Ireland a short guide to the British in Ireland

ireland map pre Normans The Normans invaded Britain in 1066, they landed in Ireland a century later in 1169. For most of the Middle Ages Ireland was ruled as a separate kingdom under the British Crown. Although the area they controlled was not the whole country, just the eastern part shown in dark red on the left. Gradually they extended their control, but it was not till 1603 that a victory over the Irish in Ulster allowed Britain complete control of Ireland
cromwell in Ireland To ensue continuing control over the troublesome province of Ulster, the land was confiscated and given to small Scottish farmers. The idea being to ensue that they remained there and did not sell the land back to the native Irish. The success of this policy is the foundation of the problem of Northern Ireland today. But it is worth remembering that the Ulster Protestants have been there longer than the settlers in North America.
There next major event was the Cromwellian army's campaign in Ireland immediately after the English Civil War. Cromwell was short of cash to pay his troops at the end of the war, and confiscated 80% of the land (coloured orange above) for his troops in lieu of money. The dispossessed landowners were offered poor quality land in Connaught in exchange
orange and green During the 18th century the British tried to govern an Ireland that sparked periodic unrest. This culminated in the 1798 French invasion of Ireland shown on the left. The next British attempt to solve the "Irish Problem" was the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Ireland in 1801. A solution that pleased nobody in Ireland, the protest ruling class did not want to lose their independence, and the Catholics felt betrayed when George III refused to grant Catholic emancipation
potato famine Within a United Kingdom, Ireland started to struggle for reform. O'Connell and his Catholic Association founded in 1823 led the struggle for Catholic emancipation. Then the Potato Famine in the years 1845 to 1848 caused enormous upheavals as the population of Ireland fell from 9 Million to 3 million through famine and emigration. It is clear that a London government would not have let this tradgedy happen in mainland Britain. Further unrest followed the famine in Ireland, and Gladstone became British prime minister in 1868 declaring "my mission is to pacify Ireland", but failed to deliver safety for tenants from high rents and eviction. The Irish were now led by Parnell whose Irish Party held the balance of power in the British House of Commons.
However the Home Rule Bills of 1885 and 1893 were defeated, but the 1912 Home Rule Bill was passed by the Commons and the delaying powers of the Lords were limited to two years. It should have become law in 1914, but the First World War started and it never made the statute book.

A small rebellion - the Easter Rising of 1916 - was put down quickly by the government. Crass mishandling by the British resulted in many of the leaders of the Easter Rising being shot by firing squad, and the extremists acquired the status of martyers. In the election in 1918 73 of the 106 Irish seats went to Sinn Fein, who refused to go to Westminster and set up a provisional government in Ireland. There then followed 3 years of bitter guerilla war with atrocities on both sides, before a truce was finally signed in 1921, which led to the "final solution of the Irish Problem " with partition. The Irish Free State in the South and the continuation of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom.

It is clear today that the Irish problem has not been solved - whether it ever can be is the question. Northern Protestants feel they have a right to determine their own future democratically on the basis of being in the majority. Northern Catholics feel they have the right to be part of a united Ireland. Whilst both sides are suspicious of the other, it is unlikely that a lasting solution can be found. Wherever in the world ethnic divisions exist (Bosnia, Ruanda, Kashmir, Timor, Chetchin. Lebanon, Palestine) solutions are seldom forthcoming

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