years in one line!
Irish history can be summed up:
Ireland was far from Europe,
close to England, and now it's torn between the two.
Far from Europe meant that only
a small assortment of plants and animals managed to colonize
the island before melting glaciers flooded any land routes to
England and the mainland. One result - no snakes in Ireland.
They just didn't make it here in the short space of time between
ice and island.
The handful of species that did
arrive thrived. The native landscape was dominated by mature
oak forests. About 9,000 years ago people landed on the East
and South East coasts and gradually worked inland, slashing and
burning as they went. The giant Irish Elk, with its vast antler
spread, died out about this time.
robust hunter gatherer society was eventually replaced by more settled farmers
and metal workers. These folks erected huge stone edifices like the burial
mound at Newgrange long before the pyramids, or even Stonehenge, were built.
The pattern of society set at that time remains largely unchanged in the countryside
- scattered farms with a central place of worship tieing the community together.
Rome? Didn't happen here. The Celts came, though,
bringing iron and a language that is still spoken in small pockets of the
nation. Christian missionaries such as Saint Patrick converted the local kings,
and monastic settlements served as administrative centers of power for several
The 1100's brought the English,
or more accurately, the Normans. Their castles began to dot the
countryside, and an uneasy accommodation began between native
clans and the conquerors. A meld of the two cultures ensued,
but under Elizabeth the Great, new English armies gradually conquered
Catholic while England turned to Protestantism. Deposed English kings found
the restive populace a natural source of manpower. Cromwell invaded and put
the countryside to torch, killing thousands. When William of Orange
triumphed over the Catholic armies of King James II, punitive laws deprived
Catholics of any rights. Catholic churches were forbidden, schooling was forbidden,
holding land was forbidden.
The history of the next several
hundred years is one of periodic, unsuccessful revolts against
the ascendant English and Protestant rulers. The Catholic Church
served as a bulwark of the common people, though it was anything
but a militant faith. It was the Irish Protestant community which
provided most of the political leaders who pushed for reforms
during the 1800's.
A Nation Once Again
In 1916, an
Easter Uprising was put down by the English and the leaders of that revolt
were shot. Their martyrdom galvanised the Irish populace as nothing else could,
and guerrilla warfare eventually succeeded in dislodging the British. But,
the price of British exit from 26 counties of Ireland was the retention of
6 of Ulster's counties where the majority of the people were Protestant. Ulster's
fate remained the great battleground of modern Irish politics. Only in 2007 was a political settlement reached in the north.
In 1973 Ireland joined the European Economic
Community, which is now the European Union. The result has been dramatic.
A lackluster, agricultural economy was transformed into the "Celtic Tiger,"
the most rapidly growing economy in Europe. A mostly rural populace has become
mostly urban, and an island on the periphery of Europe has become the largest
exporter of software in the world. Ahead of Japan, Britain, Germany, the U.S.!
Ireland entered the unified European Monetary
Unit (EMU) with its single European currency - the Euro.
England, still Ireland's most important trading partner, remains aloof.
Ireland is now the world's most export driven economy. Most of what we make heads overseas. If you want to know how Ireland is faring, simply read the world economic news.
Inflationary government policies drove a huge housing boom in the naughties, but it all went bust in 2008 and 2009. A hands-off regulatory atmosphere resulted in grossly stupid lending policies that have wrecked most of Ireland's banks. The Irish people are picking up the unbelievably vast tab.
The European Union is now directing Ireland's monetary and tax policies and they're hard task masters indeed. The free spending craziness of the Celtic bubble has given way to....
Irish history continues.