Why Is Ireland Not Part Of The United Kingdom? The border between Ireland and the United Kingdom on the island or Ireland is one of the most contentious in modern-day Europe.
For three decades Nationalists and Unionists fought a war, known as The troubles, over Northern Ireland.
Nationalists wanting a United Ireland and Unionists wanting Northern Ireland to remain int he UK.
This conflict reached stalemate, and only in 1998 with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement was some level of peace reached.
And as of this recording, the United Kingdom is set to leave the European Union by 31 October 2019. maybe, who really knows with Brexit -and Brexit delays have been primarily caused by issues surrounding the border with Ireland.
So wouldn’t it all be much easier if there was no border at all,and Ireland were to be part of the United Kingdom?
This is a ridiculous suggestion as you’ll no doubt be able to tell from the way the Irish may be declaring war on the comment section below.
It was after all once part of the UK, and that got us to The Troubles.
So, why is Ireland not part of the United Kingdom?
To answer this question, we can’t simply tell of Ireland’s war of independence with Britain that will only answer how, not why.
We must go all the way back to the beginning when Ireland was brought under English rule, or as nationalists might call it English oppression, with the Norman invasion of Ireland.
Before the Normans invaded, Ireland was not a united single state but divided into several small kingdoms over these small kingdoms, there was a High King of Ireland – but he had only limited power.
One of these lesser kings was Dermot MacMurragh,King of Leinster.
He was ambitious and ruthless.
To further his dynasty, when a rival had their woman appointed to the position of Abbess of Kildare he went to war and had her raped by a soldier to disqualify her from the position.
By halfway through the 12th century had made enemies and when he abducted the wife of another Irish King, he found himself on the wrong side of everyone.
Under the High King, the other Irish Kings united to remove him.
Dermot fled Ireland and sought the help of someone with more military power than himself, King Henry the Second of England.
England was a major European superpower, in control of not only England and Wales but also much of modern-day France,
and King Henry had coveted Ireland and had sought the Pope’s backing for an invasion a decade before.
Pope Adrian the fourth was concerned about the independence of the Irish church, and he had issued a papal bull, known as the Laudabiliter, authorizing Henry to conquer Ireland, in return Henry promised to levy a tax on the Irish with the proceeds going to Rome.
Dermot’s requests represented an opportunity, so in return for an oath of fealty, Dermot was given permission to build a force of Anglo-Norman mercenaries to retake his kingdom, and several Welsh lords agreed to help most importantly for us Richard de Clare,
also known as Strongbow, was promised Dermot’s daughter’s hand in marriage in return for his assistance.
With his foreign allies, Dermot returned to Ireland in 1169 and retook his throne.
Dermot just a couple of years later and Strongbow declared himself King of Leinster, which angered the Irish and sparked rebellion, and fueled Henry’s distrust that he would set up an independent kingdom in Ireland.
King Henry decided to exercise the rights the Pope had given him, and intervene.
Leading large military force into Ireland, the first reigning English monarch on Irish soil.
His big stick diplomacy resulting in both the Norman lords and the Irish Kings affirming their loyalty to him – some by more of the diplomacy and others by more of the stick.
This began 800 years of English presence of the emerald isle, at times to a greater extent, and often to a lesser extent too.
The English brought many things to Ireland, the Parliamentary political system, English Common law, and the language of many Irish writers: English.
But, the Irish were never happy with their overlords.
In 1317 the Irish chiefs petitioned Rome, the Remonstrance of the Princes, setting out the ancient lineage of the Irish and the illegal nature of the 1155 Laudabiliter sanctioning the original invasion.
Their requests however were ignored, and the reality was, at the edge of Europe, Ireland was of little importance.
Then in 1533, Henry the Eighth, impatient of his wife’s inability to produce the male heir, wanted to have his marriage annulled.
The Pope declined, and Henry appointed himself the head of the Church in England, breaking away from the Holy See.
Henry was excommunicated, and so the constitutional position of the Lordship in Ireland, based on the Laudabiliter became in question.
Henry responded by creating the Kingdom of Ireland by an Act of the Irish Parliament.
But a protestant ruler of a catholic population would lead to problems.
Protestant English monarchs, particularly Queen Elizabeth the First, would face a rebellion in Ireland, each would be put down in brutal fashion.
English authority was strongest in the area around Dublin, an area known as the Pale, where the English ruled directly.
The Province of Ulster in the north was the most Gaelic of all of Ireland.
Twenty five years after she took the throne it was the only province Elizabeth still needed to subdue.
Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, with a papal endorsement and the support of the Spanish, raised his banner in rebellion, in what would become known as the Nine Years’ War.
The conflict culminated with a large Rebel force clashing with an English force weakened by hunger and disease at Kinsale.
Despite this, tactical errors on the side of the Irish resulted in an English victory.
O’Neill and other Gaelic lords fled Ireland for Continental Europe in what was known as the “Flight of the Earls”, but the population they left behind was still Gaelic and Catholic.
In an effort to prevent further rebellion the English implemented a plan to civilize Ulster.
With the Gaelic lords in exile, the land they left behind became available.
Having confiscated this land the Crown issued it to Protestant colonists from England and Scotland, who were planted in the Ulster Plantations.
But the landowners in the rest of Ireland were mainly Catholic, and in 1641, with the English civil war brewing, the Irish rebelled once again, not for independence but for a better deal for Catholics.
In Ulster, the native Catholics turned on the Protestant Planters.
In the most deadly of the Ulster massacres, between 100 and 300 Protestants, civilians were stripped naked and forced into the River Bann by Catholic Irish to die of exposure, drowning, or if all else failed musket fire.
The stories of atrocities were the perfect material for propaganda.
When Oliver Cromwell was victorious in the English Civil War, the Royalists fled England to Ireland where they allied with the Rebels, who had by now developed into the more formal union, complete with an actual assembly, known as Confederate Ireland.
Cromwell followed them fleeing Royals, his campaign to gain control of Ireland was one of terror, his troops killed soldiers and civilians, and burnt castles and churches alike, as Winston Churchill put it 300 years later: “By an uncompleted process of terror, by
an iniquitous land settlement, by the bloody deeds already described, he cut new gulfs between the nations and the creeds.
‘Hell or Connaught’ were the terms he thrust upon the native inhabitants upon all of us there still lies ‘the curse of Cromwell.’”
But changing the culture of a place requires much more than a click of a button; those words tell us of the result, the rebellious catholic nobles were stripped of their estates with the Act of Settlement and banished to the poorer lands in the west of Ireland.
Even so, aside from the installed aristocracy, Ireland was still largely Catholic.
These divisions would flare up again after the monarchy was restored and England got itself a new monarch, Dutch and Protestant.
The deposed King James the Second, having raised an army in Catholic France would fight his successor, William of Orange, he chooses Ireland as his battleground, and Catholic Irishmen rallied around him.
The Jacobite and Williamite armies met at the River Boyne, the resulting Battle of the Boyne was won by William, with James fleeing from the field.
For William, a valuable victory is his larger European war against France, and for Ireland, yet another victory for Protestant supremacy.
The period that followed was the Protestant Ascendancy, a good time for Anglicans,but penal laws hampered those of other faiths.
To escape poverty and persecution many Irish would leave Ireland for opportunities in the colonies, from this point on emigration would become a recurring theme in Irish history.
Inspired by the American and French revolutions, a group of Presbyterians, descendants of the Ulster Planters, who were also persecuted under the penal laws, came to desire a more free society.
The United Irishmen, as they were known, sought help from France to break free of Britain, 14,000 French troops headed for Ireland, but storms, indecisiveness, and poor seamanship all combined to prevent a landing.
The United Irishmen leader, Wolfe Tone remarked, “England has had its luckiest escape since the Armada”.
Seeing no other option, in 1798, uniting with Catholics, they rebelled in an attempt to overthrow the King and found a non-sectarian republic.
Their rebellion, as you might be realizing is a theme by now, was brutally suppressed.
Following the 1798 Rebellion,the Irish and the British Parliaments enacted the Acts of Union; two kingdoms became one.
Part of the idea of the union was the repeal of the penal laws.
However, King George the third, blocked attempts at Catholic emancipation.
This delay further alienated Catholics.
They needed a liberator, and they got Daniel O’Connell.
He launched a different type of rebellion, founding the Catholic Board,which campaigned for Catholic emancipation.
In 1828, he became the first catholic in over 100 years to stand for election to Westminster,he won the by-election for County Clare.
But his faith prevented him from taking the Oath of Supremacy and thus taking his seat.
Not wishing to spark another uprising, the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary convinced King George the fourth, and Parliament, that Catholic, and Presbyterian, emancipation was necessary.
Having achieved Catholic emancipation, O’Connell set his sights on the Act of Union,with his Repeal Association.
The union was now governed as one, from Westminster, and O’Connell wanted an Irish Parliament once again and aimed to repeal the Act of Union to achieve this.
He held series of “Monster Meetings”.
These rallies concerned the government, and after the largest rally of all in Tara, the historic seat of the High Kings of Ireland.
one of these “Monster Meetings” was banned, O’Connell wouldn’t risk bloodshed, and called off the meeting.
Although his efforts to repeal the Act of Union were unsuccessful, over the subsequent decades, a Home Rule Movement would develop, over time becoming more radical until a fully Republican Movement would emerge.
Not least because of the effects of the Great Irish Famine, that began soon after O’Connell’s Repeal Association collapsed.
The early response from the Conservative government to the famine was reasonably successful, 100,000 pounds of maize and cornmeal were purchased to supply the hungry.
The Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, pushed to remove tariffs on grain which kept the price of bread high, he was able to get it passed with Whig and Radical support, but the break with Conservative protectionism split his party and forced his resignation.
But as the crisis worsened, the new Whig government, guided by laissez-faire doctrine, did little to assist, they believed the market would provide the solution.
But market forces were trumped by potato blight.
The result was mass emigration and starvation, the population dropped from over 8 million to just 4.4 million.
Gaelic speakers, having been driven west to the poorest quality lands 250 years before were hardest hit, and, combined with other
factors, resulted in Gaelic been replaced by English.
Those that left, didn’t forget, however.
The Fenian Brotherhood was founded in the United States, they sent money back to their counterpart in the United Kingdom; the Irish Republican Brotherhood.
These organizations dedicated to the establishment of an independent Irish Republic led an uprising in 1867, but like the Young Irelanders before them, their rebellion didn’t develop a large conflict.
But the idea of Irish Home Rule didn’t go away, the movements continued to simmer, and eventually, the January 1910 general election resulted in the Irish Parliamentary Party holding the balance of power in the house of commons, thus giving them the opportunity to force their agenda, the Third Home Rule Act was passed in Parliament.
But unionist opposition was immediate.
The Ulster Volunteers formed to oppose a Dublin parliament, Protestants thinking it would be no better than one in Rome.
The Irish Volunteers were established in their opposition, and tensions escalated until events on the continent shifted Irelands,
and the World’s focus.
The First World War caused the implementation of the Act to be delayed.
With British focus on the Central powers, with fear of conscription growing.
The Irish Republican Brotherhood plotted their next move.
They decided to stage another uprising before the end of the war and to secure help from Germany.
On Easter Monday, 1916, they made their move.
In Dublin they seized the city’s general post office, the Irish Tricolour was raised above the building and on its steps, Patrick Pearse, one of the uprising’s leaders, read a proclamation declaring Ireland to be an independent republic.
Within a week, the insurrection had been suppressed.
Public opinion was initially against the rebels, who were blamed for the destruction and death caused.
But, after the rebels surrender, martial law continued, three and a half thousand were taken prisoner by the British, many of them not involved at all, and the uprising’s leaders? Swiftly executed.
The British response shifted the needle from constitutional nationalism to physical force republicanism.
The Irish Volunteers transformed into the Irish Republican Army, the IRA.
In the 1918 general election, Sinn Féin won a landslide victory.
But they did not take their seats in the Palace of Westminster, but convened the First Dáil and declared the independence.
IRA volunteers acting on their own initiative, killed two Royal Irish Constabulary officers in the Soloheadbeg ambush, marking the first shots in the Irish War of Independence.
The new republic now itself at war with Britain.
The IRA fought a guerrilla war, ambushing British patrols and forcing isolated installations to be abandoned.
Intelligence was key to the war effort for both sides.
By late 1920, British Intelligence had established an extensive network of spies and informers around Dublin, including a group known as the ‘Cairo Gang’.
Michael Collins, the IRA Chief of Intelligence operated a clandestine “Squad” in Dublin, tasked with assassinating British Intelligence officers.
On 21 November 1920, Collins’ operatives assassinated 13 British Intelligence officers.
That afternoon, the British Auxiliaries arrived at a gaelic football match and opened fire on the crowd, killing 14.
This became one of the most infamous days in the war, Bloody Sunday.
These kinds of reprisal attacks on civilians by recruits sent from Britain, the Auxiliaries, and the paramilitary Black and Tans – named so for their mixture of police and military uniforms swayed public support away from the British.
But in the six northeastern counties, there was a strong unionist presence, the descendants of the Ulster Planters saw little value in
Home Rule, and even less in republicanism.
Because of this Westminister passed the Government in Ireland Act (1920) dividing the island of Ireland in two, Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland.
Both were to remain part of the United Kingdom but Ireland was now divided.
After two years of violence, the conflict had reached a stalemate, the British Cabinet proposed peace talks, with so much Irish blood already spilled, Sinn Féin leaders couldn’t really refuse.
The peace talks led to the negotiation of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, a fully independent Irish Republic was never on the table, neither was a fully united Ireland as Northern Ireland was granted an opt-out of the resulting Irish Free State.
And Britain would maintain control of three strategic ports within the Free State.
The Free State would be a Dominion, fully autonomous within the British Empire, but with allegiance to the British Crown.
Effectively the Free State was free from Westminster.
But not everyone in the Free State was happy with the treaty.
The Dáil approved the treaty by a slim majority of 64 to 57.
This difference of opinion would soon lead to civil war,and violence forced pro- and anti-treaty supporters to choose sides.
It was a war a brutal as any we have already discussed, but with support from Britain, the National Army of the Free State slowly took control of the Nation.
The Civil War may have claimed more lives than the war that preceded it, and left Irish society bitterly divided.
The final constitutional thread of connection would be severed, not by violence but by referendum.
Voters took to the polls in 1937 and with the support of 56.5%, the Constitution of the Irish Free State was replaced with the Constitution of Ireland.
Ireland was now as free from Britain as possible without geographic relocation, but it wasn’t whole.
Ireland still claimed Northern Ireland.
The IRA after years of decline reemerged in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s.
The Troubles brought violence back to the island of Ireland.
But after three decades of terrorism from both Nationalists and Unionists, war-weariness caught up.
The Good Friday Agreement brought an end to the fighting.
As part of their agreement Ireland amended their constitution and while they still claimed jurisdiction over all of Ireland.
They recognized that legislation would not apply in Northern Ireland: “a united Ireland shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island”.
So far Northern Ireland hasn’t made the choice to join the republic, but with the issue of the Irish border being front and center in Brexit negotiations perhaps that would solve the problem of the Irish border, after all, Northern Ireland did vote to stay within the European Union.
However, if the history we have discussed here today tells us anything it’s not to underestimate the Northern Irish skepticism of the rest of the island of Ireland.
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