The history of Ireland includes the time from the Middle Ages. In the early Middle Ages, Ireland consisted of several small kingdoms. Irene became a Christian in the 400s, a process the national saint of St. Patrick has been honored for. From the 8th century, Ireland was invaded by Norwegians and Danes on a Viking voyage, which eventually settled on the island and created its own Norse communities. The Norse kingdoms were dissolved in time after the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, when the Irish King Brian Boru fell, but the Norse population was overcome.
In the 1160s began an 800-year period in which Ireland was to varying degrees governed by England. After England introduced the Reformation in the 16th century, the English government became more direct. Irish laws were repealed and large parts of the earth given to Protestant Englishmen and Scots, especially in Ulster (Northern Ireland), while the Test Act of 1673 barred all Catholics from public office.
In 1801, Ireland became part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. To see more information other than history, please visit Abbreviationfinder to learn more about climate, population, government, and economy for the country of Ireland. After much resistance and many rebellions against British presence, the Irish demanded home rule by the end of the 19th century. After many rounds in the British Parliament and much opposition among the Unionist Protestants in the Northern Province of Ulster, an inner self-acid law was finally passed in 1914 with a tentative exception for Unionist-dominated Ulster. However, it was not feasible due to opposition from both the Unionists in Ulster and partly from the Republicans. But the main reason was the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Thus, the law was postponed and internal self-government put on hold. During the Easter Rebellion In 1916 (see below), Irish Republicans tried to exploit the British war in World War I to stage a coup, but the rebellion in Dublin was severely beaten by the British.
- Countryaah: Check to see the location of Ireland on the world map. Also covers major mountains, rivers and lakes in Ireland.
When the World War II peace was a fact in 1918, the Independence Party for Ireland, Sinn Fein, received a great deal of support. In 1919, a 3-year war (civil war) began to dislodge Ireland from the British Union.
On December 23, 1921, the British King signed an Act on Self-Government for Ireland, which divided the country into two parts with one parliament in Dublin and one in Belfast. The northern part (Ulster) continued to be part of the United Kingdom, while the rest was now called the Irish Free State and gained the position of dominion within the British Empire. Ulster was shrunk from 9 to 6 counties (gerrymandering) to secure a respectable Unionist-Protestant majority in the region. Ulster, with 6 counties, was granted provincial status in the United Kingdom.
In 1937 Ireland was given a new constitution and became a republic in 1949. The fact that Northern Ireland did not become part of the republic was, and remains, a major and contentious area of conflict in British and Irish politics.
The Middle Ages
In the 600s and 700s, Ireland had a great time. Unlike most Roman Catholics, the country’s church was a monastic church where abbot became the central figure, not the bishop. In the monastic schools great learning and joy of art unfolded; the monasteries welcomed foreign guests, and Irish scholars worked abroad. Irish history writing began, hero stories and laws were written down, and learned poets emerged.
Then the Viking invasion broke into Ireland. Before, and especially just after 800, Norwegian and Danish Vikings came on ravages, and the Norwegians gradually founded several kingdoms on the island.
All in 826 the Vikings got stuck in the county of Meath, since in the kingdom of Dublin. Their first king was the Norwegian Torgjest (Turgeis), who founded the city and castle of Dublin, from now on the capital of the Norwegian kingdom in Ireland, and sought to exterminate Christianity. A few years later (850–851) the Norwegian empire was taken by the Danes; but already 853 the chief Olav Kvite restored the Norwegian empire in Dublin, which, now under many changes and constant fighting with the Irish kings, remained standing until the English invasion under Henry 2. Other realms were Wexford, Waterford, Limerick and Cork, the latest possibly under a Danish chieftain.
In the late 900s, King Brian Boru sought to gather all the Irish under a strong national kingdom to fight against the aliens. A large Norwegian army under Sigurd Lodvesson Digre and the Viking chief Brodir attacked him with great force in 1014 at Clontarf, where the Norwegians suffered a great defeat, but where Brian himself fell.
At his death, internal political and religious strife erupted with great vehemence, and the English intervened (1166–1175). According to tradition, they had the Pope’s consent. The conquered part of Ireland’s east coast, The Pale, received English legislation and rule, and from 1297 also its own parliament, while the independent Ireland Middle Ages continued the raging clan struggles throughout.
Ireland under English rule
Irene rose several times, but in vain; even the Rose Wars (1455–1485) could only weaken the alien rule, but not give the Irish freedom. Henry 7’s governor of Poynings (1494–1496) ceded every attempt to rebel, and Poynings’ law of 1495 stipulated that no law should be submitted to the Irish Parliament until it was approved by the Privy Council.
Henry 8 greatly embraced his new church system in Ireland, and under Elizabeth 1 the estate of the Catholic Church was given to the Anglican State Church. But even outside the church estates, much of Ireland’s best land was seized and distributed to new immigrants, and thus the peasant’s soul was undermined. These conditions triggered a series of rebellions around 1600, with the support of the Pope and Spain; but the Irish were also occupied with internal struggles and suffered defeat.
Now, the old national laws repealed, English law was introduced in the whole of Ireland, and after a riot was 500,000 acre of Ulster confiscated in favor of English and especially Scottish colonists.
Under Jacob 1 and Karl 1, the same confiscation policy continued, so that in 1641 Protestants in Ulster owned 3 million of the region’s 3.5 million acres. The fear of the Puritans’ hateful intolerance this year led to rebellion; a multitude of Englishmen were murdered, but revenge became even more cruel: the English governor Oliver Cromwell took over with an army in 1649–1652 and defeated all resistance, so hard-won that it was never forgotten. The actual Irish were largely moved to poorer regions and had to live as tenants.
The reintroduction of the Stuart kingdom in 1660 brought only about a third of the earth back to Irish hands, and the Catholics, who were in the vast majority, were banned from rule and government (apart from the “Irish Parliament”). When Jacob 2 was expelled from England he sought support from the Irish, but his final defeat in 1690 gave rise to new land confiscations. The Irish Catholics, who in 1603 owned about 90 percent of the earth, 100 years later owned only 14 percent and in the 1770s 5 percent.
The Test Act of 1673 was also applicable in Ireland; it shut Catholics out of all public offices, including the Dublin Parliament. Even in the succession laws, Anglicans were favored, and England’s parliament took over the legislative power. Ireland’s business and economy suffered a severe blow when wool exports to England were banned in 1698. Landlords often used their large incomes outside Ireland and the island plunged into poverty. Harmen constantly struck out in acts of violence and minor uprisings.
However, the North American War of Independence led to some improvements. In 1780, the imposition of trade was lifted, in 1782 Poynings’ law and other restrictions on the independence of the Irish parliament were repealed, and the Catholics received various concessions. In 1793, Catholics gained voting rights (not eligible) and access to lower offices.
The French Revolution also brought new ferment in Ireland. United Irishmen, founded in 1791 by Wolfe Tone, demanded full equality for Catholics and secession from Britain through French assistance. But French aid expeditions failed, the rebellion in 1798 was stifled, and William Pitt the Younger undertook the union with the United Kingdom in 1800. The Irish Parliament was dissolved.
Union with the United Kingdom
Even after the Irish parliament was abolished in 1801, Catholics were denied political rights. In the 1820s, Daniel O’Connell raised a movement for the liberation of Catholics. To avoid civil war, the Tories in 1829 agreed to open access to Parliament and all the offices of the Catholics. The most extreme nationalists demanded the complete dissolution of the union with the United Kingdom in the 1830s, but no mass movement has yet been achieved.
The land issue was the most inflamed conflict issue throughout the 19th century. Almost all the land was in the hands of English and Protestant Irish big landlords, and the poor tenants were in their violence. The population rose from 5.4 million in 1801 to 8.3 million in 1845, without any corresponding economic development. As a result, the need in the country became greater; the poor rural population lived essentially potatoes. It was a pure disaster when potato harvest failed in 1845–1846. About a million people starved to death, and about 1.5 million Irish people traveled to the United States. Many also emigrated to England and Scotland. The population of Ireland dropped to 5.1 million in 1881 and 4.4 million in 1911.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the country’s economic position improved somewhat. The textile and shipbuilding industry in Northern Ireland flourished, and land laws were passed which eventually made the tenants their own owners. The first land law came in 1848, but only under William Gladstone’s ministry in 1867 was the Irish question seriously raised. In 1869 the Anglican State Church was abolished in Ireland, and in 1870 the legal status of the packers was secured. However, political turmoil increased.
In 1872, the Irish raised a demand for full autonomy (Home Rule), and the movement got its head in Charles S. Parnell. At about the same time, the fight against landlords was organized through the Land League, which was founded by Michael Davitt in 1879. It called for the extortion of the big estates and organized boycotts to prevent the eviction of indebted tenants. There were several clashes, and in 1881 Gladstone implemented a strict law of compulsion, dissolved the league and imprisoned the drivers.
A new constitution sought to reassure the Irish through large concessions, but unrest continued. Gladstone then changed tactics, released Parnell and a number of others of the leaders, but the assassination of Ireland’s Lord Lord Cavendish again brought the forced policy to the fore.
In 1886, Gladstone made another bold attempt to reconcile Ireland when he presented his major Home Rule proposal in Parliament. The proposal led to a split within the Liberal Party and was rejected. In the following years, terror was worse than ever. The National League urged the tenants to refuse to pay their fees, for thousands they were chased from the farms, and the Conservative government pushed hard against all attempts at boycott and sabotage. At the same time, however, land law continued to the benefit of the tenants.
Conditions became somewhat calmer in Ireland, and political agitation was weakened by divisions in the Nationalist Party. In 1893, Gladstone presented its second Home Rule proposal and had it passed by the House of Commons. However, it suffered a devastating defeat in the House of Commons, and in the following years the Liberal government’s proposal for land reform was also rejected.
Nevertheless, the conservative government that followed in 1896 was willing to agree to major economic reforms. In 1896 the access to purchase land was further expanded, in 1898 Ireland gained municipal autonomy, and in 1899 the Board of Agriculture was established with the honor of a leader. In 1903, a separate freight commission was given the authority to buy land and sell to the tenants on very long-term payment terms, and Parliament granted the commission credit. In 1900, John Redmond succeeded in bringing together the Nationalist Party on the demand for his own parliament and government for Ireland, and he also got the Liberal Party to accept the claim. When the Liberals came to power in 1906, however, they made no serious attempt to fulfill the promises.
At the elections in 1910, the Irish were in the pivotal position in Parliament. Irene supported the Liberals in the fight against the House of Commons, and Herbert H. Asquith, in 1912, put forward proposals for the Home Rule Act. The House of Lords raised bitter opposition, but in May 1914 the Bill was passed for the third time by the House of Commons and confirmed by the King in September. However, the law was not to take effect until after the First World War.
Ireland, under the new law, was given the autonomy of a deputy king in Dublin with a parliamentary ministry, a king-elected senate and a popularly elected House of Commons. The British Parliament, in which the Irish were to be constantly represented, should still have the decisive authority in foreign affairs and a number of administrative matters. The Home Rule Act raised controversy in Ireland. The Protestant section of the people of British-friendly Ulster refused to be ruled by an Irish-Catholic majority and prepared armed opposition to the implementation of the law.
In the summer of 1914, the Protestant Orange Order in Ulster made a series of brutal assaults on the nationalists. At the same time, in the Irish cities, the beginning of industrialization led to labor struggles. During the first part of the First World War, the Irish were largely loyal to the empire, and many Irishmen volunteered for the army.
As the war dragged on, impatience increased. Under the leadership of Eamon De Valera, the Sinn Fein Party (founded in 1904 by Arthur Griffith) entered an independent Irish republic. The Easter 1916 riots erupted in Dublin called the Easter Rebellion, while at the same time an attempt was made to land in Ireland with German help. The rebels took control of central public buildings in Dublin. The rebellion was defeated by British troops, and the leaders captured and executed.
Irene, however, continued opposition to the British rule. The government did not dare to apply the law on compulsory military service to Ireland, and in March 1917 the Irish House of Representatives refused to support the government any longer. Lloyd George tried to mediate, but Sinn Fein refused to participate.
In the elections to the Under House in 1918, Sinn Féin took 73 seats. Sinn Féiners did not meet in the House of Commons, but constituted themselves as a separate Irish parliament, Dáil Éireann. On January 21, 1919, this proclaimed the Irish Republic with De Valera as president, and throughout the southern part of the island the Irish sought to carry out secret Irish administration and judicial authority. Among other things, Michael Collins started work on establishing his own Irish army, the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
The British authorities made every effort to suppress the freedom movement, and the fight became all the more bloody because the Ulster Protestants stood completely on the British government’s side. The special forces Black and tan built up a counter-force to the IRA’s guerrilla attack. From both sides there were acts of violence, a lot of Ireland’s valuable buildings went up in flames. Most of the Irish drivers were eventually imprisoned, but the British could not muster any military victory.
The Irish Free State
The 1914 Act was not enforceable because of opposition from both the unionists in Ulster and partly from the Republicans. On December 23, 1921, the King signed an Act on Self-Government for Ireland, which divided the country into two parts with one parliament in Dublin and one in Belfast. In addition, Ireland was to have a joint federal council and the Supreme Court and constantly send representatives to the British House of Commons, where foreign policy issues would be decided.
In May 1921 elections were held in Ulster, and the Unionists gained a large majority. On June 22, the Northern Irish Parliament was opened and a ministry was formed under Sir James Craig (later Lord Craigavon).
On the other hand, the elections to the southern Irish parliament were sabotaged, and the British had to enter into negotiations with the nationalist leaders. Most imprisoned drivers were released, and an Irish delegation met for a conference with the London government. The result was that Ireland, under the name of the Irish Free State, gained the position of dominion within the empire. Britain would retain three naval stations on the Irish coast and be entitled to garrisons in the country during wartime.
However, De Valera maintained the demand for full independence and incorporation of the entire Ulster. The government’s proposal was passed by a small majority in Dáil Éireann, De Valera resigned as president of the Assembly, and Griffith was elected as his successor. Michael Collins became Prime Minister of the Provisional Government.
Republicans continued opposition to the new regime, and in 1922 Ireland was once again ravaged by civil war. Nevertheless, the elections were held for the Constitutional Parliament, and on December 6, 1922, the Constitution of the Irish Free State was finalized and approved by the British. The following year, the Irish Free State became a member of the League of Nations.
In May 1923, the Republicans stopped the armed struggle, and De Valera’s supporters got the third party of parliamentary representatives at the first general election. However, they refused to meet as long as the Constitution demanded an oath of loyalty to the British King of all Dáil Éireann members, and the moderate William T. Cosgrave formed the first ministry in the Free State. Business was down after the long war, and Cosgrave’s reconciliation policy ensured a certain calm for the reconstruction. Britain could take over the entire surplus of Irish agricultural production, which increased sharply in the years following the war.
The political turmoil never ceased completely. In the 1927 election, Cosgrave’s party came to a minority in Dáil Éireann, and Republicans decided to take the oath and take part in parliamentary work. But they demanded unconditional recognition of Ireland’s independence, and De Valera’s new party, Fianna Fáil, which he had formed when part of the old Sinn Féiner refused to go in for the new tactics, gained an ever-increasing influence in Dáil Éireann.
At the 1932 election, Fianna Fáil gained a majority along with the Labor Party. De Valera formed a government, the oath of the British king was abolished, and the payment of the land dues suspended. Relations with the United Kingdom became very tense, Parliament imposed high penalties on all Irish agricultural products, and the Irish responded with large tariff increases on British industrial goods. Along with the economic crisis, the Customs War led to a catastrophic decline in Irish exports.
De Valera renewed Cosgrave’s compulsory laws and banned the IRA. He continued to work for full independence for Ireland, and Dáil adopted a new constitution in 1937, which completely disregarded the agreement of 1921. The new constitution declared, in principle, that the island was one entity, and that the constitution had to be restricted only as a preliminary arrangement to apply to the area which until 1937 was called the Irish Free State.
The Irish Republic (Éire)
The new constitution was adopted in Dáil, and De Valera wrote new elections and a referendum on the constitution. Fianna Fáil returned by a scarcely majority, and the constitution was approved. It came into force and was approved by the British Government, which agreed to abolish the General Governor position and accepted the name Éire, but only for the former Irish Free State. It declared that the Constitution did not change anything in the relationship between Ireland and the British Empire. Nor did De Valera take any further steps to resolve the bond with the Empire. Protestant Dr. Douglas Hyde was unanimously elected president on May 4, 1938.
The tense world situation prior to World War II in 1938 made the British government willing to make concessions to Éire, including the end of the trade war. The United Kingdom agreed to evacuate its three fleet ports, and further waived all claims for interest and installment payments on the mortgages against Ireland paying £ 10 million. The deal was a victory for De Valera, but it did not touch on the most fierce controversy over Northern Ireland and Ireland. It therefore did not become popular with the Irish. Fianna Fáil admittedly got a majority in the Dáil elections in June 1938, but the mood became increasingly hostile among the far-flung Republicans.
The elections in Northern Ireland earlier this year had given the unionists an unconditional vote of confidence, and the relationship became bitterer between the unionists and the Catholic third of the people of Northern Ireland, who wanted union with Ireland. By New Year 1939, the IRA began a series of terrorist acts both in the United Kingdom and Ireland. De Valera sharply distanced himself from the activists, but declared their agreement, a united Ireland. When World War II broke out, De Valera maintained a strict neutrality and was unwilling to allow Britain to establish naval support points.
In February 1944, the United States approached the Irish government and urged it to break its relationship with Germany and Japan. This demand was unanimously rejected after a conference by all party leaders.
The first years after the Second World War were marked by a long-lasting economic crisis. In December 1948, Parliament passed the law establishing the Republic of Ireland. This law formally put an end to the constitutional link between the British crown and Ireland. The law came into force on April 18, 1949. The government sought to encourage Irish agriculture, which was run in a low rational and uneconomical way. In 1957, the country’s economy deteriorated again, and at the same time emigration increased worryingly.
Foreign investment increased in the mid-1960s; especially British, American and German capital came to the country. In July 1966, a free trade area with the United Kingdom came into force, the UK duty on Irish goods was repealed, and Ireland reduced its duty on British goods by 10 percent a year.
Ireland in the EC/EU
Ireland joined the EC from 1973 after a referendum in 1972 gave as many as 83 percent of the vote. The strong support for membership illustrated the relationship with the UK in two ways: on the one hand, economic and political dependence was so strong that it was inconceivable for Ireland to stand outside the EC while the UK was within. On the other hand, many Irish people believed that just joining the EC would lessen the dependence on neighboring countries. Import and export from and to the UK fell sharply; exports from 75 percent in 1960 to 28 percent in 1994.
In a few places the enthusiasm for the EU has been greater than in Ireland. In the referenda on a common European market (1987) and on the Maastricht Treaty (1993), 69.9 percent and 68.7 percent, respectively, voted. Ireland joined the EU’s currency union from its inception in 1999, and introduced the euro as its currency in 2002. In 2000, the traditionally neutral country also joined the Partnership for Peace program, after a period of being the only EU country without a NATO affiliation.
However, support for European cooperation seemed to be broken when Ireland, as the only EU country in 2001, held a referendum on the Nice Treaty – which extended to the Union with 10 new members in Eastern and Southern Europe – and ended up by 54 percent no votes. But a new vote the following year yielded 63 percent of the vote, and turnout increased from 35 to 45 percent. The main argument for the yes victory was that the Irish, who were now enjoying the economic growth of EU members, should give other disadvantaged countries the same opportunity.
Growth and politics
During the first ten years of 1973, Ireland was able to record continuous and substantial economic growth. Growth stopped in the 1980s, and then accelerated again. Hardly any other Western European country has, at the same pace, taken the leap from a poor, mainly agricultural-based society to high-tech and “tiger economics”; the country is often referred to as “The Celtic Tiger”. From 1990 onwards, the annual growth rate was 6–8 percent, twice the EU average. In 2002, gross national income per capita had reached 95 per cent of the level in Norway – compared with just under 50 percent five years earlier.
The country has succeeded in attracting investment and new businesses for thousands. Exports have seen a strong increase, especially in the electronics and chemical products sectors, besides agricultural products. Ireland has thus reduced its dependence on the United Kingdom. At the same time, changing governments have pursued a deliberate policy to curb inflation and the budget deficit.
In the late 1980s, the authorities and the social partners entered into a “social pact” which included wage regulation, taxation, welfare policy and the aim of which was to create economic predictability and to exploit growth opportunities. Unemployment fell from almost 20 percent in 1988 to 4 percent in 2001. Inflation in 2002 was reduced to 1.4 percent, from more than 20 percent in the early 1980s.
The evolution of the economy and the growth of the labor market have also stemmed from the emigration that, until the 1990s, was a distinctive feature of Irish society – with roots in the emergency years around 1840. Over the 1980s, over 100,000 Irish people emigrated, preferably to the United States and Australia; many also went to the UK as guest workers. But by the turn of the new century, the decline in the population had turned to an annual population growth which brought Ireland to the top tier in a European context, with a growth rate of 1.13 percent.
In recent years, Catholic Ireland has passed laws that allow for divorce and remarriage, and in general the trend is towards freedom of choice and diversity of values. In a referendum in 2002, the Irish, albeit with a stiff majority, set foot for further austerity in Europe’s most stringent abortion legislation; the fifth vote on this legislation in 20 years. During the economic growth period, the country has been given a more western and less “priestly” character.
The two major parties in Ireland are Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, but in the 1990s Labor, Ireland’s oldest party, increased its membership to around 10 percent. Fianna Fáil is the largest party, and the most nationalist. Since the 1960s, Jack Lynch, Charles Haughey, Albert Reynolds and Bertie Ahern have led Fianna Fáil governments. Also Mary McAleese had this party in the back when she was elected the country’s president in 1997, an election with only female candidates. The political difference between the two major parties is not very large and is based on historically different views on the national issue. As Labor has increased its support, the political structure has also become more similar to the one we know from other countries in Western Europe.