Our Other Island
Ireland
 
Keefe Home
O'Keefe History
Keefe Family Tree
James Earl Keefe
Keefe Family Photos
Prince Edward Island
Links
 
     
   
Ireland is the second largest of the northwestern European islands. For centuries, Ireland's history has been intertwined with the history of its eastern neighbor, England. Even before the first English invasion in the twelfth century, Ireland had contact with the kingdoms on the isle of Britain. Ireland was Christianized by an Anglo-Roman, known as Patrick, and an Irishman, St. Columba, Christianized the land of the Scots and Picts. For centuries there had been intermarriage between the Irish, Manx, Scots, and Picts. In fact, the Scots themselves are a tribe of Irishmen from Ulster who emigrated. However, in the twelfth century these interactions between the peoples of the northwestern islands became more violent: An Anglo-Norman, Strongbow, invaded Leinster in the name of Henry II of England and at the behest of King Dermot of Leinster, who had been deposed. The Anglo-Normans took Leinster, then Meath, then Munster and Connaught. And they tried to take Ulster.
 
 


The greatest irony of Irish history is that the land that resisted the Anglo-Normans the most successfully is now the only part of Ireland still controlled by the English. Of course, the Anglo-Norman invasion was not complete; they merely built castles throughout the land to take control bit by bit, piece by piece, and clan by clan. Using Caesar's great maxim, the Anglo-Normans (and their English successors) divided the Irish and conquered them. Before the Irish were conquered though, there were two centuries in which the Irish converted the Anglo-Normans into Anglo-Irish. Indeed, the Anglo-Irish became some of the greatest rebels against the English. During the sixteenth and the late seventeenth centuries, Ireland was at war with England. The Irish could not push the English out of Ireland, but neither could the English complete their suppression of the Irish.

Then came Cromwell, the devil's hand in Ireland, who raped and slaughtered the men, women, and children of Ireland. Forty years later, the forces of Green, Irish, Catholic Ireland met the forces of the Orange, Protestant Scots-Irish and English. The Battle of the Boyne and the subsequent Battle of Kinsale brought about the Flight of the Earls in which the Irish clan leaders fled to Spain and France. The Clan Na Gaul was broken and the lands were parceled out to "loyalist" and Protestant individuals. The Irish people lost their right to own land, practice their religion or even receive an education. Ireland's mystical forests were cut down in order to ferret out rebels and to build the famous British navy. The people were so taxed that all they could afford to eat was a New World tuber, a potato. Of course, when the Irish potato crop failed in the 1840s and the other crops were collected to pay British taxes and land rents, people died. Millions of Irish died or emigrated. The Irish emigrated all over the world, many of them went to Canada or the United States, and the Irish people thrived when they were out from under British oppression.

In 1922, the British were forced into recognizing Irish demands for self-governance of Ireland. Unfortunately, before granting home rule to Ireland, the British gerrymandered an artificial border to create an artificial loyalist territory within Ireland. The British ceded three nationalist counties of Ulster to the Irish Free State and thus created a new territory made of nine counties of Ulster that together had a loyalist population. The British justified British control of the new Dominion of Northern Ireland by saying that they needed to insure the safety of the Protestant loyalist community. Again, Irish history is marked by irony because the British rule in Northern Ireland has done nothing to insure the safety of the artificially created nationalist minority in Northern Ireland.

Today there are 3 million Irish in Ireland, 1.5 million Irish in Northern Ireland, and there are an estimated 70 million Irish worldwide! Though each community of Irish people may have different accents or traditions, they are all Irish.