Saturday, 12 November 2011

Brehon Law Ireland

Brehon Law Ireland and the English Law

When King John died he was succeeded by his son Henry III who was only a boy of nine years. The Earl of Pembroke, William Marshall married Isabel the daughter of Strongbow and Eva.

In 1217 Marshall made a decision that would forbid a native Irishman from being appointed as a bishop or hold high office within the church. The pope at that time, Honorious III objected strongly but it mattered little. Marshall died in 1219 and left his estates and title to his son William Marshall the younger.  The War of Meath then took place between Marshall and Hugh de Lacy, leaving County Meath a wasted land.

Irish resistance always existed but during the 13th Century this resistance intensified. As well as the war in Meath, Connacht was in turmoil and right across the country many pockets of resistance continued. In 1254 Henry III gave his son Edward a huge estate that included Ireland and the Channel Islands.

This grant was made provided that Ireland would never be separated from the English crown, and no one but the heirs of Edward should ever have any claim upon the land. When Edward took over he showed little interest in Ireland, mainly due to its small size.

He mainly used it for its resources and taxes to pay off debts from his various missions. That meant money was being taken from Ireland and crops were reducing as they were being exported to feed Edward's troops. Lawlessness and disorder started to creep in and escalated quickly with the government, now starved of valuable resources and money began to lose control, a point quickly exploited by the existing Irish Kings.

In Ireland there were two very distinct laws, the English Law and the Brehon Law and in simple terms this meant that English law was for the colonists only and did not apply to the Irish people.  Any Irish person injured by an English person simply had no redress under English law.  If that Irish person tried to get justice under Brehon Law then that could not be used against an English person.

In the early years of the 14th Century, due mainly to absentee landlords and the constant drain on resources, the English colonies in Ireland began to suffer. Everyday, attacks were increasing from the various Irish raiders and defences were growing very weak.
You can see from this that Ireland and England had come into some serious contacts for the first time.

I would now recommend reading about Edward the Bruce and his impact on Irish History.Edward The Bruce