Ireland Information - Page 2
9500 BC - 4000 BC
Human settlement in Ireland was late compared with other European countries and is estimated at about 9,500 years ago. In Carrowmore, Co. Sligo, a layer of charcoal has been carbon dated to that time. This may have been part of a settlement and is the oldest one so far discovered in Ireland. Popular belief places human habitation in Ireland at around 7,500 to 8,000 years ago. These first settlers depended on natural resources for their survival - food was obtained by fishing and hunting and from wild fruit and nuts, tools were made from stone, wood and bone and clothes were made from animal skins. Their craftmanship involved making scrapers and various types of axe. Camps would have been by river or lake edges to trap fish and migrating water fowl.
During the Neolithic era houses were built. These were constructed of split oak timbers and held in position with small stones. Farming and domestication of animals replaced hunting and gathering of fruit and berries. Bones of cattle, sheep, goats and pigs have been found. The animals had provided a source of food and clothing and their bones were used to make tools. Grain, berries, and nuts were farmed. Containers were either woven or made of pottery.
4000 BC - 2500 BC
History is said to have been recorded with the beginning of writing. The intricate patterns found in and around Irish Prehistoric burial mounds - spirals, lozenges and zigzag patterns - can be seen as an early form of writing so it would seem appropriate to relate the history of Ireland from that time. The inhabitants were New Stone Age people who had settled around the valley of the river Boyne. They were farming communities who had great respect for their dead, building passage graves in the Boyne valley at Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. Over one thousand burial sites have been located in this area alone.
2500 BC - 800 BC
In the years that followed there was a succession of Bronze Age invaders from Britain, France and Spain. They introduced new types of weapons and new designs for jewellery made of metal. These people were particularly adept at prospecting and finding sources of metal, copper and gold and their craftwork was developed using these ores. Alongside this development, they revolutionised farming by introducing ox-drawn ploughs. The country experienced an increase in wealth resulting from these changes.
800 BC - 500 BC
About 700 BC, Celtic tribes arrived in Ireland. They were strong Iron Age warriors who imposed their way of life on the inhabitants of the country and divided Ireland into five provinces: Ulster, Leinster, Connaught, Meath and Munster, (Meath later became part of Leinster). The Celts travelled to Ireland in small groups.
The last of these invaders arrived about 100 BC. They introduced a language now known as gaelig which was used by the majority of the people of Ireland until about a century and a half ago. Their society was made up of tribal kingdoms, lesser and greater ones, living by agriculture and constantly fighting each other to gain supremacy and claim more land and cattle. In Co. Meath, the Hill of Tara became the base for the most powerful of the leaders and the early pagan High Kings.
500 BC- 700 AD
Ireland was considered to be a pagan country up to the fifth century AD, although some Christian teachings had earlier been introduced by immigrant scholars from Gaul. The year 432 AD is the traditional date given for the arrival of a missionary named Patrick, who was following instructions given to him in visions, to convert the people of Ireland to Christianity. His mission was a successful one. The Gaels incorporated Christianity as part of their culture. Monasteries were built becoming centres of learning. The monasteries thrived, having monks who were skilled smiths and scribes. Evidence of their work can be seen in the Book of Kells in Trinity College, Dublin and in the Book of Durrow and in ecclesiastical metalwork. Ireland became known as 'a land of saints and scholars'. Many of the monks set out to other monasteries in Europe to spread knowledge of their arts. This era was known as the 'Golden Age' of Irish history. Patrick, later canonised St. Patrick, is Ireland's patron saint.
750 AD - 1020 AD
In 794 AD Norsemen, known as Vikings, arrived in long open boats on Lambay Island off the coast of Dublin. They began attacking settlements, plundering monasteries, terrorising and looting Gaelic homesteads. This was the start of a turbulent period of Irish history.
Round towers were built with the entrance to them set high above the ground. Access was by means of a rope ladder. Those seeking safety would climb up and pull the ladder up after them.
The Vikings continued to terrorise the natives. Their raids were resisted and in 845 Mael Sechnaill, King of Meath, killed Thorgestr, one of the leading Viking chieftains. In 1002, Brian Boru became High King and had his base at Cashel. Mael Sechniall appealed to him for help against the Dublin Norse. Brian attacked the Vikings at Clontarf, near Dublin, on 23rd April 1014 and was victorious. Retreating Vikings killed him. His eldest son, Murchad, was also killed in the battle and Mael Sechnaill became High King of Ireland until his death in 1022. The important outcome of the Battle of Clontarf was that it broke Viking military power in Ireland.
1020 AD - 1300 AD
Alongside their campaign of violence, the Vikings had developed the first Irish towns. Dublin and Waterford were among the first walled towns that thrived as Viking settlements. Other towns founded by them were Wexford, Cork and Limerick. Many Vikings remained after their defeat at Clontarf, some married native Irish, converted to Christianity and joined the Irish in their battles, many of which were tribal battles. One such battle involved Dermot Macmurrough, King of Leinster, who was fighting the High King. He invited the Earl of Pembroke, better known as Strongbow, as an ally in his battle with O'Rourke. He also wanted Strongbow's armoured knights and archers as the use of bow and arrow and body armour was unknown in Ireland.
In 1169 and 1170, Anglo-Norman forces arrived in Bannow Bay in Co. Wexford and defeated an Irish and Viking army. In August 1170 Strongbow took Waterford after another fierce battle. As a reward he claimed the hand of Macmurrough's daughter, Aoife, in marriage and a year later became King of Leinster on the death of Macmurrough.
King Henry ll of England, who in 1154 had been recognised by the Pope as Lord of Ireland, was unhappy about Strongbow's independence and in 1171 he sailed to Waterford with a huge naval force and declared it a royal city. This did not deter other Anglo-Norman barons settling in various parts of Ireland that were outside of Henry's control.
Over the next two hundred years, the Anglo-Normans and the native Irish intermarried.The Anglo-Normans learned the Irish language and followed Irish customs. They seized land and cattle from others and built castles to protect their territory. This was their practice in all parts of Ireland except the west and central Ulster. They adopted Irish ways and Irish laws so that many Normans became 'more Irish than the Irish'. In the winter of 1348-9, the black death struck the country and killed about one-third of the population. Many people fled the country, some returning to England. The result of the tragedy and the migration from Ireland was that land was left unattended, manors and villages were left deserted and fields untilled. There followed a remarkable Gaelic revival.
1300 AD - 1700 AD
Many attempts were made by English Kings to quell the unification of the Anglo-Normans and the people of Ireland and in 1366 the English Crown introduced the Statutes of Kilkenny making the use of Irish language, customs and intermarriage illegal but to no avail. English control in Ireland gradually diminished to a small area around Dublin.
In the sixthteenth century, Henry Vlll decided to take a more active interest in Irish affairs. He sought the downfall of the Fitzgeralds, the Earls of Kildare. Garret Og Fitzgerald was the reigning Earl. While on a visit to Henry Vlll, a rumour was started that Garret Og had been executed. When the news was given to his son, Silken Thomas, the latter immediately started a rebellion against the English army. This rebellion was swiftly crushed. Silken Thomas surrendered and he and five uncles were executed in London in 1537. The Fitzgerald estates were seized and divided among English settlers.
Henry wanted to secure all lands in Ireland. In 1541 he established a Parliament in Ireland that declared him King of Ireland. In return for submission to him, Irish Chiefs regained their property and titles, under English Law. Many English families were voluntarily settled in Ireland.
Henry Vlll died in 1546, after which Mary l colonised Counties Leix and Offaly.
Elizabeth l, daughter of Henry Vlll, continued his work of ensuring that 'all lands in Ireland be surrendered to the Crown'. This she did with severity. Ireland was gradually brought into submission during her reign. However, the Protestant faith was not accepted even though hundreds of monasteries had been suppressed. By 1585 she controlled the provinces of Connaught, Munster and Leinster and more plantations of English people were organised. Elizabeth l died on 24 March 1603 and was succeeded by James l.
Hugh O'Neill, second Earl of Tyrone retained Ulster for the Irish. A Spanish expeditionary force under Don Juan del Aguila, landed at Kinsale in Co. Cork, in 1601. Hugh O'Neill travelled from Tyrone to Cork to help the Spaniards. The Spaniards were defeated. O'Neill submitted to the English at Malifont, on 30th March 1603 and as a result retained his title and property. However, four years of various pressures by the English proved too much and he and other Earls and many Ulster families left Ireland to live in exile in mainland Europe. This event is known as the 'Flight of the Earls' (4th September 1607).
King James l divided the land between Protestant gentry, Scottish lowlanders and English. They kept their culture and religion to themselves and did not intermarry as previous invaders had done. The remaining native Irish and Anglo-Norman Catholics led an impoverished, angry, existence. Some of the anger was vented on 23rd September 1641 in a fierce rebellion to reclaim their land and in November 1641 at Portadown, a number of Protestants and Catholics were killed.
Oliver Cromwell, had won the Civil War against Charles l in England. Exaggerated reports of the killing of Protestants reached him and he came to Ireland in August 1649 with a puritan army. He struck first at Drogheda, then on through the country leaving a trail of death in his wake. About this time Cromwell confiscated all fertile land and banished the Irish to the infertile land of Connaught. Hence the saying, 'To Hell or to Connaught'. The confiscated land was handed to his supporters. Oliver Cromwell died on 3rd September 1658.
James ll succeeded Charles ll to the throne of England in 1685. The Irish hoped to have land settlement altered and the position of the Catholic Church secured. However, since James ll's catholic sympathies angered the British, they enlisted the help of William of Orange, the Protestant son-in-law of James. James was forced to flee to France in 1689. Irish Protestants heard of his intentions of forming an Irish army to regain his throne from William of Orange. They were prepared and on 12th July 1690, the Battle of the Boyne took place between Irish Catholics led by James and English Protestants led by William of Orange: William was victorious.
A further and final surrender of the Irish came in 1691 when the Catholic armies, under the command of Patrick Sarsfield, signed the Treaty of Limerick. The treaty contained some generous terms for the Catholics. However when the treaty reached London some terms were missing. Instead penal laws were introduced in 1695: all Irish culture, music and education were banned. Catholic services were held in the open-air as people were forbidden to congregate in churches; children were taught in fields. These locations were changed frequently to avoid detection by the authorities.
1700 - 1800
Religious sections of the penal laws eased by 1715. Despite this easing of the laws, by 1778 Catholics had barely five per cent of the land of Ireland.
Dublin meanwhile, thrived with a prosperous upper class known as the Protestant Ascendancy. Parliamentary laws still had to be approved by the British Crown. These Protestants were the first to seek to have Ireland treated equally with Britain. Henry Grattan and Henry Flood formed a Patriot Party calling for independence. Since Britain had withdrawn many of her forces from Ireland to fight in the Colonies, the British Government allowed an Irish governing body to be formed, known as Grattan's Parliament. Grattan had intended improving conditions and rights for Catholics but many of the other Protestant members of Parliament were not as sympathetic, so little progress was made over the next twenty years.
Towards the end of the 18th century, a Dublin Protestant and republican, Theobald Wolfe Tone, together with Presbyterians from Belfast, jointly formed an organisation known as the Society of United Irishmen. Their ideal was that Irish Catholics and Protestants alike should be brought together and known as Irishmen, in order to reform and reduce British powers in Ireland. They had limited success with Protestants in furthering their aim and so converted to a secret society by 1796. The French Revolution in 1789 had conveyed the message that 'the will of the people' in government was a possibility. Loyalist Protestants formed the 'Orange Society' in September 1795. A prominent Catholic, Napper Tandy and the Dublin Branch of Wolfe Tone's Society were working for reform and Catholic emancipation.
Wolfe Tone enlisted the help of the French and in 1796 he and a French invasion fleet set out bound for Bantry Bay in Co. Cork. Bad weather turned to gale force and the ships were unable to land. The invasion had to be abandoned.
The Dublin section of the United Irishmen, headed by Lord Edward Fitzgerald, tried to mount a rebellion. It failed because of informers. Lord Edward escaped but his hiding place was discovered and on May 19th 1798 he was captured and mortally wounded. The government uncovered attempts at another rebellion and employed floggings and pitch-capping in their search for arms and rebels. This treatment caused panic among the Irish and sparked off the 1798 Rising in Wexford which was led by Father John Murphy. After a few minor victories, they were defeated at Vinegar Hill near Enniscorty, Co. Wexford. In the same year, Wolfe Tone arrived with another French fleet but was defeated and captured at sea. He anticipated execution and committed suicide.
1800 - 1900
The level of unrest in Ireland was unacceptable to the British Prime Minster, William Pitt. He suggested a union of the two governments along with the removal of the last of the penal laws. The Act of Union, which took effect from 1st January 1801, united Ireland politically with Britain. Daniel O'Connell, the son of a small landlord in Co. Kerry, opposed this union from the start.
Another member of the United Irishmen, Robert Emmet, also opposed this union and planned to seize Dublin Castle hoping to call the nation to arms. The Government was alerted when one of Emmet's arms depots exploded. He gathered a small army on 23rd July 1803 and set out to Dublin Castle. However he aborted the idea when some of the group piked to death Lord Kilwarden, the Chief Justice. Emmet was appalled by this act. He went into hiding but a month later was caught, tried and executed.
O'Connell aimed to achieve political equality for Catholics and founded the Catholic Association. This was seen as a vehicle for peace and was backed by Protestants who were in favour of Catholic emancipation. O'Connell stood for a seat in the County Clare election in 1828, even though he could not take the seat as the final penal law (not yet repealed) forbade Catholics being members of the British Parliament. He won the seat by a huge majority. Fearful of another uprising, the House of Commons passed the Act of Catholic Emancipation in 1821, allowing well-off Catholics voting rights and the right to be elected as Members of Parliament.
O'Connell's next aim was to re-establish an Irish Parliament. He arranged 'monster meetings' advocating peaceful demonstration. These meetings attracted huge crowds all over Ireland. O'Connell was arrested in 1844 and served a short time in prison. He disagreed with the 'Young Ireland' Party which favoured force. Unfortunately his health failed and he died in 1847 at the time of the Great Famine. Before he died, he had tried unsuccessfully to have an act put through parliament prohibiting the export of corn from Ireland.
The Irish population had increased dramatically over the early part of the nineteenth century. Consequently, between 1845 and 1851, when the potato crop, which was the staple food of the population, failed, starvation followed. Grain crops were successful but were too expensive for the poor to buy - while the population were suffering starvation, illness and death, grain was being exported. About one million people died. Many emigrated, some to Australia, some to Scotland, some to England and some to Wales. However the majority took the journey to America travelling in conditions which were so bad that the vessels were known as coffin boats as many people died en route.
As a result of the famine the population of Ireland was reduced by about two million. The people were exhausted and dispirited and had little interest in Britain's control of the country. There was a division between those who favoured the union of Britain and Ireland and those who opposed it. Landowning aristocracy and the Ulster Protestant community were in favour. The north-east of Ireland had experienced the Industrial Revolution and had linen manufacture, shipbuilding and engineering industries, by which they had prospered.
Between 1850 and 1891, two movements are worth noting: Gavan Duffy's Irish Tenant League and the Fenian movement. The former aimed at the 'three Fs': fair rent, fixity of tenure and freedom for the tenant to sell his interest in his holding. It was hoped to achieve these through an independent Irish party in Parliament. It was not to be as some members of the party favoured their personal interests to those of the country as a whole. The result of the vote was forty in favour, sixty three against.
The Fenian organisation (originally the Irish Republican Brotherhood), was founded in Dublin in 1858, at the same time a New York branch of the Fenians was founded. They had a single aim, Independence. The only way they felt this could be achieved was through physical force. They formed a secret army and prepared to launch an uprising. A group of them led an unsuccessful rebellion in March 1867.
Outside Ireland, in Manchester, two men, Kelly and Deacy, were arrested for loitering. They were recognised as Fenians. Other members of that society, armed with weapons, went to their rescue. Whether by accident or intent, a police officer was shot and in retaliation, three Fenians who were with the group but not guilty of the shooting, were executed. They were Allen, Larkin and O'Brien, known as the Manchester Martyrs.
Charles Stewart Parnell, an Irish Protestant from Co. Wicklow, was elected to Parliament in 1875 and was leader of the new Home Rule party in 1877. The party sought a form of self-government for Ireland. He, along with Michael Davitt (a Fenian), started the Irish National Land League in 1879, seeking reduced rents and improved working conditions for the Irish. They also urged 'boycotting' of those who refused to recognise the terms of the Land League. This was the beginning of the raising of Irish national feeling once again. Although it came to be known as the 'land war' (1879-1882), Parnell was not in favour of any type of violence. The 1881 Land Act, introduced by William Gladstone, created fairer rents and made it possible for tenants to own their land. Parnell did not agree with the terms of the Act, quarrelled with Gladstone and was put into Kilmainham Jail for a brief spell along with Davitt. They were released under the terms of the Kilmainham Treaty and Parnell and Gladstone overcame their differences. A group known as the 'Invincibles' murdered Lord Cavendish, the new Chief Secretary and Burke, his under-secretary, in the Phoenix Park. As a result of this, the bill for Home Rule put forward by Gladstone in June 1886 was defeated in the House of Commons.
Parnell's affair with Kitty O'Shea, wife of a member of his party, came to light. Parnell was deposed as leader of his party and frowned upon by the Catholic Church in Ireland. His health rapidly deteriorated and he died on 6th October 1881.
In 1892 Gladstone was elected Prime Minster for the fourth time. He managed to get his bill for Home Rule through the House of Commons. However it was rejected by the House of Lords. The Ulster Unionists had determined to fight the bill had it been accepted.
1900 - 1923
Several events occurred during the first twenty-two years of the twentieth century that were to have a decisive effect on Irish history.
Herbert Henry Asquith became British Prime Minster on 8th April 1908. He removed the power of the House of Lords to veto a bill and put another Home Rule for Ireland bill through Parliament and had it passed in 1912. However it was not enacted. It was given royal assent in September 1914 provided it was suspended until after World War l. Meanwhile Sir Edward Carson, who had formed the Ulster Volunteer Force, threatened an armed struggle for a separate Northern Ireland, should Ireland be granted independence.
The Gaelic League, which had been formed in 1893 and advocated the teaching of the Irish language in schools, continued in it's mission. The League's aim was to restore the Irish language and all things Irish. It met with some success.
About the same time, poets, literary men and women were writing in English about the Celtic tales. Their poems and literature were intended to feed the intellectual needs of Ireland by emphasising it's vibrant cultural heritage. Irish History was romanticised. Ireland, in recent centuries, was personified as a poor old woman - Cathleen Ni Houlihan. Cu Chulainn was to be the chivalrous warrior champion, going into battle to save her, prepared to die for her.
A pressure group called Sinn Fein was formed and headed by Arthur Griffith, founder of the United Irishmen newspaper. He suggested that all Irish Members of Parliament should leave the House of Commons in London and form a Parliament in Dublin.
Jim Larkin and James Connolly formed the Irish Citizen Army for self-defence. Many Irish men left the country to fight with the British in World War l, believing that in return the British would grant Home Rule to Ireland.
However, Home Rule was not granted. As a result the Irish Citizen Army, led by James Connolly, joined forces with Patrick Pearce and a small group of the Irish Volunteers. They hoped to gain Home Rule by force. At Easter 1916, they set up their headquarters in the General Post Office in O'Connell Street, Dublin. On the steps of that building, Patrick Pearce read a declaration to passers-by stating that Ireland was a Republic and that their group was the provisional government. Sir Roger Casement had procured arms (about 20,000 guns) from Germany to help in the Rising. The British heard of this and intercepted the consignment before it reached Ireland. Sir Roger Casement was arrested. Confusion reigned but Pearce and Connolly decided to go ahead with the rebellion ('The Easter Rising'), on 24th April 1916. The main fighting took place in Dublin. The General Post Office was set alight. The British, who were well prepared, soon gained the upper hand. There was much bloodshed, especially among civilians. On seeing this appalling sight, Pearce surrendered. Connolly was wounded. They were arrested along with Thomas James Clarke, Sean MacDiarmada, Thomas Mac Donagh, Eamonn Ceannt, Joseph Mary Plunkett and many others. In all, seventy-seven rebels were arrested and condemned to death for their part in the Rising that lasted seven days. Despite a volume of protest, fifteen of them were executed between the 3rd and 12th May. James Connolly was unable to stand because of a gangrenous ankle and was shot sitting on a chair.
Sheehy Skeffington, a pacifist who had not taken part in the rising, was arrested and shot without trial. Eamon de Valera had American citizenship so his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Countess Markieviez, as a woman, was spared. William Pearce, Patrick's brother, was executed, not for any part in the rebellion but for his relationship to Patrick. Michael Collins had taken part in the Easter Rising but was not considered of important enough rank. He was interned in a prison camp in North Wales. Statistics state that the number of people killed were three hundred civilians, one hundred and thirty British troops and sixty rebels.
The punishment aroused the anger of the Irish people, even those who had not been in sympathy with the Rising.
Two gestures of good-will on the part of the British Government brought about the release of prisoners: in December 1916, all interned prisoners, including Michael Collins, were released and in July 1917, all remaining prisoners of the Easter Rising, even those with life sentences (including Eamon de Valera), were released.
Conscription into the British Army had applied to the United Kingdom from 1916. An attempt to enforce it in Ireland was abandoned. (Some 49,000 Irish volunteers were killed in World War 1, fighting on the side of the British).
In the General Election of 1918 Sinn Fein won seventy-three seats, the Unionists, twenty-six seats and the Parliamentary Party, six seats. Sinn Fein established Dail Eireann, with Eamon de Valera as head of the Dail, Arthur Griffith as his deputy and Michael Collins as the efficient organiser of the military resistance. The British did not recognise the Dail.
In January 1919, two young members of the IRA killed two policemen in Co. Tipperary. This was the start of a bitter Anglo-Irish conflict lasting from 1919 to 1921. The British reinforced their police-force in Ireland with ex-soldiers, newly demobbed from the war, and even ex-convicts, known as 'Black and Tans'. Reprisals and counter-reprisals followed. Twenty-four IRA men were executed over the next eight months.
Atrocities occurred on both sides. Sunday 21st November 1920, went into records as 'Bloody Sunday' when fourteen undercover British Intelligence officers, some posing as IRA sympathisers were shot by the IRA.
That afternoon, Dublin was playing Tipperary in a Gealic football match in Croke Park. During the match, as Tipperary was about to take a penalty kick and without warning, the British forces opened fire on the crowd. Twelve people were killed. During the previous week two IRA men and an ordinary Sinn Fein supporter had been arrested and held by the police. On the evening of 21st November, they were killed in the Guard Room at Police Headquarters at Dublin Castle.
In May 1921 the eighteenth century Custom House on the quays of the river Liffey in Dublin, was burned by the IRA. It had been the centre of British Administration in Ireland. The war was in deadlock. Michael Collins sought a solution in the form of a meeting between representatives from Britain and Ireland.
On 9th July 1921 there was a meeting between Eamon de Valera, representatives of Sinn Fein, British representatives including General Macready, the commander-in-chief in Ireland and Andy Cope, Under Secretary. Two days later a truce was signed. Eamon de Valera and Arthur Griffith went to London for preliminary negotiations with the British Government. Later de Valera, who anticipated a peace agreement establishing the twenty-six counties as a Free State and allowing six counties in Ulster to remain under British rule, sent Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith to London to finalise the agreement. On 6th December 1921, under pressure from Lloyd George, Collins and Griffith signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty in Downing Street, London. The Free State was to remain in the British Commonwealth. Michael Collins is reported to have said, 'I have signed my death warrant'.
Eamon de Valera disassociated himself from the agreement and as a consequence there was a split in the IRA. Civil War broke out in Ireland in June 1922. In August 1922 Arthur Griffith died. Ten days later in Co. Cork, Michael Collins was ambushed and shot dead by Anti-Treaty Forces. The Civil War finished in 1923.
William T. Cosgrave became head of the first Irish Free State Government in 1922.
1923 - 1955
Eamon de Valera boycotted the Dail for a number of years. He formed a new party called Fianna Fail. The party won nearly half of the seats in the 1927 election. De Valera entered the Dail without taking the oath of allegiance to the Crown. In the 1932 election, his party had a majority and remained in power for sixteen years. In 1937 de Valera introduced a new act, doing away with the oath of allegiance. A year later Britain renounced the right to use certain Irish ports for military purposes. De Valera refused to pay land annuities to the British Government. This led to an economic war with Britain. Fianna Fail lost the 1948 election to a coalition government - Fine Gael and Clan na Poblacta. The new Government declared the Free State to be a republic. Ireland left the British Commonwealth in 1949 and in 1955 Ireland became a member of the United Nations.
Ireland became a member of the European Community in 1973. The Euro, the single currency used in a number of EU member states, was introduced in 2002.
Traditionally an agricultural country, Ireland's manufacturing and services sectors have steadily overtaken agriculture in economic importance.
Principal industries are mining, steel, machinery, transport equipment, ship construction and refurbishment, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, computer software, crystal, glass, clothing, textiles, dairy products, whiskey and brewing.
Agricultural products are wheat, barley, potatoes, sugar beets and turnips. Cattle are reared.
Tourism is a growing industry. The National Tourism Development Authority aims to increase the contribution of tourism to the economy.
In October 2008 Ireland became a victim of the global financial crisis and was the first western European country to officially fall into recession; unemployment reaching 11% by February 2009 (the highest since 1996).
By September 2010 the cost of bailing out Ireland’s banks reached 45 billion euros, a budget deficit equivalent to a third of GDP.
In November the government agreed a 85bn euro rescue package with the EU and the IMF - a bid to tackle the deficit in public finances. This was coupled with a four year programme of tax rises and spending cuts. Government figures released in June 2013 painted a picture of Ireland back in recession for the first time since 2009. (2013)
Evidence of Irish Art can be found in the Passage Grave at Newgrange (3200 BC). The stone at the entrance to the grave is decorated with a triple spiral and lozenges. Other stones around the great mound show more geometric motifs, circles, arcs, spirals, lozenges, zigzags and lines (parallel, radial and wavy). The neighbouring tombs of Knowth and Dowth have similar decoration and additional designs, including concentric arcs and non-concentric circles.
Bronze Age art was displayed on smaller objects, mainly gold jewellery. The gold was mined and made into thin sheets. The decoration started in the form of small circular pieces with concentric circles and developed into larger pieces, worn as collars. Torcs, made from twisted gold bars, have been found on the Hill of Tara. Again geometrical shapes were employed. Collars, neck ornaments, gold-plated pendants, along with later pieces, (the Ardagh Chalice and Tara Brooch), can be seen in the National Museum of Ireland. The Tara Brooch is linked to the eighth century. The similarity of design between it and the Ardagh Chalice lies in the fact that both back and front of the Tara Brooch are lavishly decorated and the base of the Ardagh Chalice is decorated in gold, set with small glass and enamel studs, with a rock crystal in the centre. Bronze Age designs were later used on shields and pottery.
Iron Age art continued to utilise stone, gold and bronze. Stones carved with faces (thought to be representations of Celtic deities) have been preserved. Pillarstones, with inscriptions dated to the seventh or eighth century, can be seen at Reask in Co. Kerry and at sites in Co. Armagh. Later in the eighth century beautifully decorated crosses, known as 'High Crosses' or 'Celtic Crosses', adorned many sites in Ireland. Pillars, decorated with scenes from the scriptures, were also carved. Clonmacnoise in Co. Offaly, may have been the centre of production for this kind of pillar and some of the crosses.
Other art treasures, the work of monks from various monasteries in Ireland, include the Book of Kells, Book of Durrow and Armagh. The writing and illuminations were produced on parchment using inks of various colours. It is estimated that they were completed sometime between the seventh and ninth century.
As Viking and Irish integrated, craftsmen from each culture combined their skills to produce fine metalwork. Examples of their work, held in the National Museum of Ireland, include a Crucifixion plaque from Clonmacnoise and the Shrine of St. Patrick's Bell (a small, richly decorated, metal casket about 26 centimetres high).
The Cross of Cong and St. Manchan's Shrine, (now in a Catholic church in Co. Offaly), were metalwork masterpieces of the twelfth century. The Cross has similarities in design and decoration to that of the Ardagh Chalice. Much of the ornate metalwork may have been fabricated in Clonmacnoise.
Sculpture around the thirteenth century included effigies of Kings, Bishops and other notable people. These were carved in high-relief on tombstones. Earlier statues carved in wood (such as that of St. Molaise of Inishmurray) still survive and can be seen in the National Museum of Ireland. Another wood carving, the Kilcorban Virgin and Child, is in the Diocesan Museum, Loughrea, Co. Galway.
High-relief work was carved on the tomb-slabs of Norman Knights. It has been suggested that one such tomb-slab, in Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin, represents Strongbow. However there is no basis for this attribution.
The onset of the Black Death brought a lull to Norman sculpture. Later a limited amount of Gaelic stone sculpture was produced. Early in the fifteenth century monks from the Franciscan order produced sculptures for their churches. By the mid-fifteenth century there was a revival of tomb sculpture in the East of Ireland. Effigies, in high-relief, were placed on the top of tomb-chests. The practice spread to other parts of Ireland - examples can be seen in Co. Kilkenny and Co. Tipperary amongst other places.
Examples of fine metalwork that have survived from the fifteenth century include a processional cross (1479) from Ballylongford, Co. Kerry, (on display in the National Museum of Ireland) and the 'Limerick Crozier and the Mitre' (1418) made for Bishop Cornelius O'Dea and displayed in St. John's Cathedral, Limerick. Other craftwork includes a satchel of stamped leather that was made as a slipcase for the Book of Armagh. The satchel and book are on display in Trinity College, Dublin. Also housed there is the 'Harp of Brian Boru', carved from oak and willow, dated sometime between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries.
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries demand grew for decorative sculpture (such as coats-of-arms, door-surrounds and chimney pieces) on houses and castles. Grand tombs carved in classical or Renaissance style were popular. These tombs were adorned with carved effigies of family members. Two examples of this type of sculpture are the tombs of the Earl of Cork, in Youghal Church, Co. Cork and that of the Earl of Kildare in Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin.
In the early to mid eighteenth century, large scale plasterwork was carried out on house interiors by the Francini brothers from Italy. Their style was highly flamboyant and included full sized replicas of the human figure with surrounds of garlands, (in high-relief) and swags of putti. Two Irishmen, Robert West and Michael Stapleton, carried out interior decoration in Neo-Classical style, with finer and more ordered plasterwork in lower relief. An example of their work can be seen in Slane Castle, Co. Meath.
Eighteenth century tombs and statues took on a classical style. This is displayed in the monument to Judge Gore, in Tashinny Church, Co. Longford. In 1860, the Neo-classical style of architecture influenced sculptural decoration. The urn on the roof of Marino Casino, Co. Dublin is one example.
There are few paintings of note from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw the development of Irish artists such as James Latham, John Lewis, James McArdell and many more. The Dublin Society's Drawing School was established in the eighteenth century with the aim of encouraging crafts, artists and architects. There followed more portraiture, neo-classical painting and, a little later, landscape painting.
In the nineteenth century, Irish painting style developed a romantic element. Impressionist influence revealed more dramatic outdoor work. Anecdotal scenes became popular. Later in that century, domestic art flourished with ornamental glass, porcelain, silver and furniture. The arts of lace and crochet were practised. The most notable results of this era were the manufacture of Waterford Crystal, Belleek China and the widespread use of Irish Crochet, (with its unique and varied designs). Limerick and Carrickmacross Lace (which employs delicate embroidery and appliqué work) was also produced.
Perhaps the most famous artist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was John Butler Yeats (1871-1957). He painted portraits of many literary and political figures, capturing the personality of the sitter in all cases. The National Gallery of Ireland houses much of his work.
Twentieth century painting in Ireland displays a mixture of styles including Abstract and Cubism. The Museum of Modern Art at Kilmainham exhibits various styles of this period. Sculpture of the same period has taken on a more life-like form. Molly Malone (known locally as the Tart with the cart), James Joyce, Patrick Kavanagh and The Shoppers, are but a few of the bronzes which adorn the streets of Dublin.
Irish Literature and Poetry
Until the early years of the 20th century it was usual for stories and poetry to be passed from generation to generation by word of mouth. In earlier times these would have been transcribed, in Latin, by monks. Later, stories and poems were written in the Irish language and then translated into English. A good example is the autobiography of Peig Sayers who lived on Great Blasket Island off the coast of Co. Clare. She told her life story to her poet-son, Micheal O'Guithin, who wrote it in Irish as it was related to him. The work was then translated into English by Bryan MacMahon. The book is called simply 'Peig'.
One of the earliest writers who published in English rather that Irish was the Dublin poet Richard Stanyhurst (1547-1618). He also contributed articles on Ireland to Raphael Hollinshed's 'Chronicles' published in 1577. The seventeenth century saw the birth of Jonathan Swift (1667-2745) at Hoey's Court, within the city walls of Dublin. His ironic masterpiece, 'Gulliver's Travels' was published in 1726.
In the eighteenth century there was an increase in the number of Irish writers recording their work in English. Oliver Goldsmith (1728-74) had his first book, 'An Enquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe' published in 1759. Other works of his include 'The Vicar of Wakefield (1766) and 'She Stoops to Conquer' (1773). These have retained their popularity to the present day along with Richard Brinslay Sheridan's (1751-1816) 'The School for Scandal' and Thomas Moore's (1779-1852) credible output of poetical works.
Irish female writers of the nineteenth century include: Annie M. P. Smithson (1873-1948) noted for her romantic novels including 'The Laughter of Sorrow', 'By Strange Paths', 'Wicklow Heather'; Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) winner of an award from the Irish Academy of Letters and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for her novel 'Eva Trout'; Emily Lawless (1845-1913), a poet; Lady Gregory (1852-1932) - a member of the Irish Literary Revival group, folklorist and playwright - is reputed to have written, between 1901 and 1928, over forty plays for the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, and Katherine Tynan (1861-1931), poet, novelist and journalist.
The abundance of Irish written work of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century has been likened to a 'renaissance of Anglo-Irish literature'. Some of the many writers of that era are:
Joseph Sheridan le Fanu (1814-73), (nephew of Richard Brinsley Sheridan), best known for 'The
House by the Churchyard' (1863) and 'Uncle Silas' (1864). Dion Boucicault (1820-90) wrote 'The Colleen Bawn'(1861) and 'Arrah-na-Pogue' (1864). The great dramatist Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) has written, among other books and plays, 'Lady Windermere's Fan', 'The Importance of Being Earnest' and 'The Picture of Dorian Grey'.
The Dublin birthplace of one of the greatest playwrights and wits of the century, George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), is now a museum. Shaw's successes include 'Pygmalion', 'St. Joan' and 'Man and
Superman'. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1924. In the previous year, the winner of that coveted prize was William Butler Yeats (1865-1939). Although born in Sandymount, Co. Dublin, he favoured Sligo as his home, having spent some of his early years there. His talent as a poet was recognised while he was young. He was encouraged by his father, John Butler Yeats. Yeats was a leading figure in the Irish Literary Revival. John Millington Synge (1871-1909) was a friend of Yeats. He spent many summers on the Aran Island of Innishmaan (in Galway Bay). He enjoyed the company and respect of the local inhabitants and conversed with them in their native Irish language. The wonderful seclusion of Innishmaan provided inspiration for his work. He wrote plays for the Irish Literary Theatre (this later became the Abbey Theatre). His first play 'When the Moon has Set' was rejected by the theatre director Lady Gregory. His play, 'The Playboy of the Western World' opened in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, on 26th January 1907. It was not well received at that time. This did not deter him from writing other plays until his death in 1909. Sean O'Casey (1880-1964) had a similar experience to Synge when his play 'The Plough and the Stars' opened in the Abbey Theatre in 1926. The play caused a riot. O'Casey left for London. There he received the Hawthornden Prize for 'Juno and the Paycock'.
James Joyce (1882-1941) based characters in his writings (much of which was autobiographical) on family members and familiar and casual acquaintances. After the death of his mother, Joyce lodged at various addresses, one of which was the Martello Tower, Sandycove. He remained there for only six days. The tower is the setting for the opening scene of his masterpiece 'Ulysses'. It now houses the 'James Joyce Museum'.
Samuel Beckett (1906-89) was another Irish recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature (1969). As Joyce used people he knew as characters in his work, Beckett used places he visited in his books. His most famous play, 'Waiting for Godot' was written in 1948.
Brian O'Nolan (1911-66) (also known as Brother Barnabus, Flann O'Brien, Myles na gCopaleen and Stephen Blakesley) is considered to be Ireland's greatest modern satirist. He wrote successfully under different names but was probably best known as Myles na gCopaleen when writing his satirical column for the Irish Times.
Brendan Behan (1923-64) in his short life spent three spells in prison. During the second of these he wrote 'The Hostage' and 'The Quare Fellow'. The latter ran for six months in Dublin's Pyke Theatre in 1954 and again at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, London, in 1956, where it ran for three months.
The latest Irish writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature was Seamus Heaney in 1995. The Swedish Academy of Letters describe his poems as 'works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth'.
Irish Music and Dance
Music and dance are part of Irish Culture and Heritage. The tradition has been passed on from generation to generation. The Harp, Tin Whistle, Uilleann Pipes, (Irish bagpipes operated by bellows rather than mouth), Wooden Flute, (played in Ireland for over 200 years), Button Accordion, (popular among Irish musicians towards the end of the 19th century), the Fiddle and the Bodhran are the traditional musical instruments. Dances include reels, jigs, hornpipes, set and ceili dances. For the intermission of the RTE 1994 Eurovision song contest in Cork, a spectacular presentation was produced by Moya Doherty. After an unusual opening sequence, it featured music composed and produced by Bill Whelan, singer Anuna, Irish dancing choreographed by Mavis Ascott, with guest dancers Jean Butler and Michael Flatley. The show, named 'Riverdance', led to an extraordinary revival of Irish dancing world-wide.
Traditional songs include parodies, rebel songs, national airs, lullabies and 'comalyes', once again passed down to each generation. Many native composers and song writers shaped Irish musical history. Among them Dublin born Thomas Moore (1779 - 1852). He contributed prolifically to Irish song and poetry: 'The Meeting of the Waters' and 'The Harp that once through Tara's Halls' are but two of his famous 'Irish Melodies'. William Vincent Wallace (1812 - 1865), born in Waterford, wrote the opera 'Maritana'. Percy French (1854 - 1920), was born in Cloonyquin, Co. Roscommon. His songs (which have become part of folk music), provide humour and poignancy. 'The Mountains of Mourne', 'Are you right there Michael?', 'The Darlin' girl from Clare' and 'Gortnamona' are some of his most popular works.
In late seventeenth century and early eighteen century the famous composer of harp music, Turlough O'Carolan, revived the popularity of the traditional Irish harp music.
More recent Irish musicians have contributed to world popular music. Artists include U2, Van Morrison, Bob Geldof, Sinead O'Connor, Boyzone, B*Witched, the Cranberries, Westlife and the Corrs. Ireland has even produced its own 'Three Tenors', Ronan Tynan, Anthony Kearns and Finbar Wright.
'Ceol', The Irish Traditional Music Centre, in Smithfield Village, Dublin, has recently opened. The exhibition tells the story of Irish music throughout the ages. This is linked to the history of Ireland. The use of computers allows one to explore that history and listen to contemporary music and song. 'The Music of the People' (a film presentation shown on 180 degree wrap-around screen), is part of the exhibition. Younger visitors are encouraged to use computer and interactive displays to make their own music and generally have fun.
Gaelic Games include, Gaelic football, hurling, camogie, and handball. Both football and hurling command a huge following, especially when All Ireland games are being played in Croke Park in Dublin. Hurling is played with a hurley stick and a small ball. The stick is specially made from the butt of the Ash, as the grain of the wood facilitates the curve of the stick and affords the necessary strength it needs. Hurling is reputed to be the 'fastest game on earth'. Camogie is a similar game but played by females.
Other ball games played include, rugby, soccer, golf, basketball and polo.
Horse racing is held in many parts of the country with the main fixtures at the Curragh in Co. Kildare. Greyhound racing is held on tracks in the cities.
With its lakes and rivers, Ireland has many opportunities for fishing. Roscommon with its lakes - Lough Key, Lough Arrow and Lough Gara - is one of Ireland's most popular angling destinations.
The main public holidays in the Republic of Ireland are: New Year's Day; St. Patrick's Day (17th March); Good Friday; Easter Monday; May Holiday (first Monday in May); June Holiday (first Monday in June); August Holiday (first Monday in August); October holiday (last Monday in October); Christmas Day and St. Stephen's Day (26th December).
Festivals include: Dublin International Film Festival which takes place over ten days in April; Dublin Agricultural Spring Show, held in the Royal Dublin Society Showground in Ballsbridge; International Choral and Folk Dance Festival, held in Cork; International Fishing Festival, held in Donegal; Cork Arts Festival; Galway Arts Festival; Galway Film Fleadh; Kilkenny Arts Week; Puck Fair, held in Killorglan in Co. Kerry; All-Ireland Hurling and Football Finals, held in Croke Park in Dublin; Matchmaking Festival, held in Lisdoonvarna in Co. Clare; Sligo Arts Week;
Ballinasloe Horse Fair, held in Ballinasloe in Co. Galway; Cork International Film Festival and International Jazz Festival; Dublin Marathon; Dublin Theatre Festival; Gourmet Festival, held in Kinsale in Co. Cork and Wexford Opera Festival.
News is available from Newslink.
Previous Page | Facts | Gallery