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Ireland has a long history of being invaded and settled by neighbouring countries. The earliest known settlers in Ireland were hunter-gatherers, who landed on Irish shores around 8000 BC. From the countless artefacts, burial sites such as Newgrange, and ancient Ogham writing, we can now piece together how they lived.
The Celts, who were next to arrive, couldn’t understand these ancient sites, so many mythical stories come from this era. They also brought with them the Celtic language, which still remains to this day. Celtic, also known as Irish or “Gaelic” (gale – ick); is not as widely used in every day life, but there are some words that remain in the vernacular. Visit the Irish Language section for some helpful words that will come in useful during your Sunlight Properties short term holiday in Dublin.
St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, and the early Christians arrived in about 700 AD. St Patrick famously rid Ireland of snakes, and converted the pagan natives to Christianity. Arts and crafts flourished during this time and Ireland became known as “the Land of Saints and Scholars”. Among others, notable remnants of this are the Book of Kells and the Tara Brooch, both of which can be seen during your vacation in Dublin. Large monasteries from this time still dot the countryside. A trip to at least one is an absolute must. The preserved tower at Glendalough, County Wicklow and the ruins in Kells, County Meath can both be easily reached from your Sunlight Properties holiday rental in Dublin.
Up until now, all of these newcomers were, for the most part, settlers who just landed and went about their lives. Then the Vikings came along . . . the aforementioned monasteries, arts and crafts became targets to the Nordic invaders from about 745 AD onwards. The raiding and pillaging came to an end in the 9th Century when they decided to settle. The main cities of Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Limerick were founded by the Vikings. The beautiful Christchurch Cathedral is one of the fully restored buildings in Ireland from this era and definitely worth a visit during your self catering holiday in Dublin. Just as the Vikings had settled in, along came the Normans. First invading in 1169, they were closely followed two years later by King Henry II of England. The Norman invasion was hugely influential in the history of Ireland and was backed by the English pope. This marked the starting point of English occupancy in Ireland. The Normans brought with them many new skills which are still evident around the country. As excellent builders, they built many castles which still remain, some in ruins, some fully intact. King John’s Castle in Limerick and Bunratty Castle in Clare are two examples of fully intact castles, both of which can be visited on a day trip from your Sunlight Properties holiday rental in Dublin. In addition to this, the Normans brought new farming techniques, leading to Ireland’s thriving agricultural sector. They eventually married into Irish families and a huge amount of Irish surnames are of Norman descent, such as Molyneux, Devereux and names beginning with Fitz.
Around the late 1400s, the English settlers were mainly concentrated within the area around Dublin known as “The Pale“. Henry VIII laid claim to Ireland in the 16th Century, declaring himself the King of Ireland. There then ensued a long and arduous battle of trying to force Catholics to convert to Protestantism.
By 1798, the revolutions in both France and America spurred on the Irish, who followed suit, led by Theobald Wolfe Tone. It wasn’t a very successful rebellion, and Ireland officially became part of the United Kingdom in the aftermath. Catholics were emancipated somewhat in 1829 but a great potato blight starting in 1845 was another huge turning point in Irish history.
During the Great Potato Famine, one of the saddest times in Irish history, the main crop in Ireland, the potato, failed year on year until 1852. It led to the starvation and death of about a million people. Another million emigrated, mainly to America. The population of Ireland has never recovered. Emigration continued even after the Famine was over and in total, the population declined by 25% in the 19th Century. It led to a huge amount of social and economic issues and is also about the time the Irish language (Gaelic) went into decline. If you would like to discover more about the Irish famine, visit the interactive Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship/Famine Museum.
A ground swell of bitterness against the English grew both during and after the famine. Politics came to the fore, with the Irish fighting for Home Rule – a government for Ireland in Ireland. The Home Rule Bill was passed in 1914 just as World War I broke out and so, it was postponed indefinitely. An uprising was planned by the Irish Volunteers for Easter Sunday 1916 – a planned attack against the British Army in Dublin. Most of the rebellion leaders were executed in the aftermath. Among those were Padraig Pearse and James Connolly. These executions increased public awareness of the struggle and the population began to support Irish independence. Why not take the 1916 Rebellion Walking Tour to see the main sights and learn about the key players during that time.
The Irish War of Independence broke out in 1919 and the Anglo Irish Treaty was signed in late 1921. This is the Treaty that separated the 6 counties of Ulster from the other 26 counties, creating Northern Ireland which still remains a part of the United Kingdom today. The signing of this Treaty caused huge problems within the Irish Republican camp and lead to Civil War. This was a bloody and very violent time in Ireland. Brothers were literally fighting brothers, and thousands of people lost their lives. The two largest political parties in Ireland were created, Fianna Fail (anti Treaty) and Fianna Gael (pro Treaty). These two parties were to shape the future of Irish politics.
In 1937, Ireland became the Irish Free State and finally became a Republic in 1949. In the early 1960’s the Civil Rights movement became active in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately what started out as peaceful protests turned violent and many decades of violence and hatred ensued. There have been countless years of peace talks and ceasefires over the years. Although peace has been restored in Northern Ireland in the past decade, tensions still remain high. This is particularly true during “marching season” in July.
Meanwhile the Republic became a member of what is now the EU. Emigration has remained a large part of Irish life with various recessions hitting during the years. The Celtic Tiger, during the late 1990's until 2006, saw the biggest boom in Ireland’s economic history but also the biggest crash. Hundreds of thousands of people were affected by the global financial crisis. However, it's not all doom and gloom! The country is now in recovery and with their “sure, it’ll be grand” mind sets, the Irish keep their heads up, and seek out “craic” (pronounced “crack”) - fun!