The Flag of Ireland — Click to enlarge

IRELAND (EIRE): The territory of the nation of Ireland has always been defined by the shoreline of the island of Ireland, and the Celtic League supports peaceful efforts to bring about its political reunification.

The Romans knew about Ireland but left it alone, and during the so-called “Dark Ages” Ireland became a center for the preservation of Western civilization and learning. United under a politically limited “High Kingship,” Ireland in the Middle Ages suffered foreign incursions, first by the Vikings and the Norse, who established a series of coastal enclaves that became the basis of many of Ireland’s present-day cities. Norse power was effectively ended in Ireland by the victory of High King Brian Boru at the battle of Clontarf in 1014, but in 1169 the first incursions by Norman adventurers began a struggle against English domination that has continued, in one form or another, down to the present day.

The Elizabethan conquest at the end of the 1500s fixed the English grip on the island, exacerbated by the conflicting claims of English-backed Protestant Christianity versus the Roman Catholic Christianity adhered to by a majority of the native population. To secure an English hold on the island, “plantations” of English and lowland Scots Protestant settlers were introduced into Munster in the late 1500s and into the north of Ireland in the early 1600s. A massive uprising in the 1640s was followed by a brutal reconquest under Oliver Cromwell that devastated large swaths of the island. After the failure of a war backing the deposed King James II & VII at the end of the 1600s, “penal laws” were enacted in an effort to repress the native Catholics.

While Ireland retained a degree of independence with an Anglo-dominated Parliament in Dublin, the great uprising of 1798 led to the imposition of an Act of Union with England in 1801. The 1798 rising, though, established republicanism as a permanent part of Irish nationalism, and since then “constitutional” and “physical force” independence movements have alternated and at times overlapped each other. After the limited success of Daniel O’Connel’s Catholic Emancipation movement, the “Great Hunger” followed the arrival of the potato blight in 1845 and led to an estimated one million deaths from starvation and disease, and an equal number forced to flee the island. The legacy of bitterness brought by the Great Hunger found its expression in the Young Ireland Revolt of 1848 and the Fenian Uprising of 1865-67.

Though defeated, the Fenians went underground and persisted as a revolutionary movement. A constitutional Home Rule movement led by Charles Stewart Parnell continued in the face of entrenched opposition by the largely Protestant “Unionists” of the north of Ireland. Despite this, the Home Rule movement was on the verge of success until the outbreak of World War One enabled the English to put it on hold. With the backing of the Fenian Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood, a republican wing of the armed Irish Volunteers joined with the Irish labor movement’s Irish Citizen Army in the Easter Uprising of 1916, which proclaimed an Irish Republic in Dublin. Though crushed by English forces in a week of heavy fighting, the legacy of the Easter Rising resulted in the election of a body of pro-republican candidates in the 1918 Parliamentary election. Declining to take their seats in the Westminster Parliament, these representatives formed their own governing body, the Dail Eireann, under whose authority the War of Independence was carried out by the Irish Republican Army between 1919 and 1921.

The war was ended by a treaty that recognized the English partition of the six Unionist-dominated counties of the north of Ireland under its own regional parliament. A Civil War between pro- and anti-Treaty factions resulted in a victory by the pro-Treaty side that formed the Irish Free State. Though the Irish Free State eventually broke away altogether from the British Commonwealth and proclaimed itself a republic, the partition settlement has continued to be opposed by an armed movement, most notably in the conflict that erupted in 1969. Recent efforts to terminate the war remain controversial and uncertain, and Ireland, for the time being, remains partitioned.

For more information about Irish history, click on the links below:
The Fenian Ram — The First Modern Submarine
Fenians Invade Canada!
The Other High King of Ireland
The Poet Who Planned The Easter Rising
Marconi Centennial 1901-2001
A Fateful Diplomatic Dinner
An Irish Suffragist
Alasdair MacColla, Gaelic Warrior
Grace Gifford Plunkett, Irish Patriot
Robert Emmet Bicentennial
Alasdair MacColla, Gaelic Warrior Part Eight
The Irishman Who Invented Dracula
The Scottish Campaign Begins (Alasdair MacColla, Part Ten)
The Irish Grandma Moses
Bloomsday Centennial 1904-2004
Oscar Wilde Sesquicentennial 1854-2004
The Sinn Fein Policy
Abbey Theatre Centennial