Irish Nationalism And History Essay, Research Paper
The thought of Irish Nationalism is not new to this world or to the Irish, and is probably one of the most prominent subjects of nationalist debates and heated bloodshed that currently are going on in this day and age. To better understand Irish Nationalism we first must examine the history of Ireland and understand as to where their reason, not to say it justifies action, has grown from. Then we must examine the very definition of nationalism, and in the end determine whether this example of nationalism has been healthy for the country as a whole or whether another form of action and attitude would have been more effective. In the late twelfth century, Norman English arrived in Ireland. They expected to find a barbarous group of people, with no knowledge of Christianity. To a certain extent, they were correct; the natives, or Celts, were a violent people, but no more so than their Scottish brethren with which the English were already familiar. The British were surprised, however, to see that the Celts actively practiced Catholicism. Later on Richard Strongbow, a Norman lord, was the first of the Normans to invade Ireland. Other Normans soon followed suit; claiming land and building castles. The Norman influence gradually Anglicized many aspects of Irish life, but the Celts were accepting of the Normans, and vice versa. Gradually, England’s influence over Ireland grew and grew. England’s assimilation of the emerald isle might have gone smoothly, were it not for the actions of King Henry VIII. In 1534, Henry renounced the Catholic church and formed the Anglican church in its place. While this change was reluctantly accepted in England, the Irish were much less accommodating. The Catholic faith had much stronger roots in Ireland, and the king’s power was not as great there as in England. In an attempt to ensure loyalty, Protestant settlers were sent to Ireland by King James I. These settlers were to colonize lands taken from the Catholic lords in Ireland. The majority of these settlers were Presbyterians from Scotland. While these people settled all over Ireland, it was in the area called Ulster, across the water from Scotland, where the majority of them settled. As a result, a volatile combination of Catholics, Anglicans, and Presbyterians was present in Ireland. All three of these religions taught that those in the other two groups were wrong, if not evil. Around 1700, a series of laws, called the Penal Laws, were established. These laws were designed primarily to discriminate against Catholics. Catholic children were not allowed to attend school. Catholics were not allowed to own a horse worth more than 5 pounds, or to own any type of weapon. By 1714, Catholics owned only 7 percent of the land. Catholics in Ireland did not regain their political rights until the late 1820s; mainly thanks to the efforts of Daniel O’Connell and the organization he founded, the Catholic Association. Ireland was, first and foremost, an agricultural country. The only real exception to this was in the north, where profitable linen and shipbuilding industries augmented the economy. In 1845, the potato crop was hit by a disease that destroyed that years crop. The next year, the crop was destroyed again. This disaster spelled doom for Ireland. Nearly one quarter of the population died from starvation or disease, while one eighth of the people fled the country. This disaster emphasized the differences between the north and south. The north was able to rely on its other industries to reduce its suffering. This caused a great deal of jealousy in the south. Additionally, the Protestant landlords sent badly needed grain to England, instead of helping the Catholic peasants. The peasants were poor, so the grain was sent to English merchants for the profit. The effects of this were multiplied by the fact that the English parliament was reluctant to send any food to Ireland. One official declared “It is not the intention at all to import food for the use of the people of Ireland.” In 1870, an organization called the Home Rule League was formed to campaign for self-government in Ireland. After another agricultural depression in 1873, many citizens flocked to its cause. Gradually, many supporters of this cause made their way into the British Parliament. By 1885, there were eighty-six such men in Parliament. Through their lobbying, a Home Rule bill was passed, with the condition that northern Ireland remain in the United Kingdom. However, this could not be implemented until after World War I, and until the angry Protestants were calmed. A small group of Irish nationalists, calling themselves Sinn Fein (Gaelic for “ourselves alone”), were dissatisfied with England’s plans. This group, along with three others, planned an uprising for Easter Monday, April 24, 1916. The rebellion was quickly stopped by British troops, but not before 1300 people on both sides had been killed. While these groups originally had little support from the general populace, the harsh response of the government gained a great deal of sympathy for their cause. The government arrested thousands of people and rebel leaders were executed. The rebels were transformed into martyrs.
Now according to these records which are in no mean meant to be the most comprehensive records of Irish history, we show that the, common and most prominent, Catholic Irish have been by history almost controlled and herded like cattle. In a brief they have had their land, rights, and culture taken from them repeatedly in order to allow the British to take a stronger hold into their neighbors. Next we must now look to the definition of nationalism to learn how this history can apply to it. Nationalism as stated in the Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary Nationalism Na”tion*al*ism, n. 1. The state of being national; national attachment; nationality. 2. An idiom, trait, or character peculiar to any nation. 3. National independence; the principles of the Nationalists. According to the third definition of nationalism the Irish have simply been questing to find their national independence. According to the second definition the Irish are merely showing their historic character or trait, which is in the historical point view of the Irish mere survival. The Irish have never been the type to try to conquer other lands in the name of Nationalism, or any other name for that matter. They have not gone about preaching and promoting the strength and pride of Ireland over all others trying to cleanse the world of all “un-pure” races. They have simply tried their best to tolerate all those whom have invaded their country, either by force or by friendship, and pushed upon them all of their values, rules, and religions, while still trying to keep their own culture alive. Throughout this struggle countless Irish, British, and others who have become involved either as innocent bystanders or not have suffered severe casualties. The IRA has become a now violent backlash group, which has started bombing British political sites to show signs of Irish aggressive and open disgust to the British control of their country. The British constantly have troops station through Northern Ireland in order to, as the United States would put it, “keep the peace”. On top of this all of the Catholic and Protestant direct conflict has made it unsafe for the different members to just walk though the wrong neighborhood or meet in an organized public display without fearing a blood-shedding riot. On top of the violence which has prevailed, the political promise between these two factions has never seemed to be much more promising with the interviews and negotiations turning much more strongly into mud-slinging fights, with Irish and British pride turning into kindling for a already burning fire. These futile attempts at modern diplomacy have not brought the countries and cultures any closer to a resolution then their much more bloody but not much less violent counterparts in the IRA attacks. It seems that the only benefits that have come from all of these Nationalist actions seem to be in the form of international aid and support. The United States along with many other countries has sided with neither side, but with the side of a peaceful resolution. Unfortunately this has been slowed by the stopping of the IRA’s 16 month cease-fire saying that “it’s was leading nowhere”. Never the less the influence of the foreign aid, concern, and influence has driven the negotiations to new levels and may one day result in success for all sides. Nationalism for the Irish has become a good link for those who believe in the cause, they are strongly bonded and capable individuals who are willing to die for their country to be free again. Nationalism to this day is still in effect in Ireland, bombs are still going off, people are still dying for their country, and the English are still controlling Ireland. The question should be raised how long must one country be under another countries watchfull eye if it does not want to be there. Even China was given back its terretory. The Irish Nationalistic movement is one that has benefitted and given hope to the Irish people and for that reason the Nationalistic movement is a successfull and positive thing.