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Location of Ireland (orange)– on the European continent (camel & white)
Map of Ireland
Location of Ireland (orange)– on the European continent (camel & white)
Location of Ireland (orange)
– on the European continent (camel & white)
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem: "Amhrán na bhFiann"
"The Soldier's Song"
Patron Saint(s): Saint Patrick
(and largest city)
Official language(s) Irish, English
Ethnic groups (2006) 87% Irish,
13% other
Demonym Irish
Government Parliamentary republic
 -  President Michael D. Higgins
 -  Taoiseach Enda Kenny
 -  Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore
Legislature Oireachtas
 -  Upper house Seanad Éireann
 -  Lower house Dáil Éireann
Independence From the United Kingdom 
 -  Declared 24 April 1916 
 -  Ratified 21 January 1919 
 -  Recognised 6 December 1922 
 -  Constitution 29 December 1937 
 -  Left the Commonwealth 18 April 1949 
 -  Total 70,273 km2 (120th)
27,133 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 2.00
 -  2011 census 4,588,252 (119th)
 -  Density 65.3/km2 (142nd)
168.8/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $181.595 billion (55th)
 -  Per capita $39,638 (15th)
GDP (nominal) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $217.669 billion (42nd)
 -  Per capita $47,513 (14th)
HDI (2011) steady
0.908 (very high) (7th)
Currency Euro (€)[a] (EUR)
Time zone WET (UTC+0)
 -  Summer (DST) IST (WEST) (UTC+1)
Date formats dd/mm/yyyy
Drives on the Left
Internet TLD .ie[b]
Calling code 353
a. ^ Prior to 2002, the national circulated currency was called the Irish Punt (£), or Irish pound. The euro was introduced as an accounting currency in 1999.
b. ^ The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states.

Ireland (Irish: Éire) or the Republic of Ireland (Irish: Poblacht na hÉireann) is a state which covers approximately five-sixths of the island of Ireland, off the coast of northwest Europe. The remaining sixth of the island of Ireland is known as Northern Ireland and is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the Celtic Sea to the south, Saint George's Channel to the southeast, and the Irish Sea to the east. The population of Ireland is approximately 6.4 million. Just under 4.6 million live in the Republic of Ireland and just under 1.8 million live in Northern Ireland. The country's official constitutional name is Éire or, in the English language, Ireland. The capital city of the Republic of Ireland is Dublin. In addition to the capital, other urban areas are Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Galway, Dún Laoghaire, and Dundalk.

The name Ireland derives from the Old Irish name ÉriuÉire in modern Irish—with the addition of the Germanic word land. Most other western European names for Ireland derive from the same source, such as French: Irlande, Italian, Romanian, Spanish and Portuguese: Irlanda, German: Irland, and Dutch: Ierland.


NASA satellite image of Ireland.

The island of Ireland is located in northwest Europe in the north Atlantic Ocean, west of Great Britain. It is approximately 53° north of the equator and 8° west of the Greenwich meridian. The island's total area is 84,412 km² (32,591 square miles).[1] Ireland is separated from Britain by the Irish Sea. The Celtic Sea, to south of Ireland, separates it from mainland Europe.

A ring of coastal mountains surrounds low central plains. The highest peak is Carrauntoohil (Irish: Corrán Tuathail) located in County Kerry, which is 1,038 m (3,406 feet) tall. The River Shannon, which runs from North-East to South-West, is the longest river in Ireland, at 386 km (240 miles) long.[2] Other major rivers include the Liffey, which flows through the center of Dublin, the Slaney, which enters the sea at Wexford, and the Lagan, which flows into Belfast Lough. There are a large number of lakes or loughs, of which Lough Neagh is the largest. Other large lakes include Lough Erne and Lough Corrib.

Ireland has a relatively mild temperate maritime climate. Typically, summers in Ireland consist of warm, sunny weather with occasional light rain. Winter weather is typically cloudy and rainy with the occasional sunny spell.[3]

Snow is rare, but precipitation can occur at any time of the year, with up to 275 days with rain in some parts of the country. Ireland's lush vegetation, a product of its mild climate and frequent but soft rainfall, earns it the nickname "The Emerald Isle."

The major cities on the island are the capital city of Dublin (Baile Átha Cliath) on the east coast, Cork (Corcaigh) in the south, Galway (Gaillimh) and Limerick (Luimneach) on the west coast, Waterford (Port Láirge) in the south east, and Belfast (Béal Feirste), Armagh (Ard Mhacha), and Derry (Doire) in the north.

Provinces and Counties

Ireland has historically been divided into four provinces: Munster (Mumhan), Leinster (Laighin), Connacht (Connachta), and Ulster (Ulaidh). Originally, however, there was a fifth province: Meath (Mídhe) which has since been incorporated into Leinster. During the Tudor period, these were further subdivided into 32 counties for administrative purposes. 26 of these counties comprise the Republic of Ireland while the remaining 6 comprise Northern Ireland.

  • Munster
    • County Clare
    • County Cork
    • County Kerry
    • County Limerick
    • County Tipperary
    • County Waterford
  • Leinster
    • County Carlow
    • County Dublin
    • County Kildare
    • County Kilkenny
    • County Laois
    • County Longford
    • County Louth
    • County Meath
    • County Offaly
    • County Westmeath
    • County Wexford
    • County Wicklow
  • Connacht
    • County Galway
    • County Leitrim
    • County Mayo
    • County Roscommon
    • County Sligo
  • Ulster
  • Flag of Ireland.png Republic of Ireland
    • County Cavan
    • County Donegal
    • County Monaghan
  • Flag of Northern Ireland.png Northern Ireland
    • County Antrim
    • County Armagh
    • County Down
    • County Fermanagh
    • County Derry
    • County Tyrone


Early History (2300 BC-400 AD)

During the era known as the Ice Age, about 3,800 years ago, most of Ireland was covered with ice. The Ice Age lasted from 2300-1800 BC. Sea-levels were lower then, and Ireland, as with its neighbor Britain, instead of being islands, were part of a greater continental Europe. The first inhabitants arrived some time after 1800 BC. Agriculture arrived around the same time, roughly 1750-1700 BC, when sheep, goats, cattle and cereals were imported from southwest continental Europe. At the Céide Fields in County Mayo, an extensive Neolithic field system—arguably the oldest in the world—has been preserved beneath a covering of peat. Consisting of small fields separated from one another by dry-stone walls, the Céide Fields were farmed for several centuries between 1700 and 1650 BC. Wheat and barley were the principal crops cultivated.

The earliest known inhabitants of Ireland were the Picts, a Neolithic people, possibly of Brythonic Celtic origin, described in Irish records as the Fir Bolg and Fomoiri. They were also known as the Cruithne, a name derived from Qritani or Qriteni, which is the Goidelic/Q-Celtic form of the Brythonic/P-Celtic name Pritani or Priteni. From the latter came Britanni, the Roman name for the Britons.

The Bronze Age, which began around 1600 BC, saw the production of elaborate gold as well as bronze ornaments, weapons and tools. The Iron Age (500 BC-400 AD) in Ireland is associated with people known as Celts. The first Celtic settlers were Bythronic-speaking Celts (similar to those that also settled in Britain and central Europe) from the northwest European coastal regions from the Netherlands to Armorica (Brittany, France) over a period of 1,000 years, identified as the Tuatha Dé Danann. The Gaels were the last Celtic people to settle in Ireland and who eventually came to dominate it. They were Goidelic-speaking Celts who came from the area of Galicia in northwest Spain, where Gallaecian was spoken, and sailed to Ireland around 504 BC.[4] Genetics research has confirmed that the Irish and Scots are close genetic relatives of the peoples of the Iberian Peninsula and more closely related to Spanish and Portuguese peoples, especially those from Galicia and Asturias, than they are to any other ethnic groups in Europe.[5][6][7] This coincides with what Irish annals such as the Lebor Gabála Érenn have claimed: that that the Gaels (also referred to as the Milesians) of Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, prior to colonizing Ireland, had originally come from Brigantium—an ancient Celtic town, which is identified as being either modern Betanzos or A Coruña in Galicia, Spain—and were descended from the sons of Míl Espáine (Míledh or Milesius, meaning "Soldier of Hispania"), son of Bíle, and a grandson of Breogán, a Celtic king of Galicia. Galicia is still one of the seven recognized Celtic nations and the word itself means "The Land of the Gaelic People."

The Gaelic clans of Ireland claim descent from the sons of Míledh's eight sons and ten uncles who are said to have led the Gaelic conquest of Ireland after the death of Míledh in Spain and his brother Íth's murder at the hands of the Tuatha Dé Danann during a scouting expedition in Ireland. The sons of Míl and their kinsmen landed in Inber Scéne, an estuary in south County Kerry (probably Kenmare) and fought their way to Tara, eventually conquering and colonizing the entire island—vanquishing the Tuatha Dé Danann, who previously had gained superiority over the Fir Bolg (Picts) and the Fomorians—and dividing it into five provinces among themselves and their descendants. They still survive today: Mumhan (Munster), Ulaidh (Ulster), Laighin (Leinster), and Connachta (Connacht) with Mídhe (Meath) as the seat of the High Kings. A High King (Ard Rí) was elected from the ranks of these provincial dynasties, although not having an executive function, was a symbolic recognition of the origin and singleness of purpose of the Irish peoples. Thus, the Milesian Gaels are the ancestors of the Irish, Scottish, and Manx peoples.

Various Irish traditions declare that Míl Espáine was a descendant of Zerah, a son of Judah.[8] According to The Harmsworth Encyclopedia, Cecrops (identified as Calcol of 1 Chronicles 2:6 and Chalcol of 1 Kings 4:31 – son of Zerah and brother of Dara) was the 'mythical' founder of Athens and its first king. He is thought to be the leader of a band of Hebrew colonists from Egypt around 1700 BC. Historical records tell of the westward migration of the descendants of Calcol along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, establishing "Iberian" (Hebrew) trading settlements. One settlement now called Saragossa or Zaragoza, in the Ebro Valley in Spain, was originally known as Zaragassa meaning "The stronghold of Zerah."[9] From Spain they continued westward as far as Ireland. The Iberian Celts (Celtiberians) gave their name to Ireland, calling the island Iberne which was later abbreviated to Erne, and subsequently Latinized to Hibernia.

The earliest written records of Ireland come from classical Greco-Roman geographers. In his 2nd century work Geography, Ptolemy refers to Ireland as Ivernia (Greek: Ἰουερνία, Iouerníā)—a Greek alteration of the Q-Celtic name *Īveriū from which eventually arose the Irish names Ériu and Éire—and recorded its geography, as well as sixteen tribes inhabiting every part of the island. The Romans referred to Ireland as Hibernia and later as Scotia. Scoti or Scotti being the common Late Latin term for the Irish Gaels: Ireland was usually referred to in Latin as Scotia Major while Scotland was referred to as Scotia Minor. By the 11th century at the latest, Scotia was being used solely to refer to Gaelic-speaking Scotland, known as Dál Riata (modern Argyll), which Gaels from Ireland had begun to colonize starting some time around the 5th century. The Gaelic settlers in Caledonia soon spread out to most of the rest of the country, merging with the Picts to later form the Kingdom of Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Alba). The Isle of Man (Manx: Ellan Vannin) also came under massive Gaelic influence in its history.

Preeminent Celtic scholar of Oxford University, Sir John Rhys, in his book "Early Celtic Britain," gives strong evidences of Hebrew colonization of Ireland and Britain in ancient times. "Ireland was known as Iberion," he says.[10] The ancient name of the Hebrews was Ibri or Iberi, which is derived from the name "Eber" or "Heber," an ancestor and patriarch of that people. The name "Eber" (עבר) comes from a word meaning "to cross over," "across," or "the opposite side"[11] It derivative "Hebrew," intended to denote the people who came "from the other side of the river" (i.e. the Euphrates) from Haran (Genesis 11:31 ) and were the descendants of Eber. The usage is similar to the Greek words πέραν and πέρατος. The phrase ὰ πέρατα τ͡ης οἰκουμένης, or "the opposite ends of the inhabited world" was used by St. Paul in Romans 10:18 . Similarly, Tacitus used the phrase "ends of the earth" in the Agricola to describe the location of Ireland and Britain.[12] Homer used a similar phrase in the Odyssey to describe the other end of the Mediterranean, near Spain. It is at the "other side" of the "inhabited world" that we find so many ancient names like that of Eber, the first Hebrew: Iberia (Spain), the Ebro River (in Spain), Hibernia (Ireland), and the Hebrides (islands off the coast of Scotland). Sir John continues, "... in Ireland it was Ivernii in Ptolemy's time; and he mentions a town there called Ivernis, and a river Ivernios. To these may be added various forms of the name of the island such as Juvenal's Iuverna, distorted more usually by the Romans into Hibernia. Their eponymous ancestor ... is variously called Eber, Emer, and Heber."[13]

The exact relationship between the Roman Empire and the tribes of ancient Ireland is unclear; the only references are a few Roman writings. However, a number of finds of Roman coins have been found, for example at Newgrange.[14] In medieval times, the High Kings continued to reign over the (then five) provinces of Ireland throughout its early history. These provinces too had their own kings, who were subject to the monarch, who resided at Tara in County Meath. The written judicial system was the Brehon Law, and it was administered by professional learned jurists who were known as the Brehons.

Early Christian Ireland (400-800)

A page from the Book of Kells, (folio 292r), circa 800 AD, that opens the Gospel of John.

The Chronicle of Ireland records that in 431 AD, Bishop Palladius arrived in Ireland on a mission from Pope Celestine I to minister to the "Irish who believe in Christ"[15], suggesting that there were already Christians living in Ireland. Perhaps the most famous missionary to Ireland was the patron saint of the island, St. Patrick. Patrick was a Romano-Briton or a Brythonic Celt who, at the age of 16, was kidnapped from Britain by Irish raiders and was taken to Ireland to work as a slave.

After 6 years, he escaped and returned to Britain. Afterwards, he traveled to Gaul where he studied, was ordained as a Catholic priest in 417 AD, and spent 15 years in the church of Auxerre. Upon the death of Bishop Palladius, in 432 AD, Patrick was ordained a bishop and began his mission to Ireland, later arriving on the island and, in the years that followed, worked to convert the Irish to Christianity. Eventually, the Druid tradition collapsed in the face of the spread of the new faith and virtually the entire island became Christian. Before St. Patrick arrived as a missionary, the population of Ireland was mostly illiterate and there were no books of any kind. The only form of writing used by the pagan Irish were inscriptions, mostly simple memorials, on stone in the Ogham alphabet, the earliest of which date to the 4th century AD. The Druids relied solely on an oral tradition. When St. Patrick and other missionaries began to spread Christianity in Ireland, they discovered that many Christian traditions could be overlaid with the indigenous traditions that they encountered. This brought the graces of Celtic spirituality into the fold of the Christian tradition and led to a gradual, non-violent conversion process in Ireland.

The older Druid tradition collapsed in the face of the new religion.[16] There were still bardic schools as there was still paganism in 6th century Ireland, but in the 7th century paganism had all but disappeared and these bardic schools became monastic schools. The monastic schools were frequented by the best of the Irish, and by students from abroad, these latter diffused knowledge over western Europe, and Ireland received and merited the title of the "Island of Saints and Scholars." 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. The holy men who laboured with St. Patrick and immediately succeeded him were mostly bishops and founders of churches; those of the 6th century were of the monastic order; those of the 7th century were mostly anchorites who loved solitude, silence, continued prayer, and the most rigid austerities. Irish Christian scholars excelled in the study of Latin and Greek learning and Christian theology. In the monastic culture that followed the Christianization of Ireland, Latin and Greek learning was preserved in Ireland during the Early Middle Ages in contrast to elsewhere in Europe, where the Dark Ages followed the decline of the Roman Empire.[17][18] 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 artistic achievements, such as the Tara Brooch and the great Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge ("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 Middle Ages. Irish monasteries also dispatched scholar-missionaries to the rest of Europe. Irish clerics also brought Christianity, as well as literacy, to the pagan Anglo-Saxons. In 563, St. Columba (521-597), a native of Donegal and the dominant scholar and poet of his era, accompanied by a few companions, crossed the sea to Caledonia and founded a monastery on Iona, a small Gaelic-controlled island off the coast of Scotland, where he spent the last 40 years of his life educating the Scots and converting them to Christianity.

Fresh arrivals came from Ireland; the monastery with Columba as its abbot was soon a flourishing institution, from which the Scots of Dál Riata in the south and the Picts beyond the Grampians were evangelized; and when Columba died in 597, Christianity had been preached and received in every district in Caledonia, and in every island along its west coast. In the next century, Iona had so prospered that its abbot, St. Adomnán, wrote "Life of St. Columba," in Latin; it is considered the best biography of which the Middle Ages can boast. From Iona, the Irish missionary, under St. Aidan and his companions, had gone south to compete with and even exceed in zeal the Roman missionaries under St. Augustine of Canterbury, and to evangelize Northumbria, Mercia, and Essex; and if Irish zeal had already been displayed in Iona, equal zeal was now displayed on the desolate isle of Lindisfarne. Nor was this all.

In 590, St. Columbanus, a student of Bangor, accompanied by twelve companions, arrived in France and established the monastery of Luxeuil, the parent of many monasteries, then laboured at Bregenz, and finally founded the monastery of Bobbio in Italy, which as a centre of knowledge and piety was long the light of northern Italy. And meantime his friend and fellow-student St. Gall laboured with conspicuous success in Switzerland, St. Fridolin along the Rhine, St. Fiacre near Meaux, St. Kilian at Wurzburg, St. Livinus in Brabant, St. Fursey on the Marne, St. Cataldus in southern Italy. By the 9th century, Irish scholars were among the most celebrated in the western world. The towering intellect among them was Johannes Scotus Eriugena, a native Irishman who traveled to France in 845 AD to became the preeminent scholar in the Court of Charlemagne, and the chief professor at the Palace school of the Emperor Charles the Bald. When Charlemagne reigned (771-814), Irishmen were at his court, "men incomparably skilled in human learning." The monastery of Durrow, in County Laois, founded by Columba in the 6th century, a century later had students from 18 different nations. The list of Irish accomplishments in architecture, learning and art, even in astronomy and science in the centuries preceding the Norman invasion is extensive.

The Liturgical Rite used in Ireland until 1172 was known as the Celtic Rite. It is comparable to the Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite rather than the Roman Rite but, accept the doctrines of the Catholic Church and accept the legitimacy of the papacy despite having minor discipinary differences such as clerical marriage, methods of computing Easter, tonsures, etc. Similarly, the early Irish Christians adhered to the Celtic Rite. Celtic-speaking areas were part of Latin Christendom as a whole at a time in which there was significant regional variation of liturgy and structure with a general collective veneration of the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) that was no less intense in Celtic areas. In 664 AD, Synod of Whitby decreed Roman authority over the Irish Church in conflict over correct computation of the date of Easter. The latest Roman cycle, indeed, rested on an improved, better system of calculation. St. Columbanus, who had conversed with the disciples of St. Patrick, dying of old age in 615 AD, and who had acquired learning and piety in great monastery of Bangor in Ireland, declares that "the Irish are the scholars and disciples of Rome"; and addressing Pope Boniface IV, he wrote, "The Catholic faith is held unshaken by us as it was delivered to us by you, the successors of the holy Apostles."

Early Medieval and Viking Era (800-1167)

Although Ireland flourished during the European Middle Ages this golden age was interrupted in the 9th century by 200 years of intermittent warfare with waves of Viking raiders who plundered monasteries and towns. These raids added to a pattern of raiding and endemic warfare that was already deep-seated in Ireland. The first recorded Viking raid in Ireland occurred in 795 when Vikings (probably of Norwegian origin) looted the island of Lambay, off the east coast of Ireland near modern Dublin. 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 the mainland of Ireland itself on a regular basis. This was the beginning of a new phase of Irish history, which saw many native communities — particularly ecclesiastical ones — relocate themselves on the continent, or further afield in places like Iceland and the Faroe Islands, to escape the pagan marauders.

By 841, Vikings, lead by Ívarr Ragnarsson and Olaf the White, had established small but well fortified settlements at a site near what is now Dublin. Shortly thereafter Dublin (Old Norse: Dyflin; Irish: Duibhlinn) was declared to be a separate state, and was later developed into a walled city. The Vikings began their most ambitious expansion in 914 when they captured Waterford (Irish: Port Láirge; Old Norse: Veðrafjǫrðr); and built a fortress there, then reimposed Viking rule on Dublin. The Vikings also were involved in establishing many other major coastal settlements in Ireland: Limerick (Old Norse: Limaríki; Irish: Luimneach), Cork (Irish: Corcaigh), Wexford (Old Norse: Veisafjǫrðr; Irish: Loch Garman), and also Wiklow (Old Norse: Víkingalág; Irish: Cill Mhantáin), Carlingford (Old Norse: Kerlingfjǫrðr; Irish: Cairlinn), Strangford (Old Norse: Strangrfjǫrðr ; Irish: Loch Cuan), and Arklow (Old Norse: Arnkelllág; Irish: Inbhear Mór).

During the 10th century, in Munster, the influence of the Gaelic Dal gCais tribe had grown under Cennétig mac Lorcáin, the King of Thomond, and most notably under his twelfth son Brian mac Cennétig (or Brian Boru), who would later famously be known as a unifying leader who brought the Irish nation together to drive the occupying Vikings out of the country. In their own genealogies, the Dál gCais traced their line back to their eponymous ancestor and progenitor Cormac Cas, who is said to have lived in the 2nd to 3rd century. He was second son of Ailill Aulom from the Deirgtine, a King of Munster and Leath Mogha. Cormac Cas himself was the younger brother of Eógan, founder of the Eóganachta, who would go on to rule Munster for many centuries. Brian had a deep-seated hatred of the Vikings as he grew up during the worst days of the Viking's tyranny in Ireland when the Dál Cassians had been driven in to the present county of Clare. At this time the Danes held the chief fortresses of the province of Munster from which their marauding parties swept continually over the country, murdering and destroying wherever they came. One day, the worst of the village's fears were realized when the Vikings launched a raid against it. Brian and two of his brothers were away during the invasion, as was their father, however Brian's mother Bé Binn was murdered during one of these Viking raids into Dál Cassian territory. Brian was sent away to a monastic school to be educated at the monastery of Clonmacnoise, along the Shannon River, in the modern county of West Meath. After arriving at the monastic school Brian was eager to learn the arts of battle. However, the abbot instead introduced the boy into studying music, mathematics, and languages. His favorite subject was history, it was filled with war stories and by studying it, he learned how great victories had been won in the past. He developed a voracious appetite for reading the histories of the military leaders of Europe, such as Julius Caesar and Charlemagne. Because of this love for reading, Brian learned the tactics of the great military leaders and used them throughout his career, making him one of the greatest of Irish generals. Brian felt that by learning this he would know how to defeat the Vikings that had killed his mother. He soon began to train himself with weapons made of wood. He learned with both his right hand and his left hand.

At the beginning of Brian's second year at the school, news came of his father's death. Cennétig was killed fighting the Norse of Limerick in 951. Devastated by this, Brian vowed to kill the Vikings who killed both his father and mother. As the eldest son, Brian's brother Mathgamain (Mahon) eventually succeeded Cennétig as Chief of Dál gCais and King of Thomond in 954 after a series of struggles for both titles between rival kindreds of the Dál gCais. When Brian was 16 years old, his schooling had ended. His brother sent word that he was old enough to take up weapons and be with the tribe to fight. The Dál Cassians were hemmed into Clare by the Norse King Ívarr of Limerick and Mathgamain was willing to accept terms. However, Brian had seen much of the Dál gCais tribe, including his mother, brutally murdered by Vikings when he was only a child and refused to be any part of such a truce. He deserted Mathgamain and, together with a group of soldiers, lived in the hills of Munster and attacked Norse settlements, waging guerrilla war against the Vikings along with his supporters. Brian's fame spread throughout the province and infuriated Ívarr. Although he had only a handful of men, Brian's skill as a tactician led him to defeat vastly superior numerical forces. After a number of small battles, Brian had trained an excellent Dál Cassian army to face the Vikings. The stories of his triumphs had led to vast numbers of young men volunteering to join his side and the feud between Brian and his brother Mathgamain ended. Mathgamain renounced his truce with the Vikings and the brothers rejoined forces.

The two men triumphed and in 964, Mathgamain claimed control over the entire province of Munster by capturing the Rock of Cashel, capital of the ancient Eóganachta. Mathgamain was crowned King of Munster on the stone of Cashel (later to be topped with the Cross of St. Patrick, still later the stone removed into the chapel to prevent further weather wearing). None of the Eóganachta branches were strong enough to challenge the Dál gCais. A few years later, in 968 at the Battle of Sulcoit in Tipperary, they overwhelmed Ívarr's forces and marched on Limerick while Ívarr fled back to the Norse lands. In Limerick, Brian found large numbers of enslaved Irish children, enraged he executed 3,000 Vikings in the city. The Viking tyranny in Munster thus collapsed and Mathgamain ruled as King of Munster peacefully for eight years. However, Ívarr returned to Ireland and formed an alliance with Donnubán mac Cathail (Donovan MacCahall), Chief of the of Uí Fidgenti, and Máel Muad Mac Brain (Molloy MacBran), Chief of the Uí Echach Muman (Eóganachta Raithlind) and King of Desmumu (Desmond). Mathgamain's uninterrupted success excited the envy and deepened the hatred of Donnubán, Máel Muad, and Ívarr the Dane; and they laid a base plot for his destruction. In 976, Mathgamain was invited to what was supposed to be a peaceful meeting for reconciliation between the four at Bruree, the residence of Donnubán, who on his arrival was seized by an armed band of, Donnubán's men, who handed him over to a party of Máel Muad and his Danish associates, by whom he was put to death. Brian succeeded his late brother, Mathgamain, in his position and was crowned Chief of Dál gCais and King of Thomond at Maigh Adhair in County Clare in 976. his His first care was to avenge his brother's murder. For two years, Brian fought to avenge the death of his brother and killed those responsible for his brother's death.

As King of Munster, Ireland's largest province, Brian began his career as a master negotiator and diplomat. He accomplished as much if not more through negotiation and alliances then by war. The palace of the new King of Munster was at Kincora, located under the present town site of Killaloe, on the eastern edge of County Clare at the bottom shoreline of Lough Derg, where the Shannon River flows to the ocean. Kincora was to become the most magnificent palace of an Irish King to date. Within 3 years of his coronation as King of Munster, Brian subjugated the rest Munster, followed by Leinster, then Dublin, Connacht, Meath, and Ulster during the 980's, 990's, and early 1000's. Brian won control of the southern half of Ireland (Leath Mogha) from the High King Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill in 997, meeting at a peace conference at Port dá Chaineóc. By recognising Brian's authority over Leath Mogha, which included the Provinces of Munster and Leinster (and the Hiberno-Norse cities within them), Máel Sechnaill was simply accepting the reality that confronted him and retained control over Leath Cuinn, that is, the northern half of Ireland, which consisted of the Provinces of Meath, Connacht, and Ulster. Brian made it clear that his ambitions had not been satisfied by the compromise of 997 when, in the year 1000, he led a combined Munster-Leinster-Dublin army in an attack on High King Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill's home province of Meath. The struggle over who would control all of Ireland was renewed. In 1002, Brian forced Máel Sechnaill to surrender his title of "High King of Ireland" to him and recognise him as the High King. He sent word to Máel Sechnaill to demand submission or battle. Máel Sechnaill, finding he was not strong enough to resist, rode into Brian's encampment with a small guard and without any guarantee or protection, and told him that he would have fought had he been strong enough and made his submission to Brian, finally bringing the provinces of Meath and Connacht under Brian's dominion. His next ambition was the province of Ulster, where he still needed to impose his will on the regional rulers. In the following decade, there was several campaigns in the north to force Ulster (Ulaid) and the Northern Uí Néill into submission. He systematically defeated each of the regional rulers who defied him, forcing them to recognise him as their overlord and received hostages and tribute. Brian was crowned the High King of Ireland on the coronation stone at the Rock of Cashel, the traditional seat of the kings of Munster, becoming the undisputed ruler of all Gaelic Ireland in 1002.

He had won the crown without shedding a drop of blood. Brian amassed a fortune of royal tributes from lesser or vassal chieftains, consisting of cattle, timber, wine and other items, a tax known as Bóroimhe Laighean. He used these monies raised to restore monasteries and libraries that had been destroyed during the Viking invasions. Brian endowed liberally the scholastic and monastic institutions and sent emissaries to Europe to find and replace the tens of thousands of books that had been destroyed during Viking raids, and to invite Catholic European scholars to come to Ireland where the isle was once more being made into a land of Saints and Scholars. Afterwards he therefore became known as Brian Bóruma ("Brian of the Tributes") or simply Brian Boru. During his reign, domestic political stability invigorated Ireland, and religious and cultural life was able to flourish. "Brian Boru was remarkable in the Ireland of his time," wrote Máire and Liam de Paor in Early Christian Ireland, "because he seems to have thought in terms of the feudal organization which had already developed in Europe rather than in terms of the primitive and unstable kingship-system of Ireland." His achievement has earned him comparisons with another great uniter of warring lands, the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne. Brian's reign as High King of Ireland lasted 12 years, and the country prospered during his rule. Monasteries and schools that had previously been sacked and closed as a result of continuous warfare were reopened, or rebuilt. He decreed the construction of roads and bridges, and built many churches along the Shannon, a symbolic statement since the river had once been the main highway for the Vikings and their plundering inland raids. Bronze artistry, which had fallen into decline, also experienced a revival. Trade increased, and emissaries were even sent across the sea to Scotland and Wales to extract tribute. Brian's advisor, Maelsuthan Ua Cearbhail, documented in the Book of Armagh that, in the year 1005, Brian visited St. Patrick's Cathedral in 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.

Because few would argue he was not the King of all Ireland after such a long struggle, in 1005, he created the title of "Emperor of the Irish" (Latin: Imperator Scottorum) as a style, having his secretary add a note to the Book of Kells proclaiming him as such. In his obituary in the Annals of Ulster he is styled as "over-king of the Irish of Ireland, and of the foreigners and of the Britons, the Augustus of the whole of north-west Europe." This can be regarded as a claim that he ruled both the Irish Gaels and the Norse-Gaels in Ireland, and may even imply suzerainty over the Gaels of Scotland. He did not crown himself as such however, for as brutal as he was he was an honest Christian man, and crowning oneself Emperor is inherent blasphemy. He did this for very practical reasons, his conquest of Ireland was in many ways special and quite different from previous High Kings, he didn't conquer purely for egotistical gain, he genuinely wanted to strengthen the country, and he needed to make this impression on the kings of Ireland, so he styled himself as Emperor, not of the land but of the people, the Irish. The meaning was lost on no man. More to the point, he was making the High Kingship hereditary, a practice not unheard of but deeply unpopular in certain sections of the islands, the dominant tradition being that royal clans had a gathering of enobled cousins to vote among themselves as to who would be the next king, primogeniture was rare. It has been thought that Brian and the Irish Church were together seeking to establish a new form of kingship in Ireland, one that was modelled after the kingship of France, in which there were no lesser ranks of regional kings—simply one King who had power over all in a unitary state. Under Brian's rule, Ireland was ruled by one King, the Ard Rí na hÉireann (High King of Ireland). The High Kingship was no longer be just a figurehead, it was the central government and all the sub-kings would enforce the orders of that government. In any case, by 1011 all of the regional rulers in Ireland acknowledged Brian's authority. As an Emperor, a claim legitimised by the Church, he was able to articulate a version of authority more compelling than that of his potential opponents. Such a policy, if allowed to develop, could have changed the entire political system of the Irish world, reshaping it into yet another vast European feudal kingdom.

Some elements of the clans of Leinster who were envious of Brian, led by Máel Mórda mac Murchada (Malmorda MacMurrough), saw the ageing King as weakening. They struck out seeking to claim the High Kingship from him and in doing so they allied with the Norse of Dublin led by Máel Mórda's nephew, Sigtrygg "Silkbeard" Olafsson, king of the Dublin Norse. Sigtrygg thereafter formed a coalition of the Norse of Ireland, the Hebrides, the Orkneys, the Isle of Man, and Iceland. Enraged at such a shocking disregard for his hardwon authority, Brian took to the field. The King began to assemble his forces to meet those of rebellious Leinster and Dublin, who dared destroy the unity that was then presently being enjoyed on the Emerald Isle. Brian's army had mustered and set off towards Dublin. While Brian himself was too old to do battle, he appeared before his troops to inspire them to their duty in the early sunlight, carrying a crucifix in one hand and a sword in the other. He gave a short but inspiring speech to his warriors assembled to do battle. He reminded them that on that day their good Lord had died for them and rose again; and he exhorted them to fight bravely for their religion and their country. Then giving the signal for battle he withdrew and then retired to the rear, accompanied by a number of personal escorting guards, who formed a shield wall around him. His first son, Murchadh mac Briain, carried his banner into the fray (Irish Kings were very much of the older understanding of kings being by neccessity warlords as well as rulers, their participation in battle was neccessary). The Irish, incensed by years of bloody skirmishes, of loved ones being killed or captured and homes destroyed, prepared to destroy the hated Vikings and their renegade Irish allies.

The battle took place at Clontarf, near Dublin, on Good Friday, April 23, 1014, and lasted from the early morning to the setting of the sun. Brian was unwilling to fight on Good Friday, as he would not fight on a fast day, but the Danes forced the battle to the Friday, which fell that year on 23 April. The Irish forces under Brian numbered at around 7,500 men and the combined Norse and Leinster forces of Sigtrygg Silkbeard, the Danish king of Dublin, and his uncle, Máel Mórda mac Murchada of Leinster, numbered at around 7,000 men. Throughout the day, Brian prayed in his tent. An estimated 14,500 men at arms battled on the field that day.

With the setting sun came victory to forces of the High King, but at a heavy price. Murchadh mac Briain, the son that Brian Boru had trained to succeed him, was killed late in the day. Murchadh's 15 year old son, Tadc, was found dead in the fishing weir at Clontarf, his fingers still clutching the hair of a slain Viking. Brian's other sons, Conchobhar, Flann, and Domhnall, also fell in battle, as did many of the chieftains and mighty champions of the túatha—such Tadc Mór Ua Cellaigh (King of of Uí Maine), Máel Ruanaid Ua hEidhin (King of Aidhne), Géibennach Ua Dubagáin (King of Fer Maighe), Mac Bethad mac Muireadhach Claen Ua Conchobhair (King of Ciarraighe Lúachra), Domhnall mac Diarmait (King of Corcu Baiscinn), Scannlán mac Cathal (King of the Eóganacht of Loch Léin), and many other nobles—but, Brian's army won the day and the war; they slew over 6,000 Vikings, while only 4,000 Irish lost their lives.

The dissenters were scattered and many expected a reckoning to come to the leaders of the traitor clans. Every invading Viking leader was killed during the Battle of Clontarf. Also slain was Máel Mórda of Leinster, together with most of his chieftains. Sigtrygg Silkbeard did not die, however, because he did not fight. With his mother Gormflaith, he watched the entire battle in safety from the walls of Dublin. This battle was a major turning point as it finally subjugated the Norse presence in Ireland who were henceforth considered subordinate to the Kingships of Ireland. The military threat of the Vikings had been ended and they retreated to the urban centres of Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Cork, and Limerick (The Norse that remained in Ireland eventually became completely Christianised and Gaelicised and fully integrated into Gaelic society and culture. They remained in the country as traders and intermarried amongst the native Irish).

After the battle, Brian went and prayed, giving thanks to the Almighty for the victory of his forces and for the repose of his slain sons and grandson. He had dismissed his bodygaurds to give chase to the enemy as he prayed in his tent. However, it seems that Bróðir of Man and a few other Norsemen, hiding in the woods, saw Brian in his tent, lightly guarded while most of his men were off in furious pursuit of the fugitives. The Vikings fell upon the few Irish retainers, killing them. Bróðir easily overpowered and beheaded the 73 year old King Brian with one blow. They then retreated, Brodir yelling, "Now let man tell man that Bróðir felled Brian" but, could not escape Brian's servants and were quickly subdued and taken prisoner by the enraged Irish. Brian's brother, Cúduiligh, ordered that Bróðir's men be killed and that Bróðir himself should die a lingering coward's death. In retaliation for the murder of their King, the Irish slit open Bróðir's belly, pulling his intestines out, and attached them to an oak tree and then forced him to walk around and around the oak tree until he died. Bróðir's men were all put to death too. Brian Boru's body, as well as the remains of his son Murchadh, were conveyed with great solemnity to the city of Armagh and buried in a new tomb in the grounds of St. Patrick's Cathedral, near the north end of the church. The chroniclers state that Irish priests said prayers over the late High King's body for twelve days. Brian became a national hero. Later, Irish Nationalists would hold him up as an example of an Irish leader defeating the forces of foreign invaders. They saw the period between Brian's death and the Norman invasion under Strongbow in 1170 as an age when there were no foreigners in Ireland. Upon Brian's death the High Kingship passed to Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill who reigned until his death in 1022, as Brian's eligible sons had been killed during the battle, and Ireland returned to a fractious status quo between the many small, separate kingdoms that had existed for some time. The descendants of Brian through his son Tadc mac Briain, whose son Toirdelbach Ua Briain and grandson Muirchertach Ua Briain rivaled Brian in power and fame, retained the kingship of Munster and were known as the Uí Briain (O’Brien) clan, hence the surnames Ó Briain, O’Brien, O’Brian, etc.

Beginning in 1087, the last six High Kings of Ireland appear to have alternated between provincial candidates, with periods where there are no clear high king; these included kings from Aileach (Cenél nEógain), next from Munster (Dál gCais), then Connacht (Uí Briúin), then Tír Conaill (Cenél nEógain), and ending with Ruaidrí Ua Conchobhair (Rory O'Connor) of Connacht (Uí Briúin) in 1186. Ireland returned to its former past; túath fighting túath, king against king, province against province, until 1169 AD, when the Cambro-Normans came under the invitation of the exiled Leinster King, Diarmait mac Murchada, and a new invader was to be encountered.

Norman Ireland (1167-1350)

By the 12th century, Ireland was divided politically into a shifting hierarchy of petty kingdoms and over-kingdoms. Power was concentrated into the hands of a few regional dynasties contending against each other for control of the whole island. In 1166, Diarmait mac Murchada (Dermott MacMurrough), the king of Leinster, was deposed and exiled from Ireland by a confederation of Irish kings led by the new High King, Ruaidrí Ua Conchobhair (Rory O'Connor). In an effort to retake his kingdom, Mac Murchada fled to Aquitaine, France and met with Henry II, the Norman king of England, where he sought and acquired the King's permission to use Henry's subjects to regain his throne. Like the Norman Kings of England who had preceded him, Henry was actually French (as we would understand it today) rather than English. He was born in France, he spoke French, and he spent much of his time on the continent as well (It would be the loss of their lands in Normandy at the beginning of the 13th century that would finally Anglicize the Norman rulers of England). In 1167, Mac Murchada attained the services of the Norman lords in Wales, such as Maurice FitzGerald, Rhŷs ap Gruffydd, and more famously, Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, more commonly known as Strongbow.

At the time of the Norman invasion, then, we can say that, given the shifting sands and power struggles generally prevalent in Europe, Ireland was a relatively stable unit. In social order, literacy, in art and science, Ireland had produced one of Europe's outstanding cultures. The first Norman knight to land in Ireland was Richard fitz Godbert de Roche in 1167, but it was not until May 1, 1169 that the actual invasion of Ireland occurred on when a mercenary invasion force, about 600 in number, consisting of Normans, Welsh, and Flemings, landed at Bannow Bay in Wexford from Norman-occupied Wales. Mac Murchada and several hundred of his men promptly joined the Normans, and together they marched on Waterford. The successive waves of Cambro-Norman mercenaries introduced into Ireland by Diarmait mac Murchada in 1167, 1169, and 1170 came to pose a major challenge to Ua Conchobhair's High Kingship. Up to this time many of the other Irish kings and chieftains felt the Normans were simply aiding Mac Murchada in his "private" feud with Ua Conchobhair. However, this all changed on Diarmait mac Murchada's death in May 1171 and the accession of Strongbow, his son-in-law, to the kingship of Leinster. This event caused great concern among the native Irish leaders. In reaction, the tribes of Leinster rose in revolt and the High King called on the Irish provincial kings to drive out the foreigners (or gaill, in Irish).

Initially, the Irish campaign to oust the Normans was successful. Diarmait mac Cárthaigh (Dermott MacCarthy) of Desmond recaptured Waterford. The Norsemen of Wexford captured FitzStephen. A large Norse fleet under Askulf mac Torcaill (Hasculf Thorgillsson) returned to lay seige on Dublin, while Ruaidrí's army was approaching Dublin by land. However, the Norse attacked Dublin before the arrival of Ruaidrí's forces and although at first successful, were counter atttacked and outflanked by the superior calvary and archers of Milo de Cogan and his brother Richard. Ua Conchobhair's joint armies—60,000 strong—laid seige to Dublin during the months of July and August in 1171. As their supplies began to run out, the beseiged Normans made a surprise attack on the Ua Conchobhair's forces. Demonstrating their supremacy in arms, the Norman forces routed and dispersed Ruaidrí's forces. Ruaidrí then withdrew to his native Connacht, High King in name only. In 1175, as the Normans set about fortifying their newly captured cities and founding more, Ua Conchobhair realized he would never defeat them militarily and negotiated and signed the Treaty of Windsor which recognized Ruaidrí Ua Conchobhair as High King of Ireland outside Leinster, Meath and the area around Waterford but, also recognized Henry as his overlord. In return Henry demanded tribute from the Irish chiefs under Ua Conchobhair. This arrangement was unsuccessful, for thereafter Ua Conchobhair's position was gradually eroded. He suffered mounting opposition from within his own province and abdicated in favour of his son, Conchobhar, in 1183. Though he later sought to regain power, he never recovered his former status. He died at Cong and was buried in Clonmacnoise.

Norman Lords began acquiring land from the Irish chiefs by various means and soon the island began to get interspersed with Irish Lords and Norman Lords of varying degrees of loyalty to the King. The Cambro-Normans, including Richard "Strongbow" de Clare, had conquered a substantial part of eastern Ireland, including the kingdom of Leinster, the towns of Waterford, Wexford, and Dublin, and part of the kingdom of Meath. Partly to avert any chance of Ireland's becoming a rival Norman state, Henry II took action to impose his rule there. In October 1171, Henry landed with a large fleet and army at Waterford (becoming the first King of England to set foot on Irish soil) to assume control of the situation, and to set himself up in the role of the protector against the marauding Norman barons. Both Waterford and Dublin were proclaimed Royal Cities. Strongbow offered to surrender his Irish conquests to Henry and pay him homage.

Many of the Gaelic Irish Kings, seeing Henry as a potential ally against the power of the Norman Lords the in country swore fealty too. In November, Henry accepted the submission of the Irish kings in Dublin. In making their submissions to Henry, the Irish kings were adopting a strategy for survival in the wake of the overthrow of the High Kingship of Ireland. In the move the Irish kings were substituting one overlord for another, retaining full possession of and jurisdiction over their original territories, and paying tributes to Henry II, which were no heavier than those they formerly paid to the Irish High King.

Shortly after his arrival in Ireland, Henry ordered that a synod be convened at Cashel, which would regulate some affairs of the Church in Ireland and to condemn some abuses, bringing the Church more into alignment with the Roman Rite. This synod is known as the Second Synod of Cashel. It intended to implement the reforms of Pope Gregory VII, also called Gregorian Reforms. As such, it can be seen as a continuation and part of the Irish Church Reforms of the 12th century, including the First Synod of Cashel (1101), the Synod of Ráth Breasail (1111), the Synod of St. Patrick's Island (1148), and the Synod of Kells (1152), proving conclusively that even prior to the Norman invasion, the Irish Church was already, slowly, embracing the Gregorian Reforms. The native liturgies were gradually streamlined and adapted and many aspects of the liturgy of the Roman Rite were adopted.

Henry then went to Lismore, the see of the papal legate Gilla Críst Ua Connairche (Christianus O'Conarchy). He also visited Cashel and Dublin, and thus had the opportunity to meet the archbishops Donnchadh Ua hUallacháin (Donatus O'Houlihan) of Cashel and Lorcán Ua Tuathail (St. Laurence O'Toole) of Dublin. Gerald of Wales' account of the synod in his Expugnatio Hibernicæ ("The Conquest of Ireland") lists these three bishops, as well as Archbishop Cadla Ua Dubthaig (Catholicus O'Duffy) of Tuam among the clergy of Ireland attending the synod, "with their suffragans and fellow-bishops, together with the abbots, archdeacons, priors, and deans, and many other Irish prelates." Gilla Meic Liac mac Diarmata (Gelasius MacDermott), Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland did not attend. The Synod, which he caused to be convened, was not attended as numerously as he had expected, and the regulations made thereat were simply a renewal of those which had been made previously at the First Synod of Cashel, the Synod of Ráth Breasail, and the Synod of Kells.

The Prelates who assembled for the Second Synod of Cashel, far from having enslaved the state to Henry, avoided any interference in politics either by word or act. Their office was to promote peace. So long as the permanent peace and independence of the nation seemed likely to be forwarded by resistance to foreign invasion, they counselled resistance; when resistance was hopeless, they recommended acquiescence, not because they believed the usurpation less unjust, but because they considered submission the wisest course. Previously in 1155, Pope Adrian IV, the only English pope, issued a Papal bull called Laudabiliter, giving the Henry II the right to intervene in Ireland to "assist" in the reform of the governance of the Irish Church and the Irish system of governance according to the Roman ecclesiastical system. The authenticity of the Laudabiliter is heavily disputed among historians. Though this alleged Bull has been used since to justify the idea that Pope Adrian IV had authorised perpetual and unconditional English occupation of Ireland, a close reading of the Bull does not support that. Adrian wrote: "And may the people of that land receive thee with honor, and venerate thee as their master: provided always that the rights or the churches remain inviolate and entire, and saving to St. Peter and the holy Roman Church the annual pension of one penny from each house." In any event, Henry made no use of Adrian's Bull for some years after receiving it. Henry's indifference about this document, or his reluctance to use it, shows of how little real importance it was considered at the time. Irish prelates were well represented at both the great reform councils of the Middle Ages: the Third Council of the Lateran (1179) and the Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215).

Henry awarded his Irish territories to his youngest son John with the title Dominus Hiberniæ ("Lord of Ireland") in 1176. When John unexpectedly succeeded his brother as King John, the "Lordship of Ireland" fell directly under the English Crown. The Normans initially controlled the entire east coast, from Waterford to eastern Ulster, and penetrated a considerable distance inland as well. The counties were ruled by many smaller kings. The first Lord of Ireland was King John, who visited Ireland in 1185 and 1210 and helped consolidate the Norman-controlled areas, while ensuring that the many Irish kings swore fealty to him. Throughout the 13th century the policy of the English Kings was to weaken the power of the Norman Lords in Ireland. For example, King John encouraged Hugh de Lacy to destabilise and then overthrow the Lord of Ulster, before naming him as the first Earl of Ulster. The Hiberno-Norman community suffered from a series of invasions that ceased the spread of their settlement and power. Politics and events in Gaelic Ireland served to draw the settlers deeper into the orbit of the Irish.

Due to the increasing pressure of the Norman colonists under the Lordship of Ireland, revolts began to flare across Ireland. Tadhg Ua Briain (Teague O'Brien), son of the King of Thomond defeated the colonists in 1257 and plundered their lands. Hugh de Lacy's death in 1243 meant that the Earldom of Ulster was still in a period of lax administration. In 1255, Brian Ua Néill (Brian O'Neill), King of Tír Eoghain, seized this opportunity to raid the colonists' lands across the River Bann into Ulaid and destroy any towns and castles that he encountered. Meanwhile, Aodh Ua Conchobhair (Hugh O'Connor), the son of the King of Connacht, expanded his territory by conquering the neighbouring Kingdom of Breifne in 1256 (with backing from Brian). Brian, Tadhg, and Aodh formed an alliance, and in 1258 they met near a ruined Geraldine castle at Belleek on the Erne. Here Brian was confirmed as High King of Ireland and Aodh's overlordship of Breifne was accepted. However their success was short-lived. Tadhg died the following year, and Brian and Aodh had lost a valuable ally. In 1260, Brian and Aodh assembled an army and attacked the Norman colonists near Downpatrick. Expecting an attack, the Normans had also raised an army. At the Battle of Druim Dearg, Brian and Aodh were heavily defeated, and Brian was killed along with many other important Irish leaders (including a number of O'Cahan chiefs). His head was cut off by the Normans and sent to King Henry III of England with much rejoicing from the colonists.

The Gaelic Resurgence (1350-1500)

Beginning in mid-1250s, there began a Gaelic Resurgence and a Norman retreat that reversed and overwhelmed Norman advances, due mainly to the fact that the Normans never settled in Ireland in sufficient numbers to fully implement and protect their military conquest. The weakening of the Anglo-Norman Lordship had become manifest following a string of military defeats, demonstrated by the Norman army's defeat at the Battle of Callann to the Gaelic Irish, under of Fínghin mac Cárthaigh (Fineen MacCarthy) the MacCarthys of Kerry in 1261. The O'Connors defeated the Normans of Connacht in 1270 at the Battle of Áth-an-Chip and in 1274 the Normans of Wicklow were also defeated. Prior to the arrival of the Anglo-Normans, the Gaelic Irish had a strong sense of collective identity. This was based around language and custom, together with a shared past which had been promoted by the Gaelic learned classes. However, the common Irish identity was not reflected in political unity, let alone in centralised structures of government. The co-existence of a sense of cultural oneness with political fragmentation was a persistent feature of Gaelic Ireland.

The invasion by Edward Bruce, brother of King Robert I of Scotland, during 1315-1318 at a time of famine weakened the Norman economy. The Remonstrance of the Irish Princes to Pope John XXII in 1317 was written during the Bruce's occupation of eastern Ulster. It was partly a response to the English crown's use of armies, money, and supplies from Ireland in its wars against Scotland. Edward Bruce had assumed the title 'King of Ireland' with the support of Domnall Ó Néill and other northern chiefs. The aim of the document, which may have been composed by Gaelic clergy at Armagh, was to justify the actions of Bruce's Irish backers and to persuade the Pope to transfer Ireland from Edward II of England to Edward Bruce of Scotland. Bruce was eventually defeated and killed in Ireland at the Battle of Faughart, near Dundalk, in 1318. The Plague arrived in Ireland in 1348. Because most of the English and Norman inhabitants of Ireland lived in towns and villages, the plague hit them far harder than it did the native Irish, who lived in more dispersed rural settlements. After it had passed, Gaelic Irish language and customs came to dominate the country again.

The Normans, however, in spite of their successes, never conquered Ireland itself and England's influence in native Irish affairs was minimal from 1300-1500. The survival of a Gaelic Irish identity sprang in part from the fact that the Norman conquest remained incomplete. Only in "the Pale," a 30-mile wide bridgehead around Dublin, was there a secure base for English law and custom to take root. The English had little real authority outside of it. Beyond the Pale, the Hiberno-Norman lords intermarried with Gaelic noble families, integrated into Irish society, obeyed Irish law, adopted the Irish language, manners, and customs and sided with the Gaelic Irish in political and military conflicts against the Lordship. During this period, the Normans were said to have become "more Irish than the Irish themselves" (Irish: Níos Gaelaí ná na Gaeil iad féin).[19] That is, to employ a much later term, many of the Normans in Ireland "went native" so that instead of transforming the Irish, they themselves were transformed. They also generally remained Catholic after the Reformation. In the chaotic situation, the native Irish lords won back large amounts of land. By the mid-1400s, the Irish lords had taken back over half of their lost territory, so that Norman-held land, once 75% of the island, was reduced to about 35%. This brought about the Norman decline culminating in 1300 and lead to the Gaelic Resurgence which lasted from 1350 to 1500.

Beyond the Pale, the Gaelic areas were ruled by their ancient families—the Uí Néill and Uí Domhnaill in Ulster, the Uí Briain in Munster—while much of what had been the heartland of the Norman-imposed Lordship of Ireland had become virtually independent states. The authorities in the Pale grew so worried about the "Gaelicization" of Ireland that, in 1367 at a parliament in Kilkenny, they passed special legislation (known as the Statutes of Kilkenny) banning those of Cambro-Norman or English descent from speaking the Irish language, wearing Irish clothes or intermarrying with the Irish. Since the government in Dublin had little real authority and was restricted to the Pale, the Statutes did not have much effect, as outside the Pale, the Cambro-Norman lords continued to intermarry with Gaelic noble families and speak the Gaelic language. By the end of the 15th century, central English authority in Ireland had almost disappeared. England's attentions were diverted by the Wars of the Roses (1455–1485). The Lordship of Ireland lay in the hands of the powerful FitzGerald, Earl of Kildare, who dominated the country by means of military force and alliances with Irish lords and clans. The Gaelic and Gaelicized lords expanded their powers at the expense of the central government in Dublin, creating a polity quite foreign to English ways and which was not fully overthrown until the successful conclusion of the Tudor conquest.

Early Modern Ireland (1500–1691)

The Tudor Conquest of Ireland

England launched a more aggressive colonization under the Tudor Dynasty. From 1536, King Henry VIII of England decided to conquer Ireland and bring it under crown control. English rule of law was reinforced and expanded in Ireland during the latter part of the 16th century. The most immediate reason for this was that the FitzGerald dynasty of Kildare, who had become the effective rulers of Ireland in the 15th century, had become very unreliable allies of the Tudor monarchs. Most seriously, they had previously invited Burgundian troops into Dublin to crown the Yorkist claimant to the English throne, Lambert Simnel, as King of England in 1487. In 1535, "Silken Thomas" Fitzgerald, 10th Earl of Kildare, went into open rebellion against the crown. Henry put down this rebellion, having Thomas FitzGerald along with several of his uncles executed. He, afterwards, set about to pacify Ireland and bring it all under English government control, perhaps to prevent it being a base for foreign invasions of England (a concern that was to be sustained for another 400 or more years).

With the assistance of Thomas Cromwell, he implemented the policy of surrender and regrant. This extended Royal protection to all of Ireland's elite, regardless of ethnicity; in return the whole country was expected to obey the law of the central government; and all Irish lords were to officially surrender their lands to the Crown, and to receive them back in return by Royal Charter. The keystone to the reform was in a statute passed by the Irish parliament in 1541, whereby the lordship was converted to the Kingdom of Ireland. Overall, the intention was to assimilate the Gaelic and Gaelicized upper classes and develop a loyalty on their part to the new crown; to this end, they were granted English titles and for the first time admitted to the Irish parliament. One of the more important was the earldom of Tyrone that was created for the Ui Neill dynasty in 1542. In a felicitous phrase, the king summed up his efforts at reform as "politic drifts and amiable persuasions". In practice, lords around Ireland accepted their new privileges but carried on as they had before. For the Irish Lordships the English monarch was but another over lord similar to that found in the Gaelic system. It was however the Tudors' increasing encroachment upon their local autonomy by the development of a centralised state that was to bring the English system into direct conflict with the Gaelic Irish one.

The Reformation fundamentally changed Ireland. After Pope Clement VII refused to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church in 1534 when the Act of Supremacy was passed which declared that he was "the only Supreme Head in Earth of the Church of England," sparking the English Reformation. By 1541, Henry VIII had enjoined the Anglo-Irish Parliament to proclaim him the spiritual head of the Church of Ireland rather than the Pope, obliged all government officials in Ireland to swear allegiance to the new Protestant church, and established the King of England as the "King of Ireland," upgrading the Lordship of Ireland to a full Kingdom. From the period of the original lordship in the 12th century onwards, Ireland had retained its own bicameral Parliament of Ireland, consisting of a House of Commons and a House of Lords. It was restricted for most of its existence in terms both of membership – Gaelic Irishmen were barred from membership – and of powers, notably by Poynings' Law of 1494, which required the approval of the English Privy Council before any draft bills might be introduced to the Parliament. After 1541, Henry VIII admitted native Irish lords into both houses and recognised their land titles, in return for their submission to him as King of Ireland. However, the real power in Ireland throughout this period lay not with the Parliament, but with the Lord Deputy of Ireland, who was nominated by the King of England to govern Ireland. The Parliament met only when called by the Lord Deputy, when he wanted to pass new laws or raise new taxes. The Lord Deputy's permanent advisors were the Irish Privy Council. While the English, the Welsh, and the Scots generally accepted Protestantism, the Irish remained Catholic, a fact which determined their relationship with the British state for the next 400 years. The Reformation coincided with a determined effort on behalf of the English state to re-conquer and colonise Ireland. The religious schism meant that the (Catholic) native Irish and the Hiberno-Normans were to be excluded from power in the new settlement unless they converted to Protestantism.

Henry died in 1547 and was succeeded by his son Edward VI, who reigned from 1547-1553 and was followed by his half-sister, Mary I (r. 1553-1558), the daughter of Catherine of Aragon. Mary remained a Catholic and reverted the state to Catholicism, but during her short 5 year reign, she was hostile to Ireland for reasons other than religion, and imposed England's first plantation on Ireland. Mary was succeeded by her sister Elizabeth I who reigned for 43 years (1558-1603), broke again with Rome after 1570, and proved to be the most brutal of all English monarchs in crushing other challenges to the authoritarian power of the Crown. The Munster branch of the FitzGeralds (known as the Geraldines) were holders of the title Earl of Desmond, which at the time of the rebellions was held by Gerald FitzGerald, 15th Earl of Desmond.

Rebellions and Wars

The First Desmond Rebellion (1569–1573) had been an armed protest against English intrusion into the Desmond territories. Specifically it was against the creation of the office of "Lord President" (governor) in the province of Munster and the English pursuit of policies that favoured the FitzGerald's rivals, the Butlers of Ormonde, and various English colonists. The most pressing grievance of the Geraldines had been the government's arrest of Gerald the Earl and his brother John of Desmond in 1568 for their part in a private war against the Butlers in 1565, which had culminated in the Battle of Affane in County Waterford. The First Desmond Rebellion was launched in 1569, in the absence of the Desmond leadership, by James FitzMaurice FitzGerald, the 'captain general' of the FitzGerald army. Following the excommunication of Queen Elizabeth I in 1570, Pope Pius V had ruled that Irish Catholics did not owe allegiance to Protestant England. That rebellion was quashed by the English crown forces and their Irish allies (primarily the Butlers, led by Thomas Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormonde), and ended in 1573.

The Second Desmond Rebellion (1579-1583) was sparked in July 1579 when James FitzMaurice FitzGerald, landed in Ireland with a force of Papal troops, triggering an insurrection across the south of Ireland on the part of the Desmond dynasty, their allies and others who were dissatisfied for various reasons with English government of the country. During his exile in Europe, he had reinvented himself as a soldier of the Counter-Reformation. Pope Gregory XIII backed the Irish war effort, granting FitzMaurice an indulgence and supplying him the with Papal money and troops. It was also planned that King Philip II of Spain would take over the monarchy of Ireland and Ireland would become a Spanish protectorate. FitzMaurice landed at Smerwick, near Dingle in County Kerry on 18 July 1579 with a small force of Spanish and Italian troops. He was joined in rebellion on August 1 by John of Desmond, a brother of the Earl, who had a large following among his kinsmen and the disaffected swordsmen of Munster. Other Gaelic clans and Hiberno-Norman families also joined in the rebellion. After FitzMaurice was killed in a skirmish with the Clanwilliam Burkes on 18 August, John FitzGerald assumed leadership of the rebellion. Gerald, the Earl of Desmond, joined the rebellion by sacking the towns of Youghal (on November 13) and Kinsale, and devastated the country of the English and their allies. However, by the summer of 1580, English troops under William Pelham and locally raised Irish forces under the Earl of Ormonde succeeded in bringing the rebellion under control, re-taking the south coast, destroying the lands of the Desmonds and their allies in the process, and killing their tenants. By capturing Carrigafoyle at Easter 1580, the principal Desmond castle at the mouth of Shannon river, they cut off the Geraldine forces from the rest of the country and prevented a landing of foreign troops into the main Munster ports. However, in July 1580, the rebellion spread to Leinster, under the leadership of Gaelic Irish chieftain Fiach MacHugh O'Byrne and the Pale lord Viscount Baltinglass—motivated by Catholicism and hostility to the English. A large English force under the Lord Deputy of Ireland Earl Grey de Wilton were sent to subdue them, only to be ambushed and massacred at the battle of Glenmalure on August 25, losing over 800 dead. However, the Leinster rebels were unable to capitalize on their victory or to effectively coordinate their strategy with the Munster insurgents.

In October 1580, 600 Papal troops (Italians and Spaniards) commanded by Sebastiano di San Giuseppe (Sebastiano da Modena) were defeated by the English, as were the Irish lords and rebels. After a three day siege against their fort at Dún an Óir, commander di San Giuseppe surrendered on 10 October 1580. Arthur Grey, 14th Baron Grey de Wilton ordered the massacre of the invasion forces, sparing only the commanders. Italian and Spanish troops, as well as Irishmen and women, were beheaded and their bodies thrown into the sea. This event is known as the Siege of Smerwick. By relentless scorched earth tactics, the English broke the momentum of the rebellion by mid 1581. By May 1581, most of the minor rebels and Fitzgerald allies in Munster and Leinster had accepted Elisaneth I's offer of a general pardon. Even worse, John of Desmond, in many ways the main leader of the rebellion, was killed north of Cork in early 1582. For the Geraldine Earl however there would be no pardon, and he was pursued by crown forces until the end. From 1581 to 1583, the war dragged on, with the remaining Geraldines evading capture in the mountains of Kerry. The rebellion was finally ended on 2 November 1583 when the earl was hunted down and killed near Tralee in Kerry by the local clan O'Moriarty. The clan chief, Maurice, received 1000 pounds of silver from the English government for Desmond's head, which was sent to Queen Elizabeth. His body was displayed on the walls of Cork.

The most serious threat to English rule in Ireland came during the Nine Years War (1594–1603), when Hugh O'Neill, 3rd Earl of Tyrone and his ally, Hugh Roe O'Donnell, led the native Irish of Ulster in a rebellion against the English government in Ireland. This war developed into a nation-wide revolt and O'Neill successfully obtained military aid from Spain, which was then in conflict with England during the Anglo-Spanish War. Though the war was fought in all parts of Ireland, the fighting began, and was primarily in, Ulster where O'Neill achieved 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. With the aid of Spain, O'Neill was able to arm and feed over 8,000 men, unprecedented for a Gaelic lord, and so was well prepared to resist any further English attempts to govern Ulster.O'Neill was one of the few clan chieftains who helped the Spanish sailors despite threats of Elizabeth I after the sinking of the Spanish Armada off the coast of Ireland in September 1588. Philip III had been offered the kingship of Ireland in 1595 by O'Neill and his allies, but turned it down.

The Irish received aid from Spain in 1602 including money, ammunition, and a Spanish force of 4,000 troops under Don Juan del Águila. The combined Irish and Spanish forces engaged Mountjoy at the Battle of Kinsale (1602). O'Neill and Águila had 9,000 troops against Mountjoy's 6,300 men, but Mountjoy's well trained army won the battle. Though the Battle of Kinsale had effectively ended the war, O'Neill held out for another 15 months. After the Irish defeat at the Battle of Kinsale in 1602, Hugh Roe O'Donnell left for Spain pleading in vain for another Spanish landing. He died in 1602 probably due to poisoning by an English agent. His brother assumed leadership of the O'Donnell clan. Hugh O'Neill were reduced to guerrilla tactics, fighting in small bands, as the English and their allies swept the countryside. The English scorched earth tactics were especially harsh on the civilian population, who died in great numbers both from direct targeting and from famine. O'Neill and his allies eventually surrendered to the new Stuart King, James I, in 1603. After this point, the English authorities in Dublin established real control over Ireland for the first time, bringing a centralised form of justice to the entire island, and successfully disarmed the various lordships, both Irish and Hiberno-Norman. On September 14, 1607, with the remaining Gaelic leadership, O'Neill secretly boarded a ship at Lough Swilly and sailed for the Continent. This event became known as the Flight of the Earls. Although O'Neill and his allies received good terms at the end of the war, they were never trusted by the English authorities and the distrust was mutual. They intended to organise an expedition from a Catholic power in Europe to re-start the war, preferably Spain, but were unable to find any military backers at the time. They hoped to get Spanish help in order to restart their rebellion in Ireland, but King Philip III of Spain did not want a resumption of war with England and refused their request. Hugh O'Neill died in Rome on 20 July 1616. Throughout his nine year exile he was active in plotting a return to Ireland, toying variously both with schemes to oust English authority outright and with proposed offers of pardon from London. Upon news of his death, the court poets of Ireland engaged in the Contention of the Bards.

During Eighty Years' War, between 1640-1648, Irish exiles had formed their own regiment in the Spanish Tercios of Flanders, officered by Gaelic Irish nobles and recruited from their followers and dependents in Ireland and composed mostly of members of the clan O'Neill. The regiment was led by Hugh O'Neill's son, John. Prominent officers included Owen Roe O'Neill and Hugh Dubh O'Neill. Owen Roe O'Neill tried unsuccessfully to give military support to King Philip IV of Spain to found a Catholic kingdom in Ireland under Spanish protection. This regiment was more overtly political than its predecessor in Spanish service and was militantly hostile to the English Protestant government in Ireland.

Beginning in the 16th century, the final collapse of the Gaelic social and political superstructure at the end of the 17th century due to manipulation by the British government. The devastation of the old Gaelic culture was not begun until the catastrophic 16th and 17th centuries. It was the Tudor / Elizabethan pogroms followed by the Cromwellian invasion, with brutality and savagery, which swept the old Gaelic order completely away.

Colonial Ireland

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, for they divided Ireland into two hostile fractions. From the mid-16th and into the early 17th century, crown governments carried out a policy of colonisation known as "Plantations." Scottish and English Protestants were sent as colonists to the provinces of Munster, Ulster, and the counties of Laois and Offaly (then known as "King's County" and "Queen's County"). The largest of these projects, the Plantation of Ulster. A series of Penal Laws discriminated against all Christian faiths other than the established Anglican Church of Ireland. The principal victims of these laws were Roman Catholics and (to a lesser extent) Baptists and Presbyterians. Under Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603) and James I (r. 1603-1623), English policy towards Ireland became more heavy-handed. This involved the expropriation of Irish-owned land, direct exploitation of Irish labour, and forced resettlement of those whose land had been taken. English policy included attempts to establish "plantations" in Ireland, which were mostly unsuccessful.

This basic model was for Protestant English tenants to supplant Catholic Irish tenants and for native Irish to be made the primary labourers, with no rights to own land. The motivation for the initial transportation of the Irish was expressed by James I: "Root out the Papists [Catholics] and fill it [Ireland] with Protestants." Private plantation of the counties of Antrim and Down by wealthy Protestant Scottish landowners began in 1606 and James I initiated the theft of native Irish lands in the rest of Ulster in 1609, creating the Plantation of Ulster, which had settled up to 80,000 English and Scots in the north of Ireland by 1641. All land owned by Irish chieftains and landowners of the Uí Néill and Uí Domhnaill (along with those of their supporters) was "confiscated" and used to settle the Protestant English and Scottish colonists. This land comprised an estimated half a million acres (2,000 km²) in the counties of Tyrconnell, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Cavan, Coleraine and Armagh. Most of the counties Antrim and Down were privately colonized. The "British tenants," a term applied to the colonists, were mostly from Scotland and England. They were required to be English-speaking and Protestant. The Scottish colonists were mostly Presbyterian and the English mostly members of the Church of England. Ulster was colonised to prevent further rebellion, as it had been the region most resistant to English control during the preceding century.

A new rebellion soon began in 1641 (known as the Irish Rebellion of 1641) when Irish Catholics, threatened by expanding power of the anti-Catholic English Parliament and Scottish Covenanters at the expense of the King, rebelled against the domination of English and Protestant settlers. The rebellion developed into an ethno-religious conflict between native Irish Catholics on one side, and English and Scottish Protestant settlers on the other. This began a conflict known as the Irish Confederate Wars (1641-1653), against the background of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (1639-1651). As a result of the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, in which the King and Parliament finally went to war with each other, no English troops were available to put down the uprising and the rebels were left in control of most of Ireland. During this period, the Catholic majority briefly ruled the country as the Irish Catholic Confederation (also known as the "Confederation of Kilkenny," being based in the city of Kilkenny). It was an Irish self-governing Confederal Monarchy which governed two-thirds of Ireland between 1642-1651. It received modest subsidies from the monarchies of France and Spain (who wanted to recruit troops in Ireland) but their main continental support came from the Papacy. The Confederates allied themselves with King Charles I and the English Royalists, though they did not sign a formal treaty with them until 1649. Had the Royalists won the English Civil War, the result could have been an autonomous Catholic ruled Ireland.

Pope Urban VIII sent Pierfrancesco Scarampi to liaise with and help the Confederates' Supreme Council in 1643. Pope Innocent X strongly supported Confederate Ireland. Innocent received the Confederation's envoy in February 1645 and resolved to send a nuncio extraordinary to Ireland, Giovanni Battista Rinuccini, archbishop of Fermo, who embarked from La Rochelle with the Confederacy's secretary, Richard Bellings. He took with him a large quantity of arms and military supplies and a very large sum of money. These supplies meant that Rinuccini had a big influence on the Confederates' internal politics and he was backed by the more militant Confederates such as Owen Roe O'Neill. At Kilkenny Rinuccini was received with great honours, asserting that the object of his mission was to sustain the King, but above all to help the Catholic people of Ireland in securing the free and public exercise of the Catholic religion, and the restoration of the churches and church property, but not any former monastic property. The Confederates failed to defeat the English armies in Ireland during the period of 1642–1649. The rebels mounted a seven year insurgency which, if all had gone smoothly, might have led to a permanent accommodation with a divided England. Parliament's army, led by Oliver Cromwell (a Puritan member of Parliament) defeated King Charles I in a two phase war. Following a trial, Charles I was beheaded in 1649 and the monarchy was abolished. The Irish Confederate Wars and the ensuing Cromwellian conquest of Ireland (1649-1653) on behalf of the English Commonwealth caused massive loss of life and ended with the confiscation of almost all Irish Catholic owned land in the 1650s, though much was re-granted in the 1660s. The end of the period cemented the English colonisation of Ireland in the so-called Cromwellian Settlement.

Cromwell and his Puritans spelled disaster for all Catholics in Ireland and elsewhere in the British Isles. The Puritans were virulently anti-Catholic, and England's tolerance for Catholics quickly disappeared, with all Catholics now considered enemies of England. In 1649, Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army landed on Ireland's shores and a reign of terror swept the land leaving death and destruction in its wake. After the town of Drogheda had surrendered, Cromwell had the entire garrison killed, over 2,000 were put to death in the most crude and vile ways. Cromwell's troops massacred 3,500 residents, including unarmed women and children. When over 100 people took refuge in the steeple of St. Peter's Church, the soldiers set fire to the church, burning all to death. The remainder of the town were shipped into slavery in the West Indies. On 11 October 1649, the people of Wexford received the same fate as those in Drogheda. Again over 2,000 were slain and the town was sacked and the women of the town were raped by the New Model Army. Over 300 women were taken to a place known as "The Cross," where they were raped, murdered, and their fingers were hacked off so rings could removed. The outrages would continue, thousands more would die at the hands of Cromwell's men, countless thousands would be displaced and driven from their ancestral lands and thousands more sold into slavery. In the twelve years comprising the the Irish Confederation Wars, the Irish population fell from 1,466,000 to 616,000. Over 550,000 Irish people were killed, and 300,000 were sold into slavery. According to Sir William Petty, 850,000 were "wasted by the sword, plague, famine, hardship and banishment" during the Confederation Wars of 1641-1653. Cromwell regarded the massacres as appropriate retribution for the deaths of the Ulster Protestants in 1641. It was during the Cromwellian era (1649-1660) that anti-Catholic animus reached its highest level in Irish history. As retribution for the rebellion of 1641, the better-quality remaining lands owned by Irish Catholics were confiscated and given to British settlers. Several hundred remaining native landowners were transplanted to Connacht. The Cromwellian conquest therefore left bitter memories in Irish popular culture.

An uneasy peace returned with the Restoration of the monarchy in England and King Charles II made some efforts to conciliate Irish Catholics with compensation and land grants. Most Catholics, however were disappointed that the Cromwellian land confiscations were, on the whole, allowed to stand. Protestants, on the other hand, felt that Irish Catholics had been treated far too leniently by Charles, and deserved to be punished for their massacres of Protestant civilians in 1641. In 1678, there was another brief burst of anti-Catholic repression during the "Popish Plot," when it was rumoured that Irish Catholics were planning another rebellion with French help. Two Catholic Bishops, Peter Talbot and Oliver Plunkett were arrested. Talbot died in prison and Plunkett was hanged, drawn and quartered.

However, within a generation of the Restoration, Ireland was at war again. In the reign of the Catholic King James II of England, Irish Catholics briefly appeared to be recovering their pre-eminent position in Irish society. James repealed much of the anti-Catholic legislation, allowed Catholics into the Irish Parliament and the Army and appointed a Catholic, Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, as Lord Deputy of Ireland. Protestants in Ireland could do little about this turn of events. However, with the so-called "Glorious Revolution" of 1688, James II was deposed by the English Parliament and replaced by William of Orange (known as William III of England), his Protestant son-in-law, with the help of a Dutch invasion force. Irish Catholics backed James to try to reverse the Penal Laws and land confiscations, whereas Irish and British Protestants supported William to preserve their dominance in the country. Richard Talbot, the Lord Deputy, raised a Jacobite army from among Irish Catholics and seized all the strong points around the country, with the exception of Derry, which was besieged by his men.

James, backed by the French King Louis XIV, arrived in Ireland in 1690 with French troops, as did William III, with a multi-national force, including British, Dutch, and Danish troops. The two Kings fought for the English, Scottish and Irish thrones in the Jacobite-Williamite War, most famously at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, where James's forces were defeated. Although not militarily decisive, this battle is remembered as a great Williamite victory because James fled Ireland for France after the battle, effectively conceding defeat to William. Jacobite resistance in Ireland continued for another year however, winning a success at the Siege of Limerick in 1690, but was finally ended after the Battle of Aughrim in July 1691, when their main army was destroyed. They surrendered at Limerick shortly afterwards. The Jacobite army left the country under the terms of the Treaty of Limerick, negotiated by Patrick Sarsfield, to enter French service (This event is known as the "Flight of the Wild Geese"). Others were also exiled to Spain where they were respected, given noble titles and often integrated into the Spanish Army. A fresh source of recruits came in the early 17th century, when Catholics were banned from military and political office in Ireland. The war, while not as destructive as that of the 1640s and 1650s, was nevertheless a shattering defeat for the old Irish Catholic landed classes, who never recovered their former position in Irish society.

Age of Penal Laws (1691–1801)

During the Age of Penal Laws, also known as the "Protestant Ascendancy", Ireland was filled with social unrest due to a repressive 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% of the population). Presbyterians could sit in Parliament but, not hold office. Both Catholics and Presbyterians were also barred from certain professions (such as law, the judiciary and the army) and had restrictions on inheriting land. Catholics could not bear arms or exercise their religion publicly.

Almost immediately after the Treaty of Limerick in 1691, ending the Jacobite-Williamite War in Ireland, Anglicans took decisive action to further strengthen their dominant position. Notwithstanding the Treaty, the Irish and English Parliaments, both exclusively dominated by Anglicans, enacted a series of Penal Laws which created a three tier, Anglican controlled society in which Catholics would be totally excluded from property and power, and Presbyterians would remain subordinate to Anglicans. The Irish Parliament of this era was almost exclusively Protestant in composition. Catholics had been barred from holding office in the early 17th century, barred from sitting in Parliament by mid-century and finally disenfranchised in 1727. Jacobitism, support for the Stuart dynasty by Gaelic and Catholic Ireland, had been utterly defeated in the Jacobite-Williamite war in Ireland which had ended in 1691. The defeat of the Catholic landed classes in this war meant that those who had fought for James II had their lands confiscated (until a pardon of 1710). The outcome of the war also meant that Catholics were excluded from political power. Power was confined to the Protestant ruling class which enforced its position by the passing of Penal Laws against members of other religions. As a result of these laws, the percentage of Catholic-owned land fell from around 14% in 1691 to around 5% in the course of the next century. This period of defeat and apparent hopelessness for Irish Catholics was referred to in Irish language poetry as the long briseadh, or "shipwreck."

Among the discriminations now faced by victims of the Penal Laws were:[20]

  • Exclusion of Catholics from membership in either the Parliament of Ireland or the Parliament of Great Britain
  • Exclusion of Catholics from other public offices (since 1607), Presbyterians were also barred from public office in 1707
  • Catholics where barred from holding firearms or serving in the armed forces
  • Presbyterian marriages were not legally recognized by the state
  • Disenfranchising Act of 1728 - prohibiting Catholics from voting
  • Exclusion of Catholics from legal professions and the judiciary
  • Education Act of 1695 - Prohibition of children receiving a Catholic education and being educated abroad[21]
  • In families, property rights could be gained by conversion to the Church of Ireland;
  • Popery Act - Catholic inheritances forced to be equally subdivided between all an owner's sons
  • Prohibition on Catholics owning a horse, valued at over £5 (in order to keep horses suitable for military activity out of the majority's hands)
  • Ban on converting from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism
  • Illegal to be a Roman Catholic bishop, vicar, or friar on pain of death
  • Ban on Catholic holidays
  • When allowed, Catholic Churches only allowed be built from wood, not stone
  • "No person of the popish religion shall publicly or in private houses teach school, or instruct youth in learning within this realm."

As a result, political, legal, and economic power resided with the Ascendancy to the extent that though a small fraction of the population, 95% of the land of Ireland was calculated to be under minority Protestant control. In the early part of the 18th century, these Penal Laws were augmented and quite strictly enforced, as the Protestant elite were unsure of their position and threatened by the continued existence of Irish Catholic regiments in the French army committed to a restoration of the Jacobite dynasty. From time to time, these fears were exacerbated by the activities of Catholic bandits known as rapparees and by agrarian, peasant secret societies such as the Whiteboys (Irish: Buachaillí Bána), which used violent tactics to defend tenant farmer land rights for subsistence farming.

The son of James II, James Francis Edward Stuart, was recognised by the Holy See as the legitimate monarch of the Kingdom of England, Kingdom of Scotland, and the separate Kingdom of Ireland until his death in January 1766, and Roman Catholics were morally obliged to support him. However, after the demise of the Jacobite cause in Scotland at the Battle of Culloden in 1745, and the Papacy's recognition of the Hanoverian dynasty in 1766, the threat to the Protestant Ascendancy eased and many Penal Laws were relaxed or lightly enforced.

From 1766, Catholics favoured reform of the existing state in Ireland. Their politics were represented by the "Catholic Committees"—a moderate organisation of Catholic gentry and Clergy in each county which advocated repeal of the Penal Laws and emphasised their loyalty. Reforms on land ownership then started in 1771 and 1778-79. The Papacy did not object to the fact of an established Anglican church, as Roman Catholicism was the established church in countries such as Spain until 1931 and Austria until 1918. It did, however, push for reforms allowing equality within the system. The late 18th century saw the beginning of the repeal of the Penal Laws with the Catholic Relief Acts of 1778 and 1793. However, the long drawn-out pace of reform ensured that the question of religious discrimination dominated Irish politics and was a constant source of division.

Reform, though not complete, came in three main stages and was effected over 50 years:

  • Reform of religious disabilities in 1778-82, allowing bishops, schools and convents.
  • Reform of restrictions on property ownership and voting in 1778-93.
  • Restoration of political, professional and office-holding rights in 1793-1829.

"Grattan's Parliament" and the Volunteers

By the late 18th century, many of the Protestant elite of Ireland had come to see Ireland as their native country. A Parliamentary faction led by Henry Grattan agitated for a more favourable trading relationship with England, in particular abolition of the Navigation Acts that enforced tariffs on Irish goods in English markets, but allowed no tariffs for English goods in Ireland. From early in the century, Irish parliamentarians also campaigned for legislative independence for the Parliament of Ireland, especially the repeal of Poynings' Law that allowed the English Parliament to legislate for Ireland. Many of their demands were met in 1782, when Free Trade was granted between Ireland and England and Poynings' Law was amended. Instrumental in achieving reform was the Irish Volunteers movement, founded in Belfast in 1778. This militia, up to 100,000 strong, was formed to defend Ireland from French or Spanish invasion during the American Revolutionary War, but was outside of government control and staged armed demonstrations in favour of Grattan's reforming agenda.

For the "Patriots", as Grattan's followers were known, the "Constitution of 1782" was the start of a process that would end sectarian discrimination and usher in an era of prosperity and Irish self-government. Conservative loyalists such as John Foster, John FitzGibbon, and John Beresford, remained opposed to further concessions to Catholics and, led by the 'Junta', argued that the "Protestant interest" could only be secured by maintaining the connection with Britain.

Partly as a result of the trade laws being liberalized, Ireland went through an economic boom in the 1780s. Canals extended from Dublin westwards and the Four Courts and Post Office were established. Dublin's granite-lined quays were built and it boasted that it was the 'second city of the empire'. Corn laws were introduced in 1784 to give a bounty on flour shipped to Dublin; this promoted the spread of mills and tillage.

The United Irishmen and the 1798 Rebellion

Further reforms for Catholics continued to 1793, when they could again vote, sit on grand juries and buy freehold land. However they could neither enter parliament nor become senior state officials. Reform stalled because of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793, but, as the French republicans were opposed to the Catholic Church, in 1795 the government assisted in building St. Patrick's College in Maynooth for Catholic seminarians.

Some in Ireland were attracted to the more militant example of the French Revolution of 1789. In 1791, a small group of Protestant radicals formed the Society of the United Irishmen in Belfast, initially to campaign for the end to religious discrimination and the widening of the right to vote. However, the group soon radicalized its aims and sought to overthrow British rule and found a non-sectarian republic. In the words of Theobald Wolfe Tone, its goals were to "substitute the common name of Irishman for Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter" and to "break the connection with England, the never failing source of all our political evils."

The United Irishmen spread quickly throughout the country. Republicanism was particularly attractive to the Ulster Presbyterian community, being literate, who were also discriminated against for their religion, and who had strong links with Scots-Irish American emigrants who had fought against Britain in the American Revolution. Many Catholics, particularly the emergent Catholic middle-class, were also attracted to the movement, and it claimed over 200,000 members by 1798. The United Irishmen were banned after Revolutionary France in 1793 declared war on Britain and they developed from a political movement into a military organization preparing for armed rebellion. The Volunteer movement was also suppressed. However, these measures did nothing to calm the situation in Ireland and these reforms were bitterly opposed by the "ultra-loyalist" Protestant hardliners such as John Foster. Violence and disorder became widespread. Hardening loyalist attitudes led to the foundation of the Orange Order, a hardline Freemasonic Protestant society, in 1795.

The United Irishmen, now dedicated to armed revolution, forged links with the militant, vigilante agrarian Catholic peasant society, the Defenders (Irish: Cosantóirí), who had been raiding farmhouses since 1792. Wolfe Tone, the United Irish leader, went to France to seek French military support. These efforts bore fruit when the French launched an expeditionary force of 15,000 troops which arrived off Bantry Bay in December 1796, but failed to land due to a combination of indecisiveness, poor seamanship, and storms off the Bantry coast.

Thereafter, the government began a campaign of repression targeted against the United Irishmen, including executions, routine use of torture, transportation to penal colonies and house burnings. As the repression began to bite, the United Irishmen decided to go ahead with an insurrection without French help. Their activity culminated in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. When the central core of the plan, an uprising in Dublin, failed, the rebellion then spread in an apparently random fashion firstly around Dublin, then briefly in Kildare, Meath, Carlow, and Wicklow. County Wexford in the southeast then saw the most sustained fighting of the rebellion, to be briefly joined by rebels who took to the field in Antrim and Down in the north. A small French force landed in Killala Bay in Mayo leading to a last outbreak of rebellion in counties Mayo, Leitrim and Longford. The rebellion lasted just three months before it was suppressed, but claimed an estimated 30,000 lives. Being the largest outburst of violence in modern Ireland, 1798 looms heavily in collective memory and was commemorated extensively in its centennial and bicentennial anniversaries.

The Republican ideal of a non-sectarian society was greatly damaged by sectarian atrocities committed by both sides during the rebellion. Government troops and militia targeted Catholics in general and the rebels on several occasions killed Protestant loyalist civilians. In Ulster, the 1790s were marked by naked sectarian strife between Catholic Defenders and Ribbonmen (Irish: Ribinigh) and Protestant groups like the Peep O'Day Boys and the newly founded Orange Order.

Union with Great Britain (1801-1910)

Largely in response to the Rebellion of 1798, Irish self-government was abolished altogether by the Act of Union on 1 January 1801. The Irish Parliament, dominated by the Protestant landed class, was persuaded to vote for its own abolition for fear of another rebellion and with the aid of bribery by Lord Cornwallis, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The Act of Union, which constitutionally made Ireland part of the British state can largely be seen as an attempt to redress the grievances of the 1798 rising and to prevent it from destabilising Britain or providing a base for foreign invasion. In 1800, the Parliament of Great Britain and the Irish Parliament passed the Act of Union which, from 1 January 1801, abolished the Irish legislature, and merged the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. After one failed attempt, the passage of the act in the Irish parliament was finally achieved, albeit with the mass bribery of members of both houses, who were awarded British and United Kingdom peerages and other "encouragements."

Prisoners from the 1798 Rebellion were still being deported to Australia and sporadic violence continued in County Wicklow. There was another unsuccessful rebellion led by Robert Emmet in 1803. Emmet fled into hiding but was captured on 25 August, near Harold's Cross. On 19 September, Emmet was found guilty of high treason, and therefore Chief Justice Lord Norbury's death sentence required that Emmet was to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The following day, 20 September, Emmet was executed in Thomas Street. He was hanged and then beheaded once dead. As various family members and friends of Robert had also been arrested including those who had nothing to do with the rebellion, no one came forward to claim his remains out of fear of arrest.

Part of the agreement which led to the Act of Union stipulated that the Penal Laws then in force, which discriminated against Roman Catholics, would be repealed and Catholic Emancipation granted. However King George III blocked emancipation, arguing that to grant it would break his coronation oath to defend the Anglican church. A campaign under the Irish Catholic lawyer and politician Daniel O'Connell and the Catholic Association led to renewed agitation for the abolition of the Test Act. Arthur Wellesley, the First Duke of Wellington, was at the peak of his enormous prestige as the victor of the Napoleonic Wars. As Prime Minister he used his considerable political power and influence to steer the enabling legislation through the UK Parliament. He then persuaded King George IV to sign the Act into in law under threat of resignation. The Catholic Relief Act 1829, allowed British and Irish Catholics to sit in the Parliament. Daniel O'Connell became the first Catholic MP to be seated since 1689. As head of the Repeal Association, O'Connell mounted an unsuccessful campaign for the repeal of the Act of Union and the restoration of Irish self-government. O'Connell's tactics were largely peaceful, using mass rallies to show the popular support for his campaign. While O'Connell failed to gain repeal of the union, his efforts led to reforms in matters such as local government, and the Poor Laws.

Significant electoral reform acts would enlarge the franchise throughout the UK in the ensuing century. Despite O'Connell's peaceful methods, there was also a good deal of sporadic violence and rural unrest in the country in the first half of the 19th century. In Ulster, there were repeated outbreaks of sectarian violence, such as the celebrated riot at Dolly's Brae, between Catholics and the nascent Orange Order. Elsewhere, tensions between the rapidly growing rural population on one side and their landlords and the state on the other, gave rise to much agrarian violence and social unrest. Secret peasant societies such as the Whiteboys and the Ribbonmen used sabotage and violence to intimidate landlords into better treatment of their tenants. The most sustained outbreak of violence was the "Tithe War" of the 1830s, over the obligation of the mostly Catholic peasantry to pay tithes to the Protestant Church of Ireland. The Royal Irish Constabulary was set up in response to such violence to police rural areas.

The Great Famine (1845-1852)

Starving Irish family during the famine.

From 1845 to 1852[22] the country suffered a very large famine, often referred to as "The Great Irish Famine" or "The Potato Famine." It is known as An Gorta Mór, meaning "The Great Hunger" in the Irish language. In actuality, it 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 which were grown in sufficient quantities to feed the populace. The disaster resulted from the fungus called phytophthora infestans, also known as potato blight, that totally ravaged the potato crop 1846 to 1852, and the indifference of the British government.

During the famine years, 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 money 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 total, about 1,000,000 people died.

Prior to the famine, the population of Ireland was 8.5 million. Afterwards, the population was only 6.5 million, a decline of two million (23.5%) in eight years.[23] 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. Britain's economic policy meant that millions were starving, spurring emigration waves to Britain, North America and Australia. Even after the famine, emigration continued, as newly arrived Irish in the United States urged family and friends to follow them. By 1881, the Irish population had declined to 5,000,000; by 1921 (partition), to slightly over 4,000,000.

Another significant change caused by this disaster was that prior to the famine Irish 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 Irish Gaelic was most common; the Counties of Kerry and Mayo, for example, lost half their populations.

Members of Repeal Association called the Young Irelanders, formed the Irish Confederation which tried to launch a rebellion against British rule in 1848 in Ballingarry, County Tipperary. This coincided with the worst years of the famine, however it was contained by Military action. William Smith O'Brien, leader of the Confederates, failed to capture a party of policemen barricaded in Mrs. Margaret McCormack's house, who were holding her children as hostages, which marked the effective end of the revolt. Though intermittent resistance continued until late 1849, O'Brien and his colleagues were quickly arrested. Originally sentenced to death, this sentence was later commuted to transportation to Van Diemen's Land, where they joined John Mitchel, who had been arrested earlier in 1848. Because of ongoing political tensions between the US and the UK, the large and influential Irish American diaspora created, financed and encouraged the Irish independence movement. In 1858, the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), also known as the Fenians, was founded as a secret society dedicated to armed rebellion against the British. An aboveground political counterpart, the Home Rule Movement, was created in 1874, advocating constitutional change for independence. A related organization formed in New York was known as Clan na Gael, which several times organised raids into the British Province of Canada. While the Fenians had a considerable presence in rural Ireland, the Fenian Rising launched in 1867 was a fiasco and was contained by police rather than the British military.

Gaelic Cultural Revival

The culture of Ireland underwent a massive change in the course of the 19th century. After the Famine, the Irish language went into steep decline. This process was started in the 1820s, when the first National Schools were set up in the country. These had the advantage of encouraging literacy, but classes were provided only in English and the speaking of Irish was prohibited. However, before the 1840s, Irish was still the majority language in the country and numerically (given the rise in population) may have had more speakers than ever before. The Famine devastated the Irish speaking areas of the country, which tended also to be rural and poor. As well as causing the deaths of thousands of Irish speakers, the famine also led to sustained and widespread emigration from the Irish-speaking south and west of the country. By 1900, for the first time in perhaps two millennia, Irish was no longer the majority language in Ireland, and continued to decline in importance. By the time of Irish independence, the Gaeltachtaí (i.e., Irish-speaking regions) had shrunk to small areas along the western seaboard.

In reaction, to this, Irish nationalists began a "Gaelic revival" in the late 19th century, hoping to revive the Irish language and Irish literature and sports. While social organisations such as the Gaelic League (Irish: Conradh na Gaeilge) and the Gaelic Athletic Association (Irish: Cumann Lúthchleas Gael) were very successful in attracting members, most of their activists were English speakers and the movement did not halt the decline of the Irish language. The form of English established in Ireland differed somewhat from British English and its variants. Blurring linguistic structures from older forms of English (notably Elizabethan English) and the Irish language, it is known as Hiberno-English and was strongly associated with turn of the 19th to 20th century Celtic Revival and Irish writers like J.M. Synge, George Bernard Shaw, and Sean O'Casey.

Land War and Agrarian Resurgence

In the wake of the famine, many thousands of Irish peasant farmers and labourers either died or left the country. Those who remained waged a long campaign for better rights for tenant farmers and ultimately for land redistribution. This period, known as the "Land War" in Ireland, had a Nationalist as well as a social element. The reason for this was that the land-owning class in Ireland, since the period of the 17th century Plantations of Ireland, had been composed of Protestant settlers, originally from England, who had a British identity. The Irish (Roman Catholic) population widely believed that the land had been unjustly taken from their ancestors and given to this Protestant Ascendancy during the English conquest of the country. The Irish National Land League, was formed to defend the interests of tenant farmers, at first demanding the "Three Fs" – Fair rent, Free sale and Fixity of tenure. Members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), such as Michael Davitt, were prominent among the leadership of this movement. When they saw its potential for popular mobilisation, nationalist leaders such as Charles Stewart Parnell, a radical young Protestant landowner, also became involved.

The most effective tactic of the Land League was the boycott (the word originates in Ireland in this period), where unpopular landlords were ostracised by the local community. Grassroots Land League members used violence against landlords and their property; attempted evictions of tenant farmers regularly turned into armed confrontations. Parnell, Davitt, William O'Brien, and the other leaders of the Land League were temporarily imprisoned – being held responsible for the violence.

From 1870 and as a result of the Land War agitations and subsequent Plan of Campaign of the 1880s, various UK governments introduced a series of Irish Land Acts. William O'Brien played a leading role in the 1902 Land Conference to pave the way for the most advanced social legislation in Ireland since the Union, the Wyndham Land Purchase Act of 1903. This Act set the conditions for the breakup of large estates and gradually devolved to rural landholders, and tenants' ownership of the lands. It effectively ended the era of the absentee landlord, finally resolving the Irish Land Question.

In the 1870s, the issue of Irish self-government again became a major focus of debate under Charles Stewart Parnell, who became the founder of the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP). Prime Minister William E. Gladstone made two unsuccessful attempts to pass Home Rule in 1886 and 1893, but neither became law. Parnell's leadership ended when he was implicated in a controversial divorce scandal. In 1889, the scandal surrounding Parnell's divorce proceedings split the Irish party, when it became public that Parnell had for many years been living in a family relationship with Mrs. Katharine O'Shea, the long separated wife of a fellow MP. When the scandal broke, religious non-conformists in Great Britain, who were the backbone of the pro-Home Rule Liberal Party, forced its leader W.E. Gladstone to abandon support for the Irish cause as long as Parnell remained leader of the IPP. Parnell was subsequently deposed and died in 1891. But the Party and the country remained split between pro-Parnellites and anti-Parnellites, who fought each other in elections.

After the introduction of the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 which broke the power of the landlord-dominated "Grand Juries," passing for the first time democratic control of local affairs into the hands of the people through elected Local County Councils, the debate over full Home Rule led to tensions between Irish Nationalists and Irish Unionists (those who favoured maintenance of the Union). Most of the island was predominantly Nationalist, Catholic and agrarian. The northeast, however, was predominantly Unionist, Protestant and industrialized. Unionists feared a loss of political power and economic wealth in a predominantly rural, Nationalist, Catholic home-rule state. Nationalists believed they would remain economically and politically second-class citizens without self-government. Out of this division, two opposing sectarian movements became prominent, the revived Protestant Orange Order and the Catholic Ancient Order of Hibernians.

Unrest and agitation also resulted in the successful introduction of agricultural co-operatives through the initiative of Horace Plunkett, but the most positive changes came after the introduction of the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 which put the control and running of rural affairs into local hands. However it did not end support for independent Irish Nationalism, as British governments had hoped.

Home Rule and Easter Rising (1910-1919)

The turn of the century witnessed a surge of interest in Irish Nationalism, including the founding of Sinn Féin ("Ourselves Alone") in 1905 as an open political movement. Until 1917, Sinn Féin, under its founder, Arthur Griffith, had campaigned for a form of government championed first by O'Connell, namely that Ireland would become independent as a dual monarchy with Great Britain, under a shared king. Such a system operated under Austria-Hungary, where the same monarch, Emperor Charles I, reigned separately in both Austria and Hungary. Indeed, Griffith in his book, The Resurrection of Hungary, modelled his ideas on the manner in which Hungary had forced Austria to create a dual monarchy linking both states.

Home Rule became certain when in 1910 the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) under John Redmond held the balance of power in Commons and the third Home Rule Bill was introduced in 1912. Unionist resistance was immediate with the formation of the Ulster Volunteers. In turn the Irish Volunteers were established in 1913 to oppose them and enforce the introduction of self-government. Arising out of this stand off, the partition of Ireland was proposed in three way talks between the Irish Parliamentary Party, the Unionist Party and the British government.

In September 1914, just as the World War I broke out, the UK Parliament passed the Third Home Rule Act to establish self-government for Ireland, but was suspended for the duration of the war. In order to ensure implementation of Home Rule after the war, nationalist leaders and the IPP under Redmond supported with Ireland's participation the British and Allied war effort under the Triple Entente against the expansion of Central Powers. The core of the Irish Volunteers were against this decision, but the majority left to form the National Volunteers who enlisted in Irish regiments of the New British Army. Before the war ended, Britain made two concerted efforts to implement Home Rule, one in May 1916 and again with the Irish Convention during 1917–1918, but the Irish sides (Nationalist, Unionist) were unable to agree to terms for the temporary or permanent exclusion of Ulster from its provisions.

Until 1918, the Irish Parliamentary Party who sought independent self-government for whole of Ireland through the principles of parliamentary constitutionalism, remained the dominant Irish party. But from the early 20th century, a radical fringe among Home Rulers became associated with militant republicanism, particularly Irish-American republicanism. The Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) saw an opportunity to create an armed organisation to advance its own ends, and on 25 November 1913 the Irish Volunteers, whose stated object was "to secure and to maintain the rights and liberties common to all the people of Ireland," was formed. Its leader was Eoin MacNeill, who was not an IRB member. A Provisional Committee was formed that included people with a wide range of political views, and the Volunteers' ranks were open to "all able-bodied Irishmen without distinction of creed, politics or social group." Another militant group, the Irish Citizen Army, was formed by trade unionists as a result of the Dublin Lockout of that year. However, the increasing militarisation of Irish politics was overshadowed soon after by the outbreak of a larger conflict—the First World War—and Ireland's involvement in the conflict. It was from the former Irish Volunteer ranks that the Irish Republican Brotherhood organised an armed rebellion in 1916.

Pádraig Pearse.

In 1916, a group of IRB activists within the Irish Volunteers led an insurrection in Dublin with the aims of ending British rule in Ireland and establishing an independent Irish Republic, known as the Easter Rising. It was the most significant uprising in Ireland since the rebellion of 1798. Organized by the Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Rising lasted from Easter Monday 24 to 30 April 1916. Members of the Irish Volunteers, led by schoolteacher and barrister Pádraig Pearse and Thomas J. Clarke, joined by the smaller Irish Citizen Army of James Connolly, along with 200 members of Cumann na mBan—together, about 1,250 in number—seized control of the Dublin General Post Office (GPO) and other strategic points within the city.

After occupying the Post Office, the Volunteers hoisted two republican flags and Pearse read a Proclamation of the Republic, proclaiming the Irish Republic—independent of Britain—and announced the establishment of a provisional government of the Irish Republic. The rebel headquarters was located at the General Post Office where the members of the Military Council—Pádraig Pearse, Thomas Clarke, Seán Mac Diarmada, Joseph Plunkett, and James Connolly—were located.

Additional positions were occupied by the rebels during the night, and by the morning of April 25 they controlled a considerable part of Dublin. On Tuesday 25 April, British forces began their counteroffensive with the arrival of reinforcements. There were some actions in other parts of Ireland, however, except for the attack on the Royal Irish Constabulary barracks at Ashbourne, County Meath, they were minor. Martial law was proclaimed throughout Ireland. Intense street fighting developed in Dublin, during which the strengthened British forces steadily dislodged the Irish from their positions. By the morning of April 29, the post office building, site of the rebel headquarters, was under violent attack. Recognizing the futility of further resistance, Pearse surrendered unconditionally in the afternoon of 29 April. In a series of courts martial beginning on 2 May, 90 people were sentenced to death. Fifteen of those (including all seven signatories of the Proclamation) had their sentences confirmed by General John Maxwell and were executed by firing squad between 3 and 12 May.

  • 3 May: Pádraig Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh and Thomas J. Clarke
  • 4 May: Joseph Plunkett, William Pearse, Edward Daly and Michael O'Hanrahan
  • 5 May: John MacBride
  • 8 May: Eamonn Ceannt, Michael Mallin, Sean Heuston and Conn Colbert
  • 12 May: James Connolly and Seán Mac Diarmada

Not all of those executed were leaders: Willie Pearse described himself as "a personal attaché to my brother, Patrick Pearse"; John MacBride had not even been aware of the Rising until it began, but had fought against the British in the Boer War fifteen years before; Thomas Kent did not come out at all—he was executed for the killing of a police officer during the raid on his house the week after the Rising. 1,480 men were interned in England and [[Wales] under Regulation 14B of the Defence of the Realm Act 1914, many of whom, like Arthur Griffith, had little or nothing to do with the affair. Camps such as Frongoch internment camp became "Universities of Revolution" where future leaders like Michael Collins, Terence McSwiney, and J.J. O'Connell began to plan the coming struggle for independence. Sir Roger Casement was tried in London for high treason and hanged at Pentonville Prison on 3 August.

The decision by the British-imposed court structure to execute the leaders of the rebellion, coupled with the British Government's threat to extend conscription for the war to Ireland, alienated public opinion and produced massive support for Nationalist political party Sinn Féin in the Irish general election of December 1918. Sinn Féin won a landslide victory, taking almost every seat in Parliament outside of Ulster. On 21 January 1919, Sinn Féin MPs (who became known as Teachta Dála, TDs) refusing to sit in the British House of Commons at Westminster, assembled in Dublin and formed a single chamber Irish parliament called Dáil Éireann (meaning the "Assembly of Ireland" in the Irish language) to form a 32-county Irish Republic with themselves as the legitimate government. This Dáil quickly issued a Declaration of Independence and proclaimed an Irish Republic, unilaterally declaring sovereignty over the entire island which was accepted by the overwhelming majority of Irish people. The Declaration was mainly a restatement of the 1916 Proclamation with the additional provision that Ireland was no longer a part of the United Kingdom. In this new position of strength, the Irish Volunteers, who had been swollen to over 100,000 men in the conscription crisis, were re-organised as the legitimate army of this Republic. Hence they began to refer to themselves as the Irish Republican Army (IRA), or Óglaigh na hÉireann in Irish.

War of Independence (1919-1922)

The Irish War of Independence (or the Anglo-Irish War) began 21 January 1919, on precisely the same day as the first meeting of the Dáil Éireann, when several IRA members—led by Seán Treacy, Séamus Robinson, Seán Hogan and Dan Breen—acting independently, attacked and killed two officers of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), an armed British police force, who were escorting explosives at Soloheadbeg, in County Tipperary. Technically, the men involved were considered to be in a serious breach of IRA discipline and were liable to be court-martialed, but it was considered more politically expedient to hold them up as examples of a rejuvenated militarism. The British administration outlawed the Dáil and deployed the paramilitary Auxiliary Division of the RIC, commonly known as the "Black and Tans."

From 1919 to 1921, the Irish Republican Army (known now as the "Old IRA" to distinguish it from later organisations of that name), under the direction of Michael Collins, engaged in guerrilla warfare against the British army, the RIC, and the Auxiliaries. Attacks on remote Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barracks continued throughout 1919 and 1920, forcing the police to consolidate defensively in the larger towns, effectively placing large areas of the countryside in the hands of the Republicans. The principle political leader of the republican movement was Éamon de Valera—the President of the Republic. However he spent much of the conflict in the United States, raising money and support for the Irish cause. In his absence, two young men, Michael Collins and Richard Mulcahy, rose to prominence as the clandestine leaders of the IRA—respectively Director of Intelligence and Chief of Staff of the guerrilla organization. Michael Collins was the main driving force behind the independence movement. Nominally the Minister of Finance in the republic's government, and IRA Director of Intelligence, he was actively involved in providing funds and arms to the IRA units that needed them, and in the selection of officers. Collins' natural intelligence, organisational capability and sheer drive galvanised many who came in contact with him.

There were several failed attempts to negotiate an end to the conflict. In the summer of 1920, the British government proposed the Government of Ireland Act 1920 (which passed into law on 3 May 1921) that envisaged the partition of the island of Ireland into two autonomous regions Northern Ireland (six northeastern counties) and Southern Ireland (the rest of the island, including its most northerly county, Donegal). However, this was not acceptable to southern republicans and only the entity of Northern Ireland was established under the Act in 1921. The potential entity of Southern Ireland was superseded in 1922 by the creation of the Irish Free State.

By early 1921, more than 700 people had been killed in the conflict, of which almost 75% were RIC or Black and Tans.[24] Southwestern Ireland was under martial law, and it became clear to the British government that the revolution in Ireland could not be suppressed militarily without considerable loss of life. The total number killed in the guerrilla war of 1919-21 between Republicans and British forces in what became the Irish Free State came to over 1,400. Of these, 363 were police personnel, 261 were from the regular British Army, about 550 were IRA volunteers (including 24 official executions), and about 200 were civilians.[25] Some other sources give higher figures.[26]

After further failed talks in December 1920, the guerrilla conflict was brought to an end on 11 July 1921, with a truce agreed between Ireland and Britain. On October 11, negotiations between the British and Irish delegations were opened. The Irish team was led by Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins, who had organised the IRA intelligence during the War of Independence. The British team, led by Prime Minister David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, were prepared to make concessions on Irish independence but would not concede a republic. Towards the end of negotiations, Lloyd George threatened, "immediate and terrible war" if the Irish did not accept the terms offered. Due to international, namely US, pressure, the British were not willing to use total force in Ireland if the treaty was accepted. However, if the treaty was rejected, the show of force would have been extreme at a time when the IRA were reduced to hundreds, not thousands, of rounds of ammunition. The Treaty envisaged a new system of Irish self-government, known as "dominion status," with a new state, to be called the Irish Free State.

The Irish Free State was considerably more independent than a Home Rule Parliament would have been. It had its own police and armed forces and control over its own taxation and fiscal policy, none of which had been envisaged under Home Rule. However, there were some limits to its sovereignty. It remained a dominion of the British Commonwealth and members of the new Irish Oireachtas (parliament) had to swear an oath of fidelity to the British monarch. The Oath of Allegiance was actually "true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the Irish Free State" (a line drafted by de Valera in his own proposed oath). The reference to the King involved a promise of fidelity, not an Oath of Allegiance. The fidelity to the King was not to him as British monarch but "in virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and her adherence to and membership of the group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of nations," in other words, in his role as the symbol of the Treaty settlement, not as British King. By the standards of the oaths of allegiance to be found in other British Commonwealth dominions, it was quite mild, with no direct personal Oath to the monarch, only an indirect oath of fidelity by virtue of the King's role in the Treaty settlement as "King in Ireland," a mere figurehead position. The British also retained three naval bases—known as the "Treaty Ports." In addition, the Irish state was obliged to honour the contracts of the existing civil service—with the exception of the Royal Irish Constabulary, which was disbanded, albeit with full pensions—payable by the Irish state.

The Irish Treaty delegation set up Headquarters in Hans Place, Knightsbridge, in London and on 5 December 1921 at 11:15 am it was decided by the delegation during private discussions at 22 Hans Place to recommend the Treaty to the Dáil Éireann; negotiations continued until 2:30 am on 6 December 1921 after which the Treaty was signed by the parties on 7 December 1921. That these negotiations would produce a form of Irish government short of the independence wished for by republicans was not in doubt. One point that is always lost in the confusion of the signing of the Treaty was summed up by Arthur Griffith in the Dáil on 7 January 1922. Loosely using de Valera's own words prior to the plenipotentiaries trip to London, Griffith stated: "We went to London not as republican doctrinaires but looking for the substance of freedom and independence ... to attack us on the grounds that we went there to get a republic is to attack us on false and lying grounds." The United Kingdom could not offer a republican form of government without losing prestige and risking demands for something similar throughout the Empire.

Furthermore, as one of the negotiators, Michael Collins, later admitted (and he was in a position to know, given his role in the War of Independence), the IRA at the time of the truce was weeks, if not days, from collapse, with a chronic shortage of ammunition. Collins signed the treaty anyway with a heavy heart, realizing that it would be a stepping-stone for the future of Ireland and would lead to complete Irish Independence. Once the British withdrew from Ireland, they would be able to unite the north and south achieving the Irish Republic proclaimed in 1916. Collins accepted the treaty in a clever way; he had remembered the Treaty of Limerick of 1691 and how the British had broken that treaty as soon as it was signed and was planning on something similar. Justifying the signing, Collins said he did it for the whole of the country so that Ireland would be able to have a parliament, which would have the power to make laws for future peace and order. The President of the Republic, Éamon de Valera, realizing that a republic was not on offer, decided not to be a part of the treaty delegation and so be tainted by more militant republicans as a "sellout." Yet, his own proposals published in January 1922 fell far short of an autonomous all-Ireland republic. Michael Collins later said that de Valera had sent him as plenipotentiary to negotiate the treaty because he knew that the British would not concede an independent Irish republic and wanted Collins to take the blame for the compromise settlement. He said he felt deeply betrayed when de Valera refused to stand by the agreement that the plenipotentiaries had negotiated with Lloyd George and Churchill.

As expected, the Anglo-Irish Treaty explicitly ruled out a republic. What it offered was dominion status, as a state of the British Empire, equal to Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Though less than expected by the Sinn Féin leadership, it was substantially more than the initial form of home rule within the United Kingdom sought by Charles Stewart Parnell from 1880, and a serious advancement on the Home Rule Act of 1914 that the Irish Nationalist leader John Redmond had achieved through parliamentary proceedings. However, it all-but guaranteed the partition of Ireland between Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State. The treaty was ratified by the Second Dáil Éireann on 7 January 1922, splitting Sinn Féin in the process.

Irish Free State (1922-1949)

The Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921 brought the end of the war and established the Irish Free State (Irish: Saorstát Éireann) or Éire consisting of the 26 predominately Catholic, southern counties in Munster, Leinster, and Connacht and three counties in Ulster (Cavan, Monaghan, and Donegal). The treaty also recognized the partition of the island into Ireland and Northern Ireland, though supposedly as a temporary measure: the remaining six predominantly Protestant counties in Ulster (Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh, and Tyrone) became Northern Ireland and remained part of the United Kingdom with limited self-government.

The Pro-Treaty leadership of Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith, organised in a Provisional Government, set about establishing the Irish Free State created by the Treaty. To this end, they began recruiting for a new army, based initially at Beggar's Bush Barracks in Dublin, composed of Pro-Treaty IRA units. They also began recruiting for a new police force, the Civic Guard (quickly renamed An Garda Síochána), to replace the RIC which was disbanded as of August 1922.[27] Following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921 a split occurred within the IRA. Members who supported the Treaty formed the nucleus of the Irish National Army founded by IRA leader, Michael Collins. However, a significant Irish minority repudiated the Treaty settlement because of the continuance of subordinate ties to the British monarch and the partition of the island. They objected most to the fact that the state would remain part of the British Commonwealth and that members of the Free State Parliament would have to swear, what the Anti-Treaty side saw as, an oath of loyalty to the British king. Pro-Treaty forces argued that the Treaty, in Michael Collins' words, gave "not the ultimate freedom that all nations aspire to and develop, but the freedom to achieve it." Although the Treaty was negotiated by Michael Collins, the de facto leader of the IRA, and had been approved by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the IRA's senior ranking officers were deeply divided over the decision of the Dáil to ratify the Treaty. Of the General Headquarters (GHQ) staff, nine members were in favour of the Treaty while four opposed it.

  • Pro-Treaty were Richard Mulcahy (Chief of Staff); Eoin O'Duffy (Deputy Chief of Staff); J. J. O'Connell (Assistant Chief of Staff); Gearóid O'Sullivan (Adjutant General); Seán McMahon (Quartermaster General); Michael Collins (Director of Intelligence); Diarmuid O'Hegarty (Director of Organisation); Emmet Dalton (Director of Training); Piaras Béaslaí (Director of Publicity).
  • Anti-Treaty were Rory O'Connor (Director of Engineering); Liam Mellows (Director of Purchases); Seán Russell (Director of Munitions) and Séamus O'Donovan (Director of Chemicals). Austin Stack, whose position on the GHQ staff was ambiguous after Cathal Brugha tried to foist him on GHQ, was also Anti-Treaty.

This opposition led to further hostilities, sparking the Irish Civil War in the 26 counties from 28 June 1922 – 24 May 1923, in which the pro-Treaty Provisional Government defeated the anti-Treaty Republican forces. The latter were led, nominally, by Éamon de Valera, who had resigned as President of the Republic on the treaty's ratification. His resignation outraged some of his own supporters, notably Seán T. O'Kelly. On resigning, he then sought re-election but was defeated two days later on a vote of 60-58. The pro-Treaty Arthur Griffith followed as President of the Irish Republic. Michael Collins was chosen at a meeting of the members elected to sit in the House of Commons of Southern Ireland (a body set up under the Government of Ireland Act 1920) to become Chairman of the Provisional Government of Southern Ireland (i.e., Prime Minister) in accordance with the Treaty.

On 14 April 1922, 200 Anti-Treaty IRA militants, led by Rory O'Connor, occupied the Four Courts and several other buildings in central Dublin in defiance of the Provisional government, resulting in a tense stand-off.[28][29] These anti-treaty Republicans wanted to spark a new armed confrontation with the British, which they hoped would unite the two factions of the IRA against their common enemy. However, for those who were determined to make the Free State into a viable, self-governing Irish state, this was an act of rebellion that would have to be put down by them rather than the British.

Arthur Griffith was in favour of using force against these men immediately, but Michael Collins, who wanted at all costs to avoid civil war, left the Four Courts garrison alone until late June 1922, when British pressure also forced his hand. By this point the Pro-Treaty Sinn Féin party had secured a large majority in the general election, along with other parties that supported the Treaty. Collins was coming under continuing pressure from London to assert his government's authority in his capital.[30] Winston Churchill warned Collins that he would use British troops to attack the Four Courts unless the Free State took action. The final straw for the Free State government came on 27 June, when the Four Courts republican garrison kidnapped J.J. O'Connell, a general in the new National Army. Collins, after giving the Four Courts garrison a final ultimatum to leave the building, decided to end the stand-off by bombarding the Four Courts garrison into surrender. The anti-Treaty forces in the Four Courts, who possessed only small arms, surrendered after two days of bombardment and the storming of the building by Free State troops (28–30 June 1922). Shortly before the surrender of the Four Courts, a massive explosion destroyed the western wing of the complex, including the Irish Public Record Office (PRO), injuring many advancing Free State soldiers and destroying the records of several centuries of government in Ireland.

The government then appointed Collins as Commander-in-Chief of the National Army. This attack was not the opening shot of the war, as skirmishes had taken place between pro- and anti-Treaty IRA factions throughout the country when the British were handing over the barracks. However, this represented the 'point of no return', when all-out war was ipso facto declared and the Civil War officially began.[31] Pitched battles continued in Dublin until 5 July, as Anti-Treaty IRA units occupied O'Connell Street—provoking a week's more street fighitng. Among the casualties was Republican leader Cathal Brugha. When the fighting in Dublin died down, the Free State Government was left firmly in control of the Irish capital and the Anti-Treaty forces dispersed around the country. With Dublin in Pro-Treaty hands, conflict spread throughout the country, with Anti-Treaty forces briefly holding Cork, Limerick, and Waterford. However, the Anti-Treaty side were not equipped to wage conventional war, lacking artillerry and armoured untis, both of which the Free State obtained off the British. The large towns in Ireland were all relatively easily taken by the Free State in August 1922. Michael Collins, Richard Mulcahy, and Eoin O'Duffy planned a nationwide Free State offensive, dispatching columns overland to take Limerick in the west and Waterford in the south-east and seaborne forces to take counties Cork and Kerry in the south and Mayo in the west. In the south, landings occurred at Union Hall in County Cork and Fenit, the port of Tralee, in County Kerry. Limerick fell on 20 July, Waterford on the same day, and Cork city on 10 August after a Free State force landed by sea at Passage West. Another seaborne expedition to Mayo in the west secured government control over that part of the country. While in some places the Republicans had put up determined resistance, nowhere were they able to defeat regular forces armed with artillery and armour. The only real conventional battle during the Free State offensive, the Battle of Killmallock, was fought when Free State troops advanced south from Limerick. Government victories in the major towns inaugurated a period of inconclusive guerrilla warfare marked by assassinations and executions of leaders formerly allied in the cause of Irish independence.

British supplies of artillery, aircraft, machine-guns, and ammunition boosted Pro-Treaty forces, and the threat of a return of Crown forces to the Free State removed any doubts about the necessity of enforcing the treaty. By the end of the war, the Free State Army had swolen to over 55,000 men, far in excess of what the Irish state needed to maintain in peacetime. The Anti-Treaty IRA were unable to maintain an effective guerrilla campaign, since the great majority of the Irish population did not support them. This was demonstrated in the elctions immediately after the civil war, which Cumann na nGaedheal, the Free State party, won easily. The Roman Catholic Church also supported the Free State, deeming it the lawful government of the country, and refused to administer the Sacrements to Anti-Treaty militants, which would have influenced many Catholic Irish people at the time. President Arthur Griffith died of a stroke during the conflict on 12 August and Commander-in-Chief Michael Collins was assassinated in an ambush by Anti-Treaty Republicans on the road to Bandon, at the village of Béal na mBláth, near his home in County Cork on August 22. Richard Mulcahy took over as National Army Commander-in-Chief. Collins had been pursuing talks with Anti-Treaty leaders Dan Breen, Tom Barry, and others in order to try to stop the fighting. His killing greatly embittered the war and probably prolonged it by several months.

As the conflict petered out into a de facto victory for the Pro-Treaty side, de Valera asked for a ceasefire, followed in May 1923 by an order by the leadership of the Irregulars to dump arms rather than surrender them or continue a fight which they were incapable of winning. Some historians suggest that the death of Liam Lynch, an intransigent Republican leader, in a skirmish in the Knockmealdown mountains in county Waterford, allowed Frank Aiken to call a halt to what seemed a futile struggle. Thousands of Anti-Treaty IRA members (including de Valera) were arrested by the Free State forces in the weeks after the end of the war, when they had dumped arms and returned home.

William T. Cosgrave's Crown-appointed Provisional Government of Southern Ireland effectively subsumed Griffith's republican administration with the deaths of both Griffith and Collins in August 1922. On 6 December 1922, following the coming into legal existence of the Irish Free State, W.T. Cosgrave became President of the Executive Council, the first internationally recognized head of an independent Irish government. The Roman Catholic Church had a powerful influence over the Irish state for much of its history. The clergy's influence meant that the Irish state had very conservative social policies, forbidding, for example, divorce, contraception, abortion, pornography as well as encouraging the censoring and banning of many books and films. In addition the Church largely controlled the State's hospitals, schools and remained the largest provider of many other social services.

Immediately after the Civil War, elections were held in which Anti-Treaty Sinn Féin were allowed to participate. Although many of their candidates, including Éamon de Valera, were imprisoned, they won about one third of the vote. However the Pro-Treaty side, organized in Cumann na nGaedheal (the forerunner of Fine Gael), won a comfortable majority and went on to form the government of the new state until 1932. The Cumann na nGaedheal governments, led by W.T. Cosgrave, were highly conservative—being more concerned with establishing the state's basic institutions after the havoc of the Civil War than with social or political reform. According to Kevin O'Higgins, the Minister for Justice, "we were the most conservative group of revolutionaries ever to have carried out a successful revolution." While the last prisoners of the Civil War were released in 1924, the Free State retained extensive emergency powers to intern and even execute political opponents, under a series of Public Safety Acts (1923, 1926 and 1931).

These powers were used after the IRA assassinated Minister Kevin O'Higgins (in revenge for the executions during the Civil War) in 1927 after which several hundred IRA suspects were interned. Having lost the Civil War, the breakaway Anti-Treaty IRA continued (and continues in various forms) to exist, with the intention of overthrowing both the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland and achieving the Irish Republic proclaimed in 1916. It was not until 1948 that the IRA renounced military attacks on the forces of the southern Irish state when it became the Republic of Ireland. After this point the organization dedicated itself primarily to the end of British rule in Northern Ireland. Up until the 1980s, the IRA Army Council still claimed to be the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic declared in 1918 and annulled by the Treaty of 1921.

In 1932, Éamon de Valera, who had discarded Sinn Féin in 1926 to found his own political party, Fianna Fáil, became Prime Minister, known as the President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State. Initially Cumann na nGaedheal had been popular as the party that had established the state, but by 1932, their economic conservatism and continued repression of Anti-Treaty Republicans was becoming unpopular. Fianna Fáil won the 1932 election on a programme of developing Irish industry, creating jobs, providing more social services and cutting the remaining links with the British Empire. In 1932, Fianna Fáil entered government in coalition with the Labour Party, but a year later they won an absolute majority. They would be in government without interruption until 1948 and for much of the rest of the 20th century.

One of Fianna Fáil's first actions in government was to legalize the IRA and to release imprisoned Republicans. IRA members began attacking Cumann na nGaedheal supporters, whom they considered "traitors" at rallies. This greatly antagonized Pro-Treaty Civil War veterans, who in response formed the Fascist Blueshirts (initially called the "Army Comrades Association"), led by the former Garda Commissioner Eoin O'Duffy to oppose the IRA. After Fianna Fáil took power for the first time, it looked possible for a while that the Civil War might break out again between the IRA and the pro-Free State Blueshirts. There were frequent riots and occasional shootings between the two factions in the early 1930s. De Valera banned the Blueshirts in 1933, after a threatened march on the Dáil, in imitation of Benito Mussolini's March on Rome. Not long afterwards, in 1936, de Valera made a clean break with political violence when he banned the increasingly left-wing IRA after they murdered a landlord's agent, Richard More O'Farrell, in a land dispute and fired shots at police during a strike of Tramway workers in Dublin.

On 29 December 1937, the new Constitution of Ireland (Bunreacht na hÉireann) came into force, which replaced the Constitution of the Irish Free State and re-established the state as Ireland (or Éire in Irish), declared the sovereign nation of Éire to be the whole island of Ireland, and abolished the oath of loyalty to the British crown. The Governor-General was replaced by a President of Ireland and a new more powerful Prime Minister, called the Taoiseach, came into being, while the Executive Council was renamed the "Government." Though it had a president, the new state was not a republic. The British monarch continued to reign theoretically as King of Ireland and was used as an "organ" in international and diplomatic relations, with the President of Ireland relegated to symbolic functions within the state but never outside it.

In contrast to many other states in the period, the Free State remained financially solvent as a result of low government expenditure, despite the Economic War with Britain. However, unemployment and emigration were high. The population declined to a low of 2.7 million recorded in the 1961 census. The state remained neutral throughout World War II (known in Ireland as "The Emergency"), which saved it from much of the horrors of the war. It opposed Allied operations in Northern Ireland and the IRA pursued a pro-German line. The British were denied the use of Irish ports, and German and Italian agents were allowed to operate in the country. However, great numbers of Irishmen volunteered to serve with the British armed forces. Ireland was also impacted by food rationing, and coal shortages; peat production became a priority during this time.

As with most civil wars, the internecine conflict left a bitter legacy, which continues to influence Irish politics to this day. The two largest political parties in the Republic are still Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, the descendants respectively of the Anti-Treaty and Pro-Treaty forces of 1922. Until the 1970s, almost all of Ireland's prominent politicians were veterans of the Civil War, a fact which poisoned the relationship between Ireland's two biggest parties. Examples of Civil War veterans include: Republicans Éamon de Valera, Frank Aiken, Todd Andrews, and Seán Lemass; and Free State supporters: W. T. Cosgrave, Richard Mulcahy, and Kevin O'Higgins. Moreover, many of these men's sons and daughters also became politicians, meaning that the personal wounds of the Civil War were felt over three generations.

Republic of Ireland (1949-Present)

The Irish tricolor.

In 1948, Taoiseach John A. Costello demanded total independence from Great Britain and reunification with the six counties of Northern Ireland. On Easter Monday, 18 April 1949, the anniversary of the Easter Rising, the Irish Free State officially declared itself a republic, with the description of Republic of Ireland (Irish: Poblacht na hÉireann), completely independent of the British crown and no longer a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and, additionally, formally claimed jurisdiction over the six occupied counties in Ulster. Ironically, it was the political successors of Michael Collins, Fine Gael—a Pro-Treaty party in a coalition with an Anti-Treaty party—and not de Valera of the Anti-Treaty Fianna Fáil, who declared the Irish Free State to be a Republic in 1949. In May, the British Parliament recognized Ireland's status as a republic but declared that the six counties of Northern Ireland would not be severed from the United Kingdom without the assent of the parliament in Northern Ireland.

The transition from the Irish Free State to the Republic of Ireland was of chiefly symbolic significance, marking the achievement of a goal sought by Irish Nationalists for many generations. The United Kingdom allowed Ireland to retain the economic benefits of Commonwealth membership, and it extended to Irish citizens living in the United Kingdom the same rights as British citizens. Ireland granted British citizens residing in the Republic similar benefits. Nevertheless, the continued partition of Ireland strained the Republic's relations with the United Kingdom. As a protest against partition, the Republic declined to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), since this would have entailed entering into a military alliance with the United Kingdom.

In the Republic's first national election in 1951, Éamon de Valera returned as the Taoiseach. De Valera's willingness to accept an independent country that did not include the six counties of Northern Ireland provoked renewed protests from the Anti-Treaty IRA. During the 1950s, the IRA was banned by both Irish governments and, as a secret organization, it conducted bombing campaigns in Northern Ireland and England. De Valera was forced to take repressive action against the IRA while simultaneously protesting the continuation of partition. Nothing came of the claim to Ulster, and during the 1950s and 1960s the Republic and Northern Ireland improved their economic relations. In the late 1960s, the problem of Northern Ireland flared up again in bitter fighting between Catholic minority and the Protestant majority there, aggravated by the actions of the IRA, which was headquartered in the Republic.

More pressing than the question of partition, however, were the social and economic problems that beset the Republic. Particularly serious was the constant loss of young people, who continued to leave the country by the tens of thousands annually in search of greater opportunities in the United Kingdom and the United States. In an effort to assist the agricultural population, and to stem the flow of farm workers to the cities and foreign countries, the de Valera government began an ambitious program of rural electrification and promoted new measures to stimulate local industry.

Ireland joined the United Nations in December 1955, after a lengthy veto by the Soviet Union, and in 1959, de Valera became President of Ireland (1959–1973). Turned away by the veto of France in 1961, the state finally succeeded in joining the European Economic Community (now called the European Union) in 1973. The same year, Erskine H. Childers succeeded de Valera as President of Ireland, and Liam Cosgrave, at the head of a Fine Gael–Labour coalition, replaced Jack Lynch, of Fianna Fáil, as Taoiseach. Childers died in 1974 and was succeeded by Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh. Lynch led Fianna Fáil back into office in 1977; in 1979 fellow party member Charles Haughey replaced Lynch as Taoiseach.

In 1981 a Fine Gael–Labour coalition headed by Garret FitzGerald defeated Fianna Fáil on an economic platform. Although ousted in 1982, the coalition was governing again six months later.In 1981 a Fine Gael–Labour coalition headed by Garret FitzGerald defeated Fianna Fáil on an economic platform. Although ousted in 1982, the coalition was governing again six months later. In 1987, Haughey again became Taoiseach. As unemployment soared, especially among young people, outmigration increased, reaching a peak of 44,000 in 1989.

During the 1990s, the economy grew significantly, buoyed by EU subsidies and new foreign investment. By the end of the decade, unemployment was below the EU average, although pockets of poverty persisted. In 1991, Ireland elected its first female president, Mary Robinson, and in 1997 Mary McAleese became its first president from Northern Ireland. Irish governments have sought the peaceful unification of Ireland and have cooperated with the United Kingdom against the violent conflict between paramilitary groups and the British Army in Northern Ireland known as "The Troubles." In late 1994, after the IRA and Protestant militias agreed to a ceasefire, efforts were begun to negotiate a settlement of the the Northern Ireland issue. Despite some setbacks, a peace settlement for Northern Ireland (known as the Belfast Agreement) was reached in April 1998, and approved by voters in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in May.

In 1992, Albert Reynolds, of Fianna Fáil, replaced Charles Haughey as Taoiseach, and when the governing coalition collapsed, Reynolds successfully formed another. The Reynolds government fell in 1994, and Fine Gael leader John Bruton succeeded him, heading a Fine Gael–Labour coalition. Bertie Ahern became Taoiseach in 1997, heading a Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrat coalition; his coalition was returned to office in 2002. Revelations in 2006 that Ahern had received loans from business acquaintances in 1993–1994 while he was Finance Minister and had not yet repaid them sparked controversy. Ahern said his attempts to repay them had been refused; he did repay the loans soon after they were became public. In 2007, Ahern led his party to another victory at the polls, but Progressive Democrat losses led to the addition of the Green Party to the governing coalition. Investigation into Ahern's finances revealed he had received additional secret cash payments in the early 1990s, and in May, 2008, he resigned because the investigation was undermining his government. Tánaiste (i.e., Deputy Prime Minister) Brian Cowen succeeded Ahern as Fianna Fáil leader and Taoiseach.

In June 2008, Irish voters rejected the European Union's Lisbon Treaty amid concerns over the loss of Irish sovereignty. The Irish, who voted in a referendum because of conflicts between the treaty and the Irish constitution, were the only national electorate given a chance to vote on the treaty. A second vote on the Lisbon Treaty in September 2009, following EU guarantees designed to allay Irish concerns, resulted in the treaty's approval. Ireland officially entered what became a prolonged recession in September 2008, ending more than a decade of growth that had earned its economy the nickname "Celtic Tiger." By the end of 2008, the collapse of Ireland's booming property market threatened the Irish banking system, especially the Anglo-Irish Bank, which was nationalized in early 2009. In September 2010, the total cost of Ireland's bailout of its banking system was estimated to be ultimately €40 billion, with roughly three fourths of that incurred due to the Anglo-Irish Bank. In November, the markets had forced Ireland to agree to an €85 billion international rescue package, and the country was forced to adopt additional austerity measures and radically overhaul its banks. The Green Party remained in the governing coalition but called for an early election, and Cowen, who resigned as party leader in January 2011, was forced to call for an early election when the Green Party quit the government. In the February contest, Fine Gael and Labour placed first and second, with the former almost winning a majority. The two parties formed a coalition government in March, with Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny as Taoiseach.



In the Republic of Ireland over 87.4% of the population is Roman Catholic, with the Anglican Church of Ireland representing the largest religious minority at 2.9%. Various other Christian denominations make up 1.9% while other non-Christian religions account for 2.1% of the population. 1.5% identified as unspecified while 4.2% identified with no religion. In Northern Ireland about 53.1% of the population is Protestant (21.1% Presbyterian, 15.5% Church of Ireland, 3.6% Methodist, 6.1% Other Christian) whilst a large minority are Catholic at approximately 43.8% of the population. 0.4% identified with non-Christian religions and 2.7% identified with no religion.


The official languages of the Republic of Ireland are Irish (Irish Gaelic or Gaeilge), the native Celtic language, and English, which is constitutionally described as a secondary official language. Native-speakers of the Irish language living in Irish-speaking communities, known as the Gaeltacht, are limited to between 20,000 to 70,000 in isolated pockets largely in the counties of Kerry, Cork, Galway, Mayo, and Donegal.[32] However, there are 355,000 fluent or native speakers of the language altogether.[33] Learning Irish is a compulsory part of the school curriculum with a relatively small (though growing) number of schools teaching all subjects in Irish. However, English is the predominant language today. Public signs are usually bilingual and there are both a national Irish language TV (TG4) and radio channel (Raidió na Gaeltachta).

Other languages spoken on the island include Ulster Scots and Shelta. Ulster Scots, also known as Scots-Irish, is a dialect of Scots, a Germanic language, spoken in Northern Ireland and is closely related to English, and quite different from Scots Gaelic, which is a Celtic language related to Irish Gaelic and Manx Gaelic. It is primarily spoken by the descendants of Scottish settlers in Northern Ireland. The Shelta language is spoken by anywhere between 6,000 and 25,000 people, predominantly members of the Irish Traveller community, but has no official status.


The Irish people are mainly of Celtic origin, descending from the Gaels, also known as the Milesians, who arrived in Ireland from Spain around 504 BC. The country's only significant native minority descends from the Cambro-Normans who invaded the country in 1169 AD and to a lesser extent, Viking raiders who settled in Ireland during the 9th century.

Surnames of Gaelic origin often contain or Mc (occasionally Mac) at the beginning of the anglicized versions of their surname. The O originates from the Gaelic Ó, meaning "grandson of" or "descendant of" a named person. Common surnames that begin with an include: Ó Conchobhair (O'Connor), Ó Néill (O'Neill), Ó Briain (O'Brien), and Ó Maille (O'Malley). Surnames that begin with a Mc or Mac, mean "son of" a named person. Surnames such as these include: Mac Dómhnaill (MacDonnell), Mac Diarmada (MacDermott), Mac Cárthaigh (MacCarthy), and Mac Mathúna (MacMahon, MacMahony). It is common for Irish surnames to have been anglicized, meaning that they were changed to sound more English. This usually occurred with Irish immigrants arriving in the United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

It is estimated that there are 80,000,000 people of Irish descent worldwide.


  • c. 2300 BC–1800 BC: During the Ice Age, Ireland is covered in ice sheets
  • c. 1750 BC–1700 BC: Agriculture (including the keeping of livestock, and crop farming) begins in Ireland, at sites such as the Céide Fields in Mayo.
  • c. 1700 BC–1650 BC: The Neolithic peoples of the Boyne Valley build a complex of chamber tombs, standing stones and enclosures called Newgrange over a period of hundreds of years.
  • c. 1600 BC: Arrival of the first Celts in Ireland. Bronze Age technologies start to arrive in Ireland, including the moulding of Ballybeg type flat axes, and the beginnings of copper mining at Mt. Gabriel in Co. Cork, and Ross Island in Co. Kerry.
  • c. 500 BC: Arrival of Gaels in Ireland. During the Iron Age in Ireland, Celtic influence in art, language and culture begins to take hold.
  • c. 200 BC: La Tène influence from continental Europe influences carvings on the Turoe stone, Bullaun, Co. Galway.
  • c. 100 BC: Additional works expand the site at Emain Macha (first occupied in the Neolithic period).
  • c. 100 AD: Construction of a series of defensive ditches between the provinces of Ulster and Connacht.
  • c. 140 AD: Ptolemy draws map of Ireland in his Geographia, providing the earliest known written reference to habitation in the Dublin area, referring to a settlement in the area as Eblana Civitas.
  • c. 400 AD: Niall Noígíallach is placed by Medieval texts as a legendary Gaelic High King of Ireland (Geoffrey Keating's Foras Feasa ar Éirinn dates his reign as 368-395 AD)
  • 367 AD: Irish, Picts, and Saxons attacked Roman controlled Britannia.
  • 431 AD: Bishop Palladius sent by Pope Celestine I to Ireland to minister to Christians there.
  • 432 AD: St. Patrick arrives to help convert pagan Gaelic Kings to Christianity.
  • 455 AD: St. Patrick founds a church at Armagh.
  • 563 AD: Irish monastic influence during the Golden Age peaks with the foundation of monastic schools by Columba and Brendan at Iona and Clonfert.
  • 590 AD: Columbanus later sets up similar institutions in continental Europe, Fursa in East Anglia and Gaul, Aidan at Lindisfarne, etc.
  • 795 AD: First Viking raids on Iona, Rathlin Island, Inishmurray and Inishbofin.
  • 852 AD: Vikings Ivar Beinlaus and Olaf the White land in Dublin Bay and establish a fortress–close to where the city of Dublin now stands.
  • 940 AD: The birth of Brian Boru, the son of a chieftain of one of the royal free tribes of Munster.
  • 980 AD: The King of Dublin Olaf Cuaran abdicates following defeat at the Battle of Tara to Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill.
  • 1002: Brian Boru becomes High King of Ireland.
  • 1005: Brian Boru was declared Emperor of the Irish at Armagh.
  • 1011: High King Brian Boru unites all of Gaelic Ireland.
  • 1014: High King Brian Boru is killed after his victory over the Vikings and their Irish allies at Battle of Clontarf, marking the beginning of the decline of Viking power in Ireland.
  • 1072–1086: Ireland's most powerful king was Toirdelbach Ua Briain (Turlough O’Brien).
  • 1086–1114: Ireland's most powerful king was Muirchertach Ua Briain (Murtagh O’Brien).
  • 1167: Following exile by High King Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair (Rory O’Connor), Diarmait Mac Murchada of Leinster seeks support from Henry II of England to reclaim his Kingship.
  • 1169: Norman invasion of Ireland.
  • 1175: The Treaty of Windsor consolidates Norman influence in Ireland.
  • 1224: Dominican Order enters Ireland.
  • 1252: The Annals of the Four Masters records a Summer-time heat-wave and drought.
  • 1297: The first representative Irish Parliament (of the Lordship of Ireland) meets in Dublin.
  • 1315: Edward Bruce arrives in Ireland and rallies many Irish lords against Anglo-Norman control.
  • 1366: The Statutes of Kilkenny are passed at Kilkenny to curb the decline of the Hiberno-Norman Lordship of Ireland.
  • 1348–1351: The Plague kills a third of population.
  • 1472: The Annals of the Four Masters records that the King of England sent an exotic animal (possibly a giraffe) to Ireland.
  • 1490: An earthquake takes place at Sliabh Gamh in Co. Mayo.
  • 1494: Edward Poyning, Henry VII of England's Lord Deputy to Ireland, issued a declaration known as Poynings' Law under which the Irish parliament was to pass no law without the prior consent of the English parliament.
  • 1497: The Annals of the Four Masters refers to a famine which "prevailed through all Ireland."
  • 1534: Thomas FitzGerald, the 10th Earl of Kildare, publicly renounced his allegiance to Henry VIII of England.
  • 1537: FitzGerald was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn.
  • 1539: Irish monasteries dissolved.
  • 1541: Henry VIII of England declared King of Ireland.
  • 1570: Pope Pius V issued a papal bull, Regnans in Excelsis, declaring Elizabeth I of England a heretic and releasing her subjects from any allegiance to her.
  • 1577: The Annals of the Four Masters record that the Great Comet of 1577 "was wondered at by all universally."
  • 1579: Second Desmond Rebellion: James FitzMaurice FitzGerald, a cousin of the 15th Earl of Desmond, landed a small force of rebels at Dingle.
  • 1592: Trinity College of Dublin established.
  • 1594: The Nine Years' War commences in Ulster, as Hugh O'Neill and Red Hugh O'Donnell rebel against Elizabeth I's authority in Ulster.
  • 1607: The Flight of the Earls: The departure from Ireland of Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone and Rory O'Donnell, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell.
  • 1641: Irish Rebellion of 1641: Catholics rebel over land rights. Phelim O'Neill led the capture of several forts in the north of Ireland.
  • 1642: 800px-Green Flag of Ireland.svg.png Irish Confederate Wars: The Irish Catholic Confederation was established, under the nominal overlordship of Charles I of England, with its capital at Kilkenny.
  • 1649: Oliver Cromwell, England's Protestant Lord Protector, Cromwell leads an army to conquer Ireland. He lays siege to and captures Drogheda. The townspeople are massacred and the town is plundered.
  • 1650: A great part of lands in Munster, Leinster and Ulster (Drogheda and Wexford) was confiscated and divided amongst English settlers. The few remaining Catholic landowners are all relocated to Connacht.
  • 1660: The English monarchy is restored by the accession of King Charles II.
  • 1688: St Patrick's Saltire.png James II, deposed Catholic King of England, flees to Ireland and gathers an army, starting the Jacobite-Williamite Wars in Ireland.
  • 1689: King James II's Parliament restores all lands confiscated since 1641.
  • 1690: William of Orange (William III) lands at Carrickfergus and defeats James II at Battle of the Boyne
  • 1691: The army of James II is defeated at the Battle of Aughrim.
  • 1695: Anti-Catholic Penal Laws were introduced.
  • 1704: Enactment of Penal Laws debarring Catholics from Parliament, holding government office, entering the legal profession, holding commissions in the army and navy, among other things. Catholic Clergy illegal in Ireland since 1697.
  • 1778: Only 5% of Irish land held by Catholics even though in number of inhabitants, they were in the clear majority.
  • 1790: Theobald Wolfe Tone, Protestant Barrister supportive of the Catholic cause, comes on the scene. He organizes groups to resist English governance in Ireland and the discrimination against Catholics.
  • 1798: Irish Rebellion of 1798: United Irishmen, a group organized by Wolfe Tone, rebel. The rebellion, however, is unsucessful.
  • 1800: By the Act of Union, Ireland becomes a part of the United Kingdom.
  • 1829: Catholic Emancipation: The Catholic Relief Act 1829 was passed, which allowed Catholics to sit in Parliament, thanks to Daniel O’Connell.
  • 1845–1852: Great Irish Famine: A potato blight destroyed two-thirds of Ireland's staple crop and lead to an estimated 1 million deaths and emigration of a further 1 million people.
  • 1858: Irish Republican Brotherhood (Fenians) founded.
  • 1867: Thousands of Irish-Americans return home to fight for Irish Republican Brotherhood.
  • 1878: Beginning of Land League agitation.
  • 1916: Irish Republic Flag.jpg Easter Rising: The IRB seized key government buildings in Dublin, and issued the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. After 7 days of fighting, the Rising was suppressed and its leaders were executed by the British.
  • 1918: A general election returns a majority for Sinn Féin.
  • 1919: Irish War of Independence: Nationalists establish the Dáil Éireann and issue a Declaration of Independence from the UK. The War of Independence begins between the Irish Republican Army and British forces.
  • 1920: British parliament passes the Government of Ireland Act establishing one parliament for the 6 counties of Northern Ireland, and another for the rest of Ireland.
  • 1921: Anglo-Irish Treaty signed. Northern Ireland partitioned off to remain part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
  • 1922: Irish Civil War: The Dáil accepts the Treaty despite Republican opposition, resulting in the creation the Irish Free State. Subsequently, the Irish Civil War breaks out and hundreds are killed, ending with a Pro-Treaty victory in the 1923.
  • 1932: Éamon de Valera heads the Irish Free State government.
  • 1937: Voters approve a new constitution, abolishing the Irish Free State, and proclaiming Ireland (Éire) as a sovereign, independent state, free from British rule.
  • 1949: Flag of Ireland.png On Easter Monday, Éire becomes the Republic of Ireland, totally independent from Britain.
  • 1955: Republic of Ireland joins the United Nations along with 16 other sovereign states.
  • 1969: Troops are deployed on the streets of Northern Ireland, marking the start of the Troubles.
  • 1972: Bloody Sunday: British troops shoot and kill 13 demonstrators in Derry, Northern Ireland.
  • 1973: European Union.png Ireland becomes a member of the European Economic Community (later to become the European Union).
  • 1985: The governments of the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom sign the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
  • 1995: Ireland enters the "Celtic Tiger" period which marks great economic growth for the Republic of Ireland; this continues until its end in 2007.
  • 1999: Ireland yields its official currency the Irish Punt and adopts the Euro.
  • 2005: IRA announces an end to armed campaign.
  • 2009: The ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon is enabled through the passing of a second referendum on the subject.
  • 2011: A financial crisis places significant strain on the coalition government, and the 30th Dáil is dissolved.

See Also


  1. "Land and People". Information on the Irish State. Government of Ireland. Retrieved on 10-25-2008
  2. River Shannon - Shannon Development Website
  3. Climate of Ireland
  4. The Irish-Celtic, British and Saxon Chronicles by Bill Cooper
  5. DNA shows Scots and Irish should look to Spain for their ancestry
  6. DNA Research Links Scots, Irish And Welsh To North-western Spain
  7. Blood of the Irish: DNA Proves Ancestry of the People of Ireland
  8. Hoeh, H.L. (1962) Compendium of World History. Vol. 1. Chap. 18
  9. Capt, E. Raymond (1985). Missing Links Discovered in Assyrian Tablets: Study of Assyrian Tables that reveal the fate of the Lost Tribes of Israel. Muskogee, OK: Artisan Publishers, p. 65
  10. Rhys, J (1908). Early Celtic Britain, p. 201
  11. Strong’s #s 5676 and 5677
  12. Tacitus, Agricola, chapters 12, 24, and 33.
  13. Rhys, J (1908). Early Celtic Britain, p. 262-3.
  14. Carson, R.A.G. and O'Kelly, Claire: A catalogue of the Roman coins from Newgrange, Co. Meath and notes on the coins and related finds, p. 35–55. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, volume 77, section C.
  15. Patrick Francis Moran (1913). "St. Palladius". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  16. Cahill, Tim (1996). How the Irish Saved Civilization. Anchor Books. ISBN 0-385-41849-3.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Dowley, Tim, et al., ed. (1977). Eerdman's Handbook to the History of Christianity. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. ISBN 0-8028-3450-7.
  19. Hiberniores Ipsis Hibernis, Late Medieval Ireland 1370-1541 (Dublin, 1981)
  20. Penal Laws by Subject Matter
  21. The Hedge Schools
  22. Christine Kinealy, This Great Calamity: The Irish Famine 1845-52, Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1994
  23. Vaughan, W.E. and Fitzpatrick, A.J.(eds). Irish Historical Statistics, Population, 1821/1971. Royal Irish Academy, 1978
  24. Hopkinson, Irish War of Independence p. 201-202
  25. Ibid.
  26. The Police Service of Northern Ireland, successor to the RIC via the RUC, lists the figures of RIC killed as 418, with 146 British soldiers killed. One in twenty of the RIC dead with one in twelve wounded. See figures available here.
  27. Hopkinson, Green Against Green, p. 91
  28. [1].
  29. Calton Younger, Ireland's Civil War, Muller, London 1968; pp. 258–259.
  30. "The British [after the election] drew what appeared to them to be the obvious conclusion that it was time for the Provisional Government to assert its authority." (Hopkinson, Green Against Green, p. 111)
  31. In clashes between Pro- and Anti-Treaty fighters prior to 28 June, eight men had been killed and forty-nine wounded. (Niall C. Harrington, Kerry Landings, p. 22)
  32. Endangered Languages in Europe
  33. Ethnologue, Gaelic, Irish: a language of Ireland
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