English dominion over Ireland, dates from the 12th Century, when Ireland still comprised small, brash, warring Gaelic-Norse kingdoms, and while its Celtic character had yet to fully engage with St. Patrick’s already five centuries-old gift of Catholicism.
Why the English came when they did, involves at least five star witnesses: Queen Derbforgaill; her husband, Tiernan O’Rourke, the 19th King of Briefne, Connaught, in the north of Ireland, Dermott Mac Murchada, the King of Leinster, in the south; King Henry 2nd of England; and Pope Adrian 4th, the only ever English Pope. Earliest accounts agree that Derbforgaill was abducted by Mac Murchada in 1151, as was the common wont of kings of the day. He holds her for either months or years, after which she returns to her husband. Fourteen years on, alliances by now shifted, O’Rourke overpowers Mac Murchada and sends him into exile, whereupon he successfully petitions the help of England’s King Henry 2nd, to retrieve and to later strengthen, his position.
The later accounts which claim that Derbforgaill wasn’t abducted at all, but went willingly with Mac Murchada, thereby endow Irish history with its very own villain – the mythological Helen of Ireland. And all the subsequent tragedy, disaster and degradation inflicted on this hapless young, Wild Oats state, is blamed on the wicked treachery innate to faithless womankind.
That Henry’s inclination to help was backed as well by papal bull, issued in 1155 by the only English pope, Adrian 4th, becomes a mere footnote in light of the above human drama. Adrian authorises Henry’s already divine agency to assist the Irish Church by abolishing the “filthy practices” prevailing in the “barbarous nation” of Ireland. So Henry’s Norman Knights led a two-stage invasion of Ireland, completed by 1171, and added the post of “Lordship of Ireland” to his job description.
We’d like to say “herewith endeth the lesson”, but no such luck of the Irish. Henry may have been benign enough, but wherever a Merry Old English toe takes hold, the foot to follow invariably boasts a heavy tread to suit a stance that wields a lash and is dislodged only with great difficulty, even as blatantly unappreciative host nations find their senses of nationhood thriving on steady diets of cold cuts of dispossession pickled in misery and seasoned in hatred for centuries to come.
After more than eight hundred years of disputed forms of English governance, Ireland is not at peace with itself. The “Irish Question” of national unity remains unanswered.
Our brief excursion through Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin gave us a strong impression of the intense longing for unity that has accompanied the epic struggle of the Nationalist cause for independence. When the gaol opened in 1796, it used state-of-the-art prison technology. It’s function to incarcerate political prisoners may or may not have been specifically planned, but one of its first duties was to detain Robert Emmett until his execution.
His loyal housekeeper, Anne Devlin, whose immense bravery has inspired ballads, was detained far longer and suffered great cruelty
Uprisings too numerous to list here came and went, but the event that is now seen as the most decisive in breaking England’s hold on Ireland was the Easter uprising in 1916 and the men responsible for its conduct were swiftly despatched and executed in the yard at Kilmainham.
Irish history, as that of most lands, is a many-faceted and unruly beast. As travellers passing by momentarily, albeit with varying understanding and prior knowledge of that history, we have to be satisfied with the impressions and notions and feelings that our passing encounters inspire. We must know that of course they are woefully incomplete and cannot be taken to express the experience of the people who lived it and made it – who breathed it and ate it; who died in it and died for it. And when something strikes us as tragic or foolish or funny or sad, that this must reflect something in us that is being touched by our own limited understanding, and that’s of course entirely valid and will lead hopefully to deeper knowledge and understanding of events…..because then we might be able to rewrite these histories? Do we want to? Oh yes! Why? To avoid the tragedies? Oh yes! To live happily ever after? Oh yes! Oh yes! Oh yes!
Hello Janet and Annie Are u still in Dingle…sent us a link to your cottage so can place u I a physical setting if still there? How was New York? We have arrived back in coffins!! Good to be back!! Straight back into life and work… We had a nice break with Rosie and Meredith in Coffs Harbour for a week, after a quick painting/renovating job for a week on our mildura place…which now we hope has sold…reduce more debt to simply life!!!…that the aim!! We are back in CS for Xmas for 2 weeks, back here for 3 here, then from 1st February….singapore (where susan,s Kate and family are) for 4 days, then off to cambodia for 3/52….part of my 60th belated bday wish… So Sicily still the Xmas goal?? Any firmed up places and plans? I think your year has moved fairly fast ..has that been how it has been for you? Enjoy your blogs re ireland and the history lessons! Don’t really agree with your assessment of what makes the peace process fragile in Derry? The orange marches aren’t really Protestant extremists making a point, more traditional identity for quite a large part of Northern Ireland people. Like Australia and their first people (our aboriginals), it is not possible to go back and undo history and dismiss everyone that is born since, that have their traditions to not be allow to be…otherwise, anyone that has ancestry that came in the first fleets,should get out because they are inflaming the land and lives of all aboriginal people!!! We can discuss this further over a glass of wine or two…when you are back home!! Cheers for now. Beth xx
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Hi Beth, thanks for your comments, Darlin. History’s a tough subject when it touches people’s lived experience and when some opinionated person attempts an amateur analysis of a deeply complex past and and conflicted set of records of it. We certainly respect that. And Yes! we look forward to a good ole session on our return. Looks like we might be arriving back in Oz around the same time – early March? Have a great belated b’day in Cambodia. Love to you both.
Hey girls, I continue to watch, read, laugh and turn green – the Northern Irish in me still waits for Justice and the eviction of the invader! If you need a LARGE book to read as you toddle around the world and if you are up to your Irish bits reacting strongly (one way or t’ other) then Leon Uris’s Trinity will keep your blood popping and your debates increasing!
I continue to watch, read, laugh and turn green! The Northern Irish in me is still waiting for justice and the removal of the invader – only the Irish can be so stubborn that the desire for freedom travels with the DNA for hundreds of years! If you need a LARGE book to read as you toddle around the world I recommend Trinity by Leon Uris – it will make your Irish bits boil (from whatever side of the bog). I am happy to continue my vicarious travels through you as long as you want to wander.
Hi Pellyping, great to hear from you. You won’t believe it, but I was only just thinking of you this very morning – that we hadn’t heard from you for yonks and how might you be going. Then Hey Presto! Thanx for your comments. Yes Ireland fair gets our Irish up. And Scotland did too. But for some strange reason, I’ve just noticed some of our pictures have disappeared off the viewing page, making the captions all a trifle lonely. So I’m off now in search of advice form site managers…. As for Leon, just at the moment we’ve enough in our saddle bags to keep us going…or slow going should I say.. Lots of love to you xxx