From the introduction of Christianity in 431 AD to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Photo by: Thinkstock

Eleven moments that changed Ireland’s history


From the introduction of Christianity in 431 AD to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Photo by: Thinkstock

1. The coming of the gospel to Ireland

Though the spread of Christianity is generally linked with Saint Patrick, it had actually been established in Ireland before his arrival in 432. “The Irish were in the habit of plundering the long western seaboard of Roman Britain in search of booty,” Irish author Neil Hegarty explains in his book Story of Ireland. “The first Christians in Ireland, therefore, were most likely Britons carried across the sea as slaves.”

In 431 AD, not Saint Patrick but Bishop Palladius, an aristocratic Briton who is often left out of the Irish story, arrived from Rome to minister to these ‘Irish believing in Christ.’

Christianity became fundamental to Ireland’s culture and identity. It has played a part in some of Ireland’s greatest struggles, but also its glories - like the Book of Kells, for one.

2. The arrival of King Henry II in Ireland

In 1167, a small group of Anglo-Norman adventurers sailed from Pembrokeshire in Wales to County Wexford – within a couple of years, the ports of Waterford, Dublin and Wexford fell, though the Irish tried their hardest to put up a good fight.

Soon after in 1171, King Henry II arrived in Ireland to add to his extensive empire, marking the establishment of the first English colony. The papal possession remained in Ireland for 400 years to come, surviving the Black Death, an indigenous Irish resurgence and a Scottish invasion.

It wasn’t until Henry VIII became king in 1541 that England and Ireland became formally united under one crown.

3. The Plantation of Ulster

In 1606, Scottish farmers, craftsmen, artisans and other settlers arrived at the port of Donaghadee in Co. Down to create the Plantation of Ulster, a British (Protestant) settlement in Northern Ireland, which until this point was the most Catholic part of the country.

Some 30,000 colonists then arrived in Ulster, expelling Gaelic landowners from their homes. The plantation marked the beginning of a very violent century to come.

4. The Sack of Drogheda

In August of 1649, English military and political leader Oliver Cromwell marched 30 miles to Drogheda, an Irish port held by Royalists, where his troops indiscriminately massacred 3,500 people. This was much of the town’s population: Irish, English, Catholic and Protestant alike.

Winston Churchill said the siege “cut new gulfs between the nations and the creeds. Upon all of us there still lies the curse of Cromwell.”

5. The Battle of Aughrim

The Battle of Aughrim, fought in in 1691 in the boggy fields of Galway, was the final defeat of Catholic Ireland and the beginning of Protestant ascendance.

It was the decisive battle of the Williamite War between the Jacobites (supporters of Catholic King James II) and the Williamites (supporters of Protestant Prince William of Orange). One of Ireland’s bloodier battles, over 7,000 people were killed.

6. “An Argument on Behalf of the Catholics in Ireland”

Wolfe Tone, one of Ireland’s most charismatic national leaders in history, wrote a pamphlet in 1791 titled “An Argument on Behalf of the Catholics in Ireland.”He dreamt of a non-sectarian Irish Republic, and his compelling pamphlet called for the emancipation of Ireland’s Catholic.


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