Ireland has had its problems in recent years since the credit crunch, but it remains an inspiring place to visit. Stay out of the cities, the greatest part of Ireland is the countryside. Dublin was always a favourite amongst stag and hen party groups, but this popularity has waned due to the rising cost of beer and spirits, not to mention the hotels, mostly because of the value of the Euro.
Ireland is a Celtic country. The Celts were thought to have invaded and settled in Ireland from 800 BC onwards. The Romans called Ireland Hibernia but the relationship that they had with Ireland is unclear with just a few Roman coins ever found there. St Patrick arrived in Ireland direct from Rome in 432AD.
The Normans invaded Ireland in the year 1169 on the invitation of the king of Leinster in an effort to reclaim his lands. The Irish Kings agreed to have Henry II of England to act as their overlord in the Treaty of Windsor in 1175. With it came Roman Catholic administration overseen by the Angevin Kings and a feudal system run by the Irish Normans. Many of the Irish Aristocratic families are descendants of this order.
The Black Death seriously depleted the feudal system and intermarrying returned the country to a more Gaelic nature, but the Tudor conquest of Ireland set it back. What defined the borders of Ireland as we know them today was the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 between William of Orange (protestant) and James II (Catholic) over who should be king of England. James was supported by the “Jacobites” in Ireland, while William was backed by the “Williamites” of the Northern Ireland. This struggle has caused deep sectarian divisions in Ireland ever since.
Ireland was struck by a Great Frost for two consecutive winters in 1739 and 1740 damaging stored seeds and crops leading to a famine which killed 250,000 people. Another famine occurred in the 1840’s due to the failure of the potato crop which led to a mass exodus to North America. Among them, was the Kennedy Family whose heritage centre and Arboretum can now be visited near New Ross (not far from Wexford).
The rise in Irish Nationalism occurred in the early 19th century with attempts to secure home rule. This was vigorously opposed by the Protestants to the north who feared the promotion of Catholic interests. Home rule was planned with the exclusion of the “six counties” but WWI put the process on hold. The Easter Rising of 1916 failed, but Sinn Fein declared an Irish Parliament and Republic in 1919 leading to a guerrilla war. The Anglo Irish Treaty of 1921 depended on allegiance to the Crown of England, but the Civil War which ensued put an end to that.