government repeatedly found itself in conflict with the IRA, but even under de Valera, stern measures were taken against the IRA. During World War II, de Valera's government, supported by a majority of its citizens, followed a policy of neutrality.

In 1948, Republicans attained their 150 year old dream, at least for the 26 counties: In name as well as in substance, the 26 counties became a full Republic outside the Commonwealth, pursuant to legislation sponsored by John A. Costello (1891-1976), a Fine Gael leader who succeeded de Valera as prime minister in a coalition government. The same legislation renamed the state from "Eire" to the "Republic of Ireland", its current name.

After mid-century, historical focus turned to Northern Ireland, where Catholics had been persecuted continuously since 1921, including a pogrom in 1922 and anti-Catholic Belfast riots in 1935. Civil Rights protests in the United States on behalf of blacks inspired a Civil Rights movement in Northern Ireland on behalf of Catholics. Predictably, the Northern Ireland (Stormont) government played into the hands of the peaceful demonstrators. In a celebrated incident at Burntollet Bridge, television cameras captured uniformed police mingling gregariously with a mob tossing rocks and bottles off a precipice onto peaceful marchers below; later that day, according to a British investigation, the police invaded Catholic neighborhoods in Derry and committed numerous acts of assault, battery and malicious property damage. British troops then were called in to restore order, but the conduct of the troops soon turned hostile to beleaguered Catholics, who sought help from the previously moribund IRA* by taunting it with graffiti on walls "IRA = I Ran Away". This inspired a violent faction of the IRA, later known as the "Provisional IRA" (a.k.a. "Provos"or "PIRA"), to split from the "Official" (and now less violent) IRA, and to launch a campaign of terror and violence. Violent retaliation promptly came from militant Protestants, who organized as the Ulster Volunteer Force ("UVF"). In mid-1971, PIRA and UVF violence led the Stormont government, backed by the British Army, to ban all civil rights demonstrations and also to inaugurate internment (imprisonment without trial or even charges); but when 345 out of 346 of the internees turned out to be Catholic, Catholics were confirmed in their belief that the British and Stormont governments were collaborating to suppress the legitimate aspirations of Catholics. Civil rights demonstrations continued, despite the ban being enforced by the British Army.

Bloody Sunday II (January 30, 1972) in Derry is the defining moment in the history of the Northern Ireland statelet. With no discernable cause, elite British troops -- shades of Kent State -- opened fire into a crowd of peaceful and unarmed civil rights demonstrators. The shooting continued for a full 15 minutes, with many of the survivors comparing themselves to ducks in a shooting gallery. When the massacre finally was over, 13 unarmed and peaceful demonstrators lay dead. Among Catholics, the atrocity was made worse when the official investigation of Lord Widgery whitewashed the killings on the specious grounds the troops had been under IRA fire, or thought they were**. (No spent bullets were found behind the troops, nor did any journalist or other independent witness detect any rifle fire.) Bloody Sunday II, together with the Widgery whitewash, dramatically elevated the status and standing of the PIRA (now called simply "IRA" again) within a Catholic community which understandingly believed it had nowhere else to turn.

In March 1972 the aggregate impact of Bloody Sunday and IRA/UVF violence forced the British Parliament to abolish the "home rule" Parliament (at Stormont) which had been given to Northern Ireland at its inception in 1920. The British Parliament assumed "direct" governance of Northern Ireland, and imposed numerous worthwhile reforms. Among other things, gerrymandered city councils were eliminated, and laws prohibiting anti-Catholic discrimination both in the allocation of public housing units (which constituted the majority of all housing units) and in public employment were enacted and effective. Laws prohibiting discrimination in private sector employment also were enacted, but have been less effective. For the IRA, however, progress on civil rights was a subsidiary issue; the ultimate goal, and the only goal acceptable to the IRA, was a "United Irish Republic" comprising all 32 counties. Throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and into the 1990s, the IRA continued their campaign of terror against British targets in Northern Ireland, Britain, and elsewhere. Then in August 1994, the IRA announced a "complete cessation of military operations", and requested multi-party peace negotiations on Northern Ireland. But when peace talks had not materialized by February, 1996, the IRA detonated a large bomb in the Docklands area of London, killing two people, injuring many others, and causing massive property damage. Politicians quickly scurried about to resurrect the "peace process", but few historians believed the violence was over.


* Following World War II, the IRA seemed to be a spent force militarily. It evolved into a Marxist-oriented organization agitating for Catholic civil rights and radical social reform in Northern Ireland, but it failed to win much support, even among the Catholic minority.

** Assuming arguendo that the troops had been under fire, Lord Widgery still must have found it challenging to justify at least some of the killings. Paddy Doherty was killed as he crawled on his hand and knees, obviously unarmed, to assist a youngster lying wounded in the middle of the street; the fatal bullet entered his buttocks, traveled up his spine, and exited his chest. Bernard McGuigan, waving a white handkerchief and obviously unarmed, was shot in the head while trying to aid the fatally injured Doherty. Kevin McElhinney, only 17, died like Doherty, except that he was crawling towards the safety of a doorway instead of to help a wounded man; the bullet entered his buttocks and went through his body. James Wray initially was only wounded, and lying face down on the pavement (probably paralyzed), from a shot in the back; then a soldier, noticing that he was still alive, took a few steps closer, and fired another shot into Wray's back, killing him. Gerald McKinney stood holding his hands above his head in the traditional surrender gesture when a soldier approached and from 9 feet away shot him in the chest.