Skip to main content
Forecast and analysis from the brightest new minds
Monthly Archives: July 2019

Conflict in Ireland Part 1: History of Ireland

Tensions and violence in Ireland have existed for as long as it’s been populated. Ireland has been inhabited since 6,000 BC and has been the home of the Celts since 500 BC. In 300 AD, Ireland was introduced to Christianity and soon after the Catholic Church sent missionaries to organize an Irish Church; circa 600 AD, Catholicism became the country’s national religion.1

Throughout the Middle Ages, England gained and lost control of Ireland. It wasn’t until the early 16th Century that King Henry VIII and his predecessors gained full control of the small island. New English settlements were established in Ireland and resulted in the Catholic majority from the Irish parliament being overthrown. Despite the wave of Protestants from England, Irish Catholics refused to convert to the Anglican Church of England. In the late 16th century the English government began to enforce penal laws, which were created to “encourage” the conversion to the Church of England.2

The Penal laws that were created by the Protestant controlled Irish Parliament were the first in a series of injustices that were enacted on the Irish Catholics. The Penal laws prevented Catholics from attending Catholic school, from holding land or possessing arms. A Catholic was not allowed to hold any office or serve in the military; it was considered treason to convert a Protestant to a Catholic.2

The harshness of the Penal laws prompted an attempted coup d’état that ultimately resulted in the Eleven Years War. The Eleven Years War is one of the bloodiest wars in Ireland’s history with a death toll between 200,000 and 600,000. The war began with the failed coup d’état and the Rebellion of 1641 and ended in 1652 when Oliver Cromwell landed with his army in Ireland and launched the ‘Cromwellian Invasion’. At the end of the war nearly all Catholic owned land was confiscated and distributed to Parliament and Protestant supporters; Ireland was subsequently placed under military rule until 1660.3

Following the Eleven Years War, Ireland experienced a relatively peaceful century, punctured by the excessive burdens placed on Irish Catholics and Presbyterians, as a result, many Presbyterians fled Ireland for America. England ruled over Ireland through viceroys that administered affairs from London through a select group of people known as the ‘undertakers’ who began to systematically revoke the rights of Catholic citizens. In 1704, a law was passed that prohibited Catholics from buying land and in 1719 an act was passed that reaffirmed the British parliament’s right to legislate Ireland. During this period of time Ireland was struck with famine and its people suffered from severe poverty. Finally, in the late 1700s, the laws that prohibited Catholics from exercising many of their rights began to be repealed.1

Despite the repeals of many of England’s anti-Catholic laws, a group of Irishmen known as the ‘Society of United Irishmen’ were inspired by the French and American Revolutions and launched an uprising which became known as the Irish Rebellion of 1798. In the rebellion, Irishmen fought for religious tolerance for all and to become an independent republic.1 While the rebellion was quickly put down, England passed the ‘Acts of Union 1800’, which united Ireland and England and created one united Parliament.1 This was done in hopes of pacifying Irish protestors and preventing more rebellions.

Throughout the 19th Century there were many minor squirmishes and uprisings among the Irish. In the mid 1800s an organization known as ‘Young Ireland’ formed a campaign for an independent Ireland which advocated violent methods of protest, if necessary. Another movement called the ‘Fenians’ were formed and in 1867 they attempted an uprising in England, which failed drastically. Soon after, other organizations such as the Irish Volunteers, Irish National Volunteers and the Irish Republican Brotherhood began to form. An agricultural recession in the late 1800s resulted in what became known as the ‘Land War’, a movement that sought to achieve land reform for the Irish, this movement was led by the Irish National Land League. In response to the growing Irish nationalist movements a protestant organization formed in opposition known as the Ulster Unionist Party.1 These series of campaigns and movements were the beginnings of Irish nationalist organizations and soon Ireland began to move towards civil war.

Conflict in Ireland Part 2: The IRA

Conflict in Ireland Part 3: Analysis and Lessons Learned


1 T. Lambert, “A Brief History of Ireland,”, retrieved from

2 “State of Ireland during the Eighteenth Century,” Library Ireland, retrieved from

3 J. Dorney, “The Eleven Years War 1641-52 – A Brief Overview,” The Irish Story, retrieved from

4 R. Poole and J. Llewellyn, “The IRA: 1919 to 1968”, Alpha History, accessed 10 July 2019,

5 P. Arthur and K. Cowell-Meyers, “Irish Republican Army”, Britannica, retrieved from,

6 “We Shall Overcome: The History of the Struggles for Civil Rights in Northern Ireland 1968-1978”, NICRA, Belfast, Northern Ireland, retrieved from

7 “History”, Your Irish, retrieved from

8 “Conflict and Politics in Northern Ireland”, CAIN Web Service, Ulster University, retrieved from

9 Global Terrorism Database, University of Maryland, retrieved from

10 J. Wallenfeldt, “The Troubles”, Britannica, retrieved from

11 C. Sullivan, “Real Irish Republican Army”, Britannia, retrieved from