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Welcome to Ireland!
The flag above is the flag flown in Ireland today. The orange stands for Protestant, green is for Catholic and the white stands for unity. The flag dates from the 1800's, but wasn't officially adopted until Ireland withdrew from the British Commonwealth and became The Republic of Ireland.
An old Irish pledge of allegiance went like this:
We are willing to fight for the flag we love,
Be the chances great or small.
We are willing to fight for the flag above,
Be the chances nothing at all.
The first people to live in Ireland came from the European mainland at about 6000 B.C. They settled on the northeast coast, near what today is known as Larne in Northern Ireland,and moved further inland along the rivers. At about 400 B.C., Celtic tribes from the island known as Great Britain and some of the European mainland invaded Ireland. The Celts gained control of the whole island and divided it into kingdoms called tuatha. The rulers of the different kingdoms were constantly at war fighting over their territories and boundaries.
In the A.D. 400's Saint Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland. Saint Patrick was born in Great Britain and taken to Ireland as a slave. He escaped after six years of slavery and went to France where he studied for priesthood. In 432 he returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary. The Irish people accepted Christianity enthusiastically. They came to regard him as their patron saint. Today, his feast day, March 17, is a national holiday. A Gaelic greeting you might hear on Saint Patrick's day is: Dia's Muire dhuit - God and Mary be with you. The other person would reply: Dia's Muire agus Padraig dhuit - God and Mary and Patrick be with you. One of the most notorious stories of Saint Patrick is that he drove all the snakes and toads out of Ireland.
"Then success to bold Saint Patrick's fist.
He was a saint so clever.
He gave the snakes and toads a twist.
And banished them forever."
About 795, Vikings began raiding the east and south coasts of Ireland They settled near harbors and established Ireland's first towns, including what are now Cork, Dublin, Limerick, and Waterford. The Vikings raided the countryside, robbing and destroying monasteries. In the beginning the Irish people could do little to defend themselves against the Vikings. In 1014, the Irish high king, Brian Boru, organized the princes of several kingdoms and defeated the Vikings at Clontarf (now what is part of Dublin).
In the 1160's the high king Turough O'Connor, overthrew Dermot MacMurrough, king of Leinster. Dermot asked the Norman king of England Henry II for help to regain his kingdom. Henry gave Dermot permission to recruit Norman soldiers and Dermot promised the Norman king to share the land they helped him conquer. Dermot ended up recovering his kingdom in 1170. When Dermot died in 1171, a Norman baron named Strongbow declared himself king of Leinster. Other Norman barons seized Irish land. Henry II wanted to make sure the barons still stayed loyal to him, so he traveled to Ireland in 1171 and forced them to recognize him as lord of Ireland. By the 1300's the Normans nearly held all of Ireland, but their loyalty to England weakened as they intermarried with the Irish and picked up their language and customs. By the early 1400's, England controlled only a small area around Dublin called the Pale.
The Conquest of Ireland:
In 1534, Henry the VIII of England tried to regain English influence in Ireland. He took all the power from noblemen in Ireland known as the Earls of Kildare and set up a more direct English control. In 1541, Henry forced the Irish Parliament to declare him king of Ireland. He then established English laws in Ireland. He also with little success tried to continue their father's policies throughout the 1500's. Henry's daughter, Mary tried to strengthen English rule by beginning what is known as the plantation of Ireland. She seized land in Leix and Offaly counties in central Ireland and gave it to the English settlers. Henry's other daughter, Elizabeth tried to establish Protestantism in Ireland. She outlawed Roman Catholic services and executed many Roman Catholic bishops and priests. In the late 1500's, revolts against the English broke out in Ulster (a large province in northern Ireland). The revolts were led by Shane O'Neill, an Irish chieftain, and later by his nephew, Hugh O'Neill, the Earl of Tyrone. In 1603 Elizabeth put down the last Ulster revolt.
In 1641, the Irish began a revolt against England. Oliver Cromwell crushed the revolt in 1649. Cromwell then gave more land to Protestant Englishmen and deprived the Catholics of many political rights. James II, a Roman Catholic, became king of England in 1685. He abolished many of the anticatholic laws rulers before him had established. But in 1688, the English people forced James to give up the throne. William III, a Protestant, then became king. James went to Ireland and organized an army to fight the English. Protestants in Ulster supported William and helped the English defeat James in the Battle of the Boyne, northwest of Dublin, in 1690. After William's victory, an additional million acres of land were taken from Irish Catholics. By 1704 Catholics held only a seventh of the land in Ireland. Catholics were also forbidden to purchase, inherit, or even rent land. They were also excluded from the Irish Parliament and the army and were restricted to practice Catholicism.
The Union with Great Britain:
In the 1700's Britain kept tight control over Ireland and limited the powers of the Irish Parliament. Many of the Irish Protestants did not like these restrictions, and Parliament, which was led by Henry Gratten, demanded legislative freedom. In 1782 Great Britain met the demands and the all Protestant Irish Parliament ruled the country for the next 18 years. Parliament gave back Catholic's rights to hold land and removed the restrictions on their religious rights. Unfortunately they still refused to give them any political rights. Some of the Protestants in Parliament tried to gain more rights for the Catholics. After their attempts failed, they formed a group called the United Irishmen. At first this group sought equal rights for all Irishmen. Later, however it demanded complete independence from British rule. In 1798, the United Irishmen attempted an unsuccessful rebellion. After this rebellion the prime minister of Britain, William Pitt, persuaded both British and Irish parliaments to pass the Act of Union which went into affect in 1801. Under this act, Ireland officially became part of the United Kingdom. With this, the Irish Parliament was no longer needed and was therefore dissolved, Ireland instead sent Irish representatives to the British Parliament. In 1829, Daniel O'Connell, an Irish Catholic leader, helped Catholics win the rights to serve in the British Parliament and hold public office.
The Potato Famine:
During the early 1800's Ireland's population grew very rapidly, but Ireland's economy declined. More than half of the people in Ireland lived on small farms and produced little income. Others leased land on estates and had to pay high rents to landlords. At this time, because of the poverty in Ireland at this time most of the people were dependent on potatoes as their primary source for food. From 1845 to 1847 Ireland's potato crop failed because of a plant disease. About 750,000 people died of starvation or disease, and thousands more left the country. Under the pressure of various Irish groups, the British government gradually passed laws to help the Irish. These laws protected tenants rights and established fair rents. Later laws provided financial help so that tenants could buy land from their landlords.
The Easter Rebellion:
During the 1800's, some Irishmen began to demand home rule for their country. With home rule, Ireland would still remain part off Great Britain, but still have it's own parliament for domestic affairs. Protestants in Ulster opposed the idea because they feared a Catholic parliament. The British Parliament defeated the home rule bills in 1886 and 1892. In 1905 an Irish journalist founded a political organization called Sinn Féin which means We Ourselves. The organization insisted on allowing the Irish people to govern themselves. Also around this time, another organization the I.R.B which stands for The Irish Republican Brotherhood wanted a completely independent Irish republic. The members of this organization became known as republicans. Finally in 1914 the British Parliament passed the home rule bill. However, the outbreak of World War I prevented it from taking effect. Republicans, led by man named Patrick Pearse thought that the war gave an excellent chance for Ireland to gain it's independence. On Easter Monday in 1916 they began a rebellion in Dublin. The fighting raged on for weeks before British troops defeated the rebels. After the uprising 15 republican leaders were executed. The executions created great sympathy for the republican movement. In 1918 the republicans gained control of Sinn Féin and won 73 out of Ireland's 105 seats in the British Parliament. But instead of going to London to take their seats in Parliament the new members met in Dublin. They called themselves Dáil Eireann which means House of Deputies. On January 21, 1919 they declare Ireland an independent republic. Following the declaration, fighting broke out between Irish rebels and British troops.
An Independent Ireland:
In 1920, the British Parliament passed the Government of Ireland act. This act separated Ireland into two separate countries. One consisted of the 6 counties of Ulster and the other consisting of 3 counties of Ulster and 23 southern counties. each country was to remain apart of Great Britain,but have some powers of self-government. The 6 Ulster counties with a majority of Protestants accepted the act and formed Northern Ireland. Daill Eireann rejected the act, and southern Ireland began fighting for independence. The rebels were called the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and attacked British army installations and buildings. Finally, in 1921 great Britain and Irish rebels agreed to a treaty that allowed southern Ireland to became a dominion of Great Britain called the Irish Free State. In 1937, The Irish Free State adopted a new constitution and changed it's name to Eire, the ancient Gaelic name for all of Ireland. On April 18, 1949 the prime minister of Ireland, John A. Costello cut all of Ireland's ties with Britain and declared Ireland an independent republic.
For more information on the history of Ireland's struggle for independence and for a resource of links relating to Irish Politics visit the Irish Political Resource
The term "Celtic music" refers to the traditional music of the Celtic countries of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and parts of Brittany (France) and Galicia (Spain). Celtic influence has also come upon the United States and maritime provinces of Canada. Though Celtic music has been alive and well for decades in the rural areas and pubs in Ireland and Britain, it wasn't heard much by those in the United States until the 1960's. It was during this period of time American folk music became very popular. Folk music was also taking hold in other countries, especially Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, and even France. Newly inspired traditional / folk groups in the U.S began reaching audiences outside of pubs and rural areas, and started reaching audiences across the nation.
Today Celtic music is experiencing a revival of an astounding multitude. The phenomenal Broadway success, "Riverdance," and a few key movies have triggered an enormous interest in the music of Ireland and Britain. Celtic music artists such as the Chieftains, Planxty, Andy Stewart, the Clancy Brothers, and the Dubliners are some of the most well known Celtic artists, and have paved the way for many of the new artists appearing today.
In the United States there is a great radio show called the Thistle and Shamrock. The show is once a week and is hosted by Fiona Retchie from Scotland. I highly recommend you listen to it. Find out when and on what station it is on near you by clicking on the Thistle and Shamrock logo.
I have some Celtic music for you to download if you wish.
*Note to listen to the following music you need a Real Audio Player. If you do not have a Real Audio Player download one at http://www.real.com
You might want to check out Ceolas Celtic Music Archive this site is the most informative Celtic music site on the web.
Unfortunately no Irish literature earlier than the 600's has been preserved. However, during the Golden Age, years A.D. 700 to 1000 some of the greatest Irish literature came to being. The works fall into three different cycles:
The Mythological Cycle - This cycle deals with the loves, battles, and other deeds of Tautha De Dannan and other people. The main characters were the sidhe, or she, who still appear as the fairies of Irish folklore. Some characters within this cycle may have been ancient gods.
The Ulster or Red Branch Cycle - This cycle deals with the deeds of the heroes of ancient Ulster. The tales center around the court of King Conchobar who was the ruler of Ulster at this time (around the time of Christ). The chief hero is the boy champion Cuchulain. The longest epic of this cycle is the Cooley Cattle Raid. The epic tells of how Queen Maeve of Connaught to carry the famous brown bull of Cooley. Cuchulain single-handily defended the frontier against her whole army.
The Finn or Ossianic Cycle - This cycle tells of the deeds of the famous chief Finn MacCool and his son Oisin, or Ossian. The cycle includes sagas, romantic tales, and ballads.
An author by the name of Morgan Llywelyn writes some excellent books centered around these three cycles. I really recommend you check one out at your local bookstore or library.
Click here for a list of her books
Irish Political Resource
Welcome to Ireland Store - Books, Movies, and Music
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The World Book Encyclopedia Copyright © 1974, U.S.A
Barth, Edna. Shamrocks, Harps, and Shillelaghs © 1977. New York, NY.: Clarion Books
McNally, S. J., Robert. Old Ireland. New York.: Forham University Press, 1965
O'Brien, Máire and Conor Cruise. A Concise History of Ireland. New York.: The Viking Press, 1972
© 1997, Reed