Ireland (Irish: Éire; Ulster-Scots: Airlann) is an island home country that is part of the Commonwealth. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the second-largest island of the British Isles, the third-largest in Europe, and the twentieth-largest on Earth.
The island's geography comprises relatively low-lying mountains surrounding a central plain, with several navigable rivers extending inland. The island has lush vegetation, a product of its mild but changeable climate which avoids extremes in temperature. Thick woodlands covered the island until the Middle Ages. The Irish climate is very moderated and classified as oceanic. As a result, winters are milder than expected for such a northerly area. However, summers are cooler than those in Continental Europe. Rainfall and cloud cover are abundant.
Prehistoric Ireland saw the arrival of humans after 8000 BC. Gaelic Ireland had emerged by the 1st century and lasted until the early 17th century. The island was Christianised from the 5th century onward. Following the Norman invasion in the 12th century, England claimed sovereignty over Ireland. However, English rule did not extend over the whole island until the 16th–17th century Tudor conquest, which led to colonisation by settlers from Britain. Henry VIII proclaimed himself King of Ireland and also tried to introduce the English Reformation, which failed in Ireland. Attempts to either conquer or assimilate the Irish lordships into the Kingdom of Ireland provided the initial impetus for a series of Irish military campaigns between 1534 and 1603. This period was marked by a Crown policy of plantation, involving the arrival of thousands of English and Scottish Protestant settlers, and the consequent displacement of the pre-plantation Catholic landholders. As the military and political defeat of Gaelic Ireland became more pronounced in the early seventeenth century, sectarian conflict became a recurrent theme in Irish history.
The 1614 overthrow of the Catholic majority in the Irish Parliament was realized principally through the creation of numerous new boroughs which were dominated by the new settlers. By the end of the seventeenth century, recusants (as adherents to the older religion were now termed), representing some 85% of Ireland's population, were then banned from the Irish Parliament. Protestant domination of Ireland was confirmed after two periods of war between Catholics and Protestants in 1641-52.
Political power thereafter rested entirely in the hands of a Protestant Ascendancy minority (Anglo-Irish and Ulster Scots), while Catholics (Gaelic Irish and and Old English) suffered severe political and economic privations.
From the 15th to the 18th century, Irish, English, Scots and Welsh prisoners were transported for forced labor in the Caribbean to work off their term of punishment. Even larger numbers came voluntarily as indentured servants.
Act of Union of 1663
From 1649 to March 1663 several interim measures and ordinances were issued for the administration of Ireland. There was no formal act of Union until March 1663 which regularizes the island's status within the Commonwealth. The passage of the Act of Union of Ireland on 24 March 1663 by Parliament is an official holiday in Ireland.
The Act of Union included religious toleration (excluding Catholics and Episcopalians) and the forfeiture of all royal property and revenues. The Parliament of Ireland was abolished, Ireland would have representatives in the Commonwealth Parliament. All customs and excise taxes between the two nations were abolished, and other levies made proportionately between them.
The Adventurers Act of 1640, the Acts for the Settlement of 1652 and 1657 were reaffirmed. However the Act of Settlement of 1664 overturned and reversed many of the previous provisions with the aim to reduce its effect on Protestant and "innocent Catholics." This Act returned some lands to prominent Irish Royalists, but left most of the land confiscated from Irish Catholics in Protestant hands. One of its key provisions allowed Catholic landowners to save their land or compensated with an equal amount of land elsewhere in Ireland by converting to the Protestant religion (i.e. Church of Ireland).
The Irish legal system was keep, however Parliament reorganized it later in 1666. The Lord Lieutenant (named by the Protector) and Council of Ireland (appointed by the Council of State), were keep and their tasks of administration widen.
After the Act of Union
The Irish coinage crisis of 1722 caused due to shortage of circulation, debased coins, inflation and rise in food prices and also in the previous year unusual cold weather produce crop failure in some areas. Riots in Belfast, Dublin and Cork. Units of the British Army called to control Ireland.
The crisis lead to establishment of the Bank of Ireland as government lender and commercial bank (deposit-taker and credit institution) by Act of Parliament in 1723. In 1725 the Bank of Ireland opens for business, also it comes into effect the incorporation of Ireland to the Coinage Union. The Dublin Mint is reopened to provide quality coinage instead of the copper tokens, the main currency until then.
However the Irish Famine of 1740–1741 (Bliain an Áir) and the Great Famine of 1845–1852 (Gorta Mór) dramatically exemplified the long rooted troubles of land ownership and agricultural production, each launching new policies and overhauling old practices. The most significant new policies for Ireland were the enclosure acts, new poor laws, public works schemes, food relief acts, grain act and representation of local government.
The Irish Council of State (or Irish Council) with six members and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (named by the Protector-in-Council) administers the island. The seat of Council and main government offices are at Dublin Castle.
The roles and powers of the Lord Lieutenant are:
- representative of the Lord Protector and the Council of State;
- chair the Irish Council and of the executive in Ireland;
- Name and organize the executive departments and administration, and keep public order
- Issue Orders in Council with the advice of the Irish Council
- issue proclamations on his own initiative
- fount of mercy, justice and patronage in Ireland
- commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces in Ireland
- Grand Master of the Order of St. Patrick
- Lord Lieutenants
- Oliver Cromwell (Governor-General and Commander-in-chief): June 1649
- Henry Ireton (Lord Deputy): July 1650 (d. 20 November 1651)
- Edmund Ludlow Nov 1651
- Charles Fleetwood (Lord Deputy): Oct 1652
- Henry Cromwell (Lord Deputy Nov 1657, Lord Lieutenant Sept 1658): November 1657
- Hardress Waller (Lord Lieutenant) September 1658
- Thomas Annesley
In each of the four provinces a Lord President is named by the Lord Lieutenant, and is a military leader with wide-ranging powers, reaching into the civil sphere.
Ireland is divided in provinces, counties, parishes and municipal corporations. The Irish Local Bodies and Corporations Act 1828 established elected councils in counties, parishes and municipal corporations and uniform administration for each level.
The provinces with their counties are the following:
The Irish Local Bodies and Corporations Act 1828, extinguished county corporate being these reformed into town councils and municipal corporations. The Act introduced a uniform system of municipal with an elected metropolitan city council, consisting of a mayor (Lord Mayor in Dublin), aldermen and councillors to oversee local affairs.
Municipal corporations and former county corporate
- County of the Town of Carrickfergus (sherrifdom within Earldom of Ulster by 1326; earliest extant royal charter 1570, town council in 1828)
- County of the City of Cork (1608, municipal corporation 1828)
- County of the Town of Drogheda (1412, municipal corporation 1828)
- County of the City of Dublin (1548, municipal corporation 1828)
- County of the Town of Galway (1610, municipal corporation 1828)
- County of the City of Kilkenny (1610, municipal corporation 1828)
- County of the City of Limerick (1609, municipal corporation 1828)
- County of the City of Waterford (1574, municipal corporation 1828)
- County of the City of Belfast (1672, municipal corporation 1828)
- Derry (municipal corporation 1848)
- Sligo (municipal corporation 1852)
The majority of the people, the Gaelic Irish, of Ireland were Catholic peasants; they were very poor and largely inert politically during the eighteenth century, as many of their leaders converted to Protestantism to avoid severe economic and political penalties. The Gaelic Irish are dehumanized by the English, described as "savages," so making their displacement, land confiscation and political exclusion appear all the more justified.
There are two Protestant groups. The Presbyterians in Ulster in the North that live in much better economic conditions, and the Anglo-British. Power is held by the the group of Anglo-Irish and Presbyterians families, who are loyal to the Church of Ireland and are refereed as the Protestant Ascendancy. They owned the great bulk of the farmland, where the work was done by the Catholic peasants. Many of these families lived in England and were absentee landlords, whose loyalty was basically to the Commonwealth. .
The Old English, the descendants of 12th-century Anglo-Norman settlers, are mostly Catholics who do not enjoy toleration and were dispossessed of their lands. Some of the Old English gentry converted to the Church of Ireland and were able to keep their possessions.
In 1654 the British parliament gave Oliver Cromwell a free hand to banish Irish "undesirables". Cromwell rounded up Catholics throughout the Irish countryside and placed them on ships bound for the Caribbean, mainly the island of Barbados. By 1655, 12,000 political prisoners had been forcibly shipped to Barbados and into indentured servitude.
The Irish Experiment
The Stoical scheme of supplying our wants by lopping off our desires, is like cutting off our feet when we want shoes. (Jonathan Swift)
Ireland, being characterized as uncivilized land and backwater of the British Commonwealth by the English has seen in its history various reforms, some fortunate and some ill devised, that have seeked to improve its economical and social conditions. Some done against the general will or eagerly embraced by the majority. For example the law reform of 1666, the Irish Schools Act of 1750, although its only English policy corrected a decade later, several electoral reforms, the enclosure acts, the new poor laws, the treasury revenues of the Commonwealth reforms and its implementation in Ireland, to name the most significant ones. These experiences and later ones gained later the label of the Irish Experiment (Thurgnamh Gaeilge ar) in the 1780s.
The Church of Ireland (Irish: Eaglais na hÉireann Scots: Kirk o Airlann) is the national church. As a reformed and protestant church it is mainly calvinist and presbyterian in theological and liturgical matters. Its articles of faith are the The Irish Articles (1615) and Westminster Confession of Faith (1647). Its members are the Protestant Ascendancy: the Presbyterians, or Anglo-Irish (Irish: Angla-Éireannach) and Ulster Scots (Ulster-Scots: Ulstèr-Scotch; Irish: Albanaigh Uladh or Uladh-Albanaigh) as each one is referred.
Since 1666 it has conjoined polity or Ussher scheme, a via media of church governance. The conjoined polity mandates a synodical form of church government whereby both presbyters and bishops would share the governance of the church. At each level, the bishop (or the rector of the parish) presides over a council of presbyters who offer advice and share in making decisions. All members have equal vote with matters being decided by majority vote. Canon law and church policy are decided by the church's General Synod. It appoints its Bishop-President as Archbishop of Armagh. The Church of Ireland embraces three orders of ministry: deacons, priests (or presbyters) and bishops. These orders are distinct from positions such as rector, vicar or canon.
The Trustees, Triers and Ejectors for Ireland administer the payment of tithes, ensure theological and political reliability and dismiss and eject scandalous or unsuitable priests, preachers and schoolmasters. The Irish School Boards created by the Irish Schools Act of transferred the supervision of schoolmasters and teachers to this newly devised body.
Notable voluntary unions or associations are the Irish Baptist Association, the Congregational Churches of Ireland and Ireland Yearly Meeting (association of Quakers of Ireland).
The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland comprises the majority of the population of Gaelic Irish and includes a large section of the Old English (Irish: Seanghaill). Catholics do not enjoy toleration, along Episcopalians (or Anglicans, until 1660s), Socinianism (Unitarianism) and others. It is proscribed the practise of Roman Catholicism, with many priests and bishops forced into hiding or exile.
However by the 1660s the religious climate relax, somewhat, and were generally tacitly tolerated as long as they conducted religious services in private. Only public worship, preaching and processions are not allowed. Catholics are excluded from receiving the tithes, barred from holding public office or serving in the Irish Army.
Irish politics was dominated by the Cromwellian Army and Court factions well into the 18th century and it represented the interests of the Protestant Ascendancy. The majority of the Catholic and Gaelic farmers had no representation due to the Penal Laws (Na Péindlíthe) after the uprisings of the 1690s.
In the 1700s however the later Cromwellians or Whigs (Gaelic: Fuig) were replaced by the Irish Whigs that included the landowner interests of the Protestant Ascendancy and Old English. James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde (1665–1745, Lord President of the Council 1724-1730, Senator and several times Lord Lieutenant) was its leading spokesman and representative.
The Irish Whigs later became the Irish Patriots that was dominant political organization since the 1730s. The Irish Patriots were supportive of Whig concepts of personal liberty combined with an Irish identity that rejected full independence, but advocated strong self-government within Britannia, the defense of Gaelic culture and language and Catholic political equality. Their main success were the repeal of the Penal Laws, the reform of the Irish Schools Act, the publics works schemes, the new enclosure acts for Ireland and the reform of Act of the Bank of Ireland allowing private banks in Ireland. Notable Irish Patriots were Jonathan Swift, Henry Flood, Henry Grattan, William Domville, and William Molyneux.
The most radical Irish Patriots campaigned for land reform.
Poverty, famine and land enclosure, that mainly affected the Catholic and poor farmers prompted the establishment in the 1740s of several Farmers' Union (Aontas na bhFeirmeoirí) in the poor counties that agitated for the protection small farmers, land redistribution, poor and food relief and local government home rule.
The main educational establishment is the University of Dublin, founded by Royal Charter 1592. It as three constituent colleges. However Ireland saw a notable expansion of agricultural schools and colleges in the 1730s as result of Lord Protector Townshned's sponsorship of improvements to agricultural and livestock production and education. Ireland's first mechanical arts schools (Cork, Dublin and Belfast) are of the 1740s.
The Irish Schools Act mandated the creation of at least one primary school in all parishes and its supervision by the Irish School Boards (Central and Parishes). Its implementation was controversial by its English only policy until corrected a decades later by having its language policy changed to Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge) and ending its boycott in some areas. Thought some Boards complete ignored the initial mandate and used Irish, justifying it due to the lack of English speaking teachers.
Higher education is imparted by the University of Dublin (1592, with three colleges). The Irish Inns of Court (Dublin, Belfast and Cork) and the School of Law of Trinity College are the schools of law.
The economy was predominantly one based on subsistence farming, mainly oats and potatoes (after the 16th century) and other forms of tillage. An important industry developed on the south coast involving catching, processing and exporting pilchards. In the mid 1700s the Anglo-Irish landowners rapidly switched to growing grain for export, while most Irish ate potatoes and groats.
Before the incorporation of Ireland to the Coinage Act in 1722 (effective in 1725) the home country currency was the Irish pound (Irish Gaelic: punt Éireannach). Irish coinage were mainly copper coins or tokens circulating among English or Scottish silver coins.
After the Irish coinage crisis of 1722 it was decided by the Lord Protector-in-Council to present to Parliament a bill for incorporation of Ireland to the Coinage Union. So the Bank of Ireland and the Dublin Mint were created and the Pound sterling (£ Irish Gaelic: punt steirling) became the sole common currency of the British Commonwealth.
The major change in the 18th century (British Agricultural Revolution) was the large amount of infrastructural development of Ireland; turnpike roads were established, canals built - the Grand Canal Dublin towards the Shannon (1756), the Ulster Canal (1783) and the Commonwealth Canal (1790). Improvement and diversification of agriculture and livestock becoming Ireland the chief supplier of grain and cattle to the rest of the Commonwealth.
However the Irish Famine of 1740–1741 (Bliain an Áir) and the Great Famine of 1845–1852 (Gorta Mór) dramatically exemplified the long rooted troubles of land ownership and agricultural production, each launching new policies and overhauling old practices.
An important issue as been the law and courts in Ireland. As a form of normalizing the political status of Ireland, in 1666 the Commonwealth Parliament enacted the Act for the organization of the courts in Ireland.
Following the example of Scotland and the proposals of judicial reforms by Hale and Sheppard. It created a High Court of Justice for the administration of common law and equity in Ireland and the Central Court of Criminal Appeal, and its inferior courts and jurisdictions. It also established Provincial Courts of Appellate, County courts, and Sheriff Courts and The Lord Chancellor of Ireland became the highest judicial office in Ireland.
The Irish Inns of Court became the sole institution for educating, licensing and supervising barristers-at-law.
The parliamentary representation of Ireland is the following:
|House of Commons||Boro'
|House of Commons (1654-...)||6||13||—||19||6||24||—||30|
|House of Commons (after Universities Constituencies Act)||6||13||1||20||6||24||1||31|
|House of Commons (1683-...)||7||26||1||34||7||26||1||34|