The Very Basic Facts of Irish History

In this article we shall look at the basic facts of Irish history.

The first farmers arrived in Ireland around 4000BC.  Now, how more basic can one get!  But don’t worry, even sticking to the basics, Irish history is a complicated story to retell.

The Celts arrived 300BC.  They had a huge influence on Ireland. Even today we can still read many myths and legends based on Celtic warriors.  The first official language today, Irish, stems from the Celts.

St Patrick was brought to Ireland by Irish pirates around 432AD.  He worked as a shepherd, and used a shamrock to expalin the mystery of the Holy Trinity to the pagans on the island.  That is when life was still basic and simple!

The Vikings arrived at the end of the 8th century and the beginning of the 9th century. This is when the basic facts start getting complicated!  They founded Dublin, the capital city, in 988.  After the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, where Brian Boru, the last High King of Ireland, was killed, the Vikings settled and integrated with the Irish people.

The Norman era began in the 12th century.  They built walled towns, castles and churches and increased agriculture and commerce on the island.

Henry VIII was declared King of Ireland in 1541.  From that time onwards, up to the late 17th century, the official English policy of plantations led to the arrival of thousands of English and Scots Protestant settlers, mainly in Ulster, the wealthiest province.  This marked the beginning of the sectarian conflict, which is commonly known as The Troubles and ended, to a certain extent, after the Good Friday Agreement 0n April 10th 1998.  As you can see, there was absolutely nothing basic in that policy, and Ireland has not been the same since!

The harsh Penal Laws were introduced in the 17th century.  These laws denied the Irish people of many rights, such as owning land, accessing higher education, having professions and speaking the Irish language, among many others.  The list is too long to mention here in this article entitled The Very Basic Facts of Irish History!

In 1782 Ireland was granted legislative independence.  (Hooray!) This period was known as Grattan’s Parliament, after Henry Gratten an Irish Protestant and member of the Irish House of Commons who worked to get better trading relations with England.

The Irish Rebellion of 1798 instigated by the United Irishmen, was influenced by the American and French revolutions.  The uprising was suppressed by British Crown troops with a death toll – here there are no clear facts or figures, historians estimate between 10,000 and 50,000.

The Act of Union was passed in 1801 and the Kingdom of Ireland was absorbed by Great Britain.  And that was the end of the Emerald Isle for a wee bit!

Daniel O’Connel succeeded in getting The Act of Catholic Emancipation passed in 1829.  This resulted in the total ban on Catholics voting lifted, and Catholics could become members of parliament.

The Great Famine hit Ireland during the years 1845, 1846 and 1847.  This was caused by a plant disease that affected the potatoes.  Due to the poor response from the British Government, two million people either left Ireland or died, while the Brits enjoyed the many tons of wheat and meat that Ireland was forced to send to England and its colonies.

The campaign for Irish Home Rule first started in 1870 and was led by Charles Parnell, an Anglo-Irish Protestant, who became leader of the Irish Home Rule Party.  This movement caused a lot of concern and worry in Ulster where the Protestants were in the minority.  The Unionist Party, led by Sir Edward Carson threatened armed struggle if the bill were passed.

The Home Rule Bill was passed in 1912, but it was not brought into vigour and was suspended due to the start of World War 1.  Many Irish nationalists thought that if they supported Britain in the war effort, Ireland would be given Home Rule.  This point simply reflects the basic goodness in many Irish people which the Brits never appreciated!

However, not all Irish people were naive! Many nationalists did not trust the British government and on April 24 1916, two groups of armed rebels, The Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, seized key locations in Dublin.  The majority of the citizens were against the uprising, but soon changed their opinion when those involved were executed.

Two decisive figures in Irish history avoided execution, namely Eamon de Valera and Michael Collins.  In the December 1918 elections, the latter won the majority of the Ireland based seats of the House of Commons.

On 21st January 1919, Sinn Féin members of the House of  Commons gathered in Dublin to form the Dáil Eireann, the Irish Republican parliament, unilaterally declaring power over the island.

This was followed by what is known as the War of Independence when members of the Irish Republican Army waged guerrilla war against the British between 1919 and 1921, when a treaty was signed splitting public and political opinion in Ireland.  Twenty-six counties were to form the Irish Free State, while the other six would remain with Britain.

This led to the civil war of 1922-1923 and the heightening of The Troubles in Ulster.  From 1923 to 1998, the six counties of Ulster witnessed outbreaks of sectarian violence.  Only between 1969 and 1998, 3,000 people were killed in this senseless battle of all battles.

And so ends this article on the very basic facts of Irish history that has made the land what it is, or is not today.