An English Occupation Timeline 350BC - 1919

Ireland is England's oldest colony. 


  • BC 350 Iberian Celts took over Ireland, murdering all residents
  • AD 400 St Patrick brings his version of Christianity to Ireland (not Catholic)
  • AD 800 Viking Invasion
  • AD 1171 King Henry the 2nd  controlled Ireland 
  • AD 1200+ Catholic church was banned, Catholics had no rights to property and public service. 
  • AD 1537 Henry the 8th removed the monasteries and made himself the head of the Irish (Catholic church).
  • 1603 With the Gaelic powerbase now in tatters, Hugh O'Neill surrendered to the English and along with the O'Donnells of Donegal fled to France. These families were never seen in Ireland again. (Called the flight of the Earls) 
  • 1649 Cromwell murdered Irish Catholics
  • 1740 Severe famine in Ireland. 300,000 die of starvation 
  • 1778 The Catholic Relief Act removing some of the restrictions on Irish Catholics
  • 1830-38 The Tithes war. The Tithes were rents on land paid to the Church of Ireland which was of course the Anglican Church of England when all the tenants were Catholic
  • 1845 The Potato Famine. One million Catholic Irish died unnecessarily. Three million emigrated.
  • 1919 The Irish War of Independence. 

From "Ireland - The First Colony" by historyofengland.net


c. 3000 BC
That is about 5000 years ago. The Newgrange burial mound was constructed showing the importance of death rituals to the early Irish. Stonehenge in England and the Egyptian Pyramids are much the same age. Newgrange is in perfect condition and is only about 40 miles north of Dublin close to the river Boyne. 

400 BC.
The Golden Age of Greece, Socrates and Plato etc. Studied by Augustine of Hippo and probably by St Patrick when he was being schooled in Nice, France. 

390 BC
Celts invaded Rome for the last time 

350 BC
Celts from northern Spain invaded and settled in Ireland eliminating the existing inhabitants. 

70 BC- 14 AD
The golden age of Rome. Cicero and Virgil etc. Romans invaded Britain for copper, tin and wool but not Ireland, Scotland or Wales. BC 63 The then powerful Jews in Jerusalem who have signed a non aggression pact with the Romans asked the Romans to come into Jerusalem with a small army to sort out a minor domestic problem. As we all now know the Romans stayed and eventually ousted the Jews who did not return to their promised land for some 2000 years. Note the similarities to the Irish situation when they invited in the English Normans to sort out their domestic affairs some 1000 years later. BC 6 Jesus, the founder of Christianity lived in the most eastern part of the Roman Empire, modern day Israel/Palestine. 

43 AD
The Romans invaded Britain for the third time and this time remained, ruled and educated. Note: Britain at this time was already unified under one Celtic ruler, Cassievellaunus of the Catuvellauni tribe. Whereas Ireland, Scotland and Wales were still ruled by local tribal warlords and in the case of Ireland there were more than 150 of them. 

200 AD
Christianity brought to England (Britain) by early Roman converts 

250 AD
Cormac lived as Ireland's first great leader and first Ard-Ri or High King, centred in Tara Hill in Meath. 

324 AD
Roman Emperor Constantine make Christianity the official Religion of the Roman Empire. Jews had their Roman citizenship removed and were persecuted for the next 1500 years. (and the Irish think they were hard done-by.) Constantine made Constantinople his HQ and the majority of Christian theology is now debated and written down as sacrosanct in Ecumenical councils in that region. (Nicea as in Nicene Creed 325 AD was close by Constantinople now called Istanbul.) 

c400 AD
Patrickus in AD 401 was kidnapped by an Irish slave raiding party in England when he was 16 years old. The river Rhine in Germany froze over in AD 406 and the barbaric German tribes commenced their flood southwards to eventually raze the Roman Empire. In the same year the Romans left Britain. AD 410 City of Rome razed. AD 430 Patrick returned to Ireland as a bishop and commenced preaching his version of Christianity. AD 461 St Patrick dies. AD 467 The end of the Western Roman Empire. The Byzantium Roman Empire headquartered in Constantinople (Turkey) remained untouched and retained its hosting of the main Christian ecumenical meetings. (3 in Nicea) 

c500 AD
AD 557 Columcille of the "St Patrick Movement" in Ireland, set up the first Christian monastery in Iona Scotland. (Mid west coast of modern day Scotland) AD 590 Similarly Columbanus left Ireland and set up monasteries in Gaul (now France) The Irish Christians were now active in teaching reading and writing across much of Europe. Indeed are more active in reviving civilisation following the collapse of the Roman Empire than the Popes of Rome. Note however: cAD 590 Clovis the King of the Franks with headquarters in Paris became a Christian. In AD 597 the Pope did send out an emisrary to England, another Augustine, who baptized the King in Kent. 

c800 AD
AD 782 English theologian and monk, Alcuin from the monastery of York, became religious and educational advisor to Charlemagne. Alcuin was obviously influenced by the St Patrick movement but also taught the more fundamental theology of Augustine of Hippo. AD 800 Charlemagne made Holy Roman Emperor by Pope. Once again the Christian Church had a military power base. Remember it was Charlemagne and his Frankish army which had stopped the Islamic movement from establishing itself in France (from Spain), not the Pope. The Vikings who first landed in Dublin, Ireland in AD 793 and settled in York England, looking for new farm land, were prevented from travelling due south, the easy route, because of the power of Charlemagne. (They also traded with Constantinople where they provided the imperial guard.) And eventually landed in Normandy France and were fully established there by 911. 

1000 YEARS AGO.
AD 1014 The Irish finally kick the Vikings out of Ireland at the Battle of Clontarf. AD 1066 The Norman-Viking, Duke William conquered the King of England, Harold and brought with him his favourite Norman henchmen, his Barons, and rewarded them with large tracts of English land. AD 1170 Diarmuid MacMurrough the disposed King of Leinster, (he had annoyed his royal neighbough because he stole his wife,) took the fateful step of visiting Henry 2nd to ask his assistance back in Leinster.

Henry was too busy to go himself but saw Ireland as ripe for plucking with no strong leader, no modern weapons, and continuous domestic squabbles. Baron Richard de Clare (Strongbow) was sent instead. AD 1171 Henry went to Ireland himself and received the submission of most of the Irish Kings. Henry now ruled 75% of Ireland, England and all of western France from Calais to Bordeaux. Henry's favourite Barons were rewarded with much prime Irish land. Thus had begun the long and troublesome involvement of the English in Ireland. 

750 YEARS AGO.
English Kings took little interest in their Irish territories and the descendents of the Barons ran their own little fiefdoms dropped their mother tongue, interbred with the local lasses and adopted Gaelic customs. They would be called the "Old English". The native Irish learnt English military tactics, bought in mercenaries from Scotland and harried the English landowners, winning back much of their old territories. The FitzGeralds of Kildare headed up the old English and the O?Donnells and the O?Neills in the north west of Ireland were the leaders of the Gaelic Irish. 

500 YEARS AGO
From c.350 AD the FitzGeralds of Kildare became enormously rich, and because they were old English stock were recognised by the English Kings as governor generals or "Great Earls" ruling on behalf of the English Royal family. Indeed they could have been called the King of Ireland so little notice was given to them by the English Kings. This cosy situation was turned upside down in the reign of Henry 8th when he left the Roman Catholic Church and England moved towards Protestantism. The Scots went the whole way adopting Calvinism to be called Presbyterianism. Perhaps, unfortunately for Ireland, the Earl of Kildare remained a staunch Catholic, was summoned to London and clapped in the Tower. His son Lord Offaly (better known as Silken Thomas) commenced an uprising which was quickly crushed by an English Army.

In 1537 Thomas was executed and the power of the old Norman Barons, the FitzGeralds disappeared for ever. Henry 8th then continued the work he had started in England to remove the fabulously wealthy monasteries and made himself head of the Irish (Catholic) church. Unlike his Norman predecessors he did not colonise Ireland by giving land to his favourite henchmen. This was left to his daughter Elizabeth 1st. Henry did however claim all of Ireland's land as the King's, as he did in England. Local land owners became the King's tenants. c 1556 Elizabeth gave land to English Protestant settlers in East Ulster and later further south in Munster. One of these was Sir Walter Raleigh who started a potato farm. (there were no takers for potatoes in England for another 200 years). This was the commencement of religious land wars which have continued to this day as Gaelic Irish were steadily pushed west by increasing numbers of Protestants from both England and Scotland. Each time the Catholic Gaelic Irish rose in rebellion, the more powerful Protestant English ruthlessly quelled the uprising steadily taking more land and taking away the rights of property, education and governorship from the Catholics. 

400 YEARS AGO
1601 The effective end of Gaelic Ireland; following a "nine years war" between the English forces under Lord Mountjoy and the old O'Neill Gaelic Irish family whose powerbase was Ulster the most Gaelic part of Ireland. The Irish again sought the assistance of the Catholic Spanish who sent a small army which was decisively defeated at the battle of Kinsale. (In Co Cork in the south of Ireland.) 

Note for comparison The Spanish Inquisition. 1478-1670 The ethnic and religious cleansing perpetrated by the English in Ireland was barbaric in anybody's vocabulary. It is interesting to note however that the Spanish Inquisition was taking place at exactly the same time. Here the conflict was again religious but in Spain the barbarism was dealt out by the Catholic king and queen, Ferdinand and Isabella, against anybody who wasn?t a Catholic. The victims in Spain were Jews and Muslims who had been happily living alongside each other. As in Ireland the victims fled the country. The message for those who stayed was convert to Catholicism or be murdered. The Spanish Inquisition makes ethnic cleansing in Ireland look like a tea party. The Spanish ethnic cleansing was 100% effective and Spain had no more internal religious wars. The Protestant English were not so brutal and (hence?) religious conflicts have remained until this day. (Click here for more details in the Inquisition programme of the Roman Catholic Church)

1603 With the Gaelic powerbase now in tatters, Hugh O?Neill surrendered to the English and along with the O'Donnells of Donegal fled to France. These families were never seen in Ireland again. (Called the flight of the Earls) The Plantation of Ulster. The seed is now sown for the modern "troubles". There now being no large Irish land owners in Ulster the Protestant English and Presbyterian Scots moved in, and with the blessing of the Queen, took over most of the most fertile land, cleared woodlands and brought in modern agriculture. A radical modernising force was suddenly thrust into an ancient world. The new Protestant colonialists looked down on the local "backward" Irish Catholics and treated them with the same contempt as if they were the "Indians" in both their other colonies in India and North America. Queen Elizabeth 1st of England died in this year. 

1641 Catholic uprising and massacre of Ulster Protestants and Presbyterians. During the appalling reign of England's Charles 1st there was no clear leadership in Ireland and the Catholics took the opportunity to rebel and try and get some of their Ulster land back. 1641 saw Catholics burn Protestant churches dig up graves and hurl the rotting corpses about like rag dolls. Relief came from the Scottish Presbyterian, General George Munro who brought a tough rescue party from Scotland. 

1642-46 English Civil war. Oliver Cromwell's "Model Army" removed the ineffective King Charles 1st. Cromwell ruled England, not as a King but with a ruthless fundamentalist Christian Puritan doctrine.(like Calvinism or Presbyterianism) 

1649 Cromwell held the Irish Catholics responsible for the massacres of 1641 and he took revenge at Drogheda (30 miles north of Dublin) and Wexford. Cromwell justified his cruelty to the English Parliament as they "would tend to prevent the effusion of blood in the future" 

1688 England's "Glorious Revolution". William of Orange, the Protestant ruler of Holland and husband of Mary, daughter of England's James 2nd was invited to oust Catholic King James 2nd. James put up no fight and fled to France. 

1690 Battle of the Boyne. The powerful French King, Louis 14th backed a request from James to liberate Ireland from the English Protestants. James with a huge French force landed in Ireland and routed the standing Protestant forces there. English King William of Orange immediately responded and won the decisive "Battle of the Boyne" against the most powerful Catholic force of combined French and Irish liberation fighters ever seen in Ireland. All top Irish nobility fled, mainly to France. (Known as the Flight of the Wild Geese). This land mark victory is celebrated in Protestant Ulster to this day. Back in mainland Britain, William's task was not over, he needed to quell a rebellion in Scotland to ensure all Highland chiefs swore allegiance to him. In the "Battle of Glencoe" he massacred the whole of the MacDonald clan "as an example". 

1692 All Irish Catholics banned from office. (William of Orange) The Irish could not own land, be a lawyer, pray in church or join the army. Never rigidly enforced. 1695 All Irish Catholics deprived of Civil Rights.(William of Orange) 

250 YEARS AGO
The Georgian period in England saw the power of the royal family diluted in favour of parliament and the first elected Prime Minister (Walpole) was created by King George 1st as he could not speak a word of English The Georgians ran Ireland from Dublin via the "Ascendancy" which was made up of wealthy protestant land owners. (No Catholics of course). England was becoming richer and richer through their empire which was expanding rapidly in North America and the Indian Sub-Continent. Ireland was calm but was not benefiting, as it was being exploited like the rest of England's colonies. Modern day Dublin started taking shape with proud Georgian buildings. Catholic Irish ownership of land was now down to below 10% and was the poorest coastal areas from Sligo southwards. A diet of potatoes was steadily becoming the main and in some cases the sole source of food for the increasing large west coast Catholic families. The Ascendancy subscribed to the Anglican Church but retained much of Oliver Cromwell's Puritan views. Any Old English remained staunchly Catholic and the Ulster plantation settlers from Scotland remained fundamentalist Calvinists (Presbyterian) called Dissenters. Neither group liked each other to the extent that the Anglican Ascendancy passed a series of penal laws against both Catholics and Presbyterians. The effect on the Catholics was to make them even further depressed and any differences between old Gaelic Catholics and old English Catholics disappeared. Strangely the effect on the Ulster Dissenters was more marked, as being deprived from holding office, many upped sticks and emigrated to North America. 

1740 Severe famine in Ireland. 300,000 die of starvation 

1745 Catholic or Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland under Bonne Prince Charlie supported by French King Louis 14th defeated by English Army near Inverness, (Battle of Culloden 1746) Scottish Highland Clearances or Highland Ethnic cleansing. For some years after the Jacobite revolution the English did not trust the Scots and the large English landowners "removed" the many Scottish land workers (Crofters), to be replaced by sheep. The majority fled to North America, mainly Canada and Australia. There was no corresponding Irish uprising at this time. 

1775-6 American War of Independence. This battle against the English was triggered by excessive taxes being imposed on the colonists to finance an English standing army in America to discourage any potential threat from France who had been removed from America by the British. The American colonialists won with help from the French. Such a massive loss of British territory sent waves of hope both in Ireland and India. 

1778 The Catholic Relief Act. Relieved by there being no corresponding rebellion in Ireland after Culloden and the need for more recruits into the British army during and after the American war of Independence and unrest in India, the English chose to remove some of the human rights restrictions for Catholics in Ireland. Catholics could then, join the army, enter the professions and were given equal voting rights to Protestants. 

1789 The French Revolution. The French people revolted against the corrupt nobility and Catholic Church. 40,000 corrupt priests and nuns butchered to death. The concept of liberty, democracy and the rights of man, gave Irish Catholics more much needed motivation. The Anglican English ruled through Dublin Castle and were equally despised by Irish Catholics and Ulster fundamental Presbyterians alike. The Presbyterian Orange order was created. 

1798 Revolution both by Catholics and Presbyterian Ulstermen against English rule. Catholic revolutionary Theobald Tone raised two French invading forces into Ireland both defeated by the ruling English. The Orange Order unrest in Ulster also ran out of steam as they saw their fellow revolutionaries fail in the south, even with French assistance. 30,000 Irishmen died in this revolution. The English reaction to this unrest was to persuade the Irish Parliament to dissolve itself and under the "Act of Union" of 1800. Ireland became an integral part of the United Kingdom. The idea of coupling this with Catholic Emancipation which would have given Irish Catholics the right to sit in parliament, was blocked by English Protestant King (German Extraction) George 3rd who felt it was against his coronation oath. A young Irish lawyer in the making, Daniel O?Connell, was watching these events from France. 

19TH CENTURY
1829 Catholic emancipation was forced on the English parliament by Daniel O?Connell. The effect was largely neutralised by the English Parliament who took the votes away from the bulk of the poor Catholic Irish by raising the minimum wealth threshold (mainly property) required by an individual to qualify as a voter. 

1830-38 The Tithes war. The Tithes were rents on land paid to the Church of Ireland which was of course the Anglican Church of England when all the tenants were Catholic. O?Connell's next main task was to remove it. This war was dirty on both sides. The tenants murdered the rent collectors and the collectors seized cattle and goods from defaulters. 

1845 The Potato Famine. One million Catholic Irish died unnecessarily. Three million emigrated. The key Englishman against giving food relief to the West Coast Irish whose diet consisted solely of potatoes was Under Secretary to the British Treasury Sir Charles Trevelyan a man who learned his trade in India where famine was relatively common and deaths due to starvation could be up to 5 million people. A huge rump of Irish immigrants settled in America where because they had no money to buy land, stayed in the towns. Their skill was an ability to survive and argue in the English language which allowed them to make money and get political positions of power. (Mayor Daley of Chicago and President John F. Kennedy were both Irish). These Irish American immigrants hated the English and were soon raising money and arms to get the English occupiers out of Ireland. 

1867 The Fenian revolution. The Catholic Irish wanted the English completely removed from their country and the formation of a Republic. O?Connell now dead, had not delivered it. Ireland was still part of the UK with about 55 seats in Parliament which were only valuable when the majority was small and when the Wigs (Liberals) not right wing Tories were in power. Frustrated by lack of action two militants, James Stephens and John O?Mahony formed the Irish Republican Brotherhood nicknamed the Fenians after the Fianna warriors from Celtic Ireland. They had one policy, terrorism which failed purely because the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin refused to back any armed struggle. 

1881 The land wars and the land acts. Charles Stewart Parnell, a Protestant Landlord from County Wicklow, in total contrast to the early Fenian, used his cold, logical mind to organise Irish MPs to seek out any legal parliamentary ruse to move towards home rule. He also founded the Irish national land league with Michael Davitt with the object of stopping the cruel habit of removing tenant farmers from their land for temporary non payment of rent following poor harvests. The land wars consisted of such action against landlords as, violence and coercion, cattle maiming and arson. Parnell, used his well organised parliamentary muscle achieved his objectives via three land acts allowing tenant farmers to eventually own the land they were farming using soft government loans. (The land acts 1881, 1885 and 1903) 

20TH CENTURY
1912 Home Rule at last? Gladstone, (Liberal British PM) was on very friendly terms with Parnell, and introduced the home rule bill in 1886. Parnell now the uncrowned King of Ireland, might have had the might of the Catholic Church on his side but not the Ulster Presbyterians who also had seats in Parliament. Gladstone lost the next election and the Tories along with the men of Ulster were totally against home rule. But there could still have been time. Unfortunately Parnell had a long term mistress, Kitty O?Shea and Mr O?Shea took this inopportune moment to sue for divorce. O?Connell lost his home support and that of Gladstone overnight. O?Connell died in his mistresses arms at the young age of 45. However all was not lost, Parnell's work was taken up by John Redmond who in 1910 found himself with the balance of power in the British parliament and in spite of the Ulstermen fighting (literally) a rearguard action, the Home bill was passed in September 1914. 

AD 1916 The Easter Rising. England was now at war and implementation of home rule was suspended for the duration of the conflict with Germany. Redmond pledged men to help the English but various militant groups were about, including the Fenians and some new boys called Sinn Fein, who sent men to seek arms from the Germans. Well armed the Fenians stormed and took the Dublin Post Office, raised the Irish Tricolour and Patrick Pearse read a public proclamation for the Republic of Ireland. The English took a week to quell this riot helped by sailing a gunboat up the Liffey which shelled and destroyed many buildings. This was immediately followed by hanging the leaders as traitors, an unwise act immediately condemned by the Catholic Church, John Redmond, George Bernard Shaw and W.B. Yeats. The scene was set for another revolution. 

1919 The Irish War of Independence. The First World War ended in November 1918 and in the same year the election in the British Isles produced an overwhelming victory for Sinn Fein winning 76 seats to the old Nationalist Party's 6. Sinn Fein refused to sit in the House of Commons in Westminster London but the Assembly of Ireland (Dail Eireann) met in Dublin on 21 Jan 1919. That same day the IRA (then called the Irish Volunteers) commenced the civil war by shooting dead two policemen. The war lasted two and a half years, lead on the Irish side by a brilliant man from Cork, Michael Collins, and on the English side an ill disciplined armed auxiliary police force nicknamed the Black and Tans because of their uniform. With large parts of the country controlled by Sinn Fein and the IRA and with the Black and Tans good for nothing except terror, arson and murder a truce was called to be followed by the Anglo-Irish treaty of December 1921.

Chief negotiators for Ireland were Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith who agreed a dominion status for Ireland (like Canada) with the British Government. This was fine for the Irish people but not De Valera and the IRA which unfortunately resulted in a short Irish civil war when Collins and Griffiths were killed. In the mean time the British Government separated Ireland territorially with Presbyterian Ulster remaining as part of the UK and the south becoming the "Irish Free State". As with the separation of India some 30 years later such an artificial split always traps differing religious groups into smaller parcels of land which causes them to feel threatened. The scene was set for religious sectarian battles in Ulster which have lasted until today and may be insolvable. 

1932 The Irish Fianna Fail party under Eamon de Valera. The Irish in the south had now been independent of the English for 10 years and demonstrated this independence by remaining neutral in the 1940-45 Second World War. De Valera wanted to govern for the people and the Church wanted to create an isolated community free from the sins of the rest of Europe. After the war (1950s) the Irish people voted with their feet and emigrated to economically more prosperous English speaking countries. This caused panic and Ireland decided to apply to join the European Community, gaining membership in 1972. The result, looks good so far perhaps even an economic success story. 

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