History of Ireland

The first known settlements in Ireland appeared around 8000BC when hunter gatherers migrated from continental Europe and from the Iberian Peninsula.  Few traces remain of those early settlers except for the number of standing stones and burial tombs they left behind.

Ireland was never occupied by the Romans but the empires influence spread regardless with some Irish nobles joining the ranks of the legions. After the fall of Rome the Irish resumed their way of tribal living with a number of small kingdoms ruling the various areas of the isle.

The major turning point in early Irish history is the arrival of St Patrick in 600AD who is said to have converted the Irish to Christianity and according to legend banished all of the snakes into the sea (although it is commonly agreed that there never were any snakes living there at all).

From 800AD the Vikings arrived and began their period of violent raids disrupting the so called golden age of Irish monastic culture. The invaders attempted to conquer the entirety of the island but failed and over the years were absorbed into the local population.

In 1169 the Norman Richard de Clare nicknamed the Strongbow, invaded Ireland with his band of mercenarys beginning more than 700 years of direct English influence. The Norman grip on the island weakened over time and by 1261 they had lost most of the territory to rebellious Irish lords. The fighting lasted over 100 years with Dublin being particularly badly affected. In 1348 the Black Death struck effectively wiping out much of the English presence and opening the way for Gaelic customs to take over once more.

It wasn’t until the 1500’s that the English once more began to take an active and bloody interest in the country. Henry the eighth decided to conquer it and bring it firmly under his control. The Protestant reformation meant that the English could not afford to have a Catholic Ireland as it could be used as a back door into England if the French or Spanish chose to invade. In 1541 Henry crowned himself King of Ireland. The final conquest was accomplished during the reigns of Elizabeth and James establishing a central government in Dublin.

The 17th century proved to be Ireland’s bloodiest century with two periods of warfare causing a huge loss of life. The Irish briefly won their freedom after a rebellion but were then brutally re-conquered by Oliver Cromwell after the English Civil War. By the end of the century a third of Ireland’s population was dead or in exile. In 1688 Ireland became the main battleground for the glorious revolution of 1688 which culminated in the famous battle of the Boyne. From the 15th to the 18th century the Irish were sold as slaves and treated like savages by the English.

It wasn’t until 1800 that the British and Irish parliaments would create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Relations between the two nations improved but were mired by rebellions and the great famines that saw thousands of Irish families flee to the United States and elsewhere. By the end of the 1800s Irish nationalism had reached fever pitch and the segregation of the unionist Orange order and Catholics took place creating the beginning of the troubles that cast a shadow over the UK and Ireland for decades to come.

In 1914 just as the First World War was about to break out the UK parliament passed a bill declaring home rule for the Irish but the act was suspended for the duration of the war. For the nationalists to ensure that the act was enforced after the conflict Ireland joined the UK in the fight. After the war the Irish failed to negotiate agreeable terms with the British government and the Irish war of independence took place resulting in the unionist north remaining part of the UK and the rest of the emerald isle declaring its independence and forming the Republic of Ireland.  The bloody Irish civil war followed. The troubles lasted until 1999 when the Belfast agreement was signed, full devolution took place in2007. Violence still occurs from time-to-time but nowhere near the scale seen in the 1970’s and 80’s.

Ireland’s economy has evolved greatly since its independence and after the nation joined the European Union its citizens enjoyed a period of unmatched wealth. Unfortunately when the 2008 crisis struck Ireland was one of the hardest hit nations and its economy has been struggling ever since.