Irish History Timeline

Moor land in Ireland     Early Ireland: 8000 BC - fourth century AD High Cross at Monasterboice     Early Christianity to the Arrival of the Vikings
Viking Ship     The Viking Age Aoife and Strongbow     The Normans in Ireland
Kilkenny Castle     Erosion of English Power in Ireland Edmund Spenser     The Tudor Era
Hugh O'Neill     The Plantation of Ulster Massacre at Drogheda     Cromwell and the Restoration
Jonathan Swift     Into the Eighteenth Century Theobald Wolfe Tone     Growth of Political Unrest in the Later Eighteenth Century
Robert Emmet     The Act of Union and its Consequences Monster Meeting     Daniel O'Connell and the Catholic Association
Despair during the Famine     The Great Famine 1848 Uprising     The Revolt of the Young Irelanders
Fenians in Battle     The Rise of Fenianism Charles Stewart Parnell     Charles Stewart Parnell and Land Reform
Gaelic symbol     The Gaelic Cultural Movement Signing the Ulster Covenant     The Ulster Covenant
Patrick Pearse     The Easter Rising Michael Collins     The War of Independence
Fighting during the Civil War     The Civil War Boycott British Goods protest     The Rise of Fianna Fáil
US soldiers in Northern Ireland     Ireland in the 1940s Moore Street in 1959     Ireland in the 1950s and early 1960s
IRA fighter     The Troubles Bertie Ahern     Ireland in the Twenty-First Century
Brian Cowen     Latest Events Map of Ireland     Irish History Timelines on the Internet

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Neolithic Tomb               Early Ireland: 8000 BC - fourth century AD

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8000 BC  
Around this time the first men arrived in Scotland. Ireland was not originally Celtic but Neolithic. The Celts were to arrive during the second half of the millennium BC,  and absorbed much of Neolithic culture. Estimates as to when the Gaels arrived range from 4000 BC to the first few centuries BC.

3000 BC
Tombs from this period have been found in passage-graves in the Boyne valley.

At this time, Ireland was a simple agricultural society. Irish art had begun to develop. The people had come as invaders, and more invaders followed from Britain, France and Spain. Ornaments, coins and weaponry from the Bronze and Iron Age have been uncovered by archaeologists.

The Romans never conquered Ireland, although it is a matter of controversy whether they actually set foot on the island. Ireland was a society of independent tribal kingdoms who lived by agriculture, raiding and fighting with continuous shifts in alliances.

The early pagan Gaels’ High Kings have left behind raths (ring forts) on the Hill of Tara. They claimed to be rulers of all Ireland but weren’t so in a modern way. Rather, they spend time defending their symbolic title against other kings

Despite tribal groupings, the people shared the Brehon Law, a common history, oral poetry, music and language. They referred to themselves as ‘men of Ireland’ and shared a cultural identity which could be thought of as a form of nationhood. Celtic culture involved druids, bardic praise-poetry and clientship. The Irish language was heavily influenced by pre-Celtic tongues. Cults and occupations were carried over from Neolithic times.  Some tribes such as the Brigantes lived in both Britain and Ireland. Britain and Ireland shared languages, dominant aristocracies and populations (like the Cruithni/Picti).

4th Century Rome influenced Ireland more in the fourth century and after. As the Romans lost their grip on Britain, the Irish and Picts began to invade.

367 AD The Irish, Picts and Saxons launched a concerted raid on Britain.

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St Patrick                        Early Christianity to the Arrival of the Vikings

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Late 4th /
Early 5th C
Christian missionaries arrived, probably from Gaul.

Irish settlements began in the west of Britain. North and south-west Wales, Cornwell and Devon were colonised. The most successful colony was the Dál-Riata in Scotland. Colonisation and raids on Britain influenced Irish culture. Romanisation began in the fifth century, derived from the Romano-British culture of western Britain. The Ogham alphabet clearly came from Latin.

431 AD Palladius went as bishop to ‘the Irish who believe in Christ’. This was to oppose the Pelagian heresy.

432 AD    St Patrick arrived to convert the kings. Conversion was slow, although St Patrick was not the only missionary. A Gaelic-Christian golden age was to follow.

St Patrick was a Romano-Briton who had been enslaved by Irish raiders, before escaping and turning to religion. He drove out traditional pagan rites, leading to a fusion of Gaelic culture with Christianity. Irish Christianity ‘shone like a beacon in Europe’ after the fall of Rome. The seventh and eighth centuries saw a Gaelic golden age when Irish history was documented and great works of art were fashioned.

500s Christianity matured slowly in a stable society. The king of Tara in the middle of the sixth century was still pagan. Monasticism made strides during this century, influenced by the British church. Monasteries were originally strict retreats from the world, but became wealthy and influential, bearing a rich literary and artistic culture. As time passed the monasteries grew into little cities with a variety of inhabitants. Provincial kings lived in some of them. Several monasteries owned huge tracts of land and were ruled by worldly and wealthy abbots.

Irish schools in the late sixth and seventh centuries achieved great scholarship, and many poets and lawyers were also clerics. Laws were created for church and secular society. The problem of inherited non-Christian customs, ‘fenechas’, was resolved by regarding it as the Old Testament of their race, cleansed by St Patrick. New laws were influenced by the Biblical Old Testament.

600s During this time, the cult of St Patrick spread.

A prehistory of the Irish race was written to unite all the people of Ireland. All people were supposed to be descended from the same ancestors, and Irish was constructed from the best elements of the Tower of Babel.The concept of a kingship of Ireland first appeared and the Uí Neíll claimed kingship over all Ireland, over all provincial kings, although they never achieved their goal. Numerous shifts in power and boundary changes occurred. Another powerful tribe to fight against the Uí Neíll were the Eóganacht.

 600s – 800s The arts (metal-work, illumination, calligraphy) flowered in the monasteries. Iona and Armagh were the greatest ecclesiastical power-centres. Iona was founded by Columba and Armagh by Patrick.

The church’s power structure was complex, with individual churches being highly independent. Some were free while others were owned by aristocrats or monasteries.  Churches could be tiny or vast monasteries. Bishops were appointed to oversee the clergy. The relationship between church and people was a contract with mutual obligations. The church supplied religious services while the people paid dues.

Three social classes existed during this age – kings, lords and commoners. Lords were wealthy and had clients (bondsmen). Commoners were freemen with full legal rights and their own land. Some were well off (the bóaire). There were also landless men and hereditary serfs. Status was important in the legal system – rights and legal compensations depended on it. Under clientship, lords granted the client a fief (goods) and protection; the client made payments to the lord. There was free and base clientship – free clients were often nobles, and took a share in their lord’s plunder. Base clientship was like a loan, from which the lord came out best. Slavery was extensive.

The family, not the individual, was the legal unit – extended family, not conjugal family, which meant the male-line descendants of a great-grandfather. Divorce and polygamy were common, going back to the pre-Augustinian attitudes to marriage. Polygamy remained until the end of the Middle Ages. With nobles having many children, these slipped socially downwards and displaced the commoners.

The population was between half and one million. Much of the land was wilderness and uninhabited. The more powerful – any farmers with land – owned ringforts to protect their farms. Land was farmed in strips; milk and dairy was important. The upper classes ate a lot of meat, which formed a normal part of clients’ payments. Grain was also vital – oat for porridge, barley for ale and bread. Vegetables were grown on a small scale and wild fruit and nuts were important in people’s diet. Famine was common, coupled with disease, social disorder and internal migration. Epidemics occurred repeatedly.

Kings played a key role. In their sagas, they are semi-sacred. There were three grades of king. The lowest grade were on their way out in the 700s. The church backed the kings of provinces in their dynastic struggles, and the kings defended the church. The churchmen developed the idea of the ordained and consecrated king; they wrote that the king should be obeyed and respected, but should not tax too much.

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Brian Boru                                      The Viking Age

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793 Lindisfarne attacked by Vikings.

The first Vikings arrived in Ireland, pirates led by aristocrats. Their first targets included Rathlin and Iona. They harassed Irish homesteads and monasteries for more than a century, meeting no organised national resistance.

798 St Patrick’s Island monastery was smashed.

800s By the middle of this century, the Dál Riata had control of all Pictland, uniting Scotland under Kenneth mac Alpine.

Viking traders brought slaves into Ireland from now until the 1000s.

802 Burning of Iona.

806 Another massacre at Iona, in which 68 monks died. More attacks followed. The Irish had some successes in striking back.

830s Viking raids became more intense.

836  The first known inland raid took place.

840    Vikings began setting up defended bases and their attacks became so intense that it seemed the country was about to be conquered. The Irish kings and abbots counter-attacked with growing success.

842 First Viking-Irish alliance. These alliances became common.

Mid 9th C   Dublin became the most important Viking city.

860s  The Vikings turned to England.

914 – 930s  Second Viking period. After beating the Uí Neílls, the Dublin Vikings were powerful for a while. No great monasteries were ever destroyed, even in Dublin. The Vikings didn’t cause the passing of the ‘old order’ and weren’t actually responsible for the abuses of the church they have been blamed for, such as married clergy. The monasteries, through their associations with aristocratic families, were often involved in battle already. Churches were also attacked for their supplies during famines.

928 Viking massacre at Dunmore Cave, Kilkenny.

940s – 960s Dublin boomed as a great European trading city. While in Scotland the incomers were farmers and fishermen, in Ireland they were merchants and seamen. 

The Uí Neíll clan was locked in an internal power struggle during this time.

956 - 980 Domnall ua Néill was King of Tara, High King of Ireland.

976 Brian Boru became king of the Dal Cais, becoming a serious rival to the Uí Neílls. Supported by the Ostmen, he conquered Dublin and Leinster, and then the whole country.

1002 Boru demanded that Mael Sechnaill recognise him as King of Ireland.

1005  Brian Boru was declared Emperor of the Irish at Armagh.

1014  Brian Boru defeated the Vikings at Clontarf. The army he fought contained both Norsemen from Dublin and Leinster Irishmen. Boru was not supported by the other great kings, and he himself was killed by a Danish king named Brodar.

Gradually the Norsemen became part of Ireland. They build the first Irish towns such as Arklow and Wexford, intermarried with Gaelic Irish and settled into a Gaelic pattern of warring kings.

11th/12th C The Irish church was beginning to look old-fashioned. The abbots, usually laymen, were too powerful. The laity attitude to marriage was also criticised. A general reorganisation took place, giving the church its current diocesan organisation. A national church under Armagh was created. Foreign orders, especially the Cistercians, took over the monasteries. Irish literature, culture and learning suffered. The church scholars moved out and clerical lawyers became secularised.

1014 – 1022  Mael Sechnaill II acted as ‘high king’ of Ireland. Provincial kings were growing more powerful; warfare increased. More administrators were needed to mind kingdoms in the king’s absence. Kings were granting away large territories and carving them up between their supporters. They also made laws and imposed taxes. They granted land in return for homage and military service.

1086 – 1114  Ireland's most powerful king was Muirchertach O’Brien.

(Late 11th C) Trade began to focus on Anglo-Norman Britain and on France. Chester and Bristol traded with Dublin. The rest of Ireland followed, and the resultant economic dependence meant that the Irish kings showed devotion to Henry I. Dublin was also a recruiting ground for Norse warriors who would help any side in the competition for supreme power.

1140   Turlough O’Connor (Toirdelbach Ua Conchobair), king of Connacht, was the greatest Irish warrior king of this century. From 1140 he devoted his energies to becoming supreme king.

1152  Dublin became a metropolitan archbishopric. Previously it had been a diocese subject to Canterbury while the rest of the church was dominated by hereditary lay abbots.


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Trim Castle                       The Normans In Ireland

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1156    Rory O’Connor, son of Turlough O'Connor, succeeded to high king of Ireland.

1161 King Dermot’s brother-in-law, Lawrence O'Tool or Lorcán Ó Tuathail was appointed archbishop. The Dubliners themselves had killed Dermot’s father and preferred O’Connor to MacMurrough. O’Connor joined forces with Tiernan O’Rourke and MacMurrough was dethroned.

The English had occasionally considered invading Ireland. Canterbury may have raised the subject after losing metropolitan rights over the see of Dublin in 1152. The Pope invested Henry II with the right to rule Ireland, but Henry’s grip on England was still insecure.

 1166 Rory O’Connor had himself inaugurated king at Dublin. However, Dublin was suited to act as capital to Leinster, ruled by Dermot MacMurrough. MacMurrough approached Henry for help. Henry authorised his subjects to aid him. MacMurrough promised his Cambro-Norman supporters land and his daughter in marriage.

1169 – 71   The Cambro-Normans re-conquered all Leinster. Henry II withdrew consent when he saw how successful his invasion was, but Strongbow (earl of Pembroke) made himself lord of Leinster.

1170 (May 1st)  A small party of Normans, Strongbow's soldiers, landed at Baginbun at the invitation of Dermot MacMurrough. They built a vast rampart that survives today. At the time the Irish fought with slings and stones, while the Normans had knights, archers and other technology.

Strongbow captured Dublin, married MacMurrough’s daughter and ultimately became king of Leinster. Henry II then arrived to subdue Strongbow, which soon meant conquering the Irish as well.

The Norman adventurers who followed Strongbow into Ireland formed alliances with some chieftains in order to attack others, building great castles. They spread all over Ireland apart from western and central Ulster. Their allegiance to Henry was only nominal and they eventually intermarried with the Irish, adopting their ways, laws and language. They English kings tried to stop this assimilation.

1171 (17th Oct). Henry II went over to stifle this new Norman kingdom. Strongbow submitted and was allowed to keep Leinster as a fief. Henry reserved Dublin for himself and received submission from various Irish kings. Becket had just been murdered, so Henry couldn’t press his papal grant at once.

1171/2    A great national synod of the Irish church was convened, intended to bring the Irish church into step with the English. After Henry was reconciled with the new pope, the Irish prelates inundated the pope with letters commending Henry. The Irish kings and bishops hoped for Henry’s protection against Strongbow; they saw it as exchanging the rule of O’Connor for a more prestigious king.

1175  By now Strongbow and Hugh de Lacy – a follower of Henry’s – had subdued their vast territories. The Treaty of Windsor was signed between Rory O’Connor and Henry II. Rory was recognised as high-king of Ireland outside Leinster, Meath and Waterford, but these kings had to pay tribute to Henry, and he had to force Irishmen fleeing the conquered areas to return.

1176  Rebellions took place against both O’Connor and the English.

Strongbow died, transferring Leinster to Henry. By then he had a greater financial stake in the conquest.

1177 John de Courcy exceeded instructions by conquering Ulaid (Ulster).

Henry gave his rights as Lord of Ireland to his son, John. Cork and Limerick were granted away, although Limerick’s new owners failed to wrest any land from O’Brien.

1183   O’Connor retired to an abbey; Henry petitioned the pope to crown John king of Ireland. However, the Irish were growing disenchanted with Plantagenet lordship. Even Gerald of Wales thought the English were breaking their original agreement.

1185 Prince John mocked Irish chieftains who greeted him in Waterford, and after that there were no more submissions.

The Prince was suspicious of men like De Lacy. He handed out smaller grants to a greater number of tenants-in-chief, resulting in important Anglo-Irish dynasties being founded. Some English lords expanded their territory by marrying Irish aristocrats. They also fought amongst themselves.

1186  De Lacy was assassinated, and Meath passed to administrators. The English strategy was gradually changing to colonisation. A European population explosion had begun, meaning land in Ireland was tempting. Many private individuals were involved in colonisation. Fortified castles and mottes were built. New towns were founded and tenants imported. These Anglo-Norman towns were laid out in a grid pattern.

1200  By now, new citizens were immigrating from England, Wales, France and Flanders. All incomers were regarded as free, but the native Irish tenantry, ‘betaghs’, were serfs. Only one Irish family was assimilated into the colony’s feudal aristocracy; the rest were confined to uncolonised  districts.

The English language began to take root, while Norman French became the upper class literary language. Architecture changed with churches built in Early English Gothic style, using English stone. The east changed from a subsistence to a market economy.

1200s Irish bardic poets viewed themselves as part of the European cultural community, but the French and English didn’t see them as such. Gerald of Wales argued that the marcher lords of Ireland were part of this culture, but the native Irish were not.

In the eleventh century most clergy still supported marriage, concubinage, hereditary office-holding etc. This lent credibility to colonial legislation against Irish clergy. Franciscan and Dominican friars were responsible for more preaching and pastoral work.

Popular opinion was more strongly against the invasion than that of the chieftains, and prophecies circulated against the Normans.

Bands of mercenaries fought for both the Irish kings and English barons, swapping sides for money. Scottish warriors (gallowglass) began to come over. Within the Gaelic territories, power began to centre on every minor chief who could command a war-band. Elsewhere in Europe, there was a trend towards mercenary armies. In Ireland, they were allowed to take their own wages from husbandsmen, dissipating the agricultural surplus.

1210   King John intervened to take back lands from his nobles, and twenty Irish kings did homage to him. He expanded his King’s Council in Ireland, which evolved into parliamentary sessions.

1216 King John was succeeded by his young son Henry III.

1217  First Treasurer of Ireland promoted. The government in England issued an order that no Irishman should be promoted to high ecclesiastical office.

Henry de Londres, Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Justice of Ireland, convened a synod at which canonical singing was discussed.

1226 Until the mid thirteenth century, the provincial Irish kings co-operated with the English and so retained their lands. However, these were not given security of succession; Connacht was declared forfeit in this year, resulting in a nine year war.

1248 King’s Bench in Dublin instituted (today contained within the Four Courts).

The liberties were gradually phased out and an elaborate system of government came in. Administrators from the English church were brought in. There was a campaign to ensure that all dioceses under royal control had Anglo-Norman bishops.

1254 Edward I was granted lordship of Ireland. He used the country to provision his campaigns in Scotland, France and Wales. Edward II was to continue this policy. Local rule by Irish chieftains was cheaper.

1260  Brian O'Neill, who declared himself king of Ireland, was killed in battle by colonists. There was a series of revolts which has been seen as the beginning of a Gaelic recovery, but the colony was still expanding. Soon Irish kings had to co-operate with the barons themselves.

1277  First salaried barons of the exchequer. A separate royal seal for Ireland was made under Henry III. King John had also instituted sheriffs, shires, county courts and itinerant justices.

Late 13th C Those settlers in the east expanded into the west. English peasantry were not introduced to the west; the tenants were almost all Irish, governed by native rulers who answered to the English.

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Kilkenny Castle              Erosion of English Power in Ireland

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14th  Century By the beginning of this century, all native rulers were legally subject to some Anglo-Norman baron or earl, or the English king. The expansion of the colonisers continued.  The Anglo-Norman magnates often fought one another.

1303 The Armagh succession passed to a series of Anglo-Irish prelates.

1315 – 18 Edward and Robert Bruce attempted to gain Irish support for the Scottish war, but alienated the colonists. Their three year campaign devastated much land, while the population were also affected by the famine sweeping Europe. There were rebellions. Edward was killed in 1318.

1327  The agricultural boom in Europe was levelling off and the barons had become more interested in their more profitable English holdings. By this year, almost half of colonised land belonged to absentees. The resident Anglo-Irish nobility accused them of endangering the colonies through neglect.

1348/49 The Black Death struck Europe during this time. This and bad harvests led to the migration of colonists of all classes back to England.

1366 Statutes of Kilkenny, aimed at preventing settlers becoming too Irish. The ‘English born in Ireland’ were forbidden to adopt Irish clothing and customs.  The Statutes also forbade intermarriage and the use of March/Brehon law. They proved ineffective, leading to the Anglo-Irish becoming known as the ‘degenerate English’. Even the Norman-Irish barons acting as deputies for the English king became independent. Royal government grew feeble and beleaguered.

Edward III and then Richard II attempted to restore the colony’s prosperity. Initially Edward announced that the Irish administrators would be replaced by Englishmen, but this caused such outrage that he decided to reinforce royal control and invest men and money. The colonists were genuinely fearful for their survival. They feared a reoccupation by the Irish, and there was a perception that uncolonised areas were in the hands of the ‘wild Irish’. Native rulers were gradually gaining liberty from the Anglo-Irish aristocracy. There was fighting between Irish chieftains because the magnates had previously followed a policy of ‘divide and rule’. Meanwhile, a cultural revival was taking place. Bardic verse was intended to increase the prestige of patrons, and it came back into fashion despite Irish minstrels being banned in 1366 until the seventeenth century. The scribes and traditional historians also enjoyed enthusiastic patronage, and great manuscripts were written which recalled pre-Norman lineages, borders and culture.

The colonists were unwilling to make large contributions towards reconquest, and absentee landlords preferred to sell their estates to residents of Ireland rather than return. The Irish meanwhile hoped to accumulate sufficient power to challenge the earls by recreating provincial kingships. Various chiefs were styling themselves as the kings of provinces. The Great O’Neill father and son declared themselves Prince and Governor of Ulster despite the earl of Ulster Roger Mortimer. Richard II offered to arbitrate, but made Mortimer governor of Ireland, and war followed.

1394/5  Richard came over to resolve the newly recognised ‘Irish problem’. This meant that government in Ireland was once again centralised, but England’s attention was caught by the Hundred Year’s War. Ireland had become a financial drain.

1399 Second visit by Richard. War broke out as soon as he departed, and his viceroy was murdered.

15th C The Anglo-Irish magnates were more successful during this period than the Irish or the Crown, whose control shrank to four counties including Dublin. This was enclosed by an earthen rampart known as the Pale

The Irish, particularly those of Ulster, began to unite and attack the colonists, and some of the colonists began paying black-rent or protection money to the Irish chieftains. However, the Anglo-Irish lords held sway over the more profitable and populous areas. These lords tried to gain control of royal lands for themselves. After Edward IV made an ill-judged attempt to recover control, the earls of Kildare were left the only surviving Anglo-Irish magnates still eligible for high office; and Kildare imposed its will on the Pale. A period of relative stability and economic growth followed. Many new religious houses went up, almost all founded by Gaelic patrons. Monastic houses in the Pale were decaying while Gaelic Ireland was influenced by a more dynamic European spirituality.

A growing similarity developed between the Irish chieftains and the Anglo-Irish lords. The lords employed Irish historians to justify their status, based on the idea that they were the last in a long line of invaders, and that they had some Irish blood through intermarriage.


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Hugh O'Neill                                      The Tudor Era

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1459   Richard, Duke of York, was convicted of treason against King Henry VI and lost his title of Lieutenant of Ireland. Even so, the Anglo-Irish parliament confirmed him as leader and declared Ireland independent of English law. There had long been tension between the English of Ireland and of England. It was more the magnates than the commons who were interested in autonomy.

1494 The Tudors reinstated English royal dominance. An attempt was made to dismiss the Great Earl of Kildare from his title of Lord Deputy, but he was reinstated after raids by his Irish allies.

1496 By this time the line of ‘the Pale’ was at Clongowes. The boundary was continuing to shrink.

1500 The Dublin government was feeble by this time, but 200 years later it would be all-embracing. Its landowners were descendants of the Anglo-Normans, the ‘Old English’. They were firmly attached to English law and its Crown. There was always still a threat of Gaelic assault. The chieftains continued to attack the settlers, convincing the Old English that they were defending civil standards against barbarism. Fear of attack caused the Old English community to militarise, and their primary allegiance was to their lords rather than the king; some lords maintained castles and armies. The two great families were the Fitzgeralds and Butlers, who became rivals; the English kings made the Fitzgeralds their representatives. They were not interested in Ireland.

By this time most of Ireland was ruled by Gaelic or Gaelicised lords, who rejected the English Crown. The church in these areas was very different to the English one.

1515 Sixty counties were ‘inhabited by the King’s Irish enemies’. There were 60 Irish chieftains who gave themselves various titles and 30 English doing the same, all warring against one another without input from the King.

There was criticism that the aristocracy were becoming Gaelic and 'degenerating from English civility'. Irish society was fragmenting into lordships, some lords being Anglo-Norman and others Gaelic. They sought to monopolise their power. The grip of the Crown grew weaker.

Through this century, the hiring of soldiers and manufacture of weapons became more costly. The farming population bore the cost. Pastoral (rather than arable) farming dominated. Agricultural practice was more advanced where the Old English population was predominant. Meanwhile, political disruption kept the population down while the number of people in the rest of Europe doubled throughout the century.

Minor overseas trade was conducted by the Old English, but merchants found themselves being forestalled in Old English lords’ territories.

Priesthood had become hereditary in the Gaelic lordships, and priests were clients of the local lord, with bishops often being part of the ruling family. The same trend (appointing aristocrats to important church positions) was followed in anglicised areas.

1534 Kildare rebellion took place against Henry VIII. The earls of Kildare, the House of Fitzgerald, who were meant to represent royal authority, rebelled against the Crown. Thomas, Lord Offaly, son of the ninth earl of Kildare, led a symbolic revolt to show that the power of the Kildares must remain. Henry VIII sent an army of 2300 and had all male members of the FitzGerald family executed. This harshness may have been because FitzGerald backed the pope, and because Henry needed to draw up an Irish parliament to confirm him head of the church. Henry ordered that all Irish lands were to be surrendered to the Crown and then regranted. To the Old English this was a reinforcement of their relationship to the King, but for the Gaelic chieftains the change was huge. They once held their land according to Gaelic law and tradition; now it was according to the King’s goodwill. This was the end of Gaelic Ireland.

The submitted lords were expected to exact revenues, assist the extension of English legal administration and have their heirs raised in English households. In enforcing this, the cost of governing Ireland shot up, but the profits from rent and confiscated lands were being filched by the Pale.

1536/7 After the parliament of these years, monastic property was declared forfeit to the Crown and some of it given to the secular landowners in anglicised Ireland. However, there was no major drive to convert the population of anglicised Ireland because the English governors, officials and clergy were distracted by political crises. With the FitzGeralds gone, the Gaelic lords under their control began to attack the Pale, forcing the government to send in military expeditions. As this was expensive, the surviving FitzGerald heir was reinstated and the discontented Gaelic lords dispossessed until they submitted.

 1541 English monarchs were styled kings of Ireland.

English intervention in Ireland was reluctant, deriving from a concern to honour their obligation to defend their inheritance and to prevent foreign intruders invading Ireland. The English also took counsel from both Irish and Old English noblemen who gave conflicting advice, leaving the English paralysed.  This lack of intervention meant that the Catholic reformers were able to mould Irish society. The first reformers were the Observant friars. These became opponents of the Crown after the English Reformation began. When the FitzGeralds of Kildare revolted against the Crown, it was depicted as a religious crusade and received extensive support from the Gaelic lords. Meanwhile, many Old English officials and lawyers took their sons out of English universities to stop them being corrupted by Protestantism, sending them to European universities where they learnt Counter-Reformation Catholicism.

1556-1579 Opposing aristocrats, Sussex and Sir Henry Sidney, competed for the position of governor of Ireland. Both devised schemes for Irish government, but their experience was so bad that senior politicians were subsequently reluctant to accept service in Ireland. Sussex supported military settlement in the Gaelic midland area, and continuing with the surrender and regrant policy. Councils would be set up in Anglo-Norman lordships that had 'lapsed' from English civility. He was however side-tracked by the lord of Tyrone, Shane O’Neill, who ignored the surrender and regrant arrangement. Sussex decided to oust him and raised money from the Pale, but the campaign dragged for four years without result until the Palesmen complained to Elizabeth and Sussex was withdrawn.

 1562+  Elizabethan wars took place in Ireland. The English believed that the Irish were barbarians. There was a sense of missionary licence to civilise. It was believed that the Irish could only be civilised by force; Elizabeth I sanctioned shedding blood as a last resort. Her deputies were Englishmen and the Crown’s army was composed of English soldiers. Force was used against both the Old English and Gaelic Irish. The Old English themselves rebelled six times against the new order. Gaelic chieftains fought on either side. The ordinary Gaelic Irish population suffered. One deputy, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, displayed the heads of his victims at his camp. Some of Elizabeth’s officials condemned his cruelty and the murder of civilians. However most, including Leicester, believed it the only way to deal with savages. By the end of Elizabeth’s reign, Ireland was for the first time under effective English control; but the foundations of Irish hatred for governing Englishmen had been laid. Meanwhile the Old English and Gaelic Irish moved closer together.

The Reformation of the Church in England failed to take effect in Ireland. This was mainly because communication was extremely difficult in Ireland; it had a scattered population of a million and almost no roads. The Irish Church, meanwhile, used the Irish language and was uninterested in Lutheran ideas. The only place where Protestantism was found was Dublin. Elizabeth was afraid that Irish Catholics might make a religious appeal to Catholic powers like Spain.

Once the Reformation was established in Ireland, all churches were given to the Protestants.

1565 Sidney became governor. His policy was to dispossess those who attacked the Crown or occupied its land. English settlers would be brought in to live on these dispossessed areas, introducing English law and civility. Ancient titles were revived and bestowed on English adventurers.

1569 James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald launched a rebellion against the English, to be defeated by the combined forces of Thomas Butler (the Earl of Ormonde) and the English under Henry Sidney and Humphrey Gilbert.

1570s/80s  Some of the generation of students who had been trained up in the Counter Reformation were now suggesting withdrawing allegiance from the Crown, while others proposed only refusing to attend the state church. This meant that they could no longer fill positions in the Dublin administration, and were replaced by English-born Protestants. Meanwhile lawyers within the Old English community advised acknowledging supremacy of the Crown in temporal but not in spiritual matters. Even so, most English rulers bar Cromwell received delegations from the Old English community. These delegations usually criticised the English Protestant officials. Some of those officials wanted punitive measures against Catholics; the officials argued that they wanted to stir up revolt for their own ends. Consequently, successive monarchs (Tudor and Stuart) put restraints on Irish reform programmes.

The influx of adventurers aroused hostility from the Irish, especially when some adventurers brought in private armies. Sidney welcomed the subsequent insurrections as a pretext to extend his plantation schemes, although Elizabeth did not approve, and forced Sidney to become more moderate. The scheme of private colonization (by adventurers) ended, but the English Protestant officials continued to cause tension by criticising Irish society.

1579  James FitzMaurice FitzGerald returned from the Continent preaching a crusade. He received such support from Munster and even the Pale that Elizabeth was forced to put up an army of 8000. Retribution was harsh – such destruction of property and systematic slaughter had never been witnessed before. The Crown attempted to introduce a settlement of 20,000 people on the lands of the earl of Desmond. This resulted in a massive transfer of property from Irish to English ownership.

1585 Hugh O’Neill became Earl Of Tyrone.

1588-94 Sir William Fitzwilliam was the governor at this time. He approved some piecemeal settlements. It was planned that the province of the O’Neill family should be broken up, with some going to English settlers and some going to Hugh O’Neill, an experienced client of various English adventurers and claimant to the earldom of Tyrone.

1590s Catholic reformers had succeeded in securing the allegiance of even the most remote Old English outposts.

By the mid 1590s, 4000 people had been settled at Munster. By then, the Protestant officials were attempting to impose penalties on Catholic landowners, but Elizabeth was reluctant to stir up the Irish situation while engaged in war with Spain. Her officials in the Irish provinces meanwhile attempted to possess more property, some hoping to force an insurrection that would push the government into another plantation scheme.

1593 Hugh Roe O'Donnell began his rebellion against the English.

1594 – 1603 Nine Years War.

1595 Rebellion of Hugh O’Neill, earl of Tyrone. Tyrone had been helped for years by Elizabeth in his disputes with other branches of the Ulster O’Neills. He had spent eight years in England. However, he also felt himself to be descended form the Ui Nialls who had been High Kings of Ireland for centuries. He wanted Elizabeth’s favour, but also independence. Eventually he decided to rebel and joined with his Ulster neighbour, Hugh O’Donnell. Once he had fought for Elizabeth at Munster; now he opposed her at Ulster.

Hugh O’Neill wished to reclaim the entire lordship. A conflict of wills with minor officials ended in a clash with the Lord Deputy. His army was successful at first, and he solicited aid from other lords and promoted himself as a champion of the Counter-Reformation.

1598 Victory for O’Neill at Yellow Ford, Ulster.

Elizabeth made reference to ‘vile rebels’ oppressing her subjects.

1601  (Sept). A great Spanish fleet set sail for Ireland to help Tyrone, 4000 men sent by Philip III,  but O’Neill and O’Donnell were miles away in Ulster. The British deputy Mountjoy, leading 2000 men, besieged the Spaniards, but Tyrone and O’Donnell marched south and besieged Mountjoy. This was the final battle for Gaelic Ireland. Tyrone lost against Mountjoy at Kinsale. He managed to obtain pardon after submitting humbly to him. The fact that the most serious threat to date had been narrowly averted pushed on the process of settlement.

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1641 Rebellion                        The Plantation of Ulster

See A Jacobean Journal for more detail on the years 1603 - 1606.

Click here for web links about Ireland during the Plantation of Ulster

James I enforced English law, especially in Ulster. James agreed with the repossession of property belonging to the Crown and intolerance towards rebellious landowners. Only loyal landowners with a legitimate claim to their lands could keep them. These were mostly Old English. From then on plantations were set up, particularly in the Ulster region, largely opposed by the Old English. The presence of the settlements strengthened the position of Protestant officials.

1606 Scottish Protestants Montgomery and Hamilton founded a private settlement in Ulster, which was to prosper rapidly. For a century it attracted flocks of Scottish settlers. They spread outward and into Belfast, over the whole of Antrim and Down and right across Ulster. The pattern of Protestants and Catholics in Ulster today still reflects the two separate settlements.

1607  (14th Sept) Rathmullan: O’Neill and O’Donnell fled – the ‘flight of the earls’. The settlement of Derry began. Since submitting to the Crown in 1603 Tyrone had kept possession of his lands, despite the resentment of those who had fought him. He had been harassed by English officials who had fined him for practising Catholicism and were asserting English law. Some were making claims that he was involved in a plot with Spain. After the Flight, the territory of the earls – Donegal, Tyrone, Derry and Armagh – was subject to a systematic attempt to settle in strangers from England and Scotland.

Officials argued that potential rebels should no longer have control over large numbers of people. English common law was made universal and Jesuits legislated against. The expropriation of land belonging to all Catholic landowners was also recommended.

1608 – 1610 The English Government planned a 'Plantation of Ulster'. Queen Mary had already tried it in the 1550s, it had been attempted in Munster in the 1560s and 1580s and in Ulster in the 1570s. These colonies had either collapsed due to a lack of resources or wiped out by rebellion. The 1610 plantation in Ulster was on a grander scale and was funded by City of London companies. The ‘Irish Society’ composed functionaries of the City of London who were responsible for ‘civilising’ (colonising) Derry. The companies (drapers, salters etc) divided the land. This land was supposed to go to Scottish and English settlers who would not be allowed Irish tenants. The native Irish were pushed out in the less fertile lands, making up only 10% of the new population, and would pay double rent. Only former soldiers were allowed Irish tenants. In practice, more Irish stayed on as labourers or rent-paying tenants.

English and Scottish newcomers were obliged to construct defensible buildings and introduce ten British Protestant families. Land was also allocated to loyal natives. ‘Servitors’, English who had served the Crown, were given most of the land. In fact, most land went to servitors and natives rather than English and Scottish grantees. The servitors had native tenants because this gave them an immediate income, but later they evicted those tenants and took on settlers at low rents. There were also great profits to be had from timber and cattle. The settlers introduced advanced cultivation methods to Ireland. These settlers, especially the English, acquired further Irish property by claiming Crown title or showing weaknesses in the titles of the natives. The most progress was made in Munster. Meanwhile the natives tried to prove loyalty to the Crown by adopting the English language, modifying their houses in the English style and supporting the spread of English law. They also displayed their ‘Englishness’ with their tombs, funerals and carriages. To meet the cost of all this, they took in British tenants at low rents; all such tenants were obliged to improve their properties. They also paid high fines for entry. At least 100,000 people migrated before 1641. The settlers headed for fertile areas, places with access to the sea of near natural resources. The arrival of so many people – including farmers and craftworkers – massively boosted the country’s productivity. However, the Protestant religion failed to spread. James I and Charles I didn’t want to damage relations with foreign governments by too much religious zeal in Ireland. Laws against Catholics were relaxed. The Catholic Church was tacitly tolerated. The clergy focused on missionary work, which annoyed the Protestant officials who were themselves ready to begin missionary work. The Protestants were forced to realise that they would not be able to start a reform yet, and the small size of their churches reflected that.

1622 By now there were 13,000 settlers, but they did not totally colonise the forfeited counties. The Protestants felt insecure and the Catholic Gaelic Irish were resentful. The settlers were afraid, not only of the original inhabitants but also of the 5000 former swordsmen of the earls.

The vast majority of Ulster settlers were Scots. They were Presbyterian, not Anglican, which brought them into conflict with English law. This fostered an independence of spirit which has continued to this day.

1628 Having succeeded James I in 1625, Charles I introduced 'the Graces', a scheme by which Catholics could obtain religious concessions in return for monetary payment.

1633-41 Thomas Wentworth was governor of Ireland during this time. He caused different religions to unite against him in his efforts to extract money. Wentworth began a wave of confiscation.

1641   (23rd Sept) Great Catholic-Gaelic rebellion. The rebels declared their loyalty to the Crown but assaulted the settlers. Terrible atrocities were reported. On Portadown Bridge, 100 Protestants were stripped, thrown into the water and murdered. The rebels were reported to be horribly injuring women and children and leaving them to die slowly. Some people were buried alive. It seems the atrocities were the result of wild indiscipline, not policy. In total there were around 12,000 deaths. The effect on the Northern Protestant subconscious was profound.

The rebellion had been led by Ulster Catholic landowners under Phelim O'Neill who had resorted to arms, possibly in imitation of the Scottish Covenanters who achieved special recognition for Presbyterianism in Scotland. Their inferiors however were overcome with bitterness and they turned on the Protestants, killing 2000 and driving tens of thousands away, stripped of everything. Beginning at Ulster, the revolt spread. The atrocities were exaggerated back on the mainland, and the people there demanded revenge. The English Civil War might have given the Irish Catholics chance to press their advantage, but they were divided. The Old English hoped for mercy by the king and would not concede leadership to Owen Roe, the nephew of Hugh O’Neill. They did not support him in his confrontations with the Scottish Covenanter army at Ulster. The Leinster lords meanwhile were unable to get government forces out of Leinster.

In the period from 1641 until the Cromwellian invasion of 1649, two thirds of Ireland were ruled by the Irish Catholic Confedaration, (the 'Confederation of Kilkenny'), while Protestant areas of Ulster remained variously under the control of royalists, Scottish Covenanters and parliamentarians.

Between now and 1688, the amount of land held by Catholics would drop from 59% to 22%. The Old English and Gaelic Irish were Catholic, but the English parliament was becoming more puritan and anti-Catholic. All Irish Catholics became anxious that their religion would prejudice their rights to land. The interests of the Irish and Old English were increasingly coinciding. Atrocities on both sides were slowly hammering the people into two camps – Catholic and Protestant.

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Cromwell's assault on Drogheda in 1649         Cromwell and the Restoration

See A Memoir of Ireland Native and Saxon for Daniel O'Connell's account of Ireland in the1640s.

Click here for web links about Ireland during the second half of the seventeenth century

1649 Oliver Cromwell had defeated King Charles I in England, but there were still strong Royalist armies allied with Irish Catholic rebels in Ireland. In 1649 Cromwell came to Ireland, striking first at Drogheda. Drogheda is seen in Irish nationalist legend as anti-Irish racism, but the garrison there was commanded by an English Catholic and largely under English officers, Royalists. Inflamed by an initial setback, Cromwell showed little mercy to the soldiers and priests, killing 2000 of them and having more shipped to Barbados. Cromwell may have believed he was taking revenge for 1641, although Drogheda had not been involved – it was within the English Pale.

Government policy was to crush the Catholic people. Cromwell marched south. Some surrendering garrisons were treated well, but Wexford suffered 2000 casualties including 200 women and children in the marketplace. Cromwell dispossessed landowning Irish Catholics and shared their land amongst his soldiers and financiers. The transportation of those landowners to a barren province was known as ‘the curse of Cromwell’. Those left behind, tenants and labourers, still felt humiliated.

(August). Cromwell launched a programme aimed at evangelisation, the removal of rebellious priests and landowners and the crushing of resistance. These ideas had been mooted before, but 1641 showed their urgency. Cromwell brought 20,000 fighters to Ireland, the best army in Europe, and resistance was crushed with much brutality. Such religious zeal was involved that the Catholic church was swept aside. All Catholic estates were confiscated and their owners relocated, if they could prove they had not rebelled. William Petty carried out a detailed land survey of Ireland. Vacated estates were given to Cromwell’s soldiers and financiers, while the former proprietors were left to scramble for land west of the Shannon. Protestant clergymen and schoolmasters were sent over, and there were strenuous efforts to get the Irish into Protestant churches, although language was a barrier. However, many Protestant churchmen already in Ireland were reluctant to work within Cromwell’s framework. Cromwell’s regime did not last long, and more moderate people (including his son Henry) came to the fore.

Protestants who had been in Ireland pre 1641 bought land from the Cromwellian grantees. The settlers pre and post 1649 bonded together with the concern of maintaining a political order.

1660  Charles II was restored to the throne but did not want to upset the Protestants who had helped him regain power. His faithful followers were rewarded by having their Irish lands returned; however, the disposed Catholic landowners, including Old English, were to be generally disappointed.

Religious persecution faded. Catholic clergy returned from the Continent. The government didn’t officially tolerate Catholicism but was focusing on re-establishing an Episcopal Protestant church. There were occasional acts of persecution like the execution of Archbishop Oliver Plunkett of Armagh, but the breathing space from 1660 to 1690 helped Catholicism re-establish itself. The Catholics themselves however felt defeated.

1685 James II became a Catholic king of England and this created temporary joy. Richard Talbot, a favourite of James II, became Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. He began restoring public office to Catholics and to mobilise a Catholic army. He planned a primarily Catholic parliament at Dublin. Protestants in Britain and Ireland were alarmed.

1687 At this time, the Irish population was around 1,300,000.

1688 Charles’ Catholic brother James determined to support the Irish Catholics. A Catholic-dominated Irish parliament revoked the Cromwellian land settlement, but the succession of William of Orange, who usurped the crown from James together with his wife Mary, was to trigger a split in Ireland.

James sought support from the Irish; the French came to Ireland to help. Catholics in Ireland responded to the call, frightening the Protestants. Derry and Enniskillen, Protestant towns, denied James’ authority.

Late in the autumn of 1688, rumours began to spread that Irish Catholics loyal to James II were massacring Protestants. News came that a Catholic regiment was to be sent to Londonderry to relieve the old garrison. The people of Londonderry thought it unwise to have Catholic troops protect them. However, establishment figures demanded that the troops be let in, but thirteen apprentice boys locked the door against King James’ troops on 7th December 1688.

1689 (April). The siege began, reaching its full intensity for six weeks in the summer. The Protestant soldier in command of the garrison, Robert Lundy (‘Lundy’ now means a weak Protestant), wanted to surrender, but the citizens opposed him and he was forced to flee. William of Orange’s ships arrived to relieve the city but withdrew.

(May). William’s ships reappeared. James’ men had put a wooden boom across the river Foyle and the relief ships decided not to proceed. 30,000 Protestants were stuck in Derry, starving and plagued by mortar fire. Thousands died of starvation and disease. The besieging army were ill-trained and badly equipped; there was only one attempt to breach the walls. Eventually 10,000 non-combatants were let out. Once, the besieging commander tried to break the siege by rounding up local Protestants and threatening to let them starve to death in the open. The Derry citizens erected gallows and threatened to execute Catholic prisoners, forcing the release of the Protestant prisoners. The inhabitants of Derry responded to a demand to surrender with ‘No Surrender!’ which has been their watchword since.

(28th July). British ships in the Foyle broke the boom and relieved Derry. Their previous hesitation had left the northern Protestants with the awareness that they were on their own.

By 1695, the amount of land held by Catholics was to drop from 22% to 14%.

1690 William of Orange landed in Ireland and defeated James II at the Boyne on July 1st.  The Battle of the Boyne is now marked by Protestants on July 12th every year.

(July). William's army moved towards Dublin, pushing James' forces onto the defensive. There was stern resistance to the Williamite army, but it ended in in defeat at Aughrim on 12th July.

All Catholic armies surrendered at Limerick under Patrick Sarsfield. His troops were exiled to serve Louis XIV and were known as ‘Wild Geese’. William III is still a hero to the Northern Irish Protestants, who refer to their enemies as ‘Papists’.

After Catholic surrender there was more confiscation of their property and a rigid anti-Catholic penal code was introduced. The Treaty of Limerick supposedly ensured some tolerance for the Catholics, but this wasn’t carried out. The Protestants were feeling insecure after the recent dramatic Catholicisation of the army and law.

Following William III’s victory, the ‘penal laws’ regulated against Catholics, denying them the right to vote, buy land, be a lawyer, join the army or navy or hold any office of state. A Catholic landlord had to bequeath his inheritance equally to his children unless one turned Protestant, in which case he got the lot. Parish priests could still practise, but friars, bishops and archbishops could not. However, the laws were applied loosely enough to allow bishops etc to exist furtively, and so new priests could be ordained. This laxness was because the vast majority were Catholic; it was easier not to suppress them. Sometimes, as in Galway, the friars would bribe the authorities who had been ordered to crack down on them.

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Dublin Castle              Into the Eighteenth Century

Click here for web links about Ireland in the early eighteenth century

1700     By the end of the seventeenth century, all land that could be put to profitable use had been converted into farms. Ireland entered the eighteenth century with a European  structure.  It was relatively populous, with most people living on the land. The principle exports were textiles and meat. Powerful landlords and the church owned most of the land. Huge homes were built.

From the 1690s, the fundamental question over the Irish parliament was whether the Dublin assembly could originate legislation without it being adapted in London. This was sharpened by British attempts to restrict the Irish wool trade. The ‘Patriots’, who were nonetheless Protestants and committed to the British connection, didn’t want their parliament to be subordinate to London. The ‘Protestant Ascendancy’, who had been established by seventeenth century land redistributions, came to dominate. They were insecure, having survived a threat to the property settlement in 1689. Protestants looked back in bitterness to 1641 and 1685-89; the Catholics to the Treaty of Limerick.

The Church of Ireland at this time was undermanned but backed by huge reserves of landed property.

From the 1690s, Irish MPs took an oath denying Catholic beliefs.

Dublin (the Castle) became the political centre and grew in importance. By 1700 Dublin had a population of 50,000. It boasted two ancient cathedrals and various learned societies. There was an affluent leisured class and a wide trading network. The country was being integrated into a single coherent unit with interrelated local economies and a common law. There was also a chain of garrison towns for maintaining a standing army. The principle landed families frequently intermarried.

Dublin had a viceroy – most English rulers never visited it. It had inferior constitutional status to England. Although members of the Irish political nation were not content with this, they were still swayed by English fashion, having their sons educated in England when they could afford it. The wealthiest married into English families, but Ireland as a whole was dogged by comparative poverty and a lack of cultural development. Landowners relied on rent alone instead of diversifying into commerce. Income from rent depended on exports, and these were unreliable. There was a growing dependence on British overseas markets. Ireland was becoming more of a subsistence economy with its growing population. While  continuous economic expansion created prosperity in England, Europe as a whole was blighted by a general recession which led to poverty. All classes suffered.

Ireland's striking difference to the rest of Europe lay in the fact that most landowners and senior officials were of a different race and religion to the general population. Around 1700, most of the social elite were first generation English settlers or descendants of English people who had come over in the last couple of centuries. There were also many landowners of Old English or Gaelic origin. They were all Protestants and all believed in the advantages of the English way of life. However, there was no strategy for converting the Catholic, mainly Gaelic population to Protestantism. The most extreme divisions were to be seen in Connacht, where the land was less fertile. In more fertile lands, landlords took on tenants similar to themselves. The Irish language continued; many natives were becoming bilingual. There was a strong consciousness of being wrongfully dispossessed, although in fact the land had never actually belonged to the peasants but to ruling kinship groups. It was the previously privileged groups like priests and poets who had lost status, and who now fostered a myth of a lost golden age. The sharp loss of continuity with Ireland’s past was what set it apart from other European societies.

1703-4  The Popery Bills were passed on inheritance rights and leases.

1709   More restrictions came into force, such as that Catholics could not bear arms or own a horse worth more than £5.

1714  George I ascended to the throne. By this time, only 7% of land in Ireland was held by Catholics, despite the fact that Catholics constituted 75% of the population.

Votes were determined by land ownership. A comparatively small number of landowners could control many seats. The College Green Parliament reflected their needs, except briefly under Queen Anne.

After 1714 family connections became the cement of politics. The ‘undertaker’ system involved Ascendancy families managing parliamentary factions.

1720 The Sixth of George I Act declared the constitutional status of Irish legislature to be subordinate. Poynings Law already limited parliament’s rights. Both officials and polemicists resented this.

Irish Toryism differed from English; it was hard-line Protestant and anti-English. Irish Whiggery was seen as too pro-English and soft on Catholics. The ‘Patriot’ tradition was expressed by Charles Lucas, a radical, Jonathan Swift and William Molyneux. Patriots supported the priorities of landed Protestants which included placing constraints on Catholics and implementing cheap government. Protestant insecurity was such that they kept a huge army for their protection against foreign invasion and native insurrection, especially through the agrarian secret societies. They often  resented the English influence.

1729 Catholic freeholders formally lost the vote. Anti-Catholic legislation was being pushed more by Irish Protestants than by the English, although some Protestants did aid Catholic gentry to retain their lands. Catholics continued to practise their faith and their rights were gradually returned to them.

1720s-30s  Bad harvests saw rural destitution, but afterwards both the population and economy expanded. The east and south became more Anglicised and commercialised. A prosperous farming class developed. Modern historians do not agree on the extent of poverty during this time.

Despite the English tariff on Irish woollens after the boom of the 1690s, the industry diversified and the Ulster linen industry was born. Colonial restrictions caused few problems. Trading networks expanded as transport improved. Many towns prospered; the cattle-market was an important source of prosperity. Textiles and agricultural exports mainly went to EnglandLinen became a huge domestic industry, dominated by Protestants. Cotton villages began to appear. Where there was no varied local economy, small farmers and cottiers became dependent on pigs and potatoes. Holdings tended to be let out and multiplied rather than farmed in large units.

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Battle of Vinegar Hill            Political Unrest in the Later Eighteenth Century

Click here for web links about Ireland in the later eighteenth century, including the 1798 Rebellion

(Second half 18th C)   In the absence of political rights, a network of agrarian secret societies emerged, known as the ‘Whiteboys’. The Whiteboys were frequently violent, often in reaction to taxes or the spread of the dairy economy. They protected the peasants from rack-renting landlords. They were only interested in local affairs, not national politics. The Irish people lived in extreme poverty but reserved their loyalties for the church and secret societies. Middle-class Catholics, who were still allowed to trade, emphasized their loyalty to the Crown. There was much violence between Protestant small farmers and upwardly mobile Catholics, particularly as incomes began to level off at the end of the century.

The first people to talk of an Irish nation were recent Protestant settlers and converts to Protestantism. They were known as the Protestant Ascendancy and they were highly aspirational. Their culture included the literature of Swift, Sheridan, Burke and others. They wanted to be treated by Britain as an equal nation. Jonathan Swift, Protestant dean of St Patrick’s in Dublin, argued that the English parliament had no right to legislate for Ireland. However, the Irish parliament had little significance. English restrictions on Irish trade stirred up the Irish colonists’ political restlessness, and they were inspired by the example of colonists in America, whose 1770s rebellion was an important event for Ireland. At that time, the Protestant nation formed companies of armed ‘Volunteers’ under the pretext of defending Ireland in the absence of British regiments.

1760   George III ascended to the throne and the tempo of Patriotism increased.

1770s    Unrest in America focused ‘Patriotic’ Irish politicians on their own position. Whigs at Westminster opportunistically made the same links. There were also strong connections between Ulster and America forged from generations of emigration.

1778 From this year there was a powerful campaign to allow Ireland unrestricted access to world trade. ‘Patriotic’ and other discontents joined a military volunteering movement, which the government reluctantly recognised. Pressure from these Volunteers and ‘patriot’ rhetoricians as well as threats of non-cooperation from the Irish House of Commons helped repeal commerce restrictions and then make constitutional concessions in 1782.

The British government relaxed penal laws against Catholics in order to secure the support of the majority and allow Catholics to join the army

1780 (June). Lord George Gordon led riots in England against Catholic emancipation.

1782   Henry Grattan’s ‘Patriot Party’ won a Declaration of [Legislative] Independence for the Irish Parliament. Britain and Ireland were to be two sovereign independent kingdoms linked by a common Crown. The Sixth of George I was repealed. The new empowered parliament was called ‘Grattan’s Parliament’.  But its authority was still inconclusive, with the Privy Council having power over Irish legislation. Ascendancy figures still wielded much influence. John Fitzgibbon of Clare, for example, blocked concessions to Catholics as he feared sectarian tension. Political reform and emancipation of the Catholics were needed to make Ireland a ‘Nation’, and the Protestant Irish weren’t unanimous on this.

1789  The French Revolution took place, overthrowing the ruling powers in France. This conveyed the message that the will of the people was enough to effect change. Belfast Presbyterians formed the Society of United Irishmen, which promoted unifying the Catholic and Protestant nations into one. Wolfe Tone, a Dublin Protestant, was a member. They had limited success.

1790s  This decade was prosperous and began in apparently stability. Architecture, artefacts like jewellery and furniture and decorative art bear witness to this. Dublin represented the apex of architectural achievement. Belfast was shaping up to become an industrial boom city, becoming the chief export centre for textiles. There was slight tension between Dublin and Belfast.

1791 The United Irishmen had begun as a debating society, French-influenced, middle class and Presbyterian. William Drennan, an ‘aristocratic democrat’, wrote their prospectus. The most famous United Irishman was Kildare Protestant Theobald Wolfe Tone, a pro-Catholic campaigner. It was he who steered the United Irishmen into a ‘French Revolutionary’ movement with links to the Defenders.

1793 Catholics gained the vote and civil rights. The liberalisation of land laws only heightened tensions with the secretive ‘Defenders’ becoming more openly political. Politicians split on Catholic emancipation (their right to sit in parliament or hold high office).

1794  (May). The government tried to crack down on radical activity but only succeeded in exacerbating the situation.  Farmers and the lower middle/skilled working class joined, although the leadership continued as middle class. Sectarianism was rife lower down in the movement. Protestant morale sank following a succession of Catholic Relief Acts.

1795 The Orange Society was founded, taking its name from William of Orange. They were a reorganisation of an agrarian/working class secret society called the ‘Peep O’Day Boys’, who terrorised Catholics. The first Orange lodges appeared; their role was to oppose the Defenders. Defender ideology spread, encouraged by resistance to tax.

Earl Fitzwilliam as viceroy attempted to offer total Catholic emancipation and was repudiated by the government. The British government were however becoming worried.

Maynooth seminary for Catholics opened. It was hoped that this would encourage an Anglicised Catholic church. It meant priests would not be trained abroad or drawn from the peasantry.

Catholic merchants were still important, despite their exclusion from guilds. Dissenters (non-conformists) were also discriminated against, helping to form the Presbyterian political culture of Ulster.

France provided a revolutionary spur, particularly amongst the Presbyterian bourgeoisie in Belfast. Rumours of rebellions abounded even before Britain and France went to war.

1796 The United Irishmen had become a secret society who preached violence. Wolfe Tone persuaded the French to send a fleet to Ireland in December to help found an Irish Republic. The fleet was battered by harsh weather. There was a handful of militia waiting to oppose them and a local landlord organised the yeomanry, but it was the weather that drove the ships away. A further fleet was prepared, but by now the government was awake to the threat and cracked down effectively on the secret society. Another factor in ruining the society was the formation of the sectarian Orange Society which attracted Protestants.

1797-8 With the United Irishmen around, the authorities saw the usefulness of the Orangemen in exploiting sectarian prejudice.

1798   A Dublin aristocrat, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, tried to organise a national rebellion led by the United Irishmen and incorporating the peasant agrarian secret society network, particularly the Defenders who had their own vague nationalist politics. However, informers betrayed the United Irish Society. Alarmed by the scale of events, the government unleashed repression on the Midland counties, including brutal floggings to elicit information. Other brutal torture methods like pitch-capping were carried out. Thousands of arrests were made and arms were uncovered. The eventual rebellion was confused, and the peasants were slaughtered.

In Wexford, the Protestants – who were sectarian-minded – were given the job of searching for arms and information after the port of Wexford was named as a possible site for French landing. The local population were terrified, and to make things worse the North Cork militia turned up and began flogging people. The Wexford rebellion seems to have been a panicky response to the torture. Father John Murphy became a peasants’ leader in the revolt. This was not really a nationalist rebellion; the North Cork militia prisoners begged for mercy in Irish but the peasants didn’t understand it. The events in Wexford were probably driven more by land hunger, economic crisis and anger at taxes than by nationalism. After a victory at Oulart Hill, the rebels camped on Vinegar Hill. This was more a bundle of refugees from the troops than a military camp. They had no strategy, except revenge; they began by murdering Protestant prisoners. A barn containing Protestant men, women and children was set on fire at Scullabogue, with any survivors being brutally killed – 200 in all. This did the rebel cause no good. A Protestant landlord, Bagenal Harvey, a member of the UIS, took command of the campaign. He was ineffective in curbing the lust for revenge, or defining a strategy. The rebels had gone south, capturing Wexford but forgoing the chance to join with other rebel groups. This gave the government time, and they began to suffer defeats. They were eventually viciously slaughtered on Vinegar Hill. 50,000 people died in the rebellion.

An uprising in Ulster failed. Rumours of southern atrocities were fuelling sectarianism. By the time the French landed in Ireland it was too late. Wolfe Tone was captured and committed suicide. Consequently, Protestants began to think in terms of an Irish ascendancy class whose interests would be protected by the English. Meanwhile, the rebellion proved to Catholics that they needed political leadership.

The reality of 1798 has become distorted into an expression of the ‘separatist idea’, tainted by British treachery.

1799  William Pitt accused the Irish of ignorance and bigotry.

By now barely 5% of Irish land was owned by Catholics.

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Robert Emmet                         The Act of Union and Its Consequences

Click here for web links about the Act of Union and Robert Emmet Rebellion

1800 (2nd July) the Act of Union passed, abolishing the Irish Parliament. It became law on the 1st January 1801. Initially the Protestants opposed it on Irish patriotic grounds while the Catholics favoured it because the English would protect their interests better than the Protestant Ascendancy would. These opinions were soon reversed. Irish Catholics came to adopt Irish nationalism. Some individual Protestants, who still believed in common Irish patriotism between the two nations, supported them. Despite this, it quickly became a Catholic cause.

The passing of the Act of Union occurred with the usual patronage and bribery. Nationalist mythology tends to put the blame on the British for this, forgetting that it was typical of Ascendancy politics. Although Prime Minister William Pitt had promised Catholic emancipation along with the Union, King George III opposed it on the grounds that his Coronation Oath committed him to uphold the Anglican Church. Pitt subsequently resigned.

With the Act of Union, the Ascendancy declined. Many went to Westminster and began to support the Union in the face of growing Catholic pressure for democratic rights. Only the more liberal country gentry still opposed the Union. Agrarian societies continued, often along sectarian lines (demanding justice for Catholics and the extirpation of Protestants).  After 1800 the Dublin castle system continued. Ireland had 100 seats out of 658 in the Commons. The Union brought free trade with Britain, giving it some support from the Catholic bourgeoisie. However, British industrialisation meant that free trade was not to Ireland’s advantage. Nationalist rhetoric denounced the exploitation of Ireland, calling the Union a failed marriage. Anglophobia became part of opposition to the Union.

By 1800 the population had doubled to 5 million, with most growth amongst the poorer classes. Many farmers re-let tenanted land to make money. Some old Gaelic landowning families continued as prosperous subtenants. These were often the ‘middlemen’ who let and re-let land.

1801    (1st Jan). The two kingdoms were united ‘forever’. The Act of Union abolished the Irish parliament, which had met at the grand Parliament House at College Green - still a potent image of Irish achievements. However, its powers were always uncertain.  The Irish administration could not compete with the presence of British barracks and police. Protestant monopolies continued blatantly in law, government and the civil service.

1803 (July 23rd). Robert Emmet’s Rising. His plan had been to seize Dublin Castle to encourage the rest of the country to rebel. His followers murdered the Chief Justice, Lord Kilwarden, and Emmet fled. He is famous for his speech in the dock after his capture, in which he said his epitaph should not be written until Ireland was a free nation. He was executed on September 20th.

During the next years,  Belfast industrialised rapidly. Linen and brewing prospered, while other trades struggled in the free market. Belfast's expansion lead to the influx of a Catholic proletariat, stimulating debate amongst the Ulster Presbyterians – pro-emancipation liberals versus fundamentalists, who were led by Henry Cooke. The Ulster Protestants were egalitarian in some ways but believed in their political and religious rightness. Catholicism meanwhile had its own political dimension because of its informal power, its Gaelic strain, its Roman links and its role in symbolising Irish identity. Catholic churches began to spring up after the Union even while architecture in general was declining.  In the North East, the population was divided into Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Catholic. Orange lodges were founded. There was also Protestant political activity in towns like Cork.

1815  Agricultural prices collapsed and with the population expanding, rural tensions grew and violence was common. Landlords complained that the population were uncivilised and habituated to being kept down by force. Agrarian societies were anti-modern and often anti-Protestant, but more localised than nationalist. The Ribbonmen were Catholic with connections to Defenderism, who drew from both rural and working class neighbourhoods.

1817  A severe famine took place.

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Daniel O'Connell                   Daniel O'Connell and the Catholic Association

Click here for web links about Daniel O'Connell

1823   The Catholic Association was formed by Daniel O’Connell. It was financed by the ‘Catholic Rent’. The proposed government veto on appointing priests helped create a split with the aristocratic leadership, but it was O’Connell and his elite of Catholic lawyers who mobilised mass politics. They wanted rights, not concessions. There were mass demonstrations and an ‘alternative parliament’ in Dublin.

1826   A Protestant Catholic Association candidate beat the local aristocrat’s choice in the Waterford election. The tenants voted in droves against their landlords.

1828  Daniel O’Connell stood at Clare. He was to become known as the Liberator because he liberated the Irish majority from their political obscurity. His achievements were to allow Catholics to sit in Parliament and to campaign against the Union. As part of his first campaign for Catholic Emancipation he built up a mass organisation including Catholic clergy and middle-class supporters. People could join his Catholic Association for a penny a month, and it soon attracted large sums. O’Connell had a horror of popular violence, but he stressed the physical power that lay in the mass support behind him. 

O’Connell won at Clare but was not allowed to take his seat until he scored a second victory. The government were worried by the menacing discipline of his followers, who marched in columns. For the first time, Irish popular opinion was a force in British politics.

1829  Catholic Emancipation passed. Catholics were allowed to sit in parliament and hold most high offices, but the franchise was raised to £10, losing them many voters.

1831 - 1836 Violent resistance to the collection of church tithes.

1830s   The Orange Society was banned over a political plot to put the Duke of Cumberland on the throne. Respectable Irish opinion towards the Orangemen was ambivalent.

The Young Ireland movement of this decade was led by Protestant nationalists who were often anti-English. The Young Irelanders published an extreme Repealer newspaper, The Nation, which used Irish history to argue that Ireland could become ‘a nation once again’. A cult of ‘dying for Ireland’ emerged, with an emphasis on rebellion. The Protestant establishment as well as the British government were threatened.

O’Connell spent this decade at Westminster allying with Whigs and Radicals, during which time he got tithes to the Church of Ireland abolished and improvements in Irish government, education and health care. Elective councils were introduced in urban areas, and a Poor Law Act was passed. The Ascendancy felt itself under attack.

The British state attempted some modernising initiatives. O’Connell backed some and opposed others, such as secular primary education. He supported policies to whittle down the powers of local gentry.

1836  The police force was centralised and professionalized as the Royal Irish Constabulary. They were largely Protestant but fairly impartial.

1838 A Temperance movement began.

1839 (Jan) The Night of the Big Wind.

1841     Daniel O’Connell of the Catholic Association held Monster Meetings for the Repeal of the Union and the restoration of the Irish Parliament which would be dominated by the Catholic majority. The two kingdoms would be close partners but with independent legislations, sharing a monarch. O’Connell hoped to convert English opinion by arguing that recognition of Ireland’s claim to be a nation would undermine all call for separation. His Monster Meetings attracted huge, well-disciplined crowds. He began his Repeal campaign after the fall of the White government in 1841.

1842  By now, 5 million people had pledged abstinence. The church was trying to stamp out more subversive pastimes like ‘patterns’ and wakes. The movement was marked by an atmosphere of ‘improvement’.

Peel’s government made legislation to favour the Catholic church – the Charitable Bequests Act and Maynooth Grant. The Church was rationalising its structure and broadening its social control. There were too many clergy in comparison to populace.

1843  (15th Aug) The greatest Monster Meeting, on the Royal Hill of Tara, involving at least 750,000 people. In O’Connell’s speech he said the size of the crowd would inspire pride and fear, and they were approaching Repeal with the strides of a giant. However, the government banned one meeting at Clontarf and sentenced O’Connell to jail for conspiracy, although the Lords reversed this. Clontarf had been chosen because of its association with Brian Boru’s confrontation with the Norsemen in 1014. By this time, the eighteenth century Ascendancy fashion for antiquities and history had become bound up with politics. Ideas of national character and the ‘folk’ were growing in Europe. Many histories intended either to validate or invalidate the Union were written. Thomas Moore and Lady Morgan were nationalist writers, and the harp was adopted as a symbol of nationalism. There was an idea of an apostolic succession of national martyrs.

O’Connell’s great achievement was to build up a store of national strength. He successfully channelled the Church’s bond with the people into politics. Catholicism and Irish consciousness were firmly linked.

Around this time, the Orange Order was reconstituted when O’Connell’s campaign for Repeal of the Union became a threat. A royal commission at the time commented that they were emotional and uneducated, and regarded the Catholics as inferior.

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Bridget O'Donnell and her children                                      The Great Famine

Click here for the web links about the Great Famine
A more detailed timeline of the famine is available here

1845 – 49 The years of the Irish famine. The famine has deeply affected Irish consciousness and it has been thought that the English were deliberately committing genocide. The exact race of Ireland's rulers however was not clear-cut; they consisted of a mixture of both English and Gaelic. Britain and Ireland had been connected so long politically and administratively that they were no longer clearly two separate countries. Even so, because of the geographical and cultural gulf (half of the population spoke Irish before English) the British government cared less about the Irish people than the English and Welsh or Scots.

Most Irish, apart from those in the north east, were dependent for survival on the potato crop. The poorest peasants were forced to sell most of their cereal crops to pay rent. As the population exploded, going from 4.5 million in 1800 to 8 million in 1841, the situation grew precarious. Land was being subdivided in ever smaller plots and more people were dependent on potatoes. The crop had already failed a couple of times, with a severe famine in 1817. The government knew disaster was looming.

Agricultural problems and subsistence standards in the west climaxed in the famine. The economy was largely unindustrialised but was supplying the industrialised British market. A rapidly expanding population caused huge strain. When the potato crop failed, the free market economists of the time, like Lord John Russell, tried to place the burden on Irish property and did very little to help. Some landlords bankrupted themselves to help their tenants, while others were harsh. Many people died or emigrated.

1845  (11th Sept) First report of disease in the potato crop. It was caused by a fungus. England was also affected, but people were not dependent on potatoes there.

(First week of Oct). The situation was beginning to look desparate. The worst threat at first was in County Mayo, where 90% survived off potatoes. Sir Robert Peel, the Prime Minister, remarked that the Irish tended to exaggerate, but he appointed a commission of enquiry. This recommended some worthless measures for protecting the potatoes.

(Nov). Special mass was held in all Catholic churches.

1846  (Feb). Every county was now affected and ¾ of the country’s potato crop had been destroyed. Typhus was soon registered in 25 counties out of 32. Peel ordered American maize to be shipped to Ireland. He organised a relief commission in Dublin which would organise committees of the wealthier people to supply cheap food and employment through public works. The Board of Works collaborated on this.  Meanwhile, all protectionist duties on grain imported into the UK were removed – the so-called ‘Corn Laws’. The price of bread fell, but about a third of the Irish couldn’t afford bread anyway. ‘Political economy’ ruled – the market should not be interfered with. Therefore people could not be given food as this would undermine market prices and might make merchants withhold food from the market. Charles Trevelyan was chief official in charge of relief measures, and a strong believer in political economy. The corn from America was not to be handed out immediately, but to be used as an economic lever; when food prices rose too much, it could be sold.

(May). General opening of grain depots. By this time the poor were desperate. Crimes were being committed for food. Respectable British opinion sometimes seemed more concerned with the threat to property than of starvation, and a ‘Coercion Bill' was brought before Commons proposing a curfew and tough punishments. Unfortunately the relief commission’s subsidizing of local committees was proceeding slowly, and the lack of employment only encouraged crime. Sir Robert Peel complained that there was violence, including murder, being inflicted on the supporters of the Queen. At this time, plenty of food was available, both leaving and entering the country; it was just not given to the hungry. Trevelyan decided to close down the grain depots because they could not cope with demand.

The government expected a good harvest in 1846. Trevelyan began to wind up the scheme of public works. In June, he rejected a cargo of Indian corn. Even as signs began appearing that the new harvest was blighted, Trevelyan ceased all relief operations. He believed that this was the only way to prevent habitual dependency. He was concerned that private enterprise would be paralysed and Ireland would be ‘on’ Britain. The potato failures because obvious, but Russell announced that food provision would be left to market forces. Trevelyan decided to reorganise the public works scheme, compelling landlords to share the burden; the government would loan them money, giving grants only in the most desperate areas. The public works projects, which included road construction, lowering hills and filling in holes, took weeks to organise, and parties of hundreds of men were going around pleading for work. There were food riots, and workhouses were mobbed. By this time many were too weak to work. Trevelyan began to purchase cheap ‘Indian’ (American) corn, but the first starvation deaths were being reported.

(July). Lord John Russell became Prime Minister.

(Aug).By this time 140,000 were employed on public works. This fed in total 700,000 people. The workhouses, with a capacity of 100,000, were filling rapidly. 1.5 million were still starving. The government felt that the Irish landlords should be responsible for the people. Some of them were active, cancelling rents, starting employment schemes, even distributing food. Some however were cruel, even evicting tenants.

Trevelyan ordered that no landlord should profit from the public works schemes, and so no agricultural improvements or cultivation of other crops occurred. The work done was often worthless, even destructive. Wages on public works had to be lower than those on the ordinary labour market so as not to undercut it, despite the fact that ordinary labour was almost extinct. Wages were often not paid for long periods because of bureaucracy. Some men starved to death at work.

The Times newspaper accused the Irish of indolence and thoughtlessness for complaining.

(Oct) 5000 people attacked the workhouse at Listowel shouting ‘bread or blood’.

(Late Dec). By this time 400,000 people were employed on public works, but there were many left unemployed. Even those who had work had a long wait for the corn to arrive. Some relief officers, who had been selling last year’s corn, were reprimanded for undermining market forces. There was an official feeling that people weren’t making enough effort to get food. Some people in England maintained that the Irish were exaggerating. Meanwhile, the death rate soared. There were not enough coffins; some of the poor were buried in pits. 

1847 Death of Daniel O’Connell.

An epidemic of typhus and relapsing fever raged across Ireland, even in relatively well-fed towns like Belfast and Dublin. It was carried by people fleeing from the west. Priests and doctors began to die of the fever.

British consciences were disturbed, and two major charitable projects began dispensing free food from soup kitchens and funding local committees. The Quakers and the British Association were involved, the Association attracting large donations. The government was less compassionate. Much support was also received from America.

(March) By this time, 728,000 were employed on public works. Thousands of people died on them, especially the old. The harshness of winter killed many. The government finally decided to distribute free food. A Soup Kitchen Act allocated public funds. The relief works were wound up rapidly while the Soup Kitchens were slow in appearing. There was a sharp rise in deaths.

(May) By this time, about 100,000 Irish had emigrated to Liverpool.

(Mid-July). By now 3 million Irish adults and children were receiving relief. The Treasury accused the Poor Law Unions of supporting those who didn’t need it.

The potato harvest was good, but small, and the Soup Kitchen Act was discontinued. New Poor Law legislation was to be enacted, allowing workhouses to provide outdoor relief. New Poor Law rates would cover this. Anyone who owned more than a quarter of an acre of land was not eligible, forcing many to give up their land.   
(End Sept). By now, two million of those who had been on relief were now reliant on workhouses and local rates. The Irish papers predicted that the rate payers would not be able to support the influx of rural poor, and they were right. Despite this, the British government provided no more help. Many landlords were bankrupted, farmers were ruined. Trevelyan said Ireland must be left to ‘the operation of natural causes’. He believed too much had been done for the people and it had made them worse.

In 1847, a quarter of a million of Irish emigrated. The rate continued at that level for four more years. Most, 75%, went to America. Conditions on board the emigrant ships were sometimes appalling – they were unsanitary and overcrowded, with little food and water available and fever rampant. The worst conditions were experienced on route to Canada. Many died on the ship, or left it with fever. At Quebec, immigrants were thrown onto the beach where they crawled to dry land.

By 1847, ¼ million were emigrating annually, often the young people. Agricultural labourers began to disappear. The Irish language waned. Smaller holdings declined and many huge estates collapsed. 

1847/8 (winter)  Evictions increased and corpses lay unburied.

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1848 Rebellion              The Revolt of the Young Irelanders

See also:
'Jail Journal'  by John Mitchel

Click here for web links about the 1848 Rebellion

1848 Ballingarry, County Tipperary: beginning of violent action with the Battle of the Widow MacCormack’s Cabbage Garden. It was led by William Smith O’Brien, a Harrow-educated Protestant, descended from the great Gaelic High King Brian BoruHe had originally been a member of O’Connell’s peaceful campaign for the Repeal of the Union, but during the famine he had gravitated towards a sub-group known as ‘Young Ireland’. They preached a common nationality embracing Catholics and Protestants. The members of O’Connell’s movement grew wilder as the famine went on. John Mitchel, the son of an Ulster Presbyterian Minister, founded a newspaper called ‘The United Irishmen’, preaching republicanism and rebellion. After Mitchel’s arrest, Smith O’Brien became the militant leader despite his unsuitability. He began inciting Tipperary to revolt. A warrant was issued for his arrest. A party of the Irish constabulary moved on Ballingarry but found barricades and many people, some armed. The constables took refuge in Widow MacCormack’s house – her five children were at home. The police started smashing furniture to make a barricade and, after shots from the mob, fired out of the house killing two people before more police arrived. This was known as ‘the battle of Widow MacCormack’s cabbage garden’, but in 1916 Patrick Pearse was to list it amongst the six rebellions.

James Stephens, a lieutenant of O’Brien, escaped to France where he took part in resistance to Louis Napoleon. With his experience, Stephens was to begin thinking of forming a new professional modern secret society to help establish an Irish Republic.

The Young Ireland movement faded after the failed Rising, but its ideas remained, exported to America. Future Irish politics would owe more to the church and agrarian secret societies than to the class-oriented politics of more industrialised societies.

(Autumn). The new potato crop was blighted again.

1849  The most terrible famine year of all. Yet at the same time good food was being exported from Ireland. The wealthy were still holding dances.

(May) Despite being informed of the continuing tragedy, John Russell announced that the state was incapable of helping. He didn’t feel justified in asking the house for the £100,000 necessary to prevent starvation. Trevelyan was busy writing a history of the Famine, which he claimed ended in August 1847.

For decades afterwards the Irish were plagued with the question of why the British government hadn’t done more. Their conclusion was that Ireland should run its own affairs. The population had shrunk from 8,175,124 in 1841 to 6,552,385 in 1851. 1.5 had emigrated; 800,000 had died.

(Mid 19th C)  By this time, Catholic churches were being built again. Until then, Catholics had had to celebrate mass in the open or in ruined churches.

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James Stephens                         The Rise of Fenianism

Click here for web links about Fenianism

In this decade, the word ‘Fenian’ was first used for an Irish Republican organisation. It came from ‘Fianna’, legendary warrior heroes.

The Reform Act of 1832 had increased the electorate and based the franchise on occupation rather than property-owning. It helped create a new political nation, Catholic and rural, which admitted the church to political leadership. Archbishop Paul Cullen was ready to comment on any political question with a bearing on faith and morals.

The 1850s saw a wave of evangelical Protestant revivalism, especially in Ulster. Belfast became more organised on sectarian lines. Although officially dissolved in 1836, the Orange Order lodges still had their potency. The ‘Unionist’ culture was beginning to appear.

Fenianism also emerged. ‘Fenian’ was the name for the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a secret society emerging in the late 1850s. It had many strands, including Irish-American exiles and agrarian secret societies. It represented clerks and journalists of the new lower middle class. It was conspiratorial, Anglophobic and keen to make sacrificial gestures. Young Irelander John Mitchel had written an Irish history based on 800 years of national struggle, culminating in deliberate genocide. The church was uneasy towards this brand of nationalism, which resembled a secular religion.

From the late 1840s tenant societies had formed, representing well-off farmers; this managed briefly to form a national organisation in the 1850s.

James Stephens made a 3000 mile tour of Ireland, mostly on foot, to gauge the potential for revolution. He found plenty of dissatisfaction but little evidence of planned revolt.

(17th March). James Stephens formed what would become the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He and his fellow conspirators swore an oath to fight for Ireland as an Independent Democratic Republic.

Stephens received encouragement from America – embittered emigrants promised to provide material help. A comrade from 1848, John O’Mahony, went to America where he and Stephens formed the Fenian Brotherhood. Strong precautions were taken against informers. The society was divided into closed ‘circles’ with limited contact. When one circle was caught in Dublin, they passed themselves off as a small bunch of foolish young nationalists, the ‘Phoenix Society’. They were led by Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa.

Stephens organised a spectacular funeral in Ireland for the American Fenian Terence Bellew MacManus. The Church officially disapproved of Fenianism, but they employed a dissident radical priest. Stephens then exploited the publicity to tour Ireland and start a newspaper. The Irish People reminded people about the Fenian Brotherhood. Stephens felt that the American Fenians were too jolly, (‘Irish tinsel patriots’), and in fact their contribution had been limited. The Irish emigrants were settling into America and although bitter, felt no practical need to support nationalism.

John Devoy, Stephens’ aid in Ireland, had been undermining British soldiers with a new secret oath and by drilling civilians in secrecy. He had 85,000 men in Ireland, and trained soldiers were beginning to return from America. After a betrayal by a spy, the staff of the Irish People were arrested, Stephens two months after the rest. People relaxed after the fear of rebellion, but with insider help Stephens escaped. Tension rose again, but in reality Stephens’ 85,000 men were not well armed or controlled. Stephens persuaded his Irish-American comrades to postpone the rebellion.

Stephens declared that this was ‘the year’ before postponing again, possibly because his arrest had shaken him. He was deposed by the American Fenians and replaced by Colonel Kelly. A French soldier named Cluseret took over the military side. Their headquarters were in London. The rebellion was to involve cutting rail and telegraph communications and attacking police until aid could come from America. There was no plan for pitched battles.

On June 2nd, American Fenians clashed with Canadian militia at Ridgeway.

(11th Feb). An attempted attack on Chester Castle  had to be called off when an informer betrayed it – not before many armed Irishmen had arrived in Chester.

(5th March). A second attempt on Chester was betrayed by the same informer. In Ireland itself, the Fenians scored a couple of successes, taking the police barracks at Ballyknockane and the coastguard station at Knockadown, but eventually the Fenians were forced to flee for the hills. The entire rising was a disaster, but it has still been celebrated since as heroism.

(Sept) Colonel Thomas Kelly and another man, Captain Timothy Deasy, were arrested; thirty Fenians surrounded the prison van, killing a police officer and rescuing Kelly and Keasy. Three men were executed for the attack, later known as the ‘Manchester Martyrs’.

At this time a Fenian leader, Richard O’Sullivan Burke, was being held at Clerkenwell. His comrades tried to rescue him by blowing up the wall, but they flattened several houses, killing twelve people. This atrocity brought the Irish quest to public attention. Gladstone was induced to start reforming the Irish land system which was the main grievance of the Irish. He eventually committed himself to Home Rule. The promise of Home Rule meant that Ireland quietened down.

The failed rising convinced many ‘physical-force men’ of the benefits of parliamentary agitation.

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Charles Stewart Parnell                      Charles Stewart Parnell and Land Reform

See also:
'Gladstone and the Irish Revolution' by John Morley.
 'Parnell and the First Home Rule Bill' by St John Ervine.

Click here for web links about Parnell and Land Reform

1869 The Protestant Church in Ireland was disestablished. Protestants responded by splitting between moderates and extremists. The vitality of the movement to defend Protestant interests came from the Orange Lodges. One Grand Master was jailed for leading a 20,000 strong Orange march.

Charles Stewart Parnell, a Protestant landowner from County Meath, became active in politics. He came from the tradition of pre-Union Protestant independence. His great-grandfather had opposed the Union. His maternal grandfather had fought the British in 1812; his grandmother was American. At Cambridge he had been fined and expelled for fighting, and he developed a reputation for aggressiveness when he entered the Commons. He was soon known as an extremist amongst the otherwise gentlemanly supporters of Home Rule. Davitt described him as ‘an Englishman of the strongest sort moulded for an Irish purpose’.

Novelist William Carleton predicted a land war. By the late 1860s, threats were being made against landsharks who took the property of evicted tenants, and landlords who evicted tenants over grazing. People wanted land, expecting a new Land Act. The landlords themselves, who identified the Tenant Right Movement as ‘socialistic’, were from a wide strata of society. Landlords still had influence at local elections but were challenged by farmers and clerics. In 1860s Mayo, the dominant class were strong farmers, shop keepers, merchants and traders.

1870 A Land Act gave evicted tenants compensation for expenditure on their holdings. This symbolically implied the end of the Protestant Ascendancy. The land market had virtually closed after the Famine. In the new system, tenants and leaseholders chose their own successors. The Land Act gave this strength.

By now, Ireland had economic, social and political stability. The Poor Law system was coping, unemployment was ameliorated by emigration and the rural population were prosperous. The Catholic church and middle class had attained new respectability; Ulster Protestants were enjoying Victorian ‘progress’. Many looked forward to Ireland becoming a modern industrialised society. The uprising of 1867 was ignored. However, this stability depended on emigration. Nearly half as many Irish natives lived overseas as at home. All classes emigrated, but especially the poor. Some migration was seasonal. The American recession of the 1870s resulted in population congestion as would the First World War, contributing to social unrest. The average family had six children, reared for emigration in the hope that they would support their families from abroad. Property control became smoother, with the acquisition of spouse and farm being almost inseparable. Urbanisation and agricultural modernisation were slow. Industrial expansion was concentrated around Belfast. The linen industry did not begin to decline until World War One, and the shipbuilding industry was strong. Dublin did not markedly industrialise. Most people worked on the land. Ireland didn’t attract investors as it was seen as lawless.

Pasturage was more attractive than tillage due to diversification of diet and depopulation. New technology was slow to come in, partly due to the indebtedness of tenant farmers and reluctance of landlords to invest.

Isaac Butt, a Protestant, had initiated the Home Government Association. By now, the nationalists were allied with the Liberals, but this alienated the Protestants. The ‘Ascendancy’ campaigned against land reform, Home Rule and church disestablishment. The Ulster Protestants put up the most resistance. The workers of Belfast promoted their interests through factional conflict. The unionists were to oppose the Home Rule initiatives of 1886, 1893 and 1912. Protestant and Catholic Ulstermen formed their own fraternities. Some evangelist Protestant crusades militated against Home Rule.

1871 – 1911  During this time, Protestant workers helped edge Catholics out of the better jobs.

1873    Isaac Butt initiated the Home Rule League.

The IRB’s constitution bound Fenians to peaceful protest. War against Britain would only be justified by majority vote. Parnell accommodated ex-Fenians. He also mobilised the Catholic church for Home Rule. Paul Cullen’s church had not been helpful, but Parnell was so successful in getting united popular support that the church could either withdraw from politics or co-operate.

1876 Parnell stated in Parliament that he believed there was no murder in Manchester.

Competitive exams were introduced for the civil service.

1879 Famine loomed, but a massive charitable operation staved it off. Since the beginning of the first famine, two million people had emigrated. This in some ways improved the agricultural situation, but many peasants were still dependent on potatoes. The 1870s had been relatively prosperous, but the later part of the decade saw cheap grain flooding in from America, hitting farm prices, and the potato crop began to fail. There were evictions.

Michael Davitt, an ex-Fenian newly released from prison, campaigned for a reduction in rates, an end to evictions and an eventual transfer of ownership from landlord to tenant. He created the Land League, and Parnell became its president. It consisted of Fenian and radical elements together with tenant associations, and aimed to protect tenants from eviction. The League lost support when it radicalised. The land campaign involved violence not just against landlords but also tenants who disobeyed Land League orders, such as by taking land cleared by eviction. The League’s leaders publicly disapproved of this, but the rank and file included both former Fenians at the top level and members of agrarian secret societies. The ex-Fenians believed they were laying foundations for positive Irish national thinking amongst farmers and peasants. Parnell was careful not to get involved in the violent, extremist side, although he knew about it. Instead, he invented the idea of ‘boycotting’, named after its first victim. The victim would be ignored.

Parnell became leader of the Irish Party after the death of the more moderate Isaac Butt. Gladstone was sympathetic to Irish problems, but brought in a Coercion Bill to halt the land war, giving the police and army special powers and suspending some civil liberties such as Habeas Corpus. Parnell forced the Commons into a continuous 41 hour session in resistance, after which Parnell and 35 of his MPs were escorted out. Gladstone introduced a bill to reform the Irish land system, but Parnell was temporarily a prisoner of his more extreme supporters and felt obliged to oppose the bill for being too moderate. The bill included Land Courts to set fair rents and guaranteed rent payers fixity of tenure, as well as granting tenants the right to sell their holdings. The bill became law but Parnell grew increasingly belligerent. In his speeches in Ireland, he denounced the British government.

1880 Parnell visited America and gave speeches about Irish nationalism. In the same year, he began an adulterous affair with Katherine O’Shea, wife of an Irish member of parliament.

By now the Land League had taken on a Home Rule aspect. Until then, the Home Rule body had been very loosely organised.

1881   Parnell declared he wanted the Crown to be the only link to Ireland. Gladstone began to attack Parnell in his speeches; he accused him of ambivalence to the Crown. Parnell responded with harsh words. He was arrested and lodged at Kilmainham jail. It meant he was a martyr for the extremists while not having to take responsibility for their actions. The new Land Act was actually working well, and Parnell could afford to turn to a more nationalist campaign. The activists were trying to get the tenants to pay no rent, but the tenants were happy with the land courts’ decisions. Parnell, still in jail, felt the need to make a deal with Gladstone. He offered to calm the Irish situation if Gladstone would look at Ireland’s national aspirations. The O’Sheas represented him while he was in jail.

1882  (May). Parnell was released under the unwritten Kilmainham Treaty, under which he agreed to co-operate with Gladstone.

The new Chief Secretary for Ireland, Lord Frederick Cavendish, was murdered along with his Under-Secretary in Phoenix Park, Dublin. Their murderers were former IRB members now called the ‘Invincibles’. They had acted with the support of the Land League of Great Britain. The murder was disastrous for Parnell. Distrust amongst the Liberals about whether Home Rule could mean increased.

1884  Gaelic Athletic Association formed.

1885  Parnell’s party increased in the General Election as agricultural labourers had the vote. He gained 80% of Irish representation. The Irish Party now had the balance between Liberals and Conservatives. Gladstone eventually came round to endorsing Home Rule.

1886 The First Home Rule bill failed to pass through Commons. Parnell had made a speech appearing to sincerely accept the Home Rule Bill as the final settlement of the Irish Question. Strongest opposition to the bill came from the Protestants of Northern Ireland. In the Commons, the Conservatives ‘played the Orange card’. Both moderates and extremist Protestants were united against Home Rule. Everyone knew the bill would not get through the Lords. Gladstone was not sympathetic to Ulster, pointing out that they were in the minority. Parnell was more placatory, saying that the Protestants would exercise a ‘moderating influence’ on making laws and welcoming all creeds and classes to Ireland. The bill was ultimately defeated due to Liberal defection, but the fact that it had been raised at all was a triumph. At this time, Parnell’s party held the balance of power in the Commons by helping the Tories eradicate Gladstone’s majority. 

There were threats of civil war from Ulster even before the Home Rule Bill was introduced. Men were arming themselves and drilling. After the Bill was defeated, there were celebratory riots in Belfast and people were killed.

The Catholic church endorsed Home Rule. In return, Parnell supported such issues as denominational education. This alliance between the church and nationalism alienated Protestants.

Meanwhile, Mr O’Shea was trying to get his wife back from Parnell. He would not divorce her because she was due to come in for a large inheritance.

1886-9 ‘Plan of Campaign’ took place – Land League agitations.

1887  Parnell was falsely accused of writing letters that appeared to justify and even instigate the Phoenix Park murders. He was sensationally cleared and won sympathy from the British public.

1889 Mrs O’Shea came into her inheritance, and her husband filed for divorce.  The divorce case was to ruin Parnell’s reputation. He and Mrs O’Shea did not defend themselves in court, and embarrassing charges were made. Catholic Ireland and English Nonconformists – the backbone of Liberal support – were shocked. Gladstone was amongst those calling for his resignation. He threatened to resign unless Parnell did. The need for Gladstone’s support contributed to the Party’s eventual decision to get rid of Parnell. Parnell had also been a brutal disciplinarian and had ignored local issues.

1890   (Dec). A stormy meeting of the Party took place, after which the party voted to depose Parnell. It then split into those who were for and who against Parnell. The Church was against him. Parnell became desperate, turning to the Fenians for support. He lost three by-elections in a row, campaigning furiously despite deteriorating health. He was to die of a heart attack aged 45.

The Conservatives, needing an effective identity, decided to oppose Home Rule on behalf of the Ulster Protestants. The Liberal-Nationalist alliance survived even despite non-conformist hostility to Catholic causes and the splintering of the Irish Party  in this year.

It was Conservatives who brought in the most lasting initiatives. They helped create a ‘peasant proprietary’ and to modernise agriculture. The nationalists however preferred a rhetorical alliance with Liberalism to the more substantive reforms of ‘constructive unionism’. Reform could have made Irish Catholics uninterested in national freedom. The Tories were ‘killing Home Rule by kindness’.

1891  (Oct). Death of Parnell. The Irish Party split into warring fragments. Parnellism attracted those who were worried by clerical interference in politics. Fenians formed a cult around Parnell, including many intellectuals and cultural revivalists. Yeats was one of these. This new cult was heavily faction-ridden.

1892 Liberals carried a Home Rule Bill through the Commons. The Ulster Unionists had already held a convention with 12,000 delegates where violence was urged to save the country. The idea of a Dublin parliament was denounced. They also spoke of spilling blood when in Parliament. The Irish nationalists and their Liberal supporters dismissed this as a bluff. There was a truth in this in the sense that the Lords would have vetoed the bill so violence would not have been necessary.

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Gaelic League                      The Gaelic Cultural Movement

See also The Gaelic Revival, Is the Irish Nation Dying and Politics, Nationality and Snobs by D.P. Moran.

Click here for web links about the Gaelic Revival

1893    Second Home Rule Bill passed Commons but rejected by the Lords.

Gladstone called the Irish question ‘the curse of this House’.

A ‘Gaelic League’ was founded to encourage every aspect of Gaelic culture that would distinguish Irishness from Englishness. There was a Gaelic Athletic Association for Irish games. Yeats became part of the Irish literary movement. The Gaelic movement was largely middle-class and a certain Irish snobbishness developed. Some political nationalists took part in the movement in the awareness that it might one day achieve political force. The League was factionalised, and most of its Protestant leaders (including ‘George Birmingham’) were forced out of office.

The main impact of the Irish-Ireland movement was the training and ideology it gave to a small knot of enthusiasts. Militant labour distrusted cultural nationalism.

1894  Irish Trades Union Congress formed.

1898  The franchise was widened, making possible nationalist control of local government.

The United Irish League was formed.

1900  Queen Victoria visited Ireland and was greeted with enthusiasm by the crowds, although nationalists such as Maud Gonne were infuriated.

Parnellite John Redmond reunited the Irish Party. Parliamentary selection was localised (de-centralised). The United Irish League became its chief instrument. Labour, Irish-Ireland bodies and nationalist fraternities got involved. Sectarian conflict intensified, resulting in the Catholic Ancient Order of Hibernians becoming the Party’s vehicle for popular mobilisation. The vagueness of ‘Home Rule’ attracted groups with disparate aims.

1903   King Edward visited Ireland.

Land Purchase Act (Wyndham’s Act) became law, aimed at forcing landlords to sell land and allow tenants to buy it at low prices. Security of tenure prevented the consolidation of uneconomic farms, increased indebtedness and discouraged innovation.  

1904 Sinn Féin was formed by Arthur Griffith, an ex-Fenian, in order to exploit local authorities (ignoring other state institutions) rather than seek revolution or legislative reform. Before the First World War it failed to win any seats. Griffith, contributor to the newspapers The United Irishmen and Sinn Féin (‘Ourselves Alone’), had previously encouraged the setting up of an Irish Parliament. 

1905  Ulster Unionist Council was formed.

1906  Liberals won the election with a big majority, leaving them no motive to offer Home Rule to Irish Party.

1906 – 10 The United Irish League targeted graziers (‘ranchers’).

1907-16  Augustine Birrell acted as Chief Secretary. He carried out wide reforms and directed much state funding to Ireland.

1908  Sinn Féin lost a by-election and it lacked support until 1917.

Old Age Pensions Act.

The Irish Universities Act gave university status to Queen’s, Belfast and colleges under the Catholic National University of Ireland.

Patrick Pearse, a poet and teacher, founded St Enda’s school at Rathfarnham to teach the Irish-Ireland spirit. Many of its pupils were to join the IRB.

1909  Second Land Purchase Act. These Acts made the national question seem less important.

The Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union was formed, led by Jim Larkin and James Connolly.

1910 The Irish Party held the balance between Liberals and Conservatives. Asquith depended on the Irish Parliamentary Party to retain power.

William O’Brien formed the anti-sectarian All-For-Ireland League to win over Protestant support. The Home Rule Party disguised its internal conflicts in order to present itself as representative  of all Catholics.

Tom Clarke, who had been imprisoned for Fenianism, reopened the Irish Republican Brotherhood.

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No Surrender                                    The Ulster Covenant

Click here for web links about the Ulster Covenant

1911  The Lords were denied their veto and the Third Home Rule Bill passed Commons.

(Sept). The leader of the Ulster Unionist Council, Sir Edward Carson, addressed a meeting of 50,000 Orangemen and Unionists, saying that if Home Rule were to pass they must set up their own government in Ulster.

National Insurance Act. Employers, workers and the state were to contribute towards sickness and unemployment benefits.

By this year, 25% of 50 year olds had never married.

1912 Asquith introduced a Government of Ireland bill against intense opposition from the unionists. It allowed for Home Rule and did not permit control of the Royal Irish Constabulary for six years. In the face of marching and drilling by Unionists in Ulster, the alternative of having an exemption for Ulster emerged. Both the Irish Party and the Unionists discussed this in private. Partition was not discussed.

(6th April). 100, 000 men marched at Balmoral, Belfast, in front of a giant Union Jack. Bonar Law, head of the English Conservatives, pledged assistance in ‘battle’.

(28th Sept). Nearly half a million Protestants signed the Ulster Covenant in opposition to the Home Rule Bill. It was believed that many people had signed in blood, although the only provable instance of this was Major Fred Crawford. They accepted they that couldn't block Home Rule for most of Ireland, but they wanted to retain Ulster within the Union. The minimum demand included the exclusion of six counties.

An Ulster Volunteer Force of 100,000 men was formed through the Orange Lodges. A former English General of the Indian Army took charge of it; there was no doubt on whose side the English Establishment was. The police assisted them to import arms.  Liberal nerve began to fail. Asquith looked at the exclusion of the Ulster counties as a compromise. The Irish Nationalist Party became alarmed, and announced that Ireland was a single unit. Home Rulers in the south flocked to join a counter-movement in to the UVF, the ‘Irish National Volunteers’, which had been formed by IRB members. The majority of Irish Volunteers however were only interested in Home Rule without the Ulster clause.

1913  The Irish Transport Union launched a six-month strike which ended without gain for the workers. At this time, the slums in Dublin were the worst in Europe. The slum owners and the major employer, William Martin Murphy, were supporters of Home Rule, which implied that this Home Rule was insufficient for the workers.

1914 Between this year and 1881, a social revolution had taken place. The British presence in Ireland came to be tolerated as a source of material benefit.

Redmond was prepared to offer Ulster six years of independence. At the last moment he made a further concession, dropping the time limit. The Conservatives and Ulster Unionist Council demanded the permanent exclusion of six counties – Down, Derry, Antrim, Tyrone, north Fermanagh, and north Armagh – but Tyrone had a substantial nationalist population.

(March 20th). F
ifty-seven officers announced that they would not move against the UVF – this was the ‘Curragh Mutiny’.

(June) John Redmond assumed control of the Irish Volunteers. He had been surprised by the depth of feeling. By this time the UVF were formidable and much better armed, as a result of gun-running. 40,000 rifles were made available.

(July). More of an effort was made to prevent arms being smuggled in to the Volunteers than to the UVF, but in this month they imported some successfully. Three civilians were killed on the day the Volunteers received arms at Howth near Dublin.

Around this time, an ‘Ulster Provisional Government’ was formed. Meanwhile the Director of Military Operations at the War Office, Sir Henry Wilson, opposed Irish nationalism and intrigued to stop the government using the army to enforce Home Rule.

(Aug 4th)  Outbreak of World War One – most of the Irish supported Britain.

(Sept). With the outbreak of war, Home Rule was postponed. An Amending Bill was to be introduced for Ulster. Redmond encouraged the Volunteers to join the war effort in the hope of being rewarded with Home Rule. The Volunteers split; the extremists keeping the name ‘Irish Volunteers’ while the majority, 167,000, became the ‘Nationalist Volunteers’. Many nationalists offered to serve in the war to prove their fitness and conciliate the unionists. However, they weren’t allowed their own divisions, while the Unionists were.

The British authorities in Dublin had not taken the Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army seriously because they didn’t appear at all representative of the Irish people. They were treated as a joke and even allowed to march with arms, so they would not become martyrs. Southern Ireland seemed more loyal to the Crown than ever before, because Home Rule had passed into law just before the war broke out. Thousands of Irish were flocking to join the war, and Irish nationalists were proud of the fact. However, there was a minority of radicals such as Tom Clarke, once jailed for plotting to bomb Britain, who owned a shop in Dublin where extremists met. He was reviving the IRB. This group took the decision after war broke out to take violent advantage of Britain’s difficulties. Patrick Pearse was obsessed with making a blood sacrifice for Ireland. James Connolly, a Trade Union organiser, was most impatient of all. They set up or reactivated front organisations, such as the ‘Wolfe Tone Memorial Committee’ which organised the funeral of O’Donovan Rossa.

There were plans, with American support, to get Irish POWs from Germany and transport German arms to Ireland. In October, Roger Casement sailed for Germany via the United States in order to recruit the Germans as allies. However, military recruitment and prosperity had strengthened Irish ties to Britain. Despite popular contempt, a small minority of activists continued to plot revolt. This was the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Birrell’s Irish administration used ridicule rather than coercion to undermine the conspiracy. Dublin Castle acted as a caretaker administration pending Home Rule. Birrell’s relations with the Unionists were less good.

The Irish Trades Union Congress nominally converted into a Labour Party. Unity was difficult when Catholics and Protestants formed conflicting affiliations. Many trades unionists were also attached to British-based bodies. Most workers gave allegiance to nationalist or unionist bodies. Militant labour’s significance was grossly inflated by Connolly’s involvement in 1916.

By this year, the Home Rule party was huge. It was respected by the church and the Liberals.

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Dublin during the Easter Rising                 The Easter Rising

Click here for web links about the Easter Rising

1915 Death of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. His body was returned to Ireland by neo-Fenians and given a great funeral to awaken public memories of the Fenians. Pearse said of him, ‘they have left us our Fenian dead’. Few would have viewed this as anything more than a celebration of a historic patriot; even the rank-and-file Volunteers didn’t know what was planned.

The founder of the Gaelic League Douglas Hyde was forced out by Fenians. Fenians also controlled the GAA.

1916  Before this year, the Irish made up 3.7% of total recruitment in the UK, a low number because of the high agricultural population. Conscription was never introduced in Ireland. Protestants were overrepresented amongst volunteers, because of the recruitment of unemployed Ulster workers. At home, unemployment fell; but while farmers profited, the proletariat had to endure inflation.

(March 17th). The minority Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army paraded around Dublin.

The plan for the Rising was to take over strong-points in Dublin centre in order to command the site of army barracks and approach routes into the city. Arms were being shipped from Germany, accompanied by Sir Roger Casement, former British Consulate figure and Irish Nationalist. He was immediately arrested (April 21st).

Eoin MacNeill, head of the Irish Volunteers and co-founder of the Gaelic League, was not in favour of armed action except in defence and had not been told until the last moment about the rebellion. He was appalled, but reluctantly agreed at first; when the arms ship was intercepted, he attempted to cancel the rebellions with a newspaper notice. MacNeill cancelled exercises of the (nationalist) Irish Volunteers and rebellion seemed inconceivable. However, the rebels went ahead despite the certainty of defeat, believing bloodshed was a ‘cleansing and a sanctifying thing’. Connolly and Pearse hastily rescheduled, but the number who turned out (1,000, later joined by 800) was lower than it would have been. The British had discovered that a rebellion was on the cards, and issued orders to disarm the Volunteers and Citizen Army and arrest their leaders. After MacNeill’s newspaper announcement, the authorities postponed the arrests until after Easter Monday. But that morning, April 24th, the rebels began to gather at the rallying points. One group hijacked a tram. Youths (the Fianna) and a women’s organisation, Cumann na Mban, were amongst those who gathered at Liberty Hall. Some of the boys were armed only with pikes. Some of those involved were taken by surprise; they had not expected to be taking part in a rebellion.

The General Post Office was chosen as the Rising’s headquarters. The public were turned out, and Patrick Pearse proclaimed the Republic. The first casualties were a party of Lancers, taken wholly by surprise; four were killed. Jacob’s Biscuit Factory was also taken over, but a jeering crowd heckled and swore at them; one got shot in the leg. The policeman guarding Dublin Castle was shot dead, but the Volunteers didn’t press home the attack. A group of elderly part time soldiers were massacred as they marched back unarmed from the mountains. In central Dublin, there was mass looting by civilians.

The 2500 British troops in Dublin were not prepared; many had gone to the races. Once they woke up to the threat, the few hundred left in barracks that day were sent to secure the Castle and reinforcements were called for. The centre of Dublin was cordoned off. A well-known pacifist writer, Sheehy Skeffington, was arrested alongside two civilians and executed by a ‘madBritish officer. This day saw the heaviest fighting. Arriving British troops were showered with gifts of food and drinks from friendly Irish women. One column of the Sherwood Foresters were shot at by snipers from a house at Mount Street Bridge. British casualties there amounted to more than half the casualties of the entire Rising. In Dublin, troops faced sniping and barricades. They killed twelve civilians in their houses. Some rebel garrisons saw little action; most of the rebels’ time was spent listening to rumours. There was temporary elation when they believed the Germans had landed, and there were rumours of a general uprising, although very little happened outside Dublin. The British were using clumsy armoured cars and slowly tightening the cordon round the rebels. Heavy artillery fire pounded the city centre. By Friday evening the Post Office was uncontrollably on fire. The rebels were forced to flee it. Pearse, Connolly and Clarke broke into houses to form new headquarters, while Michael O’Rahilly – who had originally opposed the Rising, but as a founder of the Volunteers felt obliged to join in – made a counter-charge and was killed. Pearse surrendered because he was appalled by the slaughter of civilians. The garrisons began reluctantly to surrender. Eamon de Valera, a little-known maths teacher, had been leading the garrison at Boland’s Mill. Many prisoners were taken to open ground outside Rotunda Hospital, where they were rudely treated by a British Captain, Lee Wilson, who was consequently murdered by the IRA in 1920. When the prisoners were marched through the streets, they were abused by Dublin citizens and needed the protection of their escorts. The boy prisoners were treated leniently and sent home. In fact, only a small number were court-martialled; the majority were interned in Britain.

Casualties included 318 civilians, 60 rebels and 130 British troops. 2217 people were injured. The rebellion had lasted nearly a week. Despite popular contempt, people looked back on the long history of Irish rebellion and began to feel some pride.

Pearse, Clarke and a poet, Thomas MacDonagh, were executed. If these had been the only executions, matters might have been different, but they carried on. The Irish Home Rule Party condemned both the Rising and the executions. As the executions continued, public sympathy turned towards the rebels, as some had warned it would. James Connolly was the last to die, sitting in a chair because he was wounded. The newspapers and public called it the Sinn Féin rebellion because nothing was known of the real organisers. Pearse had seen the rebellion as an almost Christ-like blood sacrifice; Easter was chosen for a reason. Tom Clarke said they had struck the first blow for Ireland’s freedom.

The location of the buildings taken (parks, factories, public buildings and the GPO) served for maximum casualties and were difficult to defend. Popular response was fury and disgust. However, Asquith’s government overreacted; there was martial law, and 3500 people were arrested. This overreaction was a result of the war – dissidents became traitors. Although it didn’t last long, the effect on public opinion was severe. Jailed republicans discovered common cause, learnt Irish and played Gaelic games. A cult of veneration for the rebels developed. Asquith gave Lloyd George the task of putting through an amended Home Rule settlement. Lloyd George almost managed to negotiate a compromise under which six Ulster counties would be excluded until the end of the war. The nationalists and unionists accepted this, but it was sabotaged by southern unionist magnates. The Irish Party were execrated for acquiescing in ‘partition’. The rebels themselves wanted more bloodshed to bring on more repression and inflame popular spirit. Eamon de Valera encouraged mass political participation in republicanism and argued against another rising.

Michael Collins, born in 1890, had been working for the Post Office in London. As a member of the IRB he returned to Ireland to participate in the Rising. Afterwards he was interned at Frongoch in Wales. There, he set up an IRB network and organised classes, some in guerrilla warfare. He obtained information about friendly members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and made contacts from all over Ireland. A skeleton network of Volunteers had survived under bogus branches of the Gaelic League, and when the British released the internees at Christmas as a gesture of goodwill, they were able to take over this network. Their first task was to work on public opinion. There was already growing sympathy after the executions and the failure of the government to implement Home Rule without excluding Ulster.

1917 – 1919 The rebels’ plan was to get popular support for republicanism in order to win American backing for Irish representation at the peace conference. Electoral contests were to be used to demonstrate republican popularity, although candidates would ‘abstain’ from taking up their seats. They had most success in the south.

1917 The Parliamentary Party under John Redmond and John Dillon was still dominant. Collins formed a group with the non-violent pre-war Sinn Féin of Arthur Griffith and put up the father of Rising martyr Joseph Plunkett in a by-election, to a resounding victory. Then, using his effective campaigning machine, he scored another victory. Public mood was changing; when the final political prisoners were released in July, they were greeted as heroes. Eamon de Valera was one of these, and Collin’s organisation, helped by new support from the church, got him elected. De Valera became the leader of the new Sinn Féin. They demanded a Republic, but how they would go about this was not clear. There was talk of appealing to the International Peace Conference or the Americans.

(Sept).  A Volunteer died through force-feeding while on hungerstrike. Collins organised a grandiose military funeral.

(Oct). Until this month there was no unified nationalist party. Sinn Féin claimed 100,000 members. The republican elite regrouped itself into the IRB, Irish volunteers and the Cumann na mBan for women. Michael Collins, a London clerk, came to lead the IRB. The Volunteers exuded menace, claiming political status in prisons, ‘protecting’ republican politicians and drilling in public.

Many constitutional nationalists remained loyal to Redmond because they feared violence and were put off by the imprecision of Sinn Féin’s policy. Redmond’s son beat a Sinn Féin candidate in a by-election in which he wore the British army uniform.

When the British government began to consider conscription, the nationalists resisted with vast meetings and an anti-conscription pledge. Plans for a draft were dropped.

The Sinn Féin leaders were arrested after the British believed they were plotting with the Germans; Collins, who had caught advanced wind of this, avoided arrest and consequently had more power over the movement.

1918  (18th April). The various republican parties met and won the support of the Catholic church in opposing conscription. Peaceful protest followed, although there were plans for ‘ruthless warfare’. However, the draft was avoided, and consequently support for the republican parties grew. The case for direct military action weakened.

By now, the election register had trebled since 1910. The Parliamentary Party was struggling and losing members to Sinn Féin. Meanwhile, their core voters – Irish soldiers in the British army - never received ballot papers. Sinn Féin were aided both by the vagueness of their agenda and by vote-rigging. They also denounced violence during the election. Consequently, they won the 1918 election overwhelmingly, gaining nearly three quarters of seats or 48% of the vote. Unionists obtained 29% and constitutionalists 23%. Many elected were still in jail. The rest met as the Dáil Eireann, the Irish Parliament, and declared a Republic. The British let them, calling their bluff. The nationalists’ hopes rested with America; but in fact Woodrow Wilson had no desire to quarrel with Lloyd George.

The unionist-dominated post-war coalition did not follow up Asquith’s promise of Home Rule

1918-20 Class conflict became a problem. Low unemployment was a boost for collective action, and there were strikes everywhere.

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Michael Collins                               The War of Independence

Click here for web links about the War of Independence

1919  (Jan). Young Volunteers Dan Breen and Sean Treacy murdered two police men without orders from anyone at Tipperary. Soon afterwards, Collins announced to Sinn Féin that fighting and disorder were required. He was efficient and single-minded in pursuing this. He selected fourteen Irish police to be murdered. The British reacted by bringing in strict military regimes.

Collins led a double life, as Minister of Finance in the Dail, but also a coordinator of the Volunteers, soon renamed the IRA. Collins was both charming and enthusiastic, and ruthless – he never gave anyone a second chance. Despite being ‘on the run’ from late 1919, he appeared on his bike in Dublin and once had himself smuggled into a police station to get details on detectives involved in political work. These detectives were warned to change job and murdered if they did not.

Chances of a hearing at the peace conference dissipated, so republican policy shifted towards mobilising the Irish abroad to support them. De Valera went to New York as ‘president of the Irish Republic’ to get American support, but although welcomed by the people he failed to get official recognition of an Irish Republic.

Irish Protestants split over Partition. Southern unionists tried to conciliate the Catholic majority. An Irish Unionist Anti-Partition League was set up. Meanwhile the Ulster Unionist party fought for Protestant Ulster’s right to self-determination.

This year saw 18 deaths. Most activity was arson, intimidation and so on. Increasingly brutal repression forced armed Volunteers to band together for protection.

1920 7000  English came over, dressed in khaki because of a lack of uniforms, giving them the nickname ‘Black and Tans’. Soon after, the RIC was also to incorporate the Auxiliaries, English former officers known for their courage and aggressiveness.  Crown reprisals against rebels included beatings, murders, the wreckage of towns and mass damage of property. Reprisals were always more vicious than the incident provoking them. Popular outrage was increased by the suspicion of government involvement. In Ulster, the Catholics were menaced by the Protestant ‘B Specials’.

(Feb). The British government put forward a Home Rule bill for two parliaments in Belfast and Dublin, but this was too late. The bill became the Government of Ireland Act 1920, but the British ‘Southern Parliament’ was shunned in favour of the all-Ireland Dail. The Ulster Unionist Council accepted the bill, while the new Castle administration continued to contemplate dominion Home Rule for all of Ireland. Southern Ireland was to become a Crown colony if its parliament was not functioning by July 1921. Killings and outrages ceased. The Volunteers reorganised themselves into the IRA. Lloyd George met de Valera and offered Ireland dominion status, not Home Rule, while de Valera offered to be externally associated with the Commonwealth.

(15th March). The Mayor of Cork was murdered by a gang of disguised police from the RIC, actually Black and Tans.

(June). The UVF was revived, concentrated in the six counties in the north. There were riots in Derry. Over the next two years, 400 people were to die in sectarian conflicts in the North, twice as many Catholics as Protestants. The B Specials were often responsible, with the IRA unable to confront them effectively.

Later in the year, guerrilla warfare reigned between the Tans and Auxies and the IRA. Collins had calculated that the toughness of the Tans and Auxiliaries would drive the Irish people towards the idea of a Republic. The IRA were also brutal, but if forced to choose a side the Irish would choose them. The IRA murdered police and civilian informers, dug holes in roads, destroyed bridges and messed up communications. When caught by the Tans, they were brutally interrogated. Reprisals were harsh. The police promised to shot two Sinn Féiners for every man on their side shot. They burnt houses and creameries to punish civilians. The Irish people began to see this as a war between England and Ireland. The army were still respected but the Tans were not.  Meanwhile the British launched a propaganda campaign to discredit the IRA.

(August). The Restoration of Order in Ireland Act brought massive internment. In response, the Volunteers carried out ambushes in Munster. Many organisers were demoralised by this descent into violence.

In Dublin, suspects were rounded up, areas were cordoned off and gun battles raged. Sean Tracey, one of the original police-killers, was killed. Terence MacSwiney, Mayor of Cork, died on hunger strike. His funeral attracted international attention. An 18-year-old IRA man, Kevin Barry, was hanged despite massive protests that he was a prisoner of war. 24 IRA men were executed in total. Lloyd George said ‘we have murder by the throat!

(21st Nov). Bloody Sunday. Collins had 14 undercover British intelligence officers murdered in one day. That afternoon during a Dublin-Tipperary football match at Croke Park, British forces shot into the grounds, killing 12 people. Further, two senior IRA men and an innocent Sinn Féin supporter were killed at Dublin Castle. Their funeral was a mass political demonstration which Collins attended despite being the most wanted man in Ireland.

(Dec). Largest reprisal by Crown Forces – the burning of Cork centre after an ambush led by Tom Barry, which claimed seventeen Auxiliary casualties. It was extreme enough to cause embarrassment and disgust in England. Pressure mounted for a settlement. 

By now, 11 million acres had changed hands under the Land Purchase Acts.

Civilian unemployment exceeded its pre-war proportions, wages fell and trade unionism declined, and ‘soviets’ were set up. Workers unions were still divided along Catholic and Protestant lines. In this year, Catholic workers were violently expelled from shipyards and factories.

Meanwhile local government, the police and courts were breaking down, and local republican organisers set up their own parallel organisations. Lloyd George later said that the Irish Republican Organisation had all the realities of government.

This year (1920) saw 282 deaths plus another 82 in Ulster.

1921  (May) The IRA burned the Dublin Custom House, the key centre of British administration. 120 IRA men were arrested; it was their biggest disaster. After this, the IRA were still well-organised in the countryside but they were low on ammunition and had lost their Dublin wing.

(May). Elections in Northern Ireland. Transfer of powers initiated. Sinn Féin won big in the southern elections.

(9th July). De Valera and other Sinn Féin and IRA men met British representatives and two days later a truce was signed. De Valera, who was determined to get a Republic (possibly with ‘external association’ with the British Empire) and the less dogmatic Arthur Griffith went to London.

(6th Dec). Anglo-Irish Treaty between Lloyd George and Michael Collins (Griffith also present).  It divided Ireland into the Free State and the remaining six counties, ‘Northern Ireland’. Northern Ireland had its own devolved Parliament but its sovereign was the British government at Westminster. The Free State had dominion status within the Commonwealth – they’d have their own army and navy but had to swear loyalty to the King. This wasn’t a neat solution – the most northern part of Ireland, Malin Head, was in the South. Collins said he’d signed his death warrant. However, the delegates had represented ‘Ireland’, not Ireland excluding Ulster. The Treaty technically gave the Irish Free State power over the whole of Ireland, although this was suspended a month later. Northern Ireland opted out of the Irish Free State. The Treaty stipulated that a Boundary Commission would set up a border between north and south in tune with the wishes of their inhabitants. Collins believed this would put Tyrone and Fermanagh in the Free State, and the remaining four counties would not be viable. At the time, the oath to the King seemed more important. Collins argued that it was a mere symbol that could later be abolished.

Northern Ireland, which already had a functioning parliament and rapidly evolving state, repudiated the agreement. The south asserted their ‘supreme authority’ over Northern Ireland, and most southerners were confident that Northern Ireland could not survive alone. Collins supplied arms to Catholics and sought to destabilise the North.

Most people were relieved that the last two and a half years of violence had ended. However, the IRA split over it. Collins promoted his own stance through the IRB, which he still controlled. De Valera meanwhile opposed the Treaty. He had remained in Dublin, preparing to use his political skills to deal with the backlash to the Treaty; but the Treaty was signed without his permission. He therefore dissociated himself from it. The Dail ratified the Treaty by a small majority.

This year saw 1086 deaths. Nearly half the victims were soldiers and policemen.

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The Four Courts during the Civil War                 The Civil War

Click here for web links about the Civil War

1922-24  During the period of the Civil War, twelve thousand opponents of the Treaty were to be interned. Civil liberties were restricted more in the Free State than in the North at this time.

1922   At the beginning of this year Ireland was under the control of the Provisional Government, which shared its authority with the Second DáilThey had no worthwhile army, police or courts. Some local military leaders in Cork, Tipperary and Dublin wanted to continue the struggle. The IRB was too fragmented for the state to use it.

(April). The anti-Treaty IRA occupied the Four Courts. Rory O’Connor and Liam Mellows, both Republican leaders, were involved, and also paramilitaries like Liam Lynch, Tom Barry and Ernie O’Malley.

James Craig, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, saw the Boundary Commission as a threat and refused to recognise it. He was an Orangeman first and a politician second, once describing Northern Ireland as ‘a Protestant Parliament and a Protestant State’. Northern Protestants, afraid that the Boundary Commission would undermine them, rioted and many Catholics were killed. In the first six months there were 264 dead, two thirds of them Catholics. Catholic refugees fled south. The A & B Specials, paramilitary police, asserted the law in often illegal ways. The newly organised RUC with its ‘B Special’ reserves marched under the Union Jack wearing war medals and were referred to as ‘Ulster’s Guardians of Peace’. The enemy was clear; the IRA, who were fighting against the Treaty in the South and also causing trouble in the North. After the riots, the IRA had become a permanent menace. A Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act was passed which could punish possessing a firearm with death. It provided the basis for coercion until 1972.

The Catholic minority refused to co-operate with the new state.  Catholic school managers refused state grants and nationalist politicians would not take seats in Parliament. There was always the sense that Catholic Nationalists wanted to abolish the state.

The government in the North came to rely on Protestant fraternities like the Orange Order. Meanwhile the Catholics were not entering the new state institutions, like the RUC. What with both northern nationalists and republicans boycotting parliament, it was simple for unionists to gerrymander constituencies and abolish proportional representation. PR had been introduced as part of the Government of Ireland Act. The Act had also forbidden religious discrimination and given power to Westminster over Stormont, but these things were not observed. Over the next 50  years, the British were to be indifferent to Northern Ireland and allowed it to continue as it wanted.

(June). Although de Valera and Collins had attempted to stop voters overwhelmingly supporting the Treaty, Collins allied himself with Churchill and advised people to vote against anti-Treaty Sinn Féiners. Consequently support for the new constitution increased, while republicans abstained from the provisional parliament. The June General Election gave a pro-Treaty majority. Many Irishmen who had been in the British army now joined the Free State army, making the anti-Treaty side view the whole affair as continued British rule. Collins himself was miserable.

nd June). The security advisor of Northern Ireland, Sir Henry Wilson, was murdered by IRA members Joe O'Sullivan and Reggie Dunne.
Collins had ordered the killers to do the deed before the truce, and he now campaigned to save them from the death sentence. The British government assumed that the order to murder Wilson had come from the Four Courts, and they demanded that Collins take action or lose the Treaty.

After a few days, Collins, provoked by the kidnapping of one of his own generals, J.J. O'Connell, shelled the Four Courts. Churchill had provided him with arms and helped recapture the Four Courts from the dissident army council. Other anti-Treaty republicans took over other buildings on the street, and the Irish Civil War began. The fighting lasted eight days on O’Connell Street, but elsewhere, particularly in the south and west, the anti-Treaty IRA were strong. They held Cork. Aided by the British both in guns and soldiers, Collins pressed into action against his former comrades. The anti-Treaty IRA could no longer rely on popular support.

(Aug). Cork was retaken. A week later, Arthur Griffith died of a heart attack. After attending his funeral, Collins went to Cork to tour the newly won positions.  

(Aug 22nd). Death of Michael Collins  in an ambush. Some nationalists who had supported him fervently the year before now rejoiced at his death.

Republicans began to resort to ‘irregular’ methods such as bank robberies, destroying bridges and individual killings.

Free State leadership passed to William Cosgrave, a veteran of 1916. His cabinet were all committed nationalists. An Emergency Powers Bill was introduced which would allow the shooting of any republicans taken in arms. 27 people were executed during the next 7 months.

(24th Nov). Republican Erskine Childers was shot for possessing a small revolver Collins had given him. The anti-Treaty Republican Command decreed that any Dail member who had voted for the Emergency Powers Bill could be shot on sight. Four of their leaders were then shot without trial.     

Seventy-seven untried prisoners were executed.

1923  (Jan). Thirty-four more Republicans were executed. The bodies of those executed were not admitted to any churches, and wakes had to take place in theatres.

(24th May). De Valera, who had assumed more significance now the military wing had collapsed, told the IRA (the 'Legion of the Rearguard') to dump arms. By this time 800 troops and thousands of ‘irregulars’ and civilians had been killed. Irish nationalists were bitterly split. There were 13,000 Republicans in jail, many on hunger strike. De Valera refused to take the oath which would have allowed his party to sit in the Dail, leaving the Free State able to concentrate on consolidating its position. The issue of partition subsided.

In an election at this time, 30% of the vote went to the Republicans, but they would not take their seats in the Dail.  De Valera was imprisoned for a year, continuing afterwards to campaign for a Republic.

Sectarian conflict had been avoided because Protestants were less than 10% of the population; the Cumann na nGaedheal administration came to rely on Protestant support and the constitution avoided mentioning the Catholic church. The ‘Seanad Éireann’ chamber was designed to represent minority interests. Protestant bankers and businessmen helped to guide the economy.

1924    The British attempted to set up the Boundary Commission, despite the resistance of Northern Irish PM James Craig. They had to appoint their own Ulster representative. Eoin MacNeill of the Gaelic League represented the Free State. Due to his lack of fierce campaigning, a simple border was set; some parts of NI that would rather have joined the South, including large areas of Tyrone and Fermanagh, were retained by the North, while some southern areas that would have wished to join the North like Easter Donegal and North Monaghan were kept within the Free State. MacNeill resigned.

1925  (Dec). The Free State accepted the new border arrangement. Consequently, the Ulster Protestant attitude hardened further. They had seen the Free State consumed by violence. Free State Minister for Home Affairs Kevin O’Higgins called the Civil War ‘worse indignities than the British had practised on us since Cromwell’. The goals of the IRA campaign 1920-21 were a united and independent Ireland, but neither was achieved. With the Irish people accepting the new order, the IRA was irrelevant, ‘sad and bitter’ until 1969. They were reduced to destroying symbols of British Imperialism and disrupting armistice day crowds. They later demolished a statue of William III on College Green.

Nationalist politicians in Northern Ireland consented to take seats in Parliament.

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Eamon De Valera                                 The Rise of Fianna Fáil

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1926 De Valera founded Fianna Fáil (‘warriors of Ireland’) from the ashes of Sinn Féin. The Republicans had split into violent and non-violent factions. De Valera believed their purposes could be achieved through democracy.

The old Civil War Republican Executive (the IRA) attacked twelve police barracks, killing two Civic Guards. Some IRA leaders were trying to give the movement a new, socialist political outlook, but its members were too focused on the mythical goal of the Republic. One group, when ordered to support a bus strike, blew up a bus. Some IRA fought in Spain on the Republican side to try and reassert their contemporary relevance.

1927 Fianna Fáil won almost as many seats as Cosgrave’s party but refused to sit in the Dáil; this lost them votes. De Valera went to the Dáil but refused to take the oath; rejected, he went out and gave a speech to the crowd.

(10th July). Kevin O’Higgins murdered by the IRA. The government introduced a severe Public Safety Act and Electoral Amendment Bill which would force all elected candidates to take the oath. This time de Valera complied, although he removed the Bible from the table first. At last there were two parties in the Dáil.

The Cosgrave government, Cumann na Gaedheal, was becoming unpopular as it had been so long in power. Fianna Fáil began to seem more accepting of the IRA. Its members made positive comments about the Republic, describing themselves as ‘slightly constitutional, but before anything Republican’. The Cosgrave government viewed the IRA as heinous and set up a military tribunal to deal with it. It accused Fianna Fáil of being anti-Catholic revolutionaries.

1932 Fianna Fáil electoral victory. By this time, Fianna Fáil and the IRA were almost in tandem. The IRA’s intimidatory tactics and vote-rigging helped Fianna Fáil in their narrow victory.  When first elected, Fianna Fáil were nervous that Cosgrave’s party might remove them by force. The Commander of the Free State troops was approached to see whether he would accept Fianna Fáil. He said he would. Fianna Fáil were the men who in 1922 had ‘assumed the right to determine for themselves the will of the people, regardless of what the people had decided’. Now they set about altering the constitution. The oath was removed; the role of Governor-General made meaningless; and the Land Annuities (payments to the British Exchequer under the Land Purchase Act) were suspended, resulting in an economic war with the British government. The Republic was brought into being with the exception of the inclusion of Northern Ireland.

The ban on the IRA was lifted, and IRA prisoners who had committed crimes under the orders of the IRA executive were released, while those who had acted independently were not. Speeches given on the release of these prisoners made it clear how close Fianna Fáil and the IRA were.

A new Parliament was built at Stormont. Until it was suspended in 1972, it was dominated by Protestant Unionists at four to one over the Catholic Nationalists.

Any economic and social problems were less important to the Protestants than their security. There were riots in 1932, but generally despite high unemployment state security came before all else. The state tended to appease its Protestant majority by favouring them in jobs and housing.

1933 Another election, in which IRA intimidation was less necessary. Fianna Fáil won a comfortable majority, remaining in power for 16 years.

De Valera said he wanted Ireland to be self-supporting and its language and culture to be Gaelic. In practice, he was conservative in social and economic outlook and paid little attention to addressing social problems. Emigration continued. Strict literary censorship was in place banning the best modern writers and some classics. It wasn’t the kind of State the Northern Protestants would want to join.

In the North,
Basil Brooke, who would later become Prime Minister, boasted of not employing Catholics and said Catholics were out to destroy Ulster.

1934  Members of the IRA who had fought in the Civil War were awarded military pensions, persuading many republicans of the validity of Fianna Fáil. A special auxiliary group for the police, the Broy Harriers, recruited from the IRA. The IRA began to recruit openly. They were publicly bearing arms parading and drilling. Eoin O’Duffy, Commissioner of the Civic Guard under Cosgrave, had formed the ‘National Guard’ to counteract the IRA and its ‘communistic’ elements. O’Duffy emulated Mussolini to some extent and his organisation were known as the ‘Blueshirts’. The movement petered out, with some members going to fight for France.

1935 Riots in Belfast of a more sectarian character. De Valera’s victory in the south had made the Protestants aware of their anxieties.

Real government in Northern Ireland was carried out by local authorities rather than Stormont. This was a disadvantaged society; income per head was less than 60% what it was in Britain. Housing was inadequate.

1936  (June). De Valera had asked the IRA to hand in their arms, but they refused. After three vicious IRA killings of civilians which shocked the public, De Valera made the IRA illegal. 

1937  Constitution of Eire. This recognised the Catholic Church as the main church/majority religion, although it wasn’t ‘established’. This was a compromise after great pressure from the Catholic church; de Valera was deeply opposed to establishing the church. Irish nationalism, despite the creed laid out by Wolfe Tone, is in practice tied in with Catholicism. The state was named ‘Eire’ and claimed sovereignty over the whole island.  The only reason Eire was not referred to as a Republic in the constitution was because this would have made the Northern Ireland problem harder to resolve. The British Crown was now only a ‘symbol of co-operation’ between Britain, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand etc. The British government accepted this.

1938 Britain gave up rights to Treaty ports and ended the ‘economic war’. The loss of these ports made south-west Britain more vulnerable during the Second World War and seriously affected the Battle of the Atlantic.

In Northern Ireland, 87% of rural houses had no running water. 45% of deaths in the 15 – 25 age range were down to TB. There was discrimination against Catholics, although the Unionist politicians denied it. Londonderry was the worst. Its population was 60% Catholic/Nationalist, but the Corporation of Londonderry was only 40% Catholic/Nationalist. This effect was got by ‘gerrymandering’ – concentrating large numbers of people with majority views in overlarge electoral districts and their opponents in smaller ones, allowing the minority to win more seats. So 87% of Catholics were in one ward returning eight seats while the Protestants were in two wards with twelve seats, giving them the majority. Also in local elections, only resident occupiers – owners and tenants of a house – were allowed to vote. This meant that some had no vote while others had up to six, depending on the value of their property. On average, Protestants had more votes per head. The Protestant mayor of Londonderry had power over allocating houses, and he treated Protestants preferentially. Jobs were also allocated unfairly.

1939 There was still some sentimental ambivalence felt by some Fianna Fáil members to the IRA; but after the IRA raided the State’s main ammunition store in Phoenix Park, the government’s attitude hardened and proved as ‘coercionist’ as Cosgrave and the British.  The IRA continued their campaign of violence; four were executed in Dublin. These were hard times for the IRA. The radical leftists had abandoned them because of their lack of social policies; the militants split between those who wanted to attack the North and those who wanted to attack the English.

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Belfast in the Second World War           Ireland in the 1940s

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1939 (September 3rd). Britain declared war on Nazi Germany. The Republic of Ireland, remaining neutral, declared an Emergency.

During this year, an IRA bombing campaign hit Britain. Bombs were put in letter boxes and public lavatories, and one in a Coventry street on the 25th of August killed five people. The campaign was organised by Sean Russell. Russell arranged a collaboration with Germany but it was to no advantage for either side. He was to die on a German submarine.

1940 (May) The Germans dropped an agent, Hermann Goertz, into Ireland. The IRA failed to offer him effective support, and he was arrested. During the war, the IRA’s Chief of Staff had to take protection from De Valera’s Civic Guard against his own organisation.

There were unproven rumours that German U-Boats were calling at Irish ports to refuel and even arm the IRA. In some cases, the Germans were said to have bought fish off Irish fishermen.

The Irish people were happy to be neutral and to be confirmed as a separate nation to Britain. No one wanted to see the Germans win, but there was a sense of pleasure when the British met with a reverse. There was a determination to maintain neutrality, although many Irish citizens did actively support Britain in the war. When the British government considered seizing its lost ports by force, the Irish army went on a state of alert.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland was an important ally to Britain, providing a base for protection of Atlantic convoys. Belfast and Derry both suffered from German bombing, incurring 900 casualties.

1945    De Valera visited the German Ambassador in Dublin to offer condolences on Hitler’s death.

After the war, Churchill and de Valera exchanged hostile radio broadcasts in which Churchill criticised de Valera for ‘frolicking with the German and later with the Japanese representatives’. Churchill said it was tempting and would have been easy to have invaded Ireland. De Valera’s response was restrained, accusing Britain of turning its necessity into a moral code.

1947 Ireland became one of many countries to benefit from the Marshall Plan.

1948   Fine Gael under John Costello, the inheritors of Cosgrave’s party, and Clann na Poblachta, Sean MacBride’s radical republican party, took power. Ireland was declared a Republic, all Ireland in theory. No widespread social changes like those in Britain were introduced, however; Noel Browne’s Mother and Child scheme was dropped after pressure from the Church.

1949  The Republic of Ireland became official. Britain accepted it but guaranteed support for Northern Ireland until the Northern Irish parliament decided differently.

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Finglass Church, 1950           The 1950s and early 1960s

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(May 12th). Nationalists in the North of Ireland asked the government of the Republic to give Northern–elected representatives seats in the Dáil and Seanad.

(Aug 11th). In a Strasbourg meeting of the European Consultative Assembly, Irish representatives voted against Winston Churchill’s plan for a European army.


(April 11th) Dr Noel Browne,  Minister for Health, resigned and his Mother and Child scheme was overturned.

(April 19th) Northern Irish Attorney General John Edward Warnock, referring to Noel Browne, said that “Ireland is really ruled by Maynooth.”

(May 24th) Gardaí exchanged shots with two men who had thrown a bomb at the British embassy in Dublin.

(June 13th) Eamon de Valera became Taoiseach with one of the smallest majorities on record: 74 – 69.

(July 18th) The Abbey Theatre in Dublin was burned to the ground.


(Jan 10th) An Aer Lingus aircraft crashed in Wales killing twenty passengers and crew.

(April 30th) The Adoption Bill made provision for the adoption of orphans and children aged between six months and seven years born outside wedlock.

(May 30th) Minister for Education Seán Moylan announced longer summer holidays for national school children. 

(Sept – Dec) Taoiseach De Valera spent three months in an eye clinic in Utrecht.


(Jan 18th) Sinn Féin decided to contest all twelve constituencies in the next Westminster election.

(Jan 31st). The Princess Victoria ferry sank on its journey from Scotland to Larne in Northern Ireland, with the loss of 133 lives.

(March 15th)  10,000 civil servants marched down O’Connell Street in Dublin demanding a just wage.

(March 16th) Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr asked the American Congress to support a United Ireland.

(June 3rd) 500 unemployed men marched on Kildare Street, Dublin, demanding employment not dole.

(July 6th) 1,000 unemployed people stayed a 15-minute sit-down protest on O’Connell Bridge.

(Aug 29th) Kilmainham Gaol became a national monument.

(Oct 28th) Three of Dáil Éireann’s Independent TDs became members of Fianna Fáil.

(Dec 18th) The Censorship Board banned almost 100 publications for being indecent or obscene.


(Jan 11th) The Irish Council of the European Movement was formed in Dublin.

(April 20th) Michael Manning, aged 25, was executed at Mountjoy Prison, becoming the last person to be judicially executed by the state.

(May 16th) 30,000 marched through Dublin city in a huge Marian Year procession.

(May 18th) Fianna Fáil lost four seats in the general election, and the second inter-party government under John A. Costello came into power.

(July 5th) The Dublin Corporation decided that Nelson’s Pillar on O’Connell Street would not be removed.

(Sept 5th) 27 people died when KLM Flight 633 crashed two minutes after leaving Shannon Airport.


(Jan 6th) 1200 people met in Dublin to form the National Farmers’ Association.

(Dec 12th) Cork Opera House at Emmet Palace was destroyed by fire.

(Dec 14th) Ireland was admitted into the United Nations.

1956 - 62 The IRA carried out its Border Campaign. Nineteen people died, but Britain remained indifferent. Internment was introduced in both the North and the Republic of Ireland. The campaign ended on 26th February 1962 due to a lack of support.


(Feb 15th) Senator Owen Sheehy-Skeffington introduced a motion calling for the prohibition of all corporal punishment for girls in Irish national schools.

(May 1st) The Minister for Education Richard Mulcahy introduced the debate on a separate government department for the Gaeltacht.

(May 21st) First Cork International Film Festival opened by President Seán T O’Kelly.

(Nov 30th) Petrol rationing to be introduced from January 1st due to the Suez Crisis.


(Jan 1st) Seán South and Fergal O'Hanlon were killed in an IRA assault on an RUC barracks in Brookeborough, County Fermanagh.

The government announced that the new Cork Airport would be built at Ballygarvan.

(March 3rd) Eamon de Valera told a crowd in Cork that a United Ireland can be achieved with time and popular support.

(March 7th) Fianna Fáil returned to power winning 78 seats in the Sixteenth Dáil.     

(March 11th) Prize Bonds were introduced, with the Bank of Ireland operating the scheme on behalf of the Minister of Finance.

(July 4th) The Dáil debated the Fethard-on-Sea Ne Temere boycott.

(July 22nd) The Gough Monument in Phoenix Park was wrecked by an explosion so violent it was heard all over Dublin.

(Aug 7th) A 20-foot high war memorial, commemorating Limerick men who had died in World War One, was blown up.

(Oct 2nd) The Minister for Health, Seán MacEntee, launched the Voluntary Health Insurance Board.

(Oct 10th) A fire occurred at the Windscale Nuclear Power station in Cumbria, England. The radiation from the incident is alleged to have caused cancers and birth defects in County Louth.


(March 18th) Eamon de Valera said he would be willing to talk with the government of Northern Ireland on wider economic co-operation.

(May 10th) Independent TD John Murphy resigned in protest at the indifference of the main political parties to the plight of the unemployed.

(May 22nd) Minister for Education Jack Lynch told the Dáil that the ruling requiring women teachers to retire on marriage would be revoked.

(May 28th) A Greyhound Industry Bill established the Bord na gCon.

(July 28th) The Carlisle Monument, a bronze statue in the Phoenix Park, was blown  up.

(Sept 8th) Pan Am's Boeing 707 became the first Trans-Atlantic jetliner to land in Ireland at Shannon Airport.

(Oct 29th)
The government announced that proportional representation would be put to referendum.

(Nov 4th) De Valera attended the coronation of Pope John XXIII.

(Nov 12th) The Censorship of Publications Board banned Brendan Behan’s Borstal Boy.


(Jan 7th) Dáil Éireann debated whether De Valera could carry out the roles of controlling director of the Irish Press and Taoiseach simultaneously.

(Jan 23rd) A Pay-As-You-Earn system of income tax was considered.

(Feb 10th) Unions voted to end the fifteen year split in the Irish trade union. The TUC and CIU merged to form the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

(April 8th) James Dillon of Fine Gael announced that compulsory Irish should be abolished as it was counter-productive.

(June 25th) De Valera was inaugurated at Dublin Castle as the third President of Ireland.

(July 9th) The first twelve female recruits were selected to join An Garda Síochána. They passed out of the training depot on December 4th.

(July 29th) The new Department of Transport and Power was established.

(Sept 22nd) The Irish Congress of Trade Unions held its inaugural congress, attacking the government of Northern Ireland for not recognising the new organisation.

(Jan 13th) The Broadcasting Authority Bill proposed to establish an authority to provide the new national television service. The Television Bill passed its last stage on February 17th.

(Feb 16th) The Irish candidate Frederick Henry Boland received the support of the United States for presidency of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

(May 27th) The last barge on the Grand Canal left Dublin for Limerick, laden with Guinness.

(Nov 8th) Nine Irish soldiers serving with the United Nations were killed in the Congo. There was national mourning as they were buried on November 22nd.


(Jan 6th) Lieutenant-General Seán Mac Eoin left Dublin for the Congo, taking up his new post as General Commanding Officer of the United Nations.

(June 10th) Eamon de Valera and his wife greeted Prince Rainier and Princess Grace at Áras an Uachtaráin.

(Dec 20th) The last legal execution in Ireland took place in Belfast, where Robert McGladdery was executed for murder.

(Dec 31st) Teilifís Éireann went on air as President de Valera inaugurated the new service. Its first broadcast was a New Year countdown with celebrations at the Gresham Hotel and O’Connell Street, Dublin.    


(March 17th) De Valera and his wife had a private audience with Pope John XIII in Rome.

(May 8th) Irish troops left for a peace-keeping mission in the Congo.

(July 6th) First airing of the Late Late Show, compered by Gay Byrne.

(July 13th) U Thant, Secretary General of the United Nations, arrived in Dublin.

(Aug 21st) Former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower arrived in Belfast.


(Jan 24th) Minister for Justice Charles Haughey announced that the government proposed to abolish the death penalty.

(May 20th) Minister for Education Dr Patrick Hillery announced plans for comprehensive schools and regional technical colleges.

(June 27th) US President John F. Kennedy visited his ancestral home at New Ross, County Wexford. He was to speak at the Oireachtas the following day.

(Oct 16th) Taoiseach Seán Lemass was greeted at the White House by John F Kennedy.

(Nov 22nd) President de Valera addressed the nation on the death of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

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Bobby Sands mural, Belfast                The Troubles

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1963 Captain Terence O’Neill, an Orangeman, became Prime Minister of NI. He carried out the first meeting with the PM of the Dublin government (Sean Lemass) and made gestures such as visiting Catholic schools. Reverend Ian Paisley, a mob orator, led protests against him and formed a Protestant Unionist party to oppose him.

1964 Campaign for Social Justice founded in Belfast.

1966    Maghera, County Londonderry: a decision was made to form a Civil Rights Movement analogous to the blacks’ rights movement in America. At this time the Catholic community had rejected the IRA.

(March 8th). The IRA blew up Nelson's pillar in Dublin.

1967  Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association was founded. The IRA were not involved. The leadership of the NICRA were middle class and middle aged.

1968  Civil Rights marches began, and were banned by William Craig, Minister for Home Affairs.

(5th Oct) A civil rights march was brutally broken up by the RUC. O’Neill announced changes were to be made, but progress was too slow.

1969  (1st Jan). An offshoot of the Civil Rights Movement, People’s Democracy, marched for jobs, houses and ‘one man, one vote’. They were attacked by Protestants, including uniformed RUC. No attackers were arrested, but eighty marchers were. Then the police stirred trouble (including assault, damage of property) on Bogside. The same pattern was to continue throughout the year.

(May). Denis Healey, British Minister of Defence, objected to British involvement in Northern Ireland because they
were not sufficiently in touch with Northern Irish internal affairs. Even before the IRA began to take effect, Wilson’s government felt discouraged.

O’Neill called a General Election but was forced to resign and was replaced by the well-meaning but ineffectual Orangeman, Major James Chichester Clark. There were riots, the worst ones in Derry and Belfast that August in which the B Special Reserves ferociously attacked Catholics, killing six people and burning 300 houses. British troops were deployed in Derry and Belfast to save law and order from the police. People in the Republic were appalled at the sight of Nationalists under attack, and their Prime Minister Jack Lynch said his government could not ‘stand idly by’. Arms were sent to the northern Catholics. Young Catholics began to look to the IRA for defence, but it was ill-equipped. Recently the IRA had turned to more social revolutionary paths, but now it became patriotic and republican again. It was irrelevant to them that the Catholics were temporarily welcoming British troops; to them, the situation had echoes of 1920-21.

After August, the Civil Rights Movement became Nationalist. The IRA seemed more relevant than the young socialist radicals like Bernadette Devlin.

Reforms were introduced giving one man one vote. The RUC were disarmed and the B Specials disbanded.

(Winter). The IRA split into the Marxist-inclined ‘Officials’ and traditional ‘Provisionals’, named after the ‘Provisional’ government of Ireland declared in 1916.

1970 In Northern Ireland, clumsiness on the part of British forces soon antagonised the population. The IRA, who were asserting a rigid control over the Catholic areas, turned this discontent into patriotism. They provided the only leadership available. They orchestrated riots, especially in Belfast, hijacked buses and encouraged throwing stones and grenades at police. Assassinations of RUC men began. Off-duty RUC men and their families were attacked.

25 people were killed in this year.

(10th Jan). Anti-apartheid demonstrations were held in the Republic.
(April 3rd). Garda Richard Fallon was killed by an organisation known as Saor Éire.

(May 4th). Resignation of
Micheál Ó Móráin as a result of the Arms Crisis.

(May 6th). The Arms Crisis escalated in the Republic, with the Taoiseach Jack Lynch asking Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney to resign from the government. They were accused of attemping to import arms for use by the PIRA. The Minister for Local Government Kevin Boland resigned in sympathy.

(May 27th). Captain James Kelly, Albert Luykx and John Kelly were arrested, charged wth conspiracy to import arms.

(May 28th). Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney appeared in Dublin's Bridewell Court charged with conspiracy to import arms, along with Luykx and Capt. Kelly.

(June 25th). Bishops met at Maynooth to lift a ban on Catholics attending Trinity College.

(26th June). Riots broke out over the arrest of Bernadette Devlin. On the same day, the premature explosion of an IRA bomb in a house in Derry led the deaths of two children.

(2nd July). Neil Blaney was cleared on arms conspiracy charges.

(21st August).
The Social Democratic and Labour Party formed by Gerry Fitt.

(3rd Oct). Richard Nixon visited Jack Lynch in Dublin. His presence in Ireland was greeted by protests over the Vietnam war.

(23rd Oct). Charles Haughey, James Kelly, Albert Luykx and John Kelly were acquitted in the Arms Conspiracy Trial.

1971     (March). Three Scottish soldiers were murdered. Chicester Clark was criticised; Protestants wanted the B Specials back. Clark resigned under criticism from the Ulster Unionist Council to be replaced by the Unionist Brian Faulkner.

(3rd April). Eurovision Song Contest held in Dublin.

(11th April). The GAA lifted its ban on members playing 'foreign games' like soccer, rugby and cricket.

(22nd May). Members of the Irish Women's Liberation movement took a train from Belfast to Dublin bringing back contraceptives that were banned from import into the Republic.

(Aug). Faulkner decided ordinary law could no longer deal with the IRA, and he introduced internment without trial. He said they were ‘at war with the terrorist and in a state of war many sacrifices will be made’. Around 300 republicans were detained, more than any at one time since 1921. Few were members of the Provisional IRA. The IRA wanted people to think they were at war, as in 1919-21. Many Catholic nationalists were reluctant to accept its violence, preferring democracy. Later, 1576 people were to be arrested. The British government believed that the IRA could be contained with force, but they were wrong. The SDLP argued that there could be no military answer – a political solution was needed.

(19th Nov). Jack Lynch had talks with Harold Wilson in Dublin.

174 people were killed in this year. Unionist paramilitaries murdered 15 people in a bar on December 4th to take revenge on the IRA.

1972  (22nd Jan).  Taoiseach Jack Lynch and the Minister for External Affairs, Patrick Hillery, signed the Treaty of Accession to the European Communities.

th Jan). Bloody Sunday. Thirteen civilians were killed by British soldiers in Derry. The Republic of Ireland declared a national day of mourning for the following day; and the day after, 20,000 people attacked the British Embassy in Dublin and burned it down; the Republic of Ireland Foreign Minister declared it his aim to get the British out of Ireland. Direct Rule was consequently declared.

The IRA killed five women and a priest at an Aldershot barracks, two people in the Abercorn restaurant and six on a shopping street (Lower Donegall Street)  in revenge for Bloody Sunday.

As late as this year in Dungannon, the 50/50 Catholic/Protestant population were represented 70/30 in their council; roughly likewise County Fermanagh. East County Down was even worse

(19th Feb). The anti-EEC Committee organised a march along O'Connell Street, Dublin.

th March). Edward Heath’s government ended Stormont and took Northern Ireland’s powers of law and order, despite protests from Faulkner and the Unionists. Westminster now ruled directly. Heath saw direct rule as an opportunity to sort out the Northern Ireland problem. How to do this was not clear; he and his government were not familiar with the situation. The common view of his government was that a united Ireland was the only feasible solution, which had to be borne in mind without antagonising the Unionists. This principle had been part of the 1921 Treaty. The leaders of the PIRA, including Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, saw the taking of control by the British as a sign that the ‘war’ must go on. Car bombs were used. In one day alone, 30 bombs went off. However, the Catholic minority in the North, and the government of the Republic, welcomed direct rule. It made the Unionists anxious. Over the next twenty years they were to withdraw into traditional attitudes, and the more extreme Unionist groupings such as Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party grew in popularity. At this time, however, the British weren’t aware of this anxiety.

Labour, who in Opposition were considering withdrawal from Northern Ireland, gave it the codename ‘Algeria’.

(2nd April).  Raidió na Gaeltachta went on the air.

(17th April). The Irish Government launched its European Economic Community Referendum campaign.

Highest death toll yet. Protestant paramilitaries retaliated by attacking Catholics. The BritishOperation Motorman’ tried to crack down on the IRA but still 476 died in 1972.

(10th May). A referendum was held on Ireland's membership of the EEC. The poll came out almost five to one in favour.

(30th May). The Official IRA declared a ceasefire.

(July). Bloody Friday. 26 IRA bombs killed nine civilians. The 100th British soldier was killed. On July 31st nine civilians including three children died during bomb attacks on the village of Claudy. Catholic priest Father James Chesney was named in a report in 2010 as having masterminded those attacks.

(13th Dec). President De Valera signed the documents which ensured Ireland's entry into the EEC.

1973  (1st Jan). Ireland joined the European community alongside Britain and Denmark.

(6th Jan). Patrick Hillery was appointed Social Affairs Commissioner in the European Economic Community.

(28th Feb). The National Coalition of Fine Gael and the Labour Party won a general election in the Republic, ending sixteen years of Fianna Fáil government.

A White Paper released which stated that any new arrangements should be acceptable to the Republic of Ireland. The British government had reassured the Unionists that any decision on NI’s status would go with the majority, but this paper alarmed Unionists, as Articles 2 and 3 of the Republic’s Constitution stated that NI was part of ‘the national territory’ whose ‘reintegration’ was ‘pending’. A ‘Council of Ireland’ to represent both North and South was proposed. Such a Council had been part of the Treaty but was abandoned in the 1920s.

Brian Faulkner, PM-in-waiting for the next NI government, was ready in principle to accept British proposals. At a meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council he won a vote against rejecting the White Paper, but it revealed a serious split in the party. Some of the losers left the party. William Craig formed the ‘Vanguard’ party which was related to the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association. The UDA saw itself opposing the White Paper as Carson had opposed Home Rule in 1914.

(14th March). The new Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave received his seal of office from President Éamon de Valera.

(May). In the presidential election, voters went to the poll to find a successor to President de Valera. Erskine Hamilton Childers was the victor, defeating Tom O'Higgins.

(June). The British introduced a bill to create a Northern Ireland Assembly, and elections were held this month. ‘Official Unionists’ supported the paper, ‘Unionists’ did not. Although there was a majority vote for the White Paper, the Unionists generally were against it. The NI Assembly was given Royal Assent as the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973. The importance of the majority wish in Northern Ireland’s future was reiterated. Faulkner now had to find an executive widely acceptable to the community.

(24th June). De Valera retired from office at the age of ninety. He was to spend his retirement at Talbot Lodge in Blackrock. Childers was inaugurated as the fourth President of Ireland.

(6th Dec). The British and Irish governments and the power-sharing executive met at Sunningdale in Surrey. It was the first such meeting since 1925, and the anniversary of the 1921 Treaty. Britain was distracted by an oil crisis and a miners’ strike at the time. Consequently, a new man who knew little of Ireland, Francis Pym, became the Northern Ireland Officer. Unionist extremists like Craig and Paisley were not allowed to participate in the Conference. On the day of the Conference there was a large meeting of Unionists in Belfast. Although the Conference itself was successful, it was clear it couldn’t work given Faulkner’s minority in power. The Conference proposed a consultative Assembly for all Ireland with 30 members from each side. There would also be a 50/50 Council of Ministers with 14 members. Attempts to create a joint police authority failed. The Fine Gael Irish government agreed to reinforce the pledge about the majority wish in NI, although the clauses in the Irish constitution stating dominion over the whole of Ireland remained. To remove them would have required a referendum, which was risky. It appeared the mood was against removing them. Meanwhile the British government’s position was contradictory. They felt a united Ireland was desirable but were also stuck to their pledge to the Unionists. They failed to appreciate the strength of Unionist opinion. In fact, most Unionists rejected the idea of a Council of Ireland. Protestant paramilitaries formed an Ulster Army Council to back all Unionist politicians who opposed the Council of Ireland.

 1974   (Jan 1st). Power-sharing executive took office.

(Jan 4th). The Ulster Unionist Council rejected the Council of Ireland, forcing Faulkner to resign from the Unionist Party.

Heath held an election to sort out the miners’ strike. In Northern Ireland the election was fought about Sunningdale. The anti-Faulkner unionists won overwhelmingly. But Faulkner still had a majority in the Assembly – just not a Unionist one – and the Council of Ireland was maintained. A new Unionist grouping, the Ulster Workers Council, immediately called a strike. ‘Tartan youths’ and members of the paramilitary Ulster Defence Association spread intimidation. This was necessary because although Protestants were sympathetic, they didn’t want the cost of a strike. Electricity blackouts and roadblocks were set up. There was panic-buying of food and petrol pumps were guarded by the army. A fortnight later, the whole electricity supply was on the brink of failure.

Britain had a new Labour government under Harold Wilson. It had its own problems, and all Wilson did in support of Faulkner was to condemn the strikers as spongers. He was unsure of how to deal with Northern Ireland (which had 17,000 British troops at that time).

(17th May). Loyalist paramilitaries attacked the Republic, killing 33 people in one day in Dublin and Monaghan.

(27th May). Faulkner resigned because his executive was not likely to be widely accepted. The executive and Assembly were dissolved. Rather than trying again, the Wilson government considered complete withdrawal. There was a temporary truce with the IRA while this pullout was considered, but it didn’t happen because of Unionist resistance. His government is often criticised for not forcing an end to the Ulster Workers’ strike, but this would have meant humiliation for the majority Unionists. Also, it wasn’t certain that the military could have ended the strike – the UDA had a policy of pacifist resistance worked out.

(14th June). Anatoli Kaplin, first Soviet Ambassador to Ireland, visited President Childers at
Áras an Uachtaráin.

(17th July). The National Coalition's Contraceptive Bill was defeated in a vote in Dáil Éireann. Liam Cosgrave, the Taoiseach, was one of the seven Fine Gael TDs to vote against their own Bill.

(1st Sept). Transition Year was introduced on a pilot basis in three schools.

(21st Sept). Jack Lynch announced that Fianna Fáil would not support any proposal to repeal Articles Two and Three of the Constitution.

(17th Nov). Sudden death of President Childers aged 69.

(21st Nov). IRA killed 21 in Birmingham pubs.

(10th Dec). Seán MacBride, former Minister for External Affairs, was presented with the Nobel Prize for Peace.

(19th Dec).
Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh sworn in as the fifth President of Ireland.

1975 (30th Jan). Charles Haughey was brought back to the Fianna Fáil front bench.

(17th April). Mary Immaculate College in Limerick and Our Lady of Mercy College in Carysfort became recognised colleges of the National University of Ireland.

Elections tried to discover the policies that would have most widespread acceptance. The majority were against power-sharing and the Irish dimension. They wanted majority rule, Stormont-style. The government fell back to the military solution. The new Northern Ireland Secretary, Roy Mason, toughened up security and for a while the IRA were weakened.

(18th June). Dr Danny O'Hare became acting director of the National Institute for Higher Education.

(29th Aug). Éamon de Valera died at the age of 92. His wife had passed away on Jan 7th 1975.

(5th Sept). The IRA bombed the Hilton hotel in London, killing two people.

(Oct). The IRA kidnapped Dutch businessman Tiede Herrema, who was eventually rescued unharmed.

1976      (5th Jan). The SARAF, allegedly a unit of the IRA,  murdered 10 Protestant workmen at Kings Mill. This was in response to the killings of six Catholic civilians by Loyalists.

(15th March) After an IRA bomb exploded prematurely on a London tube train, the gunman shot dead the tube driver who pursued him.

(18th March). Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave met President Ford at the White House.

(31st March). The IRA carried out the Sallins Train Robbery.

(17th May). Tim Severin set off from Dingle to America in his boat 'Brendan' to trace the route taken by the sixth century monk Brendan.

(29th June). The highest temperature record for the twentieth century was set in Boora at 32.5C.

(21st July). Christopher Ewart-Biggs, the UK ambassador, and a civil servant, Judith Cooke, were killed by an IRA landmine at Sandford, County Dublin.

(23rd Sept). The President,
Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, consulted with the Council of State for four hours on whether to refer the Emergency Powers legislation to the Supreme Court.

(22nd Oct). The President resigned after being called a 'thundering disgrace' by the Minister for Defence
Paddy Donegan.

(3rd Dec). Dr Patrick Hillery was inaugurated as the sixth President of Ireland.

1977  (21st Feb). A crater on Mercury was named after the Irish poet W. B. Yeats.

(April/May). Roy Mason saw off a strike organised by Paisley. He ignored political conflicts.

(15th June). Fianna Fáil won the general election in the Republic.

(5th July). The 21st D
áil elected Jack Lynch as Taoiseach.

(10th Oct). The founders of the peace movement, Mairéad Corrigan and Betty Williams, won the Nobel Peace Prize.

(18th Jan). The European Court of Human Rights found Britain guilty of 'inhuman and degrading treatment' of republican internees in Northern Ireland.

(19th Jan). The Fianna Fáil government dismissed Garda Commissioner Edmund Garvey without explanation.

(Feb 17th). IRA firebomb killed twelve people at the La Mon restaurant.

(31st March). 6,000 people marched through Dublin to the Wood Quay site to protest the building of civic offices on the Viking site.

(19th Aug). Over 5,000 people took part in a rally against a nuclear power station at Carnsore Point, County Wexford.

(1st Sept). The Dublin Institute of Technology was created on an ad-hoc basis by the City of Dublin VEC.

(2nd Nov). Ireland's second national television channel, RTÉ 2, opened.

1979 (2nd Jan). The lowest temperature of the twentieth century was recorded at Lullymore, County Kildare, at -18.8C.

(8th Jan). Fifty died when an explosion destroyed the French oil tanker Betelgeuse off Whiddy Island.

(9th March). PAYE workers across the country took to the streets in protest against the tax system. On March 20th, a huge anti-PAYE demonstration was held in Dublin.

Violence erupted again. Airey Neave, Thatcher’s friend who was earmarked to become her Northern Ireland Secretary, was murdered by the Irish National Liberation Army on 30th March. Thatcher had her Northern Ireland Secretary organise a constitutional conference to see what progress was possible; he found the situation stuck. The British then turned to the Irish dimension - the Republic’s claim to authority over all Ireland. In the Republic, Fianna Fáil, who regarded the Treaty of 1921 as a betrayal, were in power. The Taoiseach was Charles Haughey, whose father was involved in the IRA during the Civil War. He represented the republican tradition at its most realistic.

(2nd June). Protesters opposed to the building of civic offices at the site of Viking excavations in Wood Quay occupied the area.

(9th Aug). The first group of Vietnamese boat people arrived.

(27th Aug). 18 soldiers and Mountbatten and his family killed by IRA.

(29th Sept). Pope John Paul II arrived in Ireland for a three day visit. On the first day he appealed to the IRA for peace.

(29th Nov). The Taoiseach Jack Lynch greeted European Economic Community heads of government who had come to Dublin Castle for a summit meeting. On the 5th Dec he announced his resignation as Taoiseach, and was succeeded by Charles Haughey on Dec 11th.

1980 (Feb). Derrynaflan Chalice found at Killenaule.

Ireland won the Eurovision Song Contest.

(Aug). 18 people died in the Buttevant Rail Disaster. In the same month, ten people perished in a fire at the Bundoran Hotel in County Donegal.

(Oct). Mella Carroll became the Republic of Ireland's first female high court judge.

(Nov). 1979 Family Planning Act came into operation.

Jack Lynch was given Freedom of the City of Cork.

(Dec). Although Thatcher reassured the Unionists that the Northern Irish majority came first, a meeting at Dublin between her and Haughey appeared to lay guidelines for a closer relationship between North and South in the future.

John Hume of the SDLP said that traditional republicanism was wrong to put forward a narrow sectional view of Ireland, ignoring differences and advocating violence. Republicanism should mean unity for all. By this time, nationalism in the north and of the majority in the Republic now meant a different thing. In the North it was defensive. In the South it was nostalgic, but unrelated to daily life. Hume wanted to direct nationalist opinion that way in the North.

1981  (Feb 14th). The Stardust fire in Dublin killed 48 people.

Paisley organised a military parade and signed an ‘Ulster Declaration’ on the model of the 1912 Ulster Declaration. Most Unionists found the implications of the Dec 1980 conference disturbing. In the local government elections, the DUP achieved more votes than before.

Haughey wanted British military and political presence out of Ireland. Unlike the IRA, he stressed peaceful means. His approaches to the Unionists cut no ice. Paisley promised ‘no surrender’.

The weakness in the IRA’s position was that despite their violence they hadn’t driven the British out. The Unionists were determined to hold what they had. The SDLP were the most flexible.

Hunger strikes began for the political status of IRA prisoners. Bobby Sands and nine others died. Bobby Sands was elected for parliament while on his strike. The IRA called them martyrs. There was rioting after every death. The Americans gained respect for the IRA cause. Thatcher refused to make concessions and her relationship with Haughey deteriorated. Opinion in the South gradually became uneasy. The supporters of the hunger-strikers were involved in intimidation and there was a sense of impending anarchy. Eventually a demonstration, organised from the North, attacked Irish police around the British Embassy. This lost the IRA support. People in the Republic saw the IRA as aliens, imported thugs from another state.

(April). Ireland hosted the Eurovision Song Contest.

(May). Lawrence Downey hijacked an Aer Lingus flight in the hope of finding out the third secret of Fatima.

(June). A general election in the Republic of Ireland saw Fianna Fáil's worst performance in twenty years.

Thatcher, pressed by the Falklands War and the miners’ strike, lost interest in Ireland.

(Sept). Jim Prior became NI Secretary. Paisley blamed him for IRA deaths. MP Robert Bradford was killed. In such a climate it was hard to be creative. Meanwhile Thatcher made a speech saying Northern Ireland was as much a part of the UK as her own constituency. Prior worked on an idea for a new elected Assembly that would develop executive powers at its own pace.

1982 (Jan). Charlie McCreevy was expelled from Fianna Fáil.

(Feb). Corporal punishment was banned in Irish schools.

(May). The Republic of Ireland affirmed its neutrality in the Falklands Conflict and opposed European sanctions against Argentina.

On May 24th, 20,000 people marched against income tax and PRSI changes.

(July). Bill to set up an elected Assembly passed.

(20th July). IRA killed eight soldiers and civilians in London parks.

(Aug). Malcolm MacArthur murdered two people, forcing the resignation of Attorney General Patrick Connolly whose house guest he was.

(Oct). Elections for Assembly. Provisional Sinn Féin won 5 of 78 seats. However, the Assembly refused to budge from preconceived positions. The majority of Unionists wouldn’t discuss power-sharing and the SDLP wouldn’t sit down with them. The Irish dimension wasn’t considered; in the meantime, relations between Thatcher and Haughey had chilled after Ireland was neutral over the Falklands.

In the Republic, Charles Haughey survived a vote of no confidence by Charlie McCreevy.

(Nov). General Election. Garret Fitzgerald of Fine Gael became the Taoiseach. He wanted to see a united Ireland but recognised Protestant fears. He was more moderate than Haughey.

(6th Dec). INLA bomb killed 17 people at the Droppin' Well disco and bar.

1983  (Jan). A government bugging scandal forced the resignation of Ray MacSharry.

The racehorse Shergar was kidnapped and eventually killed by the IRA.

A motion to remove Charles Haughey from power failed after a twelve hour meeting by Fianna Fáil.

A general election in the Republic saw victory for
Fianna Fáil.

(June) Gerry Adams won West Belfast from the SDLP.

(Sept). Thirty-eight prisoners escaped from Long Kesh prison.

A referendum in the Republic led to the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, concerning abortion. This was to prevent abortion, which was already illegal, from being legalised.

(Nov). Businessman Don Tidey kidnapped by the IRA. He was rescued three weeks later.

Patrick Hillery was elected unopposed in the Irish Presidential election.

1984  (Jan).  A 15-year-old girl, Ann Lovett, died after giving birth in a religious grotto.

Gerry Adams shot and wounded in Belfast.

The final report of the Dublin forum, which had run for more than a year, came out. Its aim was to ‘abandon rhetoric’. However, it was crippled by the absence of traditional Unionists. The report blamed Britain for partition and ‘refusing to accept the democratically expressed wishes of the Irish people’ (in 1918). It proposed a united Ireland by consent, or a federal state, or a joint authority for NI. Thatcher rejected this. Even so, the climate was still set for negotiation.

(June). A visit to Ireland by US President Ronald Reagon was met by protests in Dublin.

European parliamentary elections were held.

(12th Oct). The IRA bombed a hotel in Brighton where the British cabinet were staying, killing five people.

1985 (26th Feb). Desmond O'Malley was expelled from Fianna Fáil.

th Feb). IRA killed nine RUC officers at Newry.

Sinn Féin, who still acknowledged their ties to violence, gained more than 10% of seats in district council elections. The Government were concerned that they would become more powerful. The republican vote in NI was nearly 30%. Government attention turned to the Irish dimension.

(July). Ballinspittle became a place of pilgrimage after two women claim to have seen a statue of the Virgin Mary move.

(15th Nov). Anglo-Irish Agreement at Hillsborough Castle. It established a structure of involvement of the Republic in Northern Ireland. The consent of the Northern Irish majority would be needed for change. In the meantime, an Intergovernmental Conference was set up to deal with Northern Ireland and British/Irish relations. Eventual devolved government was the shared aim. Even moderate Unionists felt betrayed. All 15 Unionist MPs resigned from Parliament and fought by-elections with the slogan ‘Ulster Says No’. They gained 400,000 votes. The Belfast Newsletter called the Agreement a ‘recipe for bloodshed’, and there were attacks and riots by Unionists.

Mary Harney was expelled from Fianna Fáil for supporting the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

(Dec). First meeting of the Anglo-Irish Conference at Stormont saw riots.

Progressive Democrats founded by Desmond O'Malley.

1986   (3rd March). Unionist Day of Action. Roads were blocked and the RUC attacked. Loyalists assaulted the RUC when they halted a banned Apprentice Boys march in Portadown, and the RUC accidentally killed a Protestant. The homes of RUC members were fire-bombed. Some Unionist MPs were appearing at menacing midnight shows of strength with masked men carrying cudgels.

(June). Referendum on removing the prohibition on divorce returned a no vote.

(Dec). Sharp rise in Visa applications for emigration to America noted in the Republic.

1987 (Feb). General election in Ireland brought Fianna Fáil back in as a minority government.

Molyneaux’s Official Unionists presented a petition to the Queen with 400,000 signatures asking for a referendum on the Agreement. 200,000 people had attended a protest on the Agreement’s first anniversary, and there was looting.

Protestant paramilitary groups became more radicalised and over the coming years they grew as active as the IRA. Despite all this, the Intergovernmental Conference continued. The Unionists had to realise that they could only remove it through negotiation.

(March). Irish National Lottery launched.

(8th May). British killed eight IRA and one civilian at Loughgall.

(9th May). Johnny Logan won Eurovision with 'Hold Me Now'.

(26th May). A referendum approved the Single European Act.

(1st Nov). Libyan arms bound for the IRA were seized.

(8th Nov). IRA bomb killed eleven civilians at a memorial service in Enniskillen.

1988    (6th March). Three IRA who had allegedly been planning to bomb a military ceremony were killed by the SAS.

(16th March). Michael Stone attacked the funeral of Rock of Gibraltar IRA, killing three people. The IRA consequently murdered two British soldiers who strayed into the funeral of these casualties.

(19th March). Major anti-Apartheid demonstration in Dublin. Nelson Mandela was awarded the freedom of Dublin in July.

(15th May). Loyalists murdered three Catholics in the Avenue Bar.

(June). IRA attacked British soldiers who had just taken part in the Lisburn Marathon, killing six.

(11th Aug). Sharp rise in AIDs cases induces the Department of Health to launch an information booklet.

th Aug). Eight soldiers killed by the IRA in  Tyrone.

The Official Unionists made contact with the government, and talks took place with the new NI Secretary Peter Brooke. Brooke suggested that Sinn Féin could enter the talks if it renounced support for the IRA. Brooke was the first NI Secretary to admit that the IRA couldn’t be defeated by military means and another approach was needed.

John Hume (SDLP) and Gerry Adams (Sinn Féin) made contact. Hume aimed to persuade Adams away from Republican violence. Adams modelled himself on the anti-Free State republicans of the Civil War. Having long advocated violence, he would have found it tricky to persuade his supporters otherwise. However at this time, all parties save the the DUP were considering eventual compromise.

The number of conflict deaths were down but a higher proportion of civilians were being killed, most by Loyalists. The British government were under pressure to sort the problem out. The Irish government weren’t too anxious to press their claim, despite their rhetoric. The reality was that a new, 26-county nationalism had emerged in the Republic. This included sympathy but little else for the North nationalists. In the North, nationalism meant defensiveness against the Protestants. Their need to remove the British seemed irrelevant to people in the Republic, especially with the Intergovernmental Conference in place. The major concession they were likely to be pressed to make was to amend Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution which laid claim to Northern Ireland. Many, such as Fitzgerald, considered a referendum on this. Meanwhile the Unionists were technically the most secure, but their fears caused by being a minority on the island made them intransigent. The events of 1912- 20 still haunted them, and the actions of the IRA strengthened their resolve. They were extremely sensitive to the ‘Irish dimension’. Brooke’s negotiations with Molyneaux’s Unionists came to little, but at least they were flexible on cross-border harmonization regarding matters like tourism, and they were prepared to accept a power-sharing assembly.

1989 (12th Feb). Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane was shot dead by Loyalists. British involvement has been suspected.

(March). Three Irish soldiers with the United Nations were killed in South Lebanon.

(June). General election in Ireland. Fianna Fáil formed a coalition with the young Progressive Democrats party.

(22nd Sept). The IRA bombed a recreational centre at Deal Barracks in Kent, killing eleven people.

1990  (24th Oct). Patsy Gillespie was forced to act as a suicide bomber by the IRA.

Mary Robinson became the first woman president of Ireland.

1991 Ireland signed the Treaty on European Union at Maastricht. It received a guarantee that its strict abortion law would not be affected.

1992  (17th Jan). Eight Protestant workmen were murdered at Tyrone by the IRA.

(5th Feb). Loyalists carried out bookmakers’ shop massacre.

Peace was needed for progress to be made, which meant getting Sinn Féin to rein in the IRA. Hume talked with Adams again in the early ‘90s. They agreed that a united Ireland should come about as a result of Irish self-determination, but there was no chance of Unionists going for it.

In the Republic, Irish voters approved a loosening of the abortion law. Access to information was guaranteed and travel abroad to have an abortion was permitted.

1993  (20th March). An IRA bomb in Warrington, England, killed Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball.

(23rd Oct).  The IRA killed ten Protestants in a chip shop on the Shankill.

30th Oct). Greysteel massacre of seven Catholics by Loyalists.

(15th Dec). The Downing Street Declaration began a peace process to end in a political settlement. John Major signed for Britain and Albert Reynolds for the Republic. Reynolds was Taoiseach of a coalition dominated by Fianna Fáil. This meant that the Irish party with the strongest national and republican tradition had guaranteed Northern Ireland’s constitutional status. The Downing Street Declaration once again referred to the majority in Northern Ireland. Its main difference from Sunningdale and the Anglo-Irish Agreement was its recognition of the key significance of Unionist opinion. The Taoiseach promised to investigate any potential threats to the Unionist way of life in the Republic. He also promised a change to articles 2 and 3 as a gesture to Northern Unionists. The Official Unionists gave it a guarded but sympathetic reaction.

By this time there had been 3168 killed in the last 25 years, including 648 soldiers and 294 RUC officers.

1994 (18th June) Loughlin Island massacre by Loyalists.

(31st Aug). IRA ceasefire. It was met with enthusiasm in republican areas of NI, but the Unionists had reservations because it looked like the republicans had achieved something. Paisley saw it as the worst crisis for Ulster since 1922. John Major expressed disappointment that the IRA were not giving up their arms nor promising a permanent ceasefire. The Times urged caution but also saw the high significance of the ceasefire. Major was convinced that Sinn Féin could not be involved until a permanent ceasefire was called. Hume and Reynolds told him this was unimportant.

(13th Oct)  Loyalist Ceasefire.  The UDA and UVF’s ceasefire gave the situation a boost, and the UDA announced its ‘abject and true remorse’ for its innocent victims. Major announced this government had a ‘working assumption’ that the IRA ceasefire would be permanent. He had to be cautious in coming together with Sinn Féin.

(Dec). Martin McGuinness headed a Sinn Féin delegation at Stormont. This was ground-breaking contact between Sinn Féin and the British government.

1995  (May). Gerry Adams met Patrick Mayhew, the NI Secretary. The British reiterated that there could be no progress without some decommissioning. Adams and McGuinness were aware that IRA hardliners would be impatient. It seemed as though the gap between the British government and Sinn Féin was too great. There was the awkward question of Sinn Féin’s relationship with the IRA.

The Irish government’s participation formed a link between Sinn Féin and the British government. Reynolds was gone by then. Before his resignation, he had told Major that the old anti-Free State IRA had never officially surrendered their arms, and this would affect the later IRA. John Bruton of Fine Gael  had became Taoiseach in December 1994. Fine Gael, the Civil War victors, felt less instinctive understanding for the IRA than Fianna Fáil. Bruton mistrusted the IRA and Sinn Féin, but even so he was too republican for Major.

(Aug). David Trimble became head of the Unionists. He had recently taken a tough stance over the traditional Drumcree march and had opposed Sunningdale. But with Sinn Féin renouncing violence, the Unionists also needed to change.

(Nov).Bill Clinton met Adams and shook hands with him. His involvement was partly down to personal conviction and partly due to the fact that there were forty million Americans of Irish descent. US senator George Mitchell was tasked with reporting on possibilities for progress. Many IRA republicans remained stuck in the past and regarded decommissioning as humiliation. George Mitchell recognised that they would not decommission and recommended immediate multi-party political talks.

1996   (Feb). The IRA ended its ceasefire and attacked Canary Wharf. Gerry Adams blamed the British government and the Unionists.

(May). Sinn Féin gained 15.5% of the vote for the multi-party forum, but they were excluded from talks because of the cessation of the ceasefire. June 15th saw the Manchester bomb, and there were other attacks on soldiers during the year. This all made things more difficult for Adams. John Major said that in the future, there would be an interval after an IRA ceasefire so the IRA’s commitment could be proven. Talks went on with the Unionists, SDLP, and Alliance Party; some said Major was more concerned with maintaining his majority in the Commons with Unionist support.

1997 (May). Tony Blair came to power in the UK. The new NI Secretary was Mo Mowlam.

(June). Fianna Fáil took power in the Republic, headed by Bertie Ahern. Blair reassured Unionists and asked Sinn Féin for negotiation rather than violence. He and Ahern agreed that decommissioning need not be a precondition to talks. The talks had struggled on for two years without Sinn Féin, but Sinn Féin was still excluded because of continuing IRA violence.

(July). New IRA ceasefire

(Sept).  Sinn Féin was readmitted to peace talks. The DUP promptly withdrew. The talks were highly tense, with many regarding IRA violence as unforgivable. Sinn Féin was suspended once because of IRA activity. A deadline of  9th April 1998 was set for a final settlement.

Despite opposition from the Catholic church, divorce became legal in the Republic under certain circumstances.

(Oct). Mary McAleese became President of Ireland.

1998  (1st April). Disagreements dragged on between the British and Irish governments over the North/South body that was to associate NI with the Republic of Ireland. The next eight days were to be a ‘nightmare’, with Ahern’s mother dying and Trimble’s Unionists rejecting the settlement blueprint, on the grounds that it was too pro-Sinn Féin.

(8th April). Blair flew to Belfast, followed by Ahern despite his mother’s death. The next 72 hours were full of frantic negotiation, including phone calls from Clinton. Sinn Féin raised 78 new points of issue. Decommissioning was still an issue; Sinn Féin said they couldn’t be responsible for it. Agreement was not finally reached, with acceptance from Trimble, until late Good Friday afternoon. Everyone was optimistic; the Unionists believed that the Union was strengthened. Adams thought most nationalists would be hopeful. George Mitchell, however, pointed out the continued lack of trust between Unionists and nationalists. The Good Friday document stated its regret for the past and hope for peace and mutual respect in the future. However, Trimble and Adams still would not speak directly to one another for five months.  The Agreement also said that both parts of the island of Ireland and a majority in NI should agree to unification and if they did, the British and Irish governments were bound to grant it. The status of NI would not change. An impression was almost given that the process would work itself out.  The Irish government positively committed itself to withdrawing articles 2 and 3 from the constitution. In a sense the Agreement had just produced a summary of the current situation. Feelings still ran deep on either side. Both sides were ‘idealists’ – the Unionists were already in possession of their idea while the northern nationalist ideal was an aspiration.

A new Northern Ireland Assembly was set up with 108 members representing the 18 Northern Irish constituencies. It would have the same authority as that held by the British government’s NI departments under direct rule. The d’Hondt voting system held that the majority vote should comprise a majority of all Unionists and all nationalists – a problem for Trimble who thus needed DUP and nationalist support. Three bodies were set up to improve Northern Ireland/Republic and UK/Ireland co-operation:

            »  The North/South Council for cross-border negotiation on education, agriculture, social security, health,                          transport, environment.

             »  A British-Irish Inter-Governmental Conference to bring the governments together.

              »  A British-Irish Council to continue contacts with the British government and devolved institutions.

A new police force was discussed as the RUC were not believed to represent the whole community. The RUC name would be changed to the PSNI, the Police Service of Northern Ireland. It would no longer fly the Union flag. All members were to be schooled in laws on human rights. The release of paramilitary prisoners was also discussed and some were released before serving their full time. Decommissioning of (primarily IRA) arms was an issue. They had not ‘won’ but they did not want to appear defeated. The Unionists pointed out that the Agreement was not safe while Sinn Féin was still allied with a violent organisation. The Decommissioning Act extended the deadline to 2007; weapons could either be handed to an independent commission or destroyed by the paramilitaries themselves. Sinn Féin, as part of the Agreement, was committed to decommissioning. Public referendums expressed endorsement for decommissioning. 94% in the Republic and 74% in NI.

(June). Assembly elections. The SDLP and Sinn Féin did well but Trimble’s Ulster Unionists were only slightly ahead of the DUP. Trimble was elected First Minister. However, he refused any power-sharing government with Sinn Féin without proof that they were active in decommissioning. The Unionists talked of Sinn Féin and the IRA as being the same.

(Aug). Dissident splinter groups of the IRA disagreed with co-operation with other groups. The Real IRA murdered 29 people in Omagh.

1999  (Nov). George Mitchell returned and after weeks of talks, persuaded Trimble to take office with Sinn Féin in return for evidence that the IRA would consider decommissioning.

(29th Nov). The first executive created by the Good Friday Agreement was formed.

(2nd Dec). The requisite powers were devolved in NI.

(17th Dec). Inaugural summit meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

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Dublin in the twenty-first century                         Ireland in the Twenty-First Century

Click here for web links about the years 2000 - 2007 in Ireland

2000 – 2002 During this time, devolution was continually suspended and restored. With no progress on decommissioning, the new NI secretary Peter Mandelson suspended devolution, in order to stop Trimble withdrawing from the Assembly and causing its collapse.


(Feb 3rd). John Gilligan extradited from the UK to Ireland on drugs and murder charges.

(Feb 11th). Devolution suspended over decommissioning dispute.

(March 25th). David Trimble narrowly won a leadership challenge for the Ulster Unionist party.

(May 6th). The IRA stated that it would put its weapons beyond use.

(May 15th). The Republic was named as a top tourist destination.

(May 17th). Dispute on which flags should fly from public buildings reached the British parliament.

(May 29th). Devolution restored two days after David Trimble won his party’s backing to re-enter the Assembly despite a lack of IRA decommissioning.

(June 26th). IRA weapons dump inspected.

(Sept). Bertie Ahern came under pressure to cut taxes in order to combat inflation.

(Oct 18th). Trimble banned Sinn Féin from North-South councils.

(Dec 12th). Bill Clinton came to Dublin as part of his peace mission for Northern Ireland.

2001 (Jan 6th). Decapitated body of George Legge recovered; he had been killed during Loyalist feuding.

(Jan 17th). Huge bomb found and defused near Armagh.

(Jan 23rd). Republicans carried out a mortar attack on a British army base at Derry.

(Feb 21st). David Trimble met Tony Blair in London to discuss the peace process.

(March 4th). Real IRA set off a bomb outside the BBC's main news centre in London.

(March 8th). Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern met for talks with the major political parties in Belfast.

(March 31st). Loyalists murdered Protestant Trevor Thomas Lowry, apparently believing he was a Catholic.

(April 13th). A small explosion at a post office depot in London was blamed on the RIRA.

(April 21st). Catholic civilian Christopher O'Kane shot dead, apparently by republican paramilitaries.

(May 3rd). Martin McGuinness confirmed that he had been the IRA's second-in-command at the time of Bloody Sunday.

(May 4th).
Drug dealer Paul Daly shot dead.

(May 6th). The RIRA set off another no-warning bomb at the post office depot in Hendon, London.

(June 7th).  Westminster election. Sinn Féin and the DUP both made major gains, with SF overtaking the SDLP as the major Nationalist party.

(June 7th). Irish voters rejected the Nice Treaty in a referendum. The treaty had to be approved by all 15 EU member-states before the EU could expand to include a dozen applicant countries from eastern Europe.

(June 18th). Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern met with representatives from the SDLP, the UUP and Sinn Féin  to discuss the peace process.

(June 19th). Loyalists began to protest outside the Catholic girls' primary school, Holy Cross. The blockade was to continue until June 29th and recommence in September.

(June 23rd). John Henry McCormick, a Catholic civilian, was killed in his home by Loyalists.

(July 4th). Catholic teenager Ciaran Cummings was murdered by Loyalists.

(July 9th). Weston Park talks began between Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair.

(July 12th). Twelfth of July celebrations in Belfast were accompanied by the worst rioting in years.

(July 19th). The first of a series of Loyalist attacks on GAA clubs.

(July 29th). Loyalists killed Protestant teenager Gavin Brett in a drive-by shooting. Secretary of State John Reid warned that he was reviewing the UDA ceasefire.

(Aug 1st) Bomb hoax at Belfast airport. On the same day, the British and Irish governments published their implementation plan for the Good Friday Agreement.

(Aug 2nd). A bomb in London caused several injuries.

(Aug 10th). The Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended for one day. This had the affect of postponing the election of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister for six weeks.

(Aug 13th). Three IRA men were arrested in Colombia where they were believed to have been training FARC militants.

(Aug 14th). The IRA withdrew its decommissioning proposals in response to the suspension of the Assembly and the UUP's rejection of an earlier disarmament proposal on August 7th.

(Aug 17th).
A policing implementation plan for Northern Ireland was published.

(Aug 20th). The SDLP spoke out in support of the policing plan.

(Sept 3rd).  Holy Cross protest began again. RUC and British soldiers had to clear protesters away as Loyalists threw bottles and stones at the children, some as young as four. On the 5th of Sept a petrol bomb was thrown at the children. The 7th of Sept saw a silent protest as a mark of respect for the death of a Protestant 16 year old, Thomas McDonald. Protests continued throughout September, some silent when the children were passing, but on 26th Sept fireworks were thrown at both children and parents. On Oct 1st balloons filled with urine were thrown. The following day Quentin Davies, Conservative Shadow Secretary of State, accompanied the parents and children in a show of solidarity. The protest stretched into October, despite condemnations from the government, proposed legal action and an alleged threat from the Catholic Reaction Force. On 17th Oct Loyalist paramilitaries exploded a bomb nearby, damaging a house. On the 7th of Nov, the mother of one of the children launched a legal action against John Reid for failing to protect her child. That same day, Archbishop Desmond Tutu met both victims and protestors. The protest finally ended on 26th Nov.

(Sept 12th). Republicans carried out a bomb attack on a security patrol in Derry.

(Sept 14th). The Republic of Ireland held a day of mourning to commemorate the September 11th attacks on America.

(Sept 22nd). The Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended for one day.

(Sept 28th). Loyalist paramilitaries killed the journalist Martin O'Hagan. John Reid said he would give the Loyalists a final chance to renounce violence. On the same day, a concrete block was thrown at children being taken to Hazelwood Integrated College, injuring six of them.

(Sept 29th). At the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, Gerry Adams said that terrorism was 'ethically indefensible' but drew the line between terrorism and freedom fighting.

(Oct 8th). The Northern Ireland Assembly debated a motion to exclude
Sinn Féin from the Executive.

(Oct 9th). Adams and McGuinness met Tony Blair at Downing Street to discuss the impasse in the peace process.

(Oct 12th). Secretary of State John Reid specified the UDA, ending recognition of their ceasefire.
David Trimble, who was in Washington, responded that Reid should specify the IRA next time they killed someone.

(Oct 14th). The Irish government held a funeral for eighty IRA men who had been killed during the Irish War of Independence, and were being reburied at Glasnevin Cemetry.

(Oct 18th).
Three Unionist ministers formally resigned from the Executive.  The UUP no longer wanted to share power with SF in the absence of decommissioning.

(Oct 22nd).  Gerry Adams publicly called on the IRA to decommission. John Reid responded that the British government would not be 'grudging or ungenerous'. The IRA began decommissioning on the 23rd; the International Commission on Decommissioning confirmed that this had occurred.

(Oct 29th). A Catholic civilian, Colin Foy, and a Protestant civilian, Charles Folliard, were killed in separate incidents; Foy by a RIR soldier and Folliard allegedly by the INLA.

(Nov 6th). David Trimble was elected First Minister of Northern Ireland, with Mark Durkan as the Deputy First Minister.

(Nov 8th). Taoiseach Bertie Ahern met George Bush in Washington. Bush reiterated his support for the peace process.

(Nov 4th). A RIRA car bomb went off in Birmingham, England, with no casualties.

(Nov 11th). Ulster Young Militant Glen Hugh Branagh was killed when a pipe bomb he was holding during a riot exploded.

(Dec 12th). William Stobie, who had been implicated in the murder of Pat Finucane, was himself murdered by Loyalists. The trial against him had collapsed on Nov 26th.

2002 (Jan). The Euro replaced the punt in the Republic of Ireland.

(9th Jan). Mikhail Gorbachev received the Freedom of  Dublin.

(March). An attempt by the Irish government to tighten already strict anti-abortion laws was defeated by a small majority in a constitutional referendum in the Republic.

(2nd April). In the Republic, Brendan Comiskey, Catholic Bishop of Ferns, resigned over criticism of his handling of abuse cases in the diocese.

(5th April). The first recruits of the new Police Service of Northern Ireland graduated.

(8th April). The IRA stated that it had put a second tranche of arms beyond use.

(17th May). Voters in the Republic re-elected Fianna Fáil's Bertie Ahern as taoiseach in a continuing coalition with the Progressive Democrats. The main opposition party Fine Gael lost over a third of its seats in parliament.

(21st July). On the 30th anniversary of Bloody Friday, the IRA offered its 'sincere apologies and condolences' to victims who had been 'non-combatants'.

(Oct). The Ulster Unionists and DUP members were on the verge of pulling out of the Assembly because of the IRA’s continued activity (punishment beatings, Colombia, spying etc).

(14th Oct). Devolution was suspended again by NI Secretary John Reid. In response, the IRA broke off contact with de Chastelain’s independent decommissioning body. But there was hope in that the Assembly had achieved some things, like abolishing the eleven-plus, establishing a Racial Equality Unit and resurfacing roads. The foot-and-mouth crisis was also handled well.

(19th Oct). Irish voters endorsed the Nice Treaty by a comfortable margin in a second referendum.

(30th Oct). The IRA announced it was suspending talks with the decommissioning body.

2003 (9th Jan). In a statement, the IRA described the Northern Ireland peace process as 'under threat'.

(21st Jan). The Spire of Dublin on O'Connell Street was officially completed.

(16th Feb). 100,000 people in Dublin and 30,000 in Belfast marched against the impending invasion of Iraq.

(7th April). US President George W Bush arrived in Northern Ireland for discussions with Tony Blair, and also met Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

(10th April). The British and Irish governments suspended a blueprint for devolution in Northern Ireland at the last minute.

(1st May). British PM Tony Blair postponed assembly elections until the autumn because the IRA's position was unclear. Blair accused the IRA of refusing to rule out all paramilitary-related behaviour.

(6th May). The IRA released a statement on the peace process.

(17th May). David Trimble narrowly won the backing of his party (the UUP) for London and Dublin's proposals.

(31st Aug). The remains of Belfast mother Jean McConville were found 31 years after her murder by the PIRA.

(4th Sept). Richard Kerr, former deputy director of the CIA, joined the four-strong Independent Monitoring Commission. Its other members included John Grieve, a former Metropolitan officer, Lord Alderdice, the first Presiding Officer of the NI Assembly and Joseph Brosnan, former Secretary General of the Department of Justice in Ireland.

(19th Oct). Sinn Féin, the Ulster Unionists and British and Irish officials met behind the scenes.

(21st Oct). The IRA endorsed a statement by Gerry Adams on republican commitment to disarmament. Arms chief John de Chastelain said that a third act of IRA decommissioning had been witnessed, but Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble stated that this was not enough.

(22nd Oct).  Talks resumed to try and break the impasse.

(26th Nov). The Assembly election took place. The DUP and Sinn Féin emerged as the largest parties.

(18th Dec). Rebel Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson quit the party along with two newly elected assembly members. Four days later, David Trimble announced his intention to remain leader of the party.

2004 (1st Jan). Ireland took over as the President of the European Commission.

(5th Jan). Lagan MP Jeffrey Donaldson joined the DUP with the two other assembly members who had resigned.

(3rd Feb). A review of the Good Friday Agreement began at Stormont.

(20th Feb). Dissident republican Bobby Tohill was snatched from a Belfast bar in what Chief Constable Hugh Orde described as an abduction attempt by the PIRA. Secretary of State Paul Murphy described this as a 'serious breach' [of the peace process].

(2nd March). The UUP leader pulled his team from the review because Sinn Féin had not been excluded over the Tohill incident.

(23rd March). Tony Blair and the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern met the parties in Belfast.

(27th March). David Trimble was re-elected as Ulster Unionist Party leader.

(29th March). A smoking ban came into effect in all pubs, restaurants and workplaces in the Republic.

(8th April). The IRA announced that its guns remain silent despite loyalist violence and 'bad faith' on the part of both the British and Irish governments.

(20th April). The IMC backed the chief constable over the Tohill affair and recommended financial sanctions against both Sinn Féin and the PUP over continuing IRA and loyalist violence.

(1st May). Ireland, as holder of the EU presidency, hosted ceremonies to welcome the EU's ten new member states.

(11th June). The European election. Sinn Féin's Bairbe de Brun took over from the SDLP's Martin Morgan, while the UUP and DUP held one seat each.m

(25th June). US President George W Bush arrived at Shannon Airport for an EU-US summit.

(30th June). French President Jacques Chirac said that Ireland's presidency of the EU was 'the best presidency ever'.

(22nd July). DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said unionists would guarantee political stability if republicans would give up paramilitarism.

(8th Sept). Former Taoiseach John Bruton was appointed the EU Ambassador to Washington.

(10th Sept). Tony Blair said that talks at Leeds Castle would show if there was the will to end violence and share power.

(18th Sept). Three days of negotiations at Leeds Castle ended without agreement. However, the mood was cautiously optimistic.

(1st Oct). Mary McAleese was elected unopposed for a second term as President of Ireland. She was inaugurated on Nov 11th.

(4th Oct). DUP leader Ian Paisley had a landmark meeting in Dublin with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

(16th Oct). Taoiseach Bertie Ahern held talks with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in Dublin.

(23rd Oct). Sinn Féin chairman Mitchel McLaughlin claimed the DUP were trying to humiliate the IRA over its demand for visible decommissioning. DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson said his party had been 'clear and consistent' on IRA decommissioning.

(28th Oct). The IMC reported that the IRA showed signs of winding down its capability. The UDA remained involved in organised crime and the UVF were a 'ruthless organisation retaining a capacity for more widespread violence'. Paramilitary violence had 'considerably reduced' but remained 'at a disturbingly high level'.

(12th Nov). The British government officially recognised the UDA's ceasefire in order to bring loyalists more fully into the political process.

(17th Nov). The two governments put their proposals to the DUP and Sinn Féin. The DUP responded a week later. No direct negotiations could take place because the DUP refused to talk to Sinn Féin. Both parties backed a £1bn peace fund.

(26/28 Nov). US president George W Bush telephoned Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams to offer his support.

(29th Nov). Gerry Adams held a groundbreaking first meeting with the head of Northern Ireland's police force.

(30th Nov). Ian Paisley informed the IRA that a deal to restore devolution would be 'now or never', but the IRA should 'wear sackcloth and ashes' and repent. Gerry Adams responded that this was 'offensive'.

(1st Dec). Gerry Adams stated that current talks could go no further.

(4th Dec). Ian Paisley met the decommissioning body chief General John de Chastelain for the second time in a week. His opinion was that it was unrealistic to set deadlines for a political deal when the IRA hadn't discussed decommissioning with de Chastelain. Meanwhile Adams appealed to republicans not to be provoked by Paisley's 'unacceptable language'.

(7th Dec). Gerry Adams recommended that his party accept the British-Irish proposals.

(8th Dec). Blair and Ahern came to Belfast to make their proposals public. Part of the plan was for the IRA to allow photographs to be taken of its weapons being put beyond use.

(9th Dec). The IRA rejected Ian Paisley's demands for a photographic record of its decommissioning.

(13th Dec). The British and Irish prime ministers held separate meetings with Sinn Féin leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. Bertie Ahern said afterwards that the demand for photographs was not workable.

(16th Dec). In Bogatá, Colombia, Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan (the 'Colombia Three') were given lengthy jail sentences for training Marxist rebels. Two days later they were said to have fled the region.

(21st Dec). Armed robbers stole £26.5m from the Northern Bank in Belfast, provoking speculation of IRA involvement.

2005  (1st Jan). Cork officially became the European Capital of Culture.

(7th Jan). Chief Constable Hugh Orde claimed that the IRA had carried out the Northern Bank robbery. Ahern said that confidence in the peace process had been damaged.

(24th Jan). Former Minister for Justice in the Republic Ray Burke was jailed for tax evasion as a result of legislation he introduced.

(30th January).  Belfast Catholic Robert McCartney was killed in a brawl with IRA members in a city centre bar. Over the next year, his sisters were to head a high-profile campaign to see his killers brought to justice.

(2nd Feb). An IRA statement announced that they were withdrawing their offer on arms decommissioning.

(3rd Feb). The IRA issued a warning about the peace process.

(7th Feb). Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern laid the foundation stone of a new town in the Republic, Adamstown.

(16th Feb). The IRA denied any involvement in the killing of Robert McCartney.

(17th Feb). Seven people were detained in the Republic over suspected involvement in the Belfast bank heist.

(25th Feb). The IRA released their initial report into the Robert McCartney murder.

(4th March). The 100th Sinn Féin Ard-Fheis opened in Dublin.

(8th March).  The IRA released a five-page document detailing their investigation into the Robert McCartney murder, declaring their readiness to shoot those responsible.

(17th March). US President George W Bush met Robert McCartney's sisters and partner at the White House. Unlike previous years, Northern Ireland's politicians were not invited to the White House St Patrick's Day celebrations.

(21st March). Police seized money in Dublin and Cork which they believed was linked to the Northern Bank robbery.
(23rd March). The IRA reiterated their condemnation of the Robert McCartney murder in their Easter message.

(6th April). Gerry Adams appealed to the IRA to help rebuild the political process.  The IRA responded positively on 26th April.

(16th April). The Gaelic Athletic Association voted to open up Croke Park for soccer and rugby.

(6th May). The DUP won nine constituencies in the general election. David Trimble was defeated and later stepped down, to be replaced by Sir Reg Empey. Only one MP remained to the UUP. Sinn Féin became the largest nationalist party at Westminster. Peter Hain took over from Paul Murphy as Northern Ireland Secretary.

(13th June). The Irish language was officially recognised as a working language by the European Union.

(28th July). The IRA announced a formal end to their armed campaign. Tony Blair called this a 'step of unparalleled magnitude', but Ian Paisley was sceptical.

(1st Aug). The British government set out a two-year plan to scale down the army's presence in Northern Ireland and change policing. It also announced its intention to repeal counter terrorist legislation particular to Northern Ireland.

(19th Aug). Former Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam died aged 55. She had overseen the talks leading to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

(15th Sept). The population of Ireland reached its highest since 1861. The increase was caused by returning Irish people and newcomers from Europe and Asia.

(25th Sept). An IRA statement verified that all arms had been put beyond use. This was confirmed by General John de Chasterlain next day. Further confirmation came from independent witnesses Reverend Harold Good and Father Alec Reid.

(22nd Nov). Peter Hain unveiled major changes in Northern Ireland's local government, reducing the number of district councils from 26 to seven.

(8th Dec). Stormontgate charges were dropped. The three accused - Ciaran Kearney, William Mackessy and Sinn Féin's Denis Donaldson - whose arrests had led to the collapse of the power-sharing executive in 2002, claimed the case against them had been politically motivated.

President Mary McAleese met Queen Elizabeth II at Hillsborough Castle. It was the first time the two heads of state had met in Ireland.

A car bomb heading to Blanchardstown was intercepted by the Gardai and members of Special Branch. The individual arrested was believed to be connected to the Continuity IRA.

(16th Dec). Sinn Féin member Denis Donaldson admitted to having been a British agent for two decades. He had headed the party's administration office at Stormont before being arrested in October 2002 over an alleged spy ring. He claimed there was no republican spy ring at Stormont.

2006 (11th Jan). The government dropped controversial proposals to allow paramilitary fugitives to return home without prosecution. Sinn Féin's rejection of it meant it was unworkable. The legislation had been widely opposed.

(25th Feb). Rioting took place in Dublin as Republican protestors attacked a Unionist 'Love Ulster' parade.

(17th March). More than 400,000 people took part in the world's largest St Patrick's Day Festival in Dublin.

(4th April).  Former Sinn Féin member Denis Donaldson was found shot dead in his Donegal cottage. The PIRA claimed they had 'no involvement whatsoever' in his death. Three years later the RIRA claimed responsibility.

(6th April). Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern arrived in Northern Ireland to unveil a blueprint for restoring devolution.

(16th April). Up to 120,000 people lined the streets of Dublin to mark the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

(26th April). Prince Philip of Britain met McAleese and Ahern in Dublin.

(10th May). Gerry Adams said his party would not participate in discussions on issues such as education and water charges because 'that would be pointless'. He promised to nominate Ian Paisley for first minister when the assembly returned, but Paisley asserted that there would be no first or deputy minister until Sinn Féin 'met its obligations'.

(15th May). The Northern Ireland Assembly was recalled with the view to electing an executive.

(21st May). Armed Gardai forcibly removed thirty Afghan refugees who had sought sanctuary in St Patrick's cathedral and carried out a week-long hunger strike.

(22nd May). Belfast City airport was renamed the George Best Belfast City Airport on what would have been George Best's 60th birthday. Best, an internationally famous footballer from Belfast,  had died the previous year.

(June). Death of former Taoiseach Charles J Haughey. He was given a state funeral.

(1st July). Leading members of all political parties in Ireland, North and South, marked the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

Dublin airport was evacuated twice in a week over bomb scares.

(19th July). Preliminary census findings for the Republic of Ireland reported a population of 4,234,925 million, an increase of 8.6% since 2002.

(24th Nov). Loyalist Michael Stone, who had previously attacked an IRA funeral in 1988, attempted to bomb the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont on the day nominations for the first and deputy minister were due to be made. His intention was to kill Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.

2007 (22nd Jan). Police ombudsman report in Northern Ireland confirmed that police colluded with Loyalists in over a dozen murders during the Troubles.

(28th Jan). Sinn Féin voted to support the police of Northern Ireland for the first time in the party's history.

(7th March). Elections held for the Northern Ireland Assembly.

(13th March). Record of interview released in which Peter Mandelson, former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, criticised Tony Blair's policy towards Sinn Féin.

(26th March). Ian Paisley of the DUP and Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin held their first face-to-face talks, agreeing a target date of May 8th for returning to power sharing.

(3rd May). The UVF and Red Hand Commando announced an end to all paramilitary activity.

(8th May). New power-sharing government formed in Northern Ireland headed by Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.

(22nd May). Roisin McAliskey rearrested on the request of the German authorities.

(24th May). Election in the Republic won by Bertie Ahern's Fianna Fáil.

(31st May). Fianna Fáil opened negotiations with the Green Party.

(14th June).  Coalition between Fianna Fail and the Greens announced.

(25th June). Charges dropped against soldiers and police in the Pat Finucane case.

(20th July). Shoot-to-kill case re-opened.

(31st July). The British army's military operation officially came to an end at midnight, passing responsibility for security onto the police force.

(22nd Oct). The PIRA were blamed for the murder of Paul Quinn. They would later be cleared by the IMC.

(11th Nov). The UDA announced that the Ulster Freedom Fighters were to be stood down at midnight.

(20th Dec). Sean Hoey found not guilty of the Omagh bombing.

2008 (Feb 1st) Bertie Ahern visited Ian Paisley's constituency.

(Feb 7th) Threats from dissidents forced the return of checkpoints to Ulster.

(Feb 14th) Real IRA member Andrew Burns shot dead.

(Feb 16th)  Ian Paisley's son Ian Paisley Junior resigned as a minister.

(Feb 24th)  Two Polish workers were murdered in Dublin.

(March 4th)  Ian Paisley stepped down as First Minister of Northern Ireland.

(March 18th) The extent of secret links between the IRA and the British were made public.

(March 19th) Queen Elizabeth came to Belfast.

(March 30th)  Mass loyalist attack on a pub in Derry.

(April 2nd)  Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced his resignation.

(April 11th) taser was used for the first time during an arrest in Ireland.

(May 6th) Bertie Ahern stepped down as Taoiseach. Brian Cowen was confirmed as the new Taoiseach next day.

(May 11th) Firebomb found in Cookstown toystore.

(May 13th) Officer hurt by booby-trap bomb in Tyrone.

(May 20th) A man was arrested over the 1977 murder of British army officer Robert Nairac.

(May 27th) Drug dealer hurt in a punishment shooting in Armagh.

(June 1st) Ian Paisley resigned as First Minister of Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin, antagonised by the use of the Unionist veto on matters such as education and policing, suggested that they might disrupt the handover to Peter Robinson by not nominating Martin McGuinness as deputy First Minister. However, both he and Peter Robinson were confirmed in their roles on June 5th.

(June 12th) Ireland voted on the Lisbon Treaty, the only country in the European Union to do so. The result, declared on June 13th, was 'no'.

(June 16th) American President George Bush visited Northern Ireland.

(June 27th) Terence Davidson was cleared in court of the murder of Belfast man Robert McCartney.

(July 1st) A massive goldmine was found in County Monaghan.

(July 10th) Northern Ireland's policing board concluded that there was no chance of a prosecution over the Omagh bombing.

(August 20th) Ian Paisley Junior defended his call for lethal force against dissident republicans.

(Sept 3rd) The IMC declared the IRA Army Council 'no longer operational'.

(Sept 30th) The Irish government guaranteed its banks in the face of the 'credit crunch'.

(Oct 9th) Chris Ward was found not guilty  of the Northern Bank Robbery.

(Oct) Abortion rights in Northern Ireland was discussed in Parliament.

(Oct 29th) 12,000 parents and teachers protested over education cuts announced in the Budget.

(Nov 9th). The murder of rugby player Shane Geoghegan by Limerick gangsters sent shockwaves throughout Ireland.

(Nov 18th). A deal was reached over the deadlock at Stormont, which had arisen over differences between the DUP and Sinn Féin about policing and justice.

(Dec 6th).  David Cameron of the Conservative Party announced closer ties with the Ulster  Unionists.

On the same day, the Irish Republic recalled all pork over fears that pigs had eaten contaminated food.

2009 (Jan 15th). The Irish government announced it was to nationalise the Anglo-Irish Bank.

(Jan 23rd). A proposed scheme to recompense the families of paramilitary dead on an equal footing with civilian victims in Northern Ireland met with controversy. It was rejected by the British government on Feb 25th.

(Jan 31st). A 300lb car bomb was defused in Castlewellan, County Down. It was believed to have been left by dissident republicans who were targetting the Ballykinler army base.

(Feb 3rd). Taoiseach Brian Cowen announced a €2 billion cut in public services and public sector pensions.

(Feb 11th). Dissident republicans were believed to have been involved in a 'drugs-related' murder in Derry.

(Feb 12th).  The Irish government announced plans to rescue the Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland.

(Feb 21st). Massive protest in Dublin about the government's handling of the recession.

(Feb 26th). Civil servants staged a protest against planned pension cuts.

(Feb 27th). The largest bank robbery in the Republic of Ireland's history targetted the Bank of Ireland in Dublin. Seven suspects were arrested and 4 million was recovered the next day.

(March 4th). The threat level from dissident republicans in Northern Ireland was raised from substantial to severe.

(March 5th). It was announced that British army officers would go back undercover in Northern Ireland, a move criticised by Sinn Féin.

(March 7th). Two British soldiers were shot dead and four people were wounded during a pizza delivery at Massereene army base. The following day, Gordon Brown condemned the attacks while Gerry Adams called them 'an attack on the peace process'. Responsibility was claimed by the Real IRA. Gordon Brown travelled to Belfast on March 9th to discuss the security situation.

(March 9th). A police officer was shot dead in Craigavon after responding to a call from a woman who said her house was being attacked. The Continuity IRA admitted responsibility. Two men were arrested on March 10th and more arrests followed, including that of top Republican Colin Duffy.

(March 11th). Peace protests were held in Northern Ireland as the Pope spoke out to condemn the violence.

(March 17th). Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Northern Irish leaders met US President Barack Obama in the White House.

(March 21st). Ireland won the Grand Slam for the first time in 61 years.

(March 24th). Amid reports that at least two of those arrested, including Colin Duffy, had gone on hunger-strike, a 17-year-old youth and a 37-year-old man, former Sinn Féin councillor Brendan McConville, were charged with the murder of policeman Stephen Carroll. The following day, six detainees won a legal challenge to their detention, but Colin Duffy was promptly re-arrested. On  March 26th,  a third man was remanded on a charge of withholding information. Republican Sinn Féin claimed in a statement that the shootings had been regrettable but necessary acts of war. On March 27th, Colin Duffy was charged with the murder of the soldiers.  On April 2nd a 19-year-old was arrested over the soldier deaths.

(March 27th). Financial advisor Ted Cunningham became the first person to be successfully prosecuted for the Northern Bank Robbery. He was sentenced to ten years jail on April 24th.

(March 30th). Republicans opposed to the peace process organised a day of chaos. Next day a school was shut down by a further bomb scare, and a convicted rapist was shot in a paramilitary-style attack. On April 1st, an alleged drug dealer was injured in another punishment shooting and another man was also shot. By April 5th, it emerged that the PIRA had warned the Irish government that they had lost control of Ardoyne. On April 27th, Martin McGuinness, who had received death threats, accused dissident republicans of turning the Bogside into a 'ghetto'.

(April 2nd). The day after unemployment in the Republic reached fresh heights,  Bombardier announced mass redundancies, meaning that 2% of Northern Ireland's manufacturing workforce had been laid off in four days.

(April 7th). A severe budget was announced in the Republic.

(April 27th). Businessman Geoff Kerr was shot dead in Antrim by a criminal gang posing as delivery men. The man charged over the murder on May 3rd was a member of a Loyalist criminal gang led by a British agent.

(April 30th). The Republic reported its first case of swine flu. The North followed suit on May 13th.

(May 7th). The IMC reported that republicans opposed to the peace process posed a serious threat but were not capable of a sustained campaign.  Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward vowed that dissident republicans would not derail the peace process, and also called on Loyalists to disarm.

(May 20th). A major report on child abuse within Catholic institutions was released.

(May 22nd). Ireland's first sextuplets were born in Belfast.

(May 24th). Catholic youth worker Kevin McDaid was beaten to death by a Loyalist mob in an unprovoked attack following a Celtic/Rangers football match.

(June 8th). A civil case brought by the families of the victims of the 1998 Omagh bomb found four members of the RIRA - Michael McKevitt, Liam Campbell, Seamus Daly and Colm Murphy - responsible for the murders.

(June 17th). In the early hours of the morning, twenty Romanian families fled their homes in Belfast after suffering racist attacks. On June 23rd it was reported that the families would leave Northern Ireland.

(June 18th). The British government was informed that the UVF had disbanded their weapons. On June 27th, the UVF and Red Hand Commandos announced that they had completed decommissioning, while the UDA confirmed that it had begun to decommission its arsenal.

(June 25th). The International Monetary Fund said Ireland was suffering the worst recession of any advanced economy.

(July 13th). 'Twelfth' celebrations in Belfast led to battles between republicans and police, which Sinn Féin blamed on the Real IRA. Rioting continued in Belfast for another two nights.

(August 7th). A young woman, Darina Calpin, became the first person in the Republic to die of swine flu. Her death followed that of Lee Porter, a soldier from Coleraine, who died on July 31st in England.  The first swine flu victim to die in the North, Caroline Hoy, passed away on August 20th.

(August  21st). A passenger train travelling from Balbriggan to Dublin narrowly escaped disaster when the rail track collapsed immediately after the train had passed over it.

(August 22nd). Long Kesh escapee Pól Brennan, who had been arrested in America after his work permit had expired, was deported from the US to the Republic of Ireland.

(Sept 6th). British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was criticised after it emerged that he had declined to put pressure on Libya regarding compensation for IRA victims. The following day, in the face of resistance from Colonel Gadaffi's son, Downing Street denied any 'U-turn' on compensation.

(Sept 8th). The British Army defused a 600lb bomb found on the border.

(Sept 17th). The jailing of three CIRA members for a planned mortar attack in 2007 led to three nights of rioting in Lurgan.

(Oct 2nd). People in the Irish Republic voted in favour of the Lisbon Treaty.

(Oct 11th). The INLA announced an end to their armed struggle.

(Nov 6th). Thousands of people across the Republic marched against cuts in public service spending.

(Nov 23rd). After a week of severe floods across Ireland, Environment Minister John Gormley claimed that the weather conditions had been the worst 'in 800 years'.

(Nov 24th). A quarter of a million public sector workers went on strike in the Republic to protest against budget cuts.

(Nov 26th). A report by the Commission of Investigation said that the church had deliberately covered up clerical child abuse.

(Dec). Three women challenged the Republic's abortion law at the European Court of Human Rights.

(Dec 17th). The Republic officially came out of recession after GDP rose by 0.3% in the third quarter.

2010 (Jan 1st). The blasphemy law came into force, making certain opinions punishable by a heavy fine. It was immediately challenged by a coalition of atheists.

(Jan 6th). The UDA confirmed that they had decommissioned their arsenal.

(Jan 9th). Iris Robinson, politician and wife of NI First Minister Peter Robinson,  was forced to resign from the DUP after it was revealed that she had failed to declare £50,000 she had received from two property developers to help her 19-year-old lover start a business.

Two days later, Peter Robinson stepped down as First Minister for a period of six weeks. He returned as First Minister during policing and justice talks on Feb 3rd.

(Jan 23rd). Sinn Féin warned of a crisis for Stormont after talks on policing and devolution faltered, mainly due to disagreements on the policing of Unionist parades and to differences over when devolution should occur. Taoiseach Brian Cowen and British PM Gordon Brown met on the 25th to discuss the crisis. The talks ended without resolution on the 27th.

(Feb 5th). A deal was reached regarding the devolution of policing and justice.

(Feb 15th-16th). The Pope met Irish bishops and condemned child abuse.

(Feb 22nd). A car bomb exploded in Newry, the first such bomb in around a decade. Police described it as a 'miracle' that no one had been killed or injured. Dissident republicans were blamed.

(March 9th). The NI Assembly voted in favour of devolving policing and justice.

(March 20th). The Pope apologised for clerical sexual abuse in Ireland.

(March 30th). It was announced that the Irish government was to provide the Anglo Irish Bank with a bailout of8.3bn. Next day, the Anglo Irish reported a 12.7bn loss.

(April 12th). On the day that policing and justice were devolved, the RIRA forced a taxi driver to take a bomb to an army base. A passing civilian suffered minor injuries in the explosion.

(April 22nd). A bomb exploded outside Newtownhamilton police station in County Armagh. Two people were injured.

(April/May) An ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano caused Irish airspace and other European airports to be closed intermittently, stranding passengers and costing the air industry millions.

(April 30th). Top RTÉ broadcaster Gerry Ryan was found dead at his home, apparently after taking cocaine.

(May 28th). Loyalist paramilitary Bobby Moffett was shot dead in broad daylight by rival Loyalists.

(June 5th). Irish ship the Rachel Corrie was seized by Israeli authorities after trying to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza.

(June 15th). The Saville Report into Bloody Sunday was published. It found that none of the victims had been carrying guns, although it did not accept that the nail bombs found in the pocket of Gerald Donaghey had been planted by the British. The British soldiers had been out of control and had been the first to fire, after which republican paramilitaries returned fire. People had been shot running away, lying injured and going to help the injured. British Prime Minister David Cameron apologised on behalf of the British Government.

Six of the British soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday criticised the Report, claiming Lt Col Derek Wilford was being used as a scapegoat. According to the Report, he had ignored orders by his superior, Brigadier Pat McClellan, and should never have sent the Paratroopers into an unfamiliar area where it was impossible to distinguish rioter from marcher.

(July 11th/12th) Eight men died in the Republic's most disastrous car accident on record.

Violence flared in the North around the Twelfth, with 27 police injured during riots on the night of the 11th, and around 100 police involved in containing an anti-Orange Order protest in Ardoyne on the 12th, during which baton rounds were fired. Meanwhile police described rioting in Derry as some of the worst in a decade. Rioting continued on the nights of the 13th and 14th.

(July 15th). Derry was named the UK's inaugural City of Culture.

(Aug 14th). On the day of the Apprentice Boys' March, a bomb went off in a bin in Lurgan, injuring three children. The bomb was the latest in a string of incidents (more detailed timeline here).

(Aug 24th). A report was published into the Claudy bombing of 1972, naming Catholic priest Father James Chesney as the mastermind of the attacks that killed nine people including children. He had not been prosecuted at the time to avoid stirring up further sectarian animosity.

(Sept 14th) A public inquiry found no evidence of state collusion in the killing of LVF leader Billy Wright by republicans at Long Kesh in 1997.

(Sept 21st) The National Treasury Management Agency raised 1.5bn of fresh loans by selling Irish government bonds. Two days later, the announcement that Irish national output had dropped by 1.2% in the second quarter of 2010 sparked speculation of a double-dip recession, which Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan denied. On Sept 30th,  the Governor of the Central Bank revealed that the bail-out of the Anglo Irish Bank could cost €34bn. The total cost of bailing out the banks could be as high as 45bn. On the same day, the Allied Irish Bank was nationalised.

(Oct 23rd) Thousands of people protested in Belfast against government spending cuts.

(Nov 3rd).  A student protest in Dublin against increased registration fees led to violence.

(Nov 4th). The government announced record cuts to the budget, including 6bn worth of cuts in 2011.

(Nov 12th/13th). It was reported that the Irish government was in preliminary talks with the EU over a financial bailout. On Nov 15th, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said that Ireland would make no application to the EU or the IMF for funding. The European Central Bank vice president had said that money would be available for Ireland if necessary. The following day, British chancellor George Osbourne said it was in Britain's interest to support Ireland. On Nov 18th, the Irish government accepted the idea of receiving financial assistance, with Finance Minister Brian Lenihan saying he felt 'no sense of shame about fighting hard for this country'. The government ruled out changing Ireland's low corporation tax. On Nov 21st, the Irish government confirmed that Ireland would be making a formal application for a bailout and the deal was affirmed that evening. A tough budget was unveiled on Nov 24th. Nov 27th saw a major demonstration in Dublin against the government's handling of the financial crisis. The following day, it was announced that an 85bn bailout had been agreed.

(Dec 7th). The Irish government produced an austerity budget.

(Dec 16th). The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Ireland had failed to implement the constitutional right to abortion when a woman's life was at risk.

(Dec) Ireland suffered a second heavy winter. In Northern Ireland, an unprecedented number of leaks in the water system caused around 40,000 people to lose access to water.

2011 (Jan 18th). Taoiseach Brian Cowen survived a Fianna Fáil confidence vote. However, on the 22nd he announced he would be stepping down as leader of Fianna Fáil, but would continue running the government until the next election. The following day, the Green Party announced that it would no longer be part of the coalition with Fianna Fáil. Micheál Martin was elected leader of Fianna Fáil on the 26th.

(Feb 10th). Six people died when a commuter flight from Belfast crashed while landing in Cork.

(Feb 25th). A general election was held in the Republic of Ireland. Fine Gael emerged the clear victors with Sinn Féin's vote increasing and Gerry Adams winning Louth.

(March 31st). Stress tests by the Central Bank revealed that Irish banks needed a further €24 billion capital.

(April 2nd). Ronan Kerr, a young Catholic who had recently joined the PSNI, was killed when a bomb exploded under his car.

(April 17th).  The rating agency Moody's downgraded Ireland's bank bonds to junk.

(Late April/Early May). 'Unprecedented' gorse fires hit both the Republic and Northern Ireland

(May 16th). Streets in London were closed off after the first bomb warning from republicans in a decade. The threat was in response to the Queen's imminent visit to the Republic of Ireland.

(May 17th - 20th). On May 17th, the British Queen began a four-day visit to the Republic of Ireland, the first visit by a reigning British monarch in a century. Dublin was under lockdown and security was extremely tight. One of the Queen's first acts was to lay a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance. On the second day, she visited Croke Park, the scene of the first Bloody Sunday in 1920. She also laid a wreath for soldiers killed in the First World War. At Dublin Castle that evening she expressed regret that Anglo-Irish relations had not always been 'entirely benign'. On May 19th she visited the Kildare stud and the following day she finished her tour at Cork.

(May 23rd). US President Barack Obama visited the Republic. His visit was cut short by a renewed threat from volcanic ash.

(June 20th/21st). East Belfast suffered two nights of rioting, apparently orchestrated by the UVF, during which both republicans and loyalists fired shots and a press photographer was injured.

(July 12th). While the North suffered riots, the credit rating agency Moody's cut Ireland's bonds to junk status and warned of further possible downgrades. The Irish government warned that this would damage Ireland's economic recovery and the EU criticised the behaviour of the credit rating agencies.

(July 13th). The Cloyne Report into abuse in the Co Cork diocese was published. It condemned the failure to report all cases of abuse to the police. On the 20th, Taoiseach Enda Kenny criticised the Catholic church for downplaying abuse. Five days later, the Vatican confirmed that its ambassador to Ireland, Giuseppe Leanza, had been recalled to Rome.

(July 18th).  A protest against austerity measures took place in Dublin.

(Aug 2nd). Senator David Norris withdrew from the Irish presidential race after a scandal involving his former lover Ezra Nawi. Two weeks later Gay Bryne also announced his decision not to run for president, apparently 'taken aback by the intensity of the media campaign against him.'

(Aug 14th). Around thirty people were injured after a bus overturned in Belfast.

(Aug 18th). Two women from Northern Ireland, Elizabeth Graham and Kathy Dinsmore, were murdered in Turkey by the boyfriend of Ms Graham's daughter.

(Sept 3rd). The International Monetary Fund announced it would release
1.5bn to Ireland.

(Sept 18th). Martin McGuinness was officially announced as Sinn Féin's candidate for the Irish presidency. Other nominees included the industrialist Seán Gallagher, social activist Mary Davis, Labour's Michael Higgins and Gay Mitchell of Fine Gael. David Norris re-entered the race along with former pop star Dana Rosemary Scallon on the 27th.

(Sept 23rd). The 'first Irish case' of death by spontaneous combustion was recorded.

(Oct 22nd). Two thousand people took part in an anti-austerity march in Dublin.

(Oct 24th). Flooding in Dublin caused the City Council to declare a major alert. That night, Garda Ciaran Jones was swept away by the River Liffey after stopping to warn motorists of the danger. Northern Ireland was also hit by floods.

(Oct 29th). Michael D. Higgins emerged as the next President of Ireland.

(Nov 25th).  A PSNI Gaelic football team played for the first time at Croke Park, Dublin.

(Nov 26th). Thousands of people marched against austerity measures in Dublin.

(Dec 13th). The highest known wave to hit Irish shores was recorded off the coast of Donegal.

(Dec 15th). The International Monetary Fund released €3.9 billion in loans to Ireland.

2012 (Jan). Three babies died from a bacterial infection at Belfast's Royal Jubilee Hospital.

(Jan 19th). Derry was hit by two bombs, with no injuries reported. Next day, Brian Shivers was convicted of the Massereene killings of March 2009, while Colin Duffy walked free.

(Feb 22nd). The UVF 'supergrass' trial over the killing of Tommy English collapsed, with nine men acquitted of all charges.

(March 3rd). The preserved heart of St Laurence O'Toole was stolen from Christ Church Cathedral.

(March 13th). Fourteen people were held in Northern Ireland's largest ever anti-fraud operation.

(March 15th). Providence Resources announced they had opened Ireland's first oil well.

(March 24th). Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced that he would resign from Fianna Fáil in the wake of the Mahon Tribunal's final report. The tribunal found that Ahern had failed to account 'truthfully' for a number of  financial transactions, but it did not accuse him of corruption.

(March 31st). Around 4,000 people protested in Dublin against the Household Charge.

(April 26th). The sixth Troika review found that Ireland was meeting its bailout targets.

(May 31st). The Republic held a referendum on the EU fiscal treaty. The referendum passed by a large margin.

(June 12th). Minister for Defence Alan Shatter told the Dáil that the Government apologised for the way in which men who deserted the Defence Forces to join the Allied Forces during World War II had been treated after the war.

(June 26th). The Queen of England began a tour of Northern Ireland. On June 27th, she attended a charity event where she met Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin and shook hands with him.  That afternoon, a huge Jubilee party was held at Stormont.

(July 26th). The Guardian reported that some of the main republican groups opposed to the peace process had united to form a new IRA.

(Aug). Ireland celebrated its most successful Olympic Games since 1956.

(Sept 2nd). Rioting took hold for three nights in north Belfast.

(Sept 15th). Three men from the same family died after falling into a slurry pit in Hillsborough. One was named as Ulster Rugby star Nevin Spence.

(Oct 18th). The first private clinic to offer abortions opened in Belfast amid protests.

(Oct 28th). Savita Halappanavar died at a hospital in Galway after being refused an abortion. The case came to international attention a couple of weeks afterwards.

(Nov 1st).  Prison officer David Black was shot dead by the new IRA in  Northern Ireland, the first prison officer to be killed in nearly twenty years.

(Dec 3rd). A decision to limit the number of days on which the Union flag was flown from Belfast town hall sparked weeks of protests, rioting and harassment of Alliance party members.

(Dec 21st). Fine Gael TD Shane McEntee committed suicide. Cyber-bullying was blamed in part for his death.

2013 (Jan 1st). Ireland took on a six-month presidency of the EU; Derry became the UK City of Culture; and tourism initiative 'The Gathering' began.

(Jan). The Unionist flag protests continued and became more violent, making international headlines.

(Jan). The Food Safety Authority of Ireland revealed that horse meat had been found in some burgers on sale in Ireland and the UK. ABP Food Group temporarily stopped production.

(Jan 19th). Around 25,000 attended an anti-abortion 'vigil for life' in Dublin.

(Jan 25th). Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe became the first member of the force to be fatally shot on duty since 1996.

(Jan 29th). Tycoon Kevin McGeever was found barefoot, emaciated and scarred after having been kidnapped eight months previously.

(Feb 5th). A report into the Magdalene Laundries was published. The Taoiseach Enda Kenny said they were the 'product of a harsh Ireland'.

(March 22nd). After heavy snow, the whole of Belfast was affected by a power cut. Severe weather continued to pummel the North for days, with a military helicopter flying food to animals in remote areas.

(April 5th). After an emotional debate, the Irish Medical Organisation rejected a motion supporting the regulation of abortion. During this month, the inquiry into Savita Halappanavar's death continued. Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he did not intend to hold another referendum on abortion rights.

(April 13th). Thousands of people attended an anti-austerity march in Dublin.

(May 3rd). Brian Shivers, originally found guilty of the Massereene killings, was found not guilty in a retrial.

(May 7th). Irish soldiers who had fought for the Allies during World War Two and had subsequently been accused of desertion were granted an official amnesty and apology.

(May). Controversy raged over whether Ireland was a 'tax haven' for companies like Apple. Meanwhile, the 'Croke Park' talks took place regarding public sector pay.

(June). The G8 summit was held in Enniskillen amid massive security. A large protest was held on June 17th, but the summit passed off without serious incident.

(July). The controversy over abortion continued, with a large pro-life march taking place in Dublin on the 6th.

(August). An Irish woman, Michaela McCollum, was arrested in Peru with another woman on drugs smuggling charges. They would later be sentenced to prison.

(August 30th). Nobel prize winning poet and playwright Seamus Heaney died.

(Sept). The Church of Ireland appointed its first female bishop.

(Oct 6th). Voters in the Republic rejected a government proposal to abolish Seanad Éireann.

(Oct 9th/10th). Republicans shot dead Kevin Kearney and Barry McCrory.

(Dec). Ireland successfully exited its bailout, the first eurozone member state to do so.

(Dec). Police in the North mounted a large security operation in the run-up to Christmas.

(Dec). The Haass talks in Belfast ended without agreement after weeks of debate, after the main unionist parties rejected them.

2014 (Jan 2nd). Cork centre flooded.

(Jan 13th). An inquiry began into abuse in Northern Ireland's children's homes and borstals.

(Jan 17th). The chairman of the National Asset Management Agency said he believed the property crash was over.

(Jan 31st). Two Irish students died in a fire at a hall of residence in Belgium.

(Feb 1st). People were evacuated in Limerick following flooding.

(Feb 1st). 19-year-old Jonny Byrne died while playing 'NekNomination'.

(Feb 5th). Death of student Patrick Halpen in London.

(Feb 15th). Thousands of people marched in Dublin calling for greater recognition of the Irish language.

(Feb 17th). Kingsmill survivor Alan Black told a coroner's court that state agents had been involved.

(Feb 21st). The case against John Downey over the Hyde Park and Regent's Park bombings collapsed because of a letter the PSNI had sent to Downey assuring him he would not face criminal prosecution. This sparked an inquiry into 'On the Runs' letters.

(Feb). Graham Norton criticised RTÉ's decision to pay the opponents of gay marriage €85,000.

(Feb). Workers at Allsop Space in Dublin held a sit-in protest.

(March 13th). Three people including NI peer Lord Ballyedmond died in a helicopter crash in Norfolk.

(March). German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the Irish bailout programme had been a 'tremendous success story'.

(March). Mayor of Boston Marty Walsh refused to march in the city's St Patrick's day parade because of the organiser's refusal to allow a LGBT presence.

(April). A goat-sheep hybrid was born in Kildare.

(April 30th). Gerry Adams was arrested over the murder of Jean McConville and held for four days.

(May 8th). Five-year-old Oscar Knox died after a long battle with cancer.

(May). Anna Lo of the Alliance Party announced her retirement from Northern Irish politics, which came about partly because of racist abuse from loyalists.

(June). A mass grave containing nearly 800 children's bodies in Tuam came to international attention.

(June). A study by the European Union showed that Ireland had the highest number of young cannabis users.

(June 16th). Protesters in east Belfast turned a Nigerian immigrant away from his new home. Earlier in the month, two Pakistanis said they would leave Northern Ireland after a racist attack.

(July 1st). Nine people were jailed for the murder of Catholic community worker Kevin McDaid.

(July). A row erupted over a series of cancelled Garth Brooks concerts in Dublin.

(July). Two divers drowned off the Cork coast.

(July 21st). An anti-fracking protest took place in Co. Fermanagh.

(July). The UN called Ireland's abortion laws 'restrictive'. Around the same time, Belfast Magistrates Court heard testimony from Bernadette Smyth of the Marie Stopes clinic who said she had been harassed by an anti-abortion campaigner.

(Aug 10th). Clashes between loyalists and republicans broke out in Belfast during a republican parade marking the anniversary of internment without trial.

(Aug 21st). Death of former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds.

(Aug 23rd). Thousands of people attended a protest about the pensions issue involving former Waterford Crystal workers.

(Sept). The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry investigated the treatment of children sent to Australia, and also abuse at Kincora and Rubane.

(Sept). Two men went on trial for burning to death a family's pet dog. They were later found guilty.

(Sept 11th). After the DUP and Sinn Féin clashed over Stormont, Gerry Adams said the political process was in serious difficulty.

(Sept 12th). Death of former DUP leader and First Minister Ian Paisley.

(Oct). The remains of 'Disappeared' victim Brendan Megraw were found in County Meath.

(Oct). Water charges protests took place across the country.

(Oct). Maíria Cahill claimed that the IRA had covered up sexual abuse she suffered as a teenager.

(Nov). The DUP's Gregory Campbell caused controversy by mocking the Irish language at Stormont.

(Nov 15th). Guns and bomb parts were seized during a raid on republican paramilitaries in Dublin.

(Dec). During a court case in which Ian Bailey attempted to sue the state over his wrongful arrest for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, Marie Farrell walked out of the witness box.

(Dec 3rd). A pregnant woman was declared dead in hospital. Despite this, her body was kept connected to a life support machine in order to save the foetus. Judges eventually ruled that the machine should be shut down.

(Dec 10th). Around 100,000 people protested against new water charges.

(Dec 28th). President Michael Higgins signed the Water Services Bill into law.

2015 (Jan). Irishman Barry Lyttle punched his brother Patrick in the head, causing him to go into a coma, while the pair were in Sydney. Patrick recovered and supported his brother.

(Jan 8th). Following the killings of journalists at Charlie Hebdo in Paris following the magazine's publication of Mohammed cartoons, Dr Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland condemned the attack while advising Irish publications to 'avoid things that might cause problems like that'.

(Jan). The DUP was told it would not be allowed to take part in UK General Election debates, despite the presence of the SNP and Plaid Cymru.

(Jan). Industrial action by NI Water meant that more than 1,600 homes in Northern Ireland were temporarily without water.

(Feb 10th). A bill allowing the termination of abnormal foeteses was defeated in the Dáil.

(Feb 10th). A tribunal in the North ruled that obese individuals could have disability rights.

(March 27th). Graham Dwyer was found guilty of the murder of Elaine O'Hara in a highly unusual case.

(March). Property billionaire Brian O’Donnell became involved in a battle to save his home from repossession.

(April). Irish student Karen Buckley was murdered in Glasgow. Alexander Pacteau later pleaded guilty to the killing.

(April 1st). The Irish government announced that it was planning to pardon Harry Gleeson, hanged for murder in 1941.

(April 18th). Thousands of people protested against water charges in Dublin.

(April). It was reported that hate crime figures in Belfast had risen by 43% in eight months.

(May 5th). Ex-IRA man Gerard 'Jock' Davison was shot dead. Fellow DAAD founder Kevin McGuigan was later named as a prime suspect in the killing.

(May 22nd). A referendum was held on same-sex marriage in the Republic. A majority voted in favour.

(June 1st). Paying for sex became a crime in the North.

(June 3rd). The Irish tricolour was flown briefly over Stormont, causing unionist outrage.

(June 6th). Paul McCauley, who had been left in a coma after being attacked by loyalists in 2006, passed away.

(June 13th). Thousands marched in Belfast in support of gay marriage.

(June 16th). Five Irish students and one Irish-American died when a balcony collapsed at Berkeley University.

(July 5th). Thousands marched against abortion in Dublin.

(July 6th). The oldest Irish-born woman, Kathleen Snavely, died aged 113 in New York.

(July). A proposed Frankie Boyle gig in Belfast caused controversy among disability groups.

(Aug 12th). Former IRA man Kevin McGuigan was murdered in Belfast. His killing led to a political crisis at Stormont after the PSNI said they believed the IRA was still active.

(Aug). The family of Limerick man Jason Corbett, who had died in the US, tried to get custody of his children. His widow, a person of interest in his killing but not the mother of the children, announced that she would fight for custody.

(Sept 10th). First Minister Peter Robison stepped down from his role and withdrew most of the DUP MLAs in protest at the ongoing crisis over the existence of the IRA.

(Sept). Students from Queen's University Belfast built a bridge out of Meccano across Clarendon Dock.

(Oct 2nd). Playwright Brian Friel died aged 86.

(Oct). Homeless families occupied a show home in Blanchardstown to protest the ongoing housing crisis.

(Oct 10th). Ten travellers, including a baby, died in a fire at Carrickmines.

(Oct 11th). Adrian Crevan Mackin, who was due to face trial for IRA membership in Dublin, shot dead garda Tony Golden who had gone to his home to investigate a domestic disturbance, before killing himself.

(Oct). Former Anglo Irish Bank CEO David Drumm hired top American lawyers to prevent his extradition to Ireland.

(Nov). A report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons in England and Wales called Maghaberry Prison in Northern Ireland the most dangerous ever inspected.

(Nov 21st). The LÉ Aoife left Cork harbour to help deal with the refugee crisis in Malta.

(Nov 30th). The High Court in Belfast ruled that Northern Ireland's abortion legislation was in breach of human rights law.

(Dec). Pastor James McConnell went on trial in Belfast over 'grossly offensive' remarks about Islam. He was found not guilty the following month.

(Dec 17th). Arlene Foster became the first woman to lead the Democratic Unionist Party.

2016 (Jan 2nd). Prominent Loyalist Mark Harbinson appeared in court charged with firearm offences. He had initially fled to England after weapons were found at his home.

(Jan 31st). Death of TV personality Terry Wogan.

(Feb 2nd). Fianna Fáil activist Brian Mohan lost his legal case against female-only quotas.

(Feb 5th). Gangster David Byrne was shot dead during a boxing weigh-in in Dublin. The CIRA claimed responsibility.

(March 1st). The case against Seamus Daly, accused of involvement in the Omagh bombing, collapsed.

(March 14th). Former Anglo Irish Bank David Drumm was extradited from the US to face fraud changes.

(March). Events commemorating the centenary of the Easter Rising took place.

(April 1st). Northern Irish 'drugs mule' Michaella McCollum was released from custody in Peru.

(April 3rd). A 'Remembrance Wall' for the 1916 Rising was unveiled at Glasnevin Cemetery. It caused controversy by commemorating British as well as Irish casualties.

(Oct 16th). Munster rugby coach Anthony Foley died suddenly in Paris.

(Oct 24th). The Ashers bakery lost their court case over their refusal, as Christians, to bake a cake decorated with a pro-gay marriage slogan.

(Nov 5th). Islamic State claimed that an Irishman, Terence Kelly, had blown himself up in a suicide attack in Mosul, Iraq.

(Dec). A 103-year-old woman was reported to have spent 15 hours on a trolley at Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore.

(Dec 3rd). Northern Irish Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness pulled out of a trip to China on medical grounds.

(Dec). Gerry Adams was involved in a dispute with the son of Brian Stack, a prison officer from the Republic of Ireland killed by the IRA.

2017 (Jan 9th). Martin McGuinness resigned from his position as Deputy First Minister, ostensibly over the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme scandal.

(Jan 10th). With the threat of avian flu rising, the birds at Dublin Zoo were taken indoors for their own protection.

(Jan 22nd). The New IRA shot and wounded a police officer on the Crumlin Road in Belfast.

(March 1st). Irish travellers were granted recognition as an ethnic minority.

(March 21st). Death of Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness from a rare heart condition.

(June 9th). After the Conservatives won the UK election with a narrow majority, they sought a deal with the DUP.

(June 14th). Leo Varadkar of Fine Gael became Taoiseach. He was the youngest person ever to do so. He was also the first gay and ethnic minority person to take the role.

(June 29th). The British government announced that abortion would be available for Northern Irish women on the English NHS.

(Sept). Former Royal Marine Ciaran Maxwell was found guilty of storing weapons for republicans and preparing for an attack.

(Oct). Bombardier, one of Northern Ireland's largest employers, faced a proposed 300% duty on its exports on planes to the US amid an international trade dispute.

(Oct 8th). A rally was heard in Athenry in favour of an Apple centre there.

(Oct 11th). The Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment heard that the online demand for abortion pills had trebled since 2010.

(Oct 16th). Storm Ophelia struck Ireland, resulting in three deaths.

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Timeline on Ireland Information Guide

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