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A Brief History of Ireland

A Brief History of Ireland

Prehistoric Ireland seems to have been settled first as far back as 10,000 BC after crossing over what was then a " land bridge" from Scotland. Jumping ahead 7,000 years there is evidence of farm civilization in both Meath and Limerick.

Moving ahead still further, we come to the time of St. Patrick, patron St. of Ireland. He is best known for bringing both Roman civilization and the Christian Church to Ireland. The Church will always play a major role in the evolution of Irish history. St. Patrick's involvement was just the beginning.

In approximately 800 A.D. Ireland was attacked and inhabited by Viking Norsemen. The Vikings set up colonies in Waterford, Dublin and Limerick. It was not until 976 AD that Brian Boru, King of Munster, defeated the Vikings, and as a result was named King of All Ireland.

Soon after Brian Boru's death, Ireland was invaded by the Normans and a struggle with Britain that still goes on today was started. Throughout the centuries there was political unrest, and even anarchy as one ruler or another took control of Ireland.

In 1649 English soldier & statesman, Oliver Cromwell, landed in Dublin. His troops killed 2,000 men. A great part of lands in Munster, Leinster and Ulster was confiscated and divided among the English soldiers.

A few years later 60,000 Irish Catholics were sent to Barbados as slaves. From 1692-1829 Catholics were excluded from all positions of power or authority, including Parliament and all professions. They were allowed only menial jobs and manual labor.

1798 was the year of a major revolution, including the historic Battle of Antrim; by 1829 the Catholic Emancipation Act was passed.

1845-1849 possibly represents the best-known period in Irish History, the Great Potato Famine. Ireland's population decreased by over 2 million people from death and emigration.

The 1916 Easter Uprising is another well-known and sorrowful time in Irish history. 12 people were executed. New Irish heroes were born: Padraic Pearse, James Connolly and John MacBride.

In November of 1918 WWI ended and in the beginning of 1919, the Irish War of Independence began and an Anglo/Irish Treaty was signed in 1921. Shortly after that a Civil War broke out between the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and the Free State army. This lasted about a year.

In 1949 Ireland left the Commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland - representing 26 of the 32 counties - was formed. The so-called "Northern Ireland" - the 6 remaining counties - were left to English rule.

In 1971 the first British soldier was killed by the IRA in Belfast and on January 30, 1972 there was the aptly named Bloody Sunday in Derry. British paratroopers shot 13 civilians during civil-rights March.

By 1981-82 Bobby Sands and nine others were starving themselves to death in an act of "martyrdom" for the cause. The dying Bobby Sands was elected to Parliament.

In 1993 in the Downing Street Declaration, the British Government accepts the right of the people of Ireland to self-determination and in 1994 the IRA declares a cease-fire. Unfortunately this cease-fire broke down in 1996, but it was re-instated in 1997.

The Peace Plan of 1998 was accepted by all parties. It is sad to say, however, that there is not now, and may never be, peace in Ireland.

Ireland is a country of turmoil and hardship; of war and famine. To give one or two lines to a famine that took over a million lives, or to a Civil War that did untold damage is not entirely fair.

Certainly there is much written about the history of Ireland which will delve into the kind of detail not appropriate for an article like this. The following book and video are a good place to start (click on the cover for more information)




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