Ireland was a colonial subject of the British Empire from the 17th to 20th century. This was Englands first overseas colony. Englands involvement began with the Norman invasion in 1169.The Normans went on to create a unique civilisation
The modern phase of colonial history begins with the revolution of Henry the VIII. His break with Rome led to the rise of a new class of people to power in England, and by extension Ireland. Known in Ireland as the "New English" the Elizabethan involvement in Ireland led to much bitterness and repression.
The Elizabethans destroyed Gaelic areas and the Hiberno-Norman civilisation as both were aristocratic in nature.
To this day, this colonial history is of vital importance to understand the Irish
here is a simplified sequence of events.
At this point one is tempted to indulge in bitter reflections on the course of the Roman pontiffs toward Ireland. "Hitherto"--so one might put it--"that hapless nation in its fearful struggle against ruthless invaders found Rome on the side -of its foes. It was surely a hard and cruel thing for the Irish, so devotedly attached to the Holy See, to behold the rapacious and bloodthirsty Normans, Plantagenets, and Tudors, able to flourish against them papal bulls and rescripts, until now when Henry quarreled with Rome. Now--henceforth--too late--all that is to be altered; henceforth the bulls and the rescripts are all to exhort the broken and ruined Irish nation to fight valiantly against that power to which, for four hundred years, the Roman court had been exhorting or commanding it to submit. Surely Ireland has been the sport of Roman policy, if not its victim!"
The Holy See orders the Invasion of Ireland
In the year 1155 Pope Adrian the vi wrote his Laudabiliter, a notorious document, long thought to be a forgery, it appears to be genuine but to have been doctored to improve the English position after the invasion of Ireland in 1169
it is perhaps no coincidence that Adrian vi was the only English pope
"that you should enter that island for the purposes of enlarging the boundaries of the church, checking the descent into wickedness, correcting morals and implanting virtues and encouraging the growth of the faith of Christ"
subsequent to this, the English crowns claim to Ireland was based on this Papal document.
The Pope Delighted By Invasion
Lest we think it was just an English Pope and not a policy of Rome.
Letter to Henry ii from Pope Alexander iii the year 1172.
"By frequent report and trustworthy evidence and with much joy, we have been assured that, like a pious king and magnifecent prince, you have wonderfully and gloriously triumphed over the people of Ireland,
who, ignoring the fear of God, in unbridled fashion at random do wander through the steeps of vice, and have renounced all reverence from the Christian faith and virtue, and who destroy themselves in mutual slaughter,
and over a kingdom which the Roman Emperors, the conquerors of the world left (so we read) untouched in their time and, by the ill of God (as we firmly believr) have extended the power of your majesty over that same people, a race uncivilesd and undisciplined."
The Remonstrance of the Chiefs download
The Mere Irish
Colonialism was founded upon propaganda, whose powerful effect remains an issue to this day.
using authors such as Solinusthe English attempted to denigrate Irish civilisation.
"for what would Ireland be good for if it did not have the trade that comes to it from England. Both for the poverty and ignorance of its peasants, its soil, barren of all good produce, brings forth only the boorish and squalid crowd of rural Irish; but the more civilised English and French inhabit the market towns."
ideas of savagery, debauchery and cultural inferiority
Statutes of Kilkenny Medieval Apartheid?
but as a counter to these claims, as the Middle Ages progressed the English colony in Ireland shrank and, far from showing superior civilisation began to be assimilated by the supposedly barbarous Irish.
Most interesting is the wide uptake of the Fenechus law amongst English subjects. with many recourse to the Brehons for justice. this was perceived as a threat by the English authorities and so the Statutes of Kilkenny were passed to curtail this process. these laws were aimed at the Hiberno-Norman colonies ad not the Irish, as is sometimes claimed.
Henry viii declares himself King of Ireland
up to this point the English monarchs had only dared to call themselves Lord of Ireland and at that had only claimed full jurisdiction over their own subjects. This changed when Henry split from Rome
because this title was a Papal benefice, which he could no longer claim, he now had to issue his own claim to authority in Ireland
from the beginning, cultural reform was envisaged ie loyalty to the crown was from adopting English cultural norms. Now, this program was likely instigated by the Palesmen around Dublin in whose interest the subjugation of the rest of the country was paramount.
so it was that civility=English culture, savagery =Irish culture
Act for the Englishe order, habit and apparel.
Much of Ireland did not feel the effects of colonisation until the mid 17th century, roughly 10 generations ago.
The language of the mass of the people remained Irish until only 150 years ago. the blink of an eye in terms of cultural history.
Partially destroyed since by war and imperialism, Gaelic culture nevertheless underlies and profoundly colours the nature of Irish society to this day.
This gives it great importance for anyone wishing to understand the history and culture of modern Ireland, both its failings and strengths.
" Besides, I believe it is our Gaelic past which, though the Irish race does not recognise it just at present, is really at the bottom of the Irish heart, and prevents us becoming citizens of the Empire, as, I think, can be easily proved."
Douglas Hyde 1890
From this period forward we hear of a king's or a queen's O'Reilly:and an Irish O'Reilly; a king's O'Neill and an Irish O'Neill; a king's O'Donnell and an Irish O'Donnell.'" The English government presented a very artful compromise to the septs--offering them a chief of the native family stock, but requiring that he should hold from the crown, not from the clan.
By the internal feuds thus incited, the clans were utterly riven, and were given over to a self-acting process of extinction. Occasionally, indeed, the crown nominee, once he was firmly seated in the chieftaincy, threw off all allegiance to his foreign masters, declared himself an Irish chief, cast away scornfully his English earlship, and assumed proudly the ancient title that named him head of his clan. In this event the government simply declared him "deposed," proceeded to nominate another chief in his place, and sent an army to install the new nominee on the necks of the stubborn clan. This was the artful system--copied in all its craft and cruelty by the British in India centuries afterward--pursued toward the native princes and chiefs of Ireland from the reign of Henry the Eighth to the middle of the seventeenth century.
Two things stand out when we look at Gaelic society, It is surprisingly recent, and surprisingly different.
The Suppressed Past
But knowledge of Gaelic Ireland is neither easily accessible or widely undertood, and many myths and misunderstandings litter this area.
This is partly because systems designed by colonialism to suppress key forms of knowledge continue to distort the national discourse. Republic of Ireland gained independence in 1947, but, apart from the adoption of a constitution little was reformed.
So successful have these policies been
that factors studies that could have no bearing on the continue to be used in a form of anachronism
Fear of the Unknown
and in the interests of stability
there are political reasons why Gaelic history remains shrouded in mystery for the majority.
The range of missing information is breathtaking, from the most simple, such as, what did people dress like? How did they live? What were their beliefs? To the more esoteric such as law and political organisation.
But also deeper, psychological and cultural undercurrents. Many of our most pressing issues to this day relate directly to the forcible destruction of this society
Colonialism inevitably suppresses, distorts or erases the history of the culture it seeks to dominate. Replacing it with a narrative suitable to those in power.The impacts of colonization are immense and pervasive
" instrument of wholesale destruction, dependency and systematic exploitation producing distorted economies, socio-psychological disorientation, massive poverty and neocolonial dependency"
dislocation caused by
Knowledge of the tuatha was one of the first and most important things to be suppressed.
The Destruction of War
All around us the ruins bear grim witness to the destruction of Irish society. Ireland is a country of ruins. Almost every medieval building has been destroyed, apart from a handful that survive in the English towns. There is not one building older than the18th century intact in county Sligo.
Every church, every abbey, every castle was destroyed in the ferocity of the wars of the 17th century.
Many books, musical instruments, holy objects, dress does not exist.
The targeted elimination of the clergy and poets severed much traditional knowledge.
The dislocation is also visible in the scattering of people all over the world.
The Legacy of Colonisation
Because Ireland was forcibly colonised it suffers problems common to many post-colonial societies. Corruption, marginalisation of groups, over centralised government.
For centuries maligned as backward, primitive savages. Many things In common with colonial countries worldwide.
Subsequent to occupation, in a development familiar to all colonial countries, many Irish people eventually began to believe these characterisations themselves, and shed their language and culture as something embarrassing.
These are attitudes that persist today, just as in all societies that have a colonial past. So it is that, perhaps particularly to the Irish themselves, their own Gaelic past remains obscure, mythical almost.
And yet this history is not ancient, it is recent. It is its very nearness in time that means we cannot ignore it. Gaelic Ireland did not collapse politically or militarily until the mid seventeenth century, some 350 years or only ten generations ago. English only became the dominant language on the island less than 150 years ago or five generations.
Such recent events do not magically go away, they remain, as much in the psychology of the people as in the material remains of the country. As Douglas Hyde pointed out, none of this would matter if Irishmen were happy to become English. But they were not.
Conquest in Ireland always remained partial, which has left many unresolved issues. Why did we fight to attain independence? What were we to do with that independence?
In recent times Gaelic Ireland has suffered almost as much from its romanticisation as a sort of Ossianic never never land, impractical and doomed, as from its initial suppression.
With breathtaking arrogance the Elizabethan servitors, backed in the main by new commercial entities appropriated the resources of others. both within their own country and in others.
And so the struggle of Gaelic Ireland was a struggle on many fronts. It took place in the philosophical, spiritual and material realms, and it is a struggle which continues to this day.
These are the universal themes of conflict between centralised and de-centralised authority. the rise of the capital based economy and the corporate world, the unfettered exploitation of resources. the clash of aristocratic and market based societies.
For Gaelic Ireland was as real as it was different, and it was highly organised, as plenty of English soldiers testified to in their time, or found to their cost. This organisation was efficient enough to resist and absorb clashes with materially superior civilisations for centuries.
To the English administration of the 16th and 17th centuries, Ireland was the ultimate frontier of civilisation. Wilde Irishe is how the English referred to the Gaelic people. Not just English bias In the Spanish Armada survivor De Cuellars words written in 1588 “the people are Christians but as like to Christians as Mahometans.”
From The Collapse to the Present
The final collapse came with the war of Cromwell in the 1640's. This was the war that broke Ireland, the chroniclers say. What they mean is that the Irish aristocracy was finally driven off the land, destroyed or exiled and then replaced by soldier/adventurers.
The English Republican administraion had in part financed the war by signing up to be paid in land at the conclusion of the war. Even the English King Charles 1 compared this to “selling the bearskin before you have shot the bear” In the rebellion by parliament that followed this King was to lose his head.
The Wild West
As resistance faltered in Ireland, the frontier moved west, carried over into the Americas as in O Corrain. The Irish were present at the beginning of American colonisation. Where the same process was visited upon the native Americans.
Often beyond the frontier as this is a world that Irish knew. Two Irish soldiers at Roanoke as soldiers who took an Indian chiefs head.
We must look at the root of the modern civilisation of Ireland, the seventeenth century, the last century to know Ireland under Gaelic organisation.
The Keys to the Present
History can help us to understand why things are the way they are, and this can help us explain many of our current social and political problems.
By understanding our past we can plan for a better future and inform our debates so that reform is based solidly on knowledge of our past and not solely on foreign models.
The Gaelic society that flourished here has elements both familiar and strange to us now, and while these may have been submerged, they did not disappear, they are with us still in the culture of the people.
St. Patricks Prophecy!
These are the three prayers of Patrick, as they were delivered to us by the Hibernians, entreating that all should be received on the day of judgment, if we should repent even in the last days of our life.
That he should not be shut up in hell.
That barbarian nations should never have the rule over us.
That no one shall conquer us, that is the Scots (Gaels), before seven years previous to the day of judgment, because seven years before the judgment we shall be destroyed in the sea, this is the third.
Ireland and the Irish people have many issues that stem from imperialism and colonisation. in common with other colonised peoples.
Everyone has a right to their past. it is the right of all the people to their history. With it debate can at least be informed. If we understand the origins of our systems, our national character, the way things are, we are able to see that the way things are is not necessarily the way things have to be.
these are both systemic and psychological.
disconnection from all levels of government
tendency to undermine our own laws
Loss of the Irish language has helped to disconnect people from their history.
lack of understanding of Traveller culture and its history results in unsuitable intervention by the state
also why Reform is recognised as necessary but it is blind without reference to history for without understanding how our current situation came about we are powerless to correct our problems .in fact much of what we do just makes it worse.
Authorities that effectively work against the people
Corruption and clientelism
Ireland and Africa: The Legacy of Imperialism
Two parallel experiences of colonisation and imperial domination. important to understand the mechanism of imperialism and the similarity of its effects in different parts of the world.
"both Asia and Africa, the structure of colonization in these two regions was vastly different. While the inhabitants of the Asian colonies were, to some degree, allowed to take up leadership positions and essentially handle the affairs of their respective states, their African counterparts were not given that liberty.
Instead, the traditional African governance structures and ethnic groupings were destroyed; their once revered chiefs were reduced to obsolete chess pieces and worse still, the general notion that Africans and Blacks were an inferior group was drummed home to them in the most gruesome ways possible. Consequently, African nations were set on a spiral of inferiority complex that is in motion even today.
In many African nations, there is the notion that "foreign or white is better." Many Africans will bend over backwards to help a foreigner, but find it hard to even grant audience to a fellow African who might have a new idea. At first glance this phenomenon might seem innocent and harmless. But in societies where communal values formed the foundations of their existence, the current contempt and disregard for contributions from fellow Africans holds grave significance. As the Pulitzer Award winner, writer and historian Will Durant noted, "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." The "divide and conquer" tactics used by the colonists during the "Scramble for Africa" in the 1800s is one that literally played with the minds of its victim countries and has left them confused ever since."
extract article by Jemila Abdulai, Ghana
The law because of the way it was imposed by force and resisted by much of the population there is a disconnection between the law
English common law
it did not evolve in connection with a large part of the population but with a minority.
failure to reform the laws has resulted in increased marginalisation of law itself noow resists reform
adversarial system that benifits lawyers and the state
So successful were these policies that the modern Irish state, even after independence continues to respond in the same way to the challenges presented by those who maintained the old way of life.
Ireland Continues to look exclusively outside for solutions to its problems but solutions that work in other countries need to be tailored to this one or they will fail. often indeed look to the wrong countries ie the colonisers rather than the colonised as they have a very differente xperience and therefore different problems.
fragmentation of social responsibility large family groups still intact in Ireland but the law attempts to atomise these relationships by focus only on the individual. transfers more and more responsibility onto the state that is the least suitable agent to solve family issues.
The Invasion of Capital The Celtic Tiger
The Dictatorship of the Bankers
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