Sunday, 18 September 2011

Brief Irish History of Ireland for Kids

Irish History - A Concise Version

This is a brief and concise Irish History for those who have an interest but not the time to spend reading lots of information.  Ireland is an island on the very west of Europe and neighbours to Great Britain.  It is surrounded by the waters of the Irish Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.  The population in 2011 is approximately 6 million people. It measures 300 miles north to south and 100 miles east to west.

Patron Saint of Ireland
Saint Patrick in Ireland

Saint Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland brought Christianity to its shores in 450 AD. Ireland was divided into four provinces, Ulster, Munster Leinster and Connacht and was ruled by kings and High Kings, who constantly fought with each other for supremacy. The Vikings arrived to Ireland in 750 AD, and Dublin came into being as an important port.

The English in Ireland

One of the kings, The King of Leinster fell on hard times and was essentially banished.  He went to King Henry 2nd of England for help, troops and money.

Henry was at war with France but he sent Strongbow a Welsh Baron who effectively took control of Ireland. Henry 2nd of England viewed this as a dangerous position and he brought his armies and took control-establishing Ireland as a Kingdom in 1199. Over time his position weakened and once again Norman Barons took control and adopted an Irish culture.

During the Tudor period a similar battle would start with Henry VIII of England.  This was a significant period in Irish History and would become even more so for the future of the island.  His own personal views on marriage came to the fore and he disassociated himself from the pope and the Catholic Church and began to champion the Protestant religion..

It was his actions that have sowed the seeds of conflict that exist to this day. Henry was elected King of Ireland by the Irish Parliament and created many plantations which he gave to his protestant supporters.

Oliver Cromwell

Dermot, King of Leinster
Around 1640 Oliver Cromwell attacked anyone who did not support his extreme religious views of Protestantism and Catholics were exiled to the infertile lands of the west coast. Irish Catholics supported James II as he fled from England, his throne having been taken by Prince William of Orange. The famous Battle of the Boyne took place in 1690 and William was victorious.  This is still celebrated on the 12th July every year. An Act of Union was passed in 1800 which made Ireland part of the United Kingdom.

The Great Irish Famine

A truly turbulent time in Irish History was when "The Great Famine" happened in 1841 and over a million people died and a million more immigrated, mostly to the USA. Ireland became a desolate place of wilderness and death. Emigration continued through the early 1900s.

It was then that Catholic activists started a plan to reclaim Ireland for the Irish. Many Protestants wished to stay aligned to the United Kingdom and this led to the famous Easter Rising in 1916.

The supreme council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood called together all the leaders of the various progressive parties, and at this meeting agreed that the War which was occupying Britain’s efforts, was a good opportunity for a rising against the British.  Thomas Clarke led this instigation and was strongly supported by Patrick Pearse, Sean McDiarmada, Sean O’Ceallaigh and Eamonn Ceannt.  They were to be joined later by Joseph Plunkett, James Connolly and Thomas McDonagh.

Patrick Pearse was a key influencer at this time and had since joining the Gaelic League in 1896, promoted and maintained the promotion of its aims, to educate and improve the lot of Irish literature.  In the weeks leading up to the planned rising at Easter, the Irish Volunteers and the Citizen Army held parades, hoping to enlist support.

The Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) had received many pledges of support and expected that when the day came they could have the active support of around 10,000 people.  Events however appeared to conspire against this actually happening.  A German ship called “The Aud” which was bringing arms was captured.  Sir Roger Casement who had been in Germany organizing support was also captured in County Kerry when he landed from a U-boat.

The Easter Rising in Ireland

Michael Collins
Michael Collins
The IRB leaders remained determined to carry on and advised their supporters that the rising would begin on Easter Monday.  Normal activity was taking place in Dublin that day and people watched as volunteers marched through Dublin, assembled at Liberty Hall, and then dispersed to various places throughout the city.

They seized a number of strong points which included the General Post Office at O'Connell Street in Dublin.  From the steps there Pearse read to an indifferent and bemused crowd, “The Proclamation of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic.” For me, this along with the Battle of the Boyne were the two single most significant factors to happen in Irish History.

This had been signed by Clarke, McDiarmada, MacDonagh, Pearse, Ceannt Connolly and Plunkett.  The volunteers failed to capture Dublin Castle and the telephone exchange. That meant the 2,000 participants in the Rising were now trapped in positions and were isolated as little support was actually given from the common people.  As a result of this the rebel positions grew more and more isolated.

A British gun-boat came up the Liffey River and began to shell the GPO.  Throughout Ireland there was little or no support for the rising and the government responded by declaring a state of martial law.  General Maxwell arrived from England and took control of the British troops and continued the artillery barage.  Less than a week later the Easter Rising was over and many deaths and casualties had occurred.

After this in a series of Court Martials, fifteen leaders of the rising were found guilty and executed by firing squad.  Connolly, who had been wounded in battle, was tied to a chair before his execution.

This met with public revulsion and Ireland now had its latest set of martyrs.  Over 3,400 were arrested and half of these were either interned in England or Wales.  From these camps they continued to plan a new onslaught on Britain.  A sixteenth person was then executed in London for his part in the Easter Rising.  Sir Roger Casement was hanged as a traitor on 3rd August 1916.

In 1917, Sinn Fein decided to create a central point of control and to agree a comprehensive set of policies and they held their first conference (Ard-Fheis) on the 25th October. One of these policies was to secure the International recognition of Ireland as an independent Irish nation, something most likely introduced by De Valera.

With the execution of the leaders, the mood of the country had changed and Redmond’s Labour party were now a spent force.  The other leaders of the IRB who had been in prison had found much time for planning and they formulated a plan to promote Sinn Fein as the political wing of the IRB.  Sinn Fein won several by-elections and De Valera was elected MP for East Clare.  He took over from Griffiths as the leader of Sinn Fein and was also made President of the Irish Volunteers.

Formation of the Republic of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland had now formed and in 1921 was granted this status.  Northern Ireland was also formed effectively partitioning Ireland.  It would consist of six counties, Antrim, Armagh, Londonderry, Down, Tyrone and Fermanagh.