First, Stone Age man built the big tombs such as Newgrange which is older than Stonehenge and the pyramids of Giza. By the time the Celtic culture came to Ireland, people had forgotten who built them and explained them with awesome stories of giants and heroes and fairies. The Celts loved their music and art, and fighting with each other a lot… and stealing house a lot… not to mention inventing Halloween where they sacrificed animals and people in great bonfires to keep the faeries away from their door and welcome the dead back for one night on one night only. Then St Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland. The early Christians very wisely incorporated old Celtic traditions into Christianity resulting in things like the old spring goddess Brigid becoming St Brigid. While the rest of Europe fell apart after the end of the Roman Empire, Ireland enjoyed probably one of its most productive times in its history as the monks in their monasteries produced beautiful treasures and books. This is where Ireland became known as the Isle of Saints and Scholars. But then the Vikings came and ruined everything… sort of. They raided the monasteries and stole their treasure, but apparently they liked Ireland so much that some of them decided to stay. They set up Dublin along with most of the major ports on the island. About a hundred years after conquering Britain, the Normans came to Ireland, having been invited by the king of Leinster to help win his throne. The Norman leader known as Strong Bow came, defeated the Vikings and the Irish and became the new king of Leinster and began what became the Norman rule which spread across Ireland. The Normans built the first castles in Ireland and set up more towns. The Gaelic Irish weren’t known for building towns, and because of this when the Black Death reached Ireland, the Normans were much more affected than the Gaelic Irish. The English became worried that the Normans in Ireland were becoming more Irish than the Irish, so they banned them from marrying into Irish families or speaking the Irish language. Whoop! When the Tudor King Henry VIII wanted a divorce, he split from the Catholic Church and in turn stripped the church of its power in Ireland, seizing their gold and treasures and destroying many monasteries. His daughters Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I continued a strong rule over Ireland and attempted plantations in Laois, Offaly and Munster, but the Irish were too tough to live with for the planters. In Elizabeth’s last years, she fought a nine-year war against the chieftains of Ulster, the last corner of open rebellion against her. Hugh O’Neill surrendered eventually only to find out that she had died a few weeks prior to the surrender! The new King of England, James I, who was Scottish, went about doing things a little differently. Rather than punishing the rebels Rory O’Donnell and Hugh O’Neill, he made them earls. The earls soon discovered that they had little real power and decided to leave Ireland and return with an army to retake the country!… they never returned and the Flight of the Earls left Ireland up for grabs with no more Irish Chieftains left. King James arranged the Plantation of Ulster which was so successful, much of it still exists today! There were plenty rebellions from the native Irish including a very bloody and violent one in which many planters were massacred.
Word of these massacres reached England and people were appalled. In England, a puritan named Oliver Cromwell set about ousting and executing the English king in what became the English Civil War. After he was done settling things in England, he set his sights on Ireland! His campaign in Ireland left a path of death and destruction. In the wake of this campaign came the largest land grab in Irish history, in which the native Irish were ousted from their land and told to head west; to Hell or to Connaught! Once again, English politics spilt over into Ireland when the exiled English King James II, who was Catholic, fought against the Protestant King William of Orange. William of Orange defeated King James but got bored of the war and struck a sweet deal with the Irish, giving them their land back! The English government didn’t like this and thus the Penal Laws were brought in at this time which clamped down on Catholic and Presbyterian rights. Seeing the success of the American and French revolutions, Theobald Wolfe Tone thought a republic is just what Ireland needed, so he led a rebellion, but they lost! After this, rule was taken away from Ireland and it became ruled directly from London. Plenty rich Englishman took this opportunity To set up large estates across Ireland and make plenty money. At this time, Dublin became one of the finest cities on the British isles and many of its greatest buildings were built during this Georgian period. Catholics began getting rights back through Catholic emancipation with many thanks to Daniel O’Connell. The native Irish had grown dependent on the potato and when it failed year after year, hundreds and thousands, millions died of disease and starvation. Many, too, left ther country for England in America while many prisoners were sent to Australia. Ireland’s population has never since recovered from the Great Famine. With massive public outcry to this tragedy Irish people began to look for Home Rule once more. The Gaelic Revival brought back Irish language, Irish culture and Irish pride. Demand for Home Rule grew in Ireland, except in the Protestant North where thousands signed against it in the Ulster Covenant, threatening open war against the South. Both sides began forming volunteer groups to prepare for the fighting. Home Rule was all set to go until a gang of Serbians shot on Austrian Prince starting the First World War. Home rule was suspended while Britain fought the war, with many Irishmen heading off to fight in the trenches. Not knowing when the more might end, a group of Irish Volunteers led by Patrick Pearse, decided to stage a rebellion in ireland while the British were distracted by the war. The Easter Rising ended up being centered in Dublin and ultimately the British outgunned the rebels and destroyed half the center of Dublin in the process. The ill-advised execution of the captured Irish leaders led to a massive gain in support to the Irish Republican cause. A few years later, the Irish Republican Army fought a Guerrilla war against the British, driving them to a stalemate. During the fighting, the island was divided and Northern Ireland was created. Michael Collins negotiated a treaty with the British which would create an Irish Free State still loyal to the crown. The treaty was passed, but the opposition led by Eamon de Valera was so strongly opposed to it, it led the Irish Civil War which was a harsh bitter war which pit brother against brother. The Free Staters won, but not at the cost of many lives including Michael Collins himself. Over the next few decades, the Free State government distanced itself from British Commonwealth, remaining neutral (mostly) in the Second World War, and ultimately became the Republic of Ireland! Seeing the Civil Rights marches in USA, the Catholics of Northern Ireland began their protest against discrimination. Unfortunately, what began as peaceful protests escalated into violence and The Troubles defined the North for decades. Thankfully, through many peace talks and reconciliation, Northern Ireland is moving into a more peaceful future. Meanwhile in the Republic, Ireland joined what became the European Union and its economy really began to thrive at a time known as Celtic Tiger. This time however was not to last as the economy built up by the construction sector and unregulated banks fell very hard with the international recession. We’ve trucked on however, keeping the chin up. There is light at the end of the tunnel! We’ve got our music, we’ve got our culture, sure as long as we can enjoy the craic, what’s another year? Keep her lit lads!!