Ireland Old History

By | January 2, 2023

Ireland is an independent nation in Northern Europe. With the capital city of Dublin, Ireland 2020 population is estimated at 4,937,797 according to countryaah. English Normans in the 1170s began the conquest of Catholic Ireland. The island then consisted of a series of small Celtic kingdoms that often fought among themselves. It was not until the end of the 16th century that the English had succeeded in taking over the entire island. In the Northeast, the population offered the strongest resistance, but eventually England took over there as well. Large areas of land were confiscated and distributed to Scottish, English and Welsh Protestants. The Catholic Irish were discriminated against and several rebellions broke out. Demands for independence grew, but Protestants in the north opposed any talk of self-government, which led to the island being divided.

  • Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Ireland, covering history, economy, and social conditions.

The oldest traces of human settlements in Ireland are just under 9,000 years old. Agriculture began to be practiced on the island around the 3rd century BC. From about the same time are the large stone chamber tombs, of which Newgrange, which lies in the valley around the River Boyne, is best known. From the Bronze Age (2000–700 BC) there are rich finds of goldsmiths. For Ireland political system, please check computerminus.

Among the Celtic tribes that began to immigrate to Ireland around 500 BC, the Gaels set their mark on language and culture. Two centuries later, they had displaced the former residents, believed to have been Iberians, a people from the Pyrenees peninsula.

The Celts of Ireland were divided into several kingdoms which were in constant feud with one another. The kings built the mansions and surrounded themselves with poets, musicians and warriors, but otherwise the population was mostly nomads. An upper king, the High King, formally ruled the island, but his power was most symbolic.

Whether the Romans conquered Ireland or not has been the subject of debate since an archaeologist in 1996 discovered the remains of a Roman fort from the 100 century AD outside Dublin. However, many saw the find as an expression of the previously known limited Roman influence.

Christian missionaries and Vikings

In the 400s, Christian missionaries came to Ireland, including according to legend St. Patrick, the patron saint of the island. Christianity gained momentum and numerous monasteries and schools were established.

Towards the end of the 7th century, the ravages of the Vikings began and the divided Celtic kings became an easy replacement. For 200 years the Vikings occupied large areas, mainly along the coasts. Here they founded Ireland’s first cities, including Dublin, Cork and Limerick. Around 1000, the Celtic kings finally succeeded in uniting and defeating the 1014 Vikings at Clontarf.

Ireland is colonized

About 150 years later, however, the internal battles were dealt with by the Celts. English Normans were interested in the unused supply of fertile land. At the request of a Celtic king, a Norman count, known as Strongbow, came to Ireland in the 1170s to establish his own monarchy on the island. The English king, Henry II, opposed this and instead incorporated Ireland into his own kingdom. However, direct English domination limited itself to areas on the east coast.

The English monarchs pursued a policy that widened the cultural divide between Englishmen and Irishmen. When the English in the 16th century transitioned from Catholicism to Protestantism, the contradictions were sharpened. From the mid-1500s, land seized by Catholics began to be taken over by English Protestants. The Irish revolted, but the rebellion was crushed quickly. By the end of the century, the English had succeeded in taking over the entire island.

Rebellion in the north

The exception was the northern part of the province of Ulster, where the Irish people strongly opposed the Protestant colonizers. From 1608 large areas of land in the north were confiscated and distributed to Scottish and English Protestants. But in 1641, 59 percent of the Irish land was still Catholic.

After the English ruler Oliver Cromwell knocked down an eleven year long, bloody uprising, the English crown controlled the entire island by the mid-17th century.

However, the so-called criminal laws, which were established in the first decades of the 18th century, deprived Catholics of the right to buy land, rent it on reasonable terms or even inherit it. In 1714, only seven percent of the land was left in Catholic hands. Nor were Catholics entitled to vote, start their own schools or hold public office.

The penal laws were relieved in stages, but the Dublin Parliament, which had been established in 1692, remained closed to the Irish, which the nationalist movement, the United Irishmen, could not accept. Inspired by the French Revolution of 1789, the movement revolted in 1798. However, after a failed attempt to land French soldiers, the rebels gave up. In 1801 Ireland was formally incorporated into Britain and its parliament dissolved.


In the 1840s, the island was estimated to have about 8.5 million residents. From 1845 to 1848, potato harvests failed and nearly one million Irish people died of starvation and malnutrition. In the wake of the famine disaster, an extensive emigration followed, mainly to North America and other English-speaking countries. By the end of the 19th century, the number of residents had dropped to just under four million.

Easter Rising

Liberal British governments, from the second half of the 19th century, tried to meet the demands of Irish nationalists to some extent through proposals for self-government, so-called home rule, within the United Kingdom. The Protestant minority in Ireland opposed these proposals, but in 1914 the British Parliament decided to introduce self-government. However, the reform was delayed and pushed for the future when the First World War broke out.

In the middle of the war, on Easter Sunday, 1916, Irish nationalists occupied several important buildings in Dublin and proclaimed Ireland an independent republic. Led by poet Padraig Pearse and Labor Party leader James Connolly, they set up their headquarters in the headquarters office. The small rebel forces managed to stand against the British force for a week, but the revolt was defeated and several of the leaders executed. The seemingly unsuccessful and ill-prepared rebellion received a strong symbolic charge for many Irishmen.

In 1919, the Irish members elected to the British Parliament formed their own parliament in Ireland and proclaimed the country an independent republic. The new parliament elected Eamon de Valera as president. He was one of the few leaders of the Easter uprising that had not been executed. The Irish Parliament was banned and members must meet in secret. In parallel, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) launched a guerrilla war against British rule.

Ireland is divided

Protestants in the North East opposed any talk of Irish self-government and threatened to use force if forced into a new state formation. They also considered breaking away from the UK and forming an independent state.

At the end of 1921, the Irish reluctantly agreed to a British peace proposal which meant that the island was divided. Six of Ireland’s 32 counties (Northern Ireland), where a majority of the population were Protestants, remained British while the remaining formed the Irish Free State. Self-government had a number of limitations and for many the agreement was disappointing. One sensitive issue was that the Government and Parliament must swear an oath of allegiance to the British Crown. The Irish Parliament split and President de Valera resigned in protest. Civil war broke out. In May 1923, the opponents of the agreement had been defeated. The Free State government executed more and punished a larger number than the British did with the rebels in 1916. The civil war created deep cracks in society that took many years to bridge.



Wage cuts in new crisis budget

A tight budget is presented: public servants who earn more than € 30,000 a year should have their salaries reduced by 5-15 percent. The same goes for all ministers, however, the prime minister cuts his salary by 20 percent. EUR 760 million will be saved on social welfare systems (among other things through lower child allowances).


Systematic abuse was hidden by the church

The so-called Murphy Commission, which investigates several scandals surrounding the Catholic Church, presents a report of systematic abuse of children by priests within the Dublin Diocese from 1975 to April 2004. Four archbishops are accused of trying to conceal what has been going on, in several cases with the help of senior police officers. Prime Minister Cowen calls on the designated bishops to resign, while the political opposition demands that everyone involved in the darkening should leave their services (see also Religion).

Strike in protest against cuts

November 24

A quarter of a million public servants strike in protest against layoffs and impaired service (see also Labor Market). The government fails to agree with the union on austerity policy.


Government crisis is averted

The cracks in the government are growing and the Green Party is considering leaving the coalition. Following the promises of 500 new teachers and stricter control over gifts to political parties, the Green Party remains in government.

Voters approve the Lisbon Treaty

October 2

A new referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Prior to the vote, Prime Minister Cowen has been given binding guarantees that the EU should not affect Ireland’s sovereignty in the issue of abortion, neutrality and tax law. 67 percent of Irish people now vote yes to the Lisbon Treaty. The turnout is estimated at 58 percent. Most analysts believe that the yes side wins because voters are afraid of what will happen to the Irish economy if they vote no.


Setback for Fianna Fáil in local and EU elections.

June 5

The municipal elections and the elections to the European Parliament will be a setback for the ruling Fianna Fáil. The Green Party also makes a poor choice, while doing well for Fine Gael and the Labor Party. The Socialist Party wins for the first time a mandate in the European Parliament. Sinn Féin loses its only EU mandate in Ireland (the party gets a mandate in Northern Ireland). Nearly 58 per cent of Irish people vote in the election.

Domestic shortcomings behind Ireland’s banking crisis

According to a report commissioned by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, domestic factors have played a greater role than the international financial crisis in creating the Irish banking crisis. The banks have lent too much money and for risky projects, which was possible due to deficiencies in the financial market regulation system.


New tough savings package

The government presents a savings package that includes, among other things, an increase in income tax. High-income earners (who earn more than € 75,000 a year) must pay 4 to 6 percent more in tax. For the rest, 2 percent applies, while Irish people with minimum incomes pay 7 euros a week. Unemployed persons under the age of 20 must have their allowance halved and the special payment that people on social benefits usually receive for Christmas will be abolished. Assistance is also reduced. It is also decided that a new authority, the National Asset Management Agency (Nama), will be created to enable the state to take over bad property loans from the Irish banks.


Protests against cuts

100,000 Irish people are demonstrating in Dublin against the cuts in the public sector. A new pension charge is approved shortly thereafter by both parliament’s chambers. All opposition parties vote no to the fee.


Bank is nationalized after disclosures about fraud

The government is nationalizing parts of the scandal-stricken Anglo Irish Bank, after it was revealed, among other things, that the bank’s chairman concealed to the auditors that he himself had borrowed over € 80 million. It is also clear that ten of Anglo Irish Bank’s largest borrowers account for over half of the loans.

Ireland Old History