C. 7,500 B.C. The first humans arrive in Ireland. They live by hunting, fishing and gathering plants.C. 4,000 B.C. The first farmers arrive in Ireland

C. 2,000 B.C Bronze is introduced into Ireland

C. 750 B.C. The Celts arrive in Ireland. They bring iron tools and weapons.

C. 500 B.C. A Greek writer mentions a place he calls ‘Holy Island’. This is the first time Ireland is mentioned in writing.

C. 150 A.D. Ptolemy writes the first detailed description of Ireland

367 A.D. The Irish join with the Scots and Picts to raid Roman Britain

C. 400 The first Christians in Ireland

432 According to tradition, St Patrick arrives in IrelandC. 454 St Brigid is born

461 St Patrick dies

C. 480 St Ita is born

484 St Brendan is born

525 St Brigid dies543 St Columbanus is born

570 St Ita dies

577 St Brendan dies

C. 600 St Aidan is born615 St Columbanus dies

651 St Aidan dies

795 The Vikings begin raiding Ireland

841 The Vikings found Dublin

922 The Vikings found Limerick

976 Brian Boru becomes king of Munster

1002 Brian Boru becomes High King of Ireland

1014 The battle of Clontarf. The Irish defeat the Vikings but Brian Boru is killed.

1094 St Malachy is born


1148 St Malachy dies

1155 Pope Adrian IV (actually an Englishman called Nicholas Breakspear) grants the English king the right to invade Ireland to sort out the Irish Church

1166 Rory O’Connor becomes High King of Ireland

Dermait MacMurrough, King of Leinster, is deposed

1167 Dermait returns to Ireland. While away he sought help form English barons. Richard de Clare (known as Strongbow) agreed to lead an army to restore Dermait to his throne on the understanding that he will marry Dermait’s daughter and become king of Leinster when Dermait dies.

1169 The first English soldiers arrive in Ireland and capture Wexford

1170 Strongbow brings more soldiers. They capture Waterford and Dublin.

1171 Dermait dies

Alarmed at the prospect of Strongbow forming his own independent kingdom in Leinster the English king Henry II leads an army to Waterford. Strongbow submits to the king and is rewarded by being made Lord of Leinster.

1175 The Treaty of Windsor is made between King Henry II and Rory O’Connor the High King of Ireland. King Henry agrees to let Rory rule all Ireland outside Leinster, Meath and Waterford. In return Rory submits to Henry as his overlord.

1177 John de Courcy conquers the eastern part of Ulster

The English capture Cork

King Henry makes his son John Lord of Ireland

1185 Prince John visits Ireland for the first time

C. 1192-1250 The English extend their rule to parts of western Ireland

1194 The English capture Limerick

1197 Limerick is granted a charter

1210 Fearing the English lords in Ireland are getting out of hand King John leads an expedition to Ireland to force them to submit.

1226-1235 Richard de Clare conquers Connacht

C. 1250-1350 The English king’s hold on Ireland weakens. English landowners are gradually absorbed into Irish society, partly through intermarriage. Furthermore there are frequent wars between the Anglo-Irish and the native Irish. The native Irish gradually take back territory.

1315 The Scots under Robert the Bruce’s brother Edward Bruce invade Ireland to open up a second front in their war with the English.

1318 Edward Bruce is killed

1361 Fearing that Ireland will be lost completely the English King Edward III sends an expedition under his son Lionel to subdue Ireland. However the expedition fails.

1366 The Statute of Kikenny. This is an attempt to separate the Anglo-Irish and the Irish to prevent the Anglo-Irish losing their ‘Englishness’. They are forbidden to intermarry. All Englishmen are commanded to speak English only and are forbidden to play Irish games. However the statutes have little effect.

1394 King Richard II leads an army to subdue Ireland. The Irish submit but rebel once he leaves

1399 Richard II returns but this time he fails to subdue the Irish

1400-1450 The English lose control of Ireland except for Dublin and the surrounding area known as the Pale

1495 Poyning’s law states that the Irish parliament cannot meet without the English king’s permission and can only pass laws approved by the king and his council


In the 16th century the Tudor monarchs began a re conquest of Ireland. Henry VIII declared himself king of Ireland in 1541, the first English monarch to do so.

The Tudors introduced new English settlers and embarked on a series of military campaigns against the Gaelic Irish and the great Anglo-Norman lords who had fallen away in their allegiance to the Crown.

When the army of Elizabeth defeated the Irish at the battle of Kinsale in 1601, it marked the beginning of a new order. The native political system was overthrown and for the first time the entire country was run by a strong English central Government.

From the 16th century onwards the English Government made strenuous efforts to impose Protestantism. The reformed religion did not really take root, however, partly due to its close association with the repressive policies of the English administration. The main exception was in Ulster where the Government promoted a successful colonisation by new settlers, mostly Scottish Presbyterians. Religion added complexity to the political situation. The new colonists were Protestant and formed a distinct group from the Old English, the remnants of the Anglo-Irish colony who were still Catholic and increasingly disaffected from the Government.

To a large extent political power and office were now in the hands of the colonists, the New English. When the Gaelic Irish of Ulster rebelled against the Government in 1641 they were soon joined by their Old English co-religionists.

In 1642 a rebel assembly, the Confederation of Kilkenny, met, but divisions soon appeared as Ireland became enmeshed in the English civil war between King and Parliament. The rebellion was ruthlessly crushed by Oliver Cromwell and his parliamentary army. Further Protestant colonisation took place under Cromwell. This time the large-scale confiscation of land and the banishment of its former owners to the poorer areas of the country ensured that property and political power passed to the new colonists.

The accession of the Catholic King James II in 1685 changed the situation only temporarily. His pro-Catholic stance was unpopular in England and Scotland and among the Ulster Scots. When William of Orange challenged James II for the throne the entire country except Ulster backed James. The two kings contested their throne in Ireland and William emerged victorious after a series of battles, the most famous being William’s defeat of James at the Boyne in 1690. William’s victory left the Irish Catholics politically helpless and made possible the Protestant ascendancy that followed.

1536 The Irish parliament makes Henry VIII head of the Church of Ireland. However the Reformation makes little progress in Ireland. The vast majority of the Irish remain Catholic.

1541 King Henry VIII is determined to re-assert his authority over Ireland. He changes his title from Lord of Ireland to king. The Irish parliament assents.

1556 Queen Mary sends English people to settle land confiscated from Irish rebels in Laois and Offaly. Mary is the first monarch to successfully ‘plant’ English settlers in Ireland.

1579-1583 A rebellion is led by the Earl of Desmond

1586 onwards Queen Elizabeth sends English people to settle lands confiscated from the Irish rebels in Munster

1593-1603 The Nine Years War


In the Gaelic system which our early ancestors lived under from the earliest times, almost all were farmers/herders and as such had the right of common ownership of the soil. Their landlord was a chief or king elected by them. This was true from the earliest times until the twelfth century when Dermot MacMurrough invited Norman mercenaries to Ireland to help him with his local problems. From then on, things began to change. The newly arrived Normans seized large tracts of land from Irish chiefs they defeated in battle. Every time the Irish people revolted, and they did with habitual regularity, English soldiers were sent in to put down the rebellion. After the Irish were successfully subdued, the conquering soldiers were rewarded by grants of land–taken, of course, from the rebel Irish. By 1640, 35% of all the tillable land in Ireland was owned by invaders or English soldiers/settlers.

Throughout the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries there were numerous small uprisings by the native Irish, but in 1641 they mounted a nationwide war. Known as the “Great Rebellion” it dragged on for eleven years and caused wholesale death and destruction throughout the whole island. Finally, Oliver Cromwell came to Ireland to put this rebellion down “once and for all.” He proceeded by marching on every Irish city, slaughtering any and all that resisted him. Typical was his march on Drogheda. When his army entered the town, in addition to the defending soldiers, there were also 3000 unarmed civilians there. Cromwell’s soldiers began killing everyone in sight, and when the slaughter was over, only thirty Irish people remained.

When the war ended in 1652, one third of the Irish Catholic population had been killed and additional thousands had been transported to the West Indies to work as slaves. Cromwell’s soldiers were granted generous grants of land as a result of their “excellent effort.” To make room for his soldiers, Cromwell issued his famous order, “to hell or Connaught”–either move to the barren lands of western Ireland or be killed. By 1655, land owned by non-Irish had increased to 75%. In spite of all this, it was said, “an Irish nation still existed–separate, numerous, and hostile.”

Because of the savagery with which this rebellion had been put down, the English authorities believed that Irish rebellions were a thing of the past. They soon found out that they were wrong. New trouble started in 1685 when Charles II, King of England, died and was succeeded by James II, a Catholic. The native Irish, almost 100% Catholic, rejoiced at this turn of events as they believed King James would restore their lands to them. They therefore gave him their wholehearted support. The powerful nobles in England, who were predominantly Protestant, were not about to lose their power without a fight so they invited William of Orange to come to England to be their king. He happily accepted their offer.

In 1688 William defeated James, who promptly fled to France to set up plans for regaining his throne. His strategy was to first gain a beach-head in Ireland where he knew he had overwhelming support. He landed in Ireland in 1689 and won a quick series of battles. Shortly after, William and his army landed in Ireland and on July 1, 1690 they defeated James in the famous Battle of the Boyne.

Although the English had again been victorious over the Irish, they felt that something drastic had to be done so that they never again would be faced with a threat of a Catholic army on the island so close to them. The English government therefore enacted a series of laws whose aim was to reduce Irish Catholics to “insignificant status, fit for nothing but to hew wood and draw water.” Called the PENAL LAWS, Irishmen were forbidden the following rights:

  • All forms of education (it even forbade sending children abroad for an education).
  • Serving in the military
  • All professional vocations
  • Civic responsibilities (including voting and holding of public office)
    Attending Catholic services (Priests were expelled and if they returned to Ireland, they were drawn and quartered, a vicious form of death).
  • Purchase of land (For those already in possession of land, the normal policy of the eldest son inheriting his father’s land was voided. Instead, it was to be divided equally among all the sons–unless one of them renounced his Catholic faith and became a Protestant. He then inherited the entire property. There is a record of a Kavanaugh son turning Protestant to gain title to his father’s land and the other sons promptly changed their name to Kinsella.)
  • Owning a horse valued at $25 or more (If a Protestant offered a Catholic that amount for his horse, he was obligated to sell it to him. One farmer caught in this situation shot his favorite horse rather than sell it.)

One of the most hated provisions of these laws was the one that obligated all Catholics (but not Protestants) to tithe the Church of England. Since Ireland was more than 95% Catholic, the Protestant ministers received their income from people who never came to their church. As a result of this forced giving, the annual income of a minister in Ireland was usually three times that of one in England. The irony of this law is that the names of all the heads of households that paid their tithes were dutifully recorded and today these lists have proven to be an excellent source of genealogical information for people tracing their Irish roots.

1607 The flight of the Earls takes place. Many prominent men leave Ireland Afterwards their lands in Ulster are confiscated.1608 Cahir O’Doherty rebels and sacks Derry. The rebellion is crushed and yet more land is confiscated. The British government plans to settle large numbers of Scots and English on the confiscated lands to create a loyal population.

1610 The first Protestant settlers arrive

1613 A new town is created at Derry (called Londonderry). It receives its charter this year.

1629 St Oliver Plunket is born

1632 Thomas Wentworth (also known as Black Tom Tyrant) is made Lord Deputy of Ireland

1641 The Irish in Ulster rise in rebellion and kill some Protestant settlers.

1642 The Irish form an alliance called the Confederation of Kilkenny

Civil war begins in England. The king is preoccupied with the civil war and cannot divert many troops to Ireland. Nevertheless royalist troops under the Marquis of Ormond continue to fight the rebels.

The Scots also send an army to Ulster to protect the Scottish settlers.

1643 In September Ormond makes a truce with the Confederates to last for one year

1644 The king tells Ormond to make a permanent peace with the confederates

1646 The first Ormond peace. Ormond makes a peace treaty with the Confederates. However not all the Irish accept the treaty.

1647 Parliament sends troops to seize Dublin

1649 Following the execution of the king in January the royalists in Ireland rally. Ormond captures Drogheda and Dundalk. He lays siege to Dublin but is severely defeated at Rathmines.

Cromwell leads an army to Ireland. He lays siege to Drogheda. When he captures the town townspeople are massacred and the town is plundered.

Cromwell’s men capture Wexford where he carries out another massacre.

1650 Cromwell leaves Ireland. His Son-in-law Henry Ireton takes over.

1653-1654 Cromwell decides to confiscate land held by Irish Catholics. Those landowners who can prove they did not take part in the rebellion of 1641 will be given new (less fertile) land west of the Shannon.

1660 Charles II becomes king

1662 The Act of Settlement raises hopes that King Charles will return confiscated land in Ireland to the original owners. However Charles shrinks from this policy fearing a Protestant backlash.

1665 The Act of Explanation forces most of the men granted land by Cromwell to hand over one third of it to compensate Catholics who did not participate in the 1641 rebellion but still had their land confiscated.

1681 St Oliver Plunket is executed

1688 The Catholic king James II flees from England. William of Orange is invited by parliament to replace him.

1689 James II lands in Kinsale. The siege of Derry takes place.

1690 The battle of the Boyne. James II is defeated.

1691 The battle of Aughrim. The army of James II is defeated.

The siege of Limerick, the last part of Ireland to hold out for James II

1695 The first penal laws are passed. Catholic education is severely restricted.

1697 The Bishop’s Banishment Act orders most of the Catholic clergy to leave Ireland. In fact many do not and in the 18th century Roman Catholicism is grudgingly tolerated.


The Penal Laws accomplished their expected results. Within a few generations, the Catholic Irish were reduced to abject poverty, were illiterate (or nearly so) and unskilled. In 1750, 93% of the land was owned by non-Irish landowners and by 1770, this number was practically 100%. By then, the Irish had become a nation of tenant farmers. One visitor from France noted that nowhere in Europe had he seen such poverty as he saw in Ireland. “The Irish peasant is poorer than the lowest serfs in Poland and German,” he said.

Eye witness accounts of the life of the average Irish tenant farmer confirm that his life was one of desperation and deprivation. Nearly half of the rural population lived in small windowless mud cabins. Furniture consisted of a bed and some chairs–and only a very few had such luxuries. It was normal for farm animals, pigs and chickens, to sleep in the cabin with the people. However, the good news was that the huts were always warm in the winter thanks to the readily available peat.

Greedy landowners increased their rental income by dividing and sub-dividing their land again and again until most families were attempting to live on less than an acre of land and paying rents double that being charged in England for a much larger plot. Since potatoes were such an efficient crop, by the late eighteenth century it was practically the only crop grown by the tenant farmers. Many never in their lifetimes had ever tasted meat or bread. Their every meal consisted of potatoes, and sometimes buttermilk.

As you might expect, the Irish did not take all this cruel and inhuman treatment placidly. The outcome of the Penal Laws was that evasion of the law became the duty of every Irish Catholic…”dangerous lessons for any government to compel their subjects to learn.” Their answer was a form of guerrilla warfare carried out by secret societies.

In the 1760’s, “Whiteboys” appeared. These were gangs of men wearing white shirts over their clothes who rode the countryside at night tearing down fences, ham-stringing cattle, and burning barns. They also sought out informers, landlord’s men, and tithe collectors. When these people were caught, the group dispensed a people justice in a terrible form of revenge. They also rode up to manor houses destroying property and shooting through the windows. As a result, many landlords lived in permanently barricaded houses guarded by teams of sentries.

By the end of nineteenth century the Irish had organized enough to develop a war strategy which would become the Insurrection of 1798. The plan was to have revolts break out simultaneously all over Ireland at the same time that a large force of French soldiers landed in Ireland. Unfortunately, the ships carrying the French army ran into a severe storm as they were in sight of land and most of the ships sank. Nevertheless, the Irish revolted on cue and in spite of the fact that they were armed with only pikes and clubs they did remarkably well against the Loyalist soldiers armed with muskets and canon. The crucial battle was fought at a place called Vinegar Hill in County Wexford. Here the Irish rebels made a determined stand that ended in disaster when the Loyalist troops opened fire with a battery of canon. One observer commented that the rebels “fell like new mown grass.”

Although the battle was lost, it gave inspiration to the most famous of all Irish war songs, “The Boys of Wexford”, a favorite song sung for generations in Irish pubs around the world. The opening stanza goes like this.

“We are the Boys of Wexford
Who fought with heart and hand.
To burst in twain the galling chain
And free our native land.”

In the mopping up operations there and in other parts of Ireland, thousands were butchered while on their knees begging for mercy. In those final days of war, more than 50,000 were killed…”more were killed in cold blood than in battle.”

1704 Further penal laws are passed. More restrictions are placed on Catholics. They are not allowed to buy land, inherit from Protestants or lease it for more than 31 years. They not allowed to leave land to a single heir but land must be divided among all their sons (or daughters if they don’t have any). A ‘sacramental test’ means Catholics are not allowed to hold public office. The test also applies to Protestant dissenters (those who do not belong to the Church of Ireland)

1711 The linen board is formed in Dublin. During the 18th century there is a huge growth of the linen industry in Northern Ireland.

1719 Protestant dissenters are officially allowed to practice their religion. (Although there are still some restrictions on them).

1727 Catholics are deprived of the right to vote

Ireland is struck by famine

1740-1741 A severe famine affects Ireland. About 400,000 people die.

1759 Guinness is brewed for the first time

C. 1760 onwards Landowners enclose common land for grazing cattle. Men called whiteboys (because they wear white shirts or smocks to disguise themselves) destroy fences and attack cattle.

1770s Protestants form secret societies, the Oakboys and the Steelboys to protest about rents and rates

1778 A Catholic Relief Act allows Catholics to lease land for 999 years. They are also allowed to leave their land to single heir.

1780 Protestant dissenters are allowed to hold Public office.

1782 Catholics are allowed to buy land. Most restrictions on Catholic education and the Catholic clergy are removed.

Poyning’s Law is repealed.

1783 The Bank of Ireland opens

1791 The Society of United Irishmen is formed

1792 Catholics are allowed to practice as lawyers. Catholics are allowed to marry protestants.

1793 Catholics are allowed to vote

1795 The battle of the Diamond between 2 secret societies, the Catholic Defenders and the Protestant Peep O’ Day boys. The Defenders are severely defeated.

1798 The Society of United Irishmen rebel but the rebellion is crushed at the battle of Vinegar Hill in June. Wolfe Tone commits suicide after being captured.


Ireland’s history in the Nineteenth Century saw the seeds sown that explains Ireland’s history in the Twentieth Century. The so-called ‘Irish Problem’ did not suddenly occur in one set year in the Nineteenth Century. Ireland’s problems go much further back. Oliver Cromwell, who governed Britain in the mid-Seventeenth Century and at the time when Britain was a republic, detested Roman Catholicism and believed that the Irish could never be trusted. His attempts to ‘solve’ the Irish problem, as he saw it, was to send to the island his New Model Army and coerce the Irish into obedience. This included the sieges of Wexford and Drogheda where the defenders in both towns were executed after being offered terms of clemency if they surrendered to Cromwell’s forces. Cromwell also believed that the best way to bring Ireland to heel in the long term, was to ‘export’ children from Ireland to the sugar plantations in the West Indies, so that Ireland would suffer from a long term population loss, making it less of a threat to mainland Britain.

In the Eighteenth Century, farming land in Ireland became more and more the property of English landlords. The bulk of these were absentee landlords who showed little if any compassion for the people who worked the land. The rural population of Ireland, which was the large majority of the population, lived lives of extreme poverty.

The extent of poverty and the issues surrounding it were well known in the British establishment. Even a stalwart Tory like the Duke of Wellington commented that:

“There never was a country in which poverty existed to the extent that it exists in Ireland.”

Europeans who went to rural Ireland (though they would have been few in number) were shocked by what they saw:

“Now I have seen Ireland, it seems to me that the poorest among the Letts, the Estonians and the Finlanders lead a life of comparative luxury.” (Kohl, a German visitor to Ireland in the early C19th)

Many years later when Gladstone wrote to the government of Naples to complain about the state of prisons there, he got a reply stating that what existed in Ireland, outside of prisons, was much worse and that he had no right to complain about prisons in Naples when Ireland was in such a state for people not in prison.

The poverty that existed in rural Ireland is relatively easy to explain and centers around land ownership.

First, the people who owned the land were frequently absent landlords who paid little attention to the state of their land. Their only concern was rent. Those who could not pay were evicted and there was no safety net in place for these people when this happened – as it frequently did. Absentee landlords were responsible for much anger among the rural population of Ireland. They crammed as many families onto their land as they could. No family who worked the land they had, could produce enough to feed their families. Landlords enforced their authority through thugs or via the police or army who could be called in to evict families if the landlord requested such help. Even in the Nineteenth Century, it would still be possible to describe those who lived in rural Ireland as leading the lives of peasants, a term that would have been used in Medieval England. They had no rights, the power rested solely in the hands of the landlords and those who upheld law and order were frequently in league with landlords.

The second problem the rural population had was the fact that their annual food harvest was based on the potato and not a crop such as wheat or corn.

The famous agriculturist, Arthur Young, once wrote:

“I will not assert that potatoes are a better food than bread and cheese, but I have no doubt of a belly full of one, being better than a bellyful of the other.”

Potatoes were notoriously susceptible to disease and famines due to a failed potato crop had occurred on a number of occasions in Nineteenth Century Ireland. However, the potato blight of 1845 eclipsed all that had passed before and its impact of Ireland is impossible to quantify outside of simple statistics.

Why was the potato grown? When it was not blighted by disease, a good harvest could be expected. Also the vegetable could produce a high yield with little intensive care. With protein from the dairy produce found in rural communities, those who used the potato as the basis for their diet, could get a reasonably good diet. However, when the potato crop failed, those who relied on it faced very serious problems.

The most infamous example of potato failure was in 1845. Its impact on Ireland was nothing short of catastrophic.

Ireland’s population growth in the first half of the Nineteenth Century had been great. Disraeli, even claimed that it was higher than the growth rate of China – but this is debatable simply because of the lack of statistics. From 18780 to 1840, Ireland’s population grew at an estimated 172%. For comparison, in mainland Britain, it is estimated to have been at 88% in the same time period. By 1845, before the Great Famine, the population of Ireland was 8 million.

Why did Ireland’s population grow so quickly in the first half of the Nineteenth Century? The impact of the Catholic Church cannot be overstated. The Catholic Church ruled against contraception and abortions (in whatever forms existed then) and preached about the value of large families. Also, many did believe that a large family was an insurance in old age as your children would look after you. Therefore, the more children you had, the more comfortable you would be in your later years. However, a large family faced many problems when food was in short supply. When there was no supply – as in 1845 to 1847 – the situation became catastrophic.

The Irish were alienated from the British mainland up to 1845, but after it, this feeling of alienation grew. It was after the Great Famine that secret organisations grew and they simply wanted the British out of Ireland and a republic set up free from the rule of Westminster. The most famous were the Fenians and the Irish Republican Brotherhood. The tactics of such groups were brutal including the murder of Lord Cavendish, Chief Secretary for Ireland, and T. Burke, the Permanent Under-Secretary in Ireland, in Phoenix Park, Dublin, in 1882. This one event horrified Victorian England but seemed to confirm to many in England that the Irish simply could not be trusted. Despite the murders, Gladstone continued with his Home Rule campaign, but without success in the Nineteenth Century. While Gladstone tried to push through many acts for Ireland, the basic issues of poverty and land ownership were never addressed.

1800 The Act of Union joins England and Ireland (the act comes into effect in 1801)1803 Robert Emmet’s rising in Dublin. The rising is crushed and Emmet is executed.

1807 Famine in Ireland

1817 Famine and typhus in Ireland

1820s Agrarian unrest is led by a secret society called the Ribbonmen

1821-1822 Famine strikes Ireland again

1823 Daniel O’Connell founds the Catholic Association

1829 The Catholic Emancipation Act allows Catholics to enter parliament and to hold public office

1830-1834 Famine stalks Ireland again1832 Cholera epidemic in Irish towns

1836 Famine strikes again

1838 Tithes (a tax of 1 tenth on farm produce paid to the Church of Ireland) are reduced by 25%

1840 Young Ireland is founded

1843 The first railway in Ireland from Dublin to Kingstown opens

1841 The population of Ireland is 8,175,000

1845-1849 The potato blight causes a potato famine. Perhaps 1 million people die. Many more emigrate. The population of Ireland falls dramatically. The famine is at its worst in the West and Southwest of Ireland.

1848 The Treason-Felony Act is passed

William O’Brien (1803-1864) attempts a rebellion known as ‘the battle of the Widow McCormack’s cabbage patch’ in County Tipperary. He is later sentenced to transportation.

1848-1850 Cholera epidemics

1850 The Irish Franchise Act greatly increases the number of people allowed to vote

1851 The population of Ireland has fallen to 6,552,000

1854 The Catholic University of Ireland opens

Oscar Wilde is born

1858 The Irish Republican Brotherhood is formed

1867 Fenian rising

1869 The Church of Ireland is disestablished

1870 Gladstone’s Land Act gives tenant farmers the right to compensation if they have made improvements to the land

The Home Government Association is formed

1873 It is replaced by the Home Rule League

1879 The Irish National Land League is formed. It demands the ‘Three F’s’, fair rent, fixity of tenure and free sale of land.

1880 A new verb enters the language ‘to boycott’. Charles Stewart Parnell, the leader of the Land League declares that if a tenant is evicted and somebody else takes over the land that person is to be ostracised. The first person so treated is a Captain Boycott.

1881 The Land Law Act grants the ‘3 f’s’. The Land Commission is formed to fix rent and to give loans to purchase land.

Parnell is imprisoned

1882 James Joyce is born

Parnell is released

1884 The franchise is extended again

The Gaelic Athletic Association is founded

1885 Under the Ashbourne Act loans are given to tenant farmers to buy their land. The loans are to be repaid at low rates of interest

1886 The first Home Rule bill is rejected by the British parliament

1890 Michael Collins is born

Oscar Wilde publishes The Picture of Dorian Gray

Parnell is named as co-respondent in a divorce case

1891 Another Land Act makes more money available to tenant farmers to buy land

1893 The Gaelic League is founded

The second Home Rule bill is passed by the British House of Commons but is rejected by the House of Lords

Another Land Act makes it easier for tenant farmers to borrow money to buy their land

1898 The Irish Local Government Act gives Ireland local government similar to the English system


1900 Oscar Wilde dies1903 A final Land Act makes it still easier for tenant farmers to obtain loans and buy their land. As a result millions of acres change hands by 19211905 Sinn Fein is founded

1909 The Irish Transport and General Workers Union is founded

1913 The Ulster Volunteer Force is founded

Tram strike in Dublin

A third Home Rule bill is passed by the British parliament. However the act is put on hold in September because of the outbreak of the First World War.

1916 The Easter Rising

James Joyce publishes A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

1919 The Irish Volunteers are renamed the Irish Republican Army

A number of Sinn Fein MPs were elected to the British parliament in December 1918. However they refuse to take their seats. Instead they form their own parliament in Dublin called the Dail Eireann. Eammon de Valera is elected president of the Dail.

1919-1921 The War of Independence. The IRA fights a guerrilla war against the British.

1920 Ireland is partitioned. The Government of Ireland Act forms 2 parliaments in Ireland. One in the North and one in the South. Both are to have their own prime minister. However both are to be subordinate to the British parliament.

The ‘Black and Tans’ are formed to reinforce the Royal Irish Constabulary

1921 The Northern parliament meets for the first time. Sinn Fein win almost all the seats for the Southern parliament but they refuse to take their seats. Instead they carry on meeting in the Dail Eireann.

A truce is made between the IRA and the British

An Anglo-Irish treaty partitions Ireland

1922 The Dail agrees to the treaty but civil war begins between those who accept the treaty and those who don’t

Michael Collins is killed

The Garda Siochana is formed

James Joyce publishes Ulysses

1923 The civil war ends

A Censorship of Films Act is passed

William Butler Yeats wins the Nobel Prize for Literature

1925 George Bernard Shaw wins the Nobel Prize for Literature

1926 Fianna Fail is founded

1929 The Shannon hydro-electricity scheme is finished1932-1937 Eamon De Valera is Prime Minister1936 The IRA is banned in the Irish Free State

Aer Lingus is founded

1937 A new constitution comes into force. The Irish Free State becomes Eire. Douglas Hyde is the first president.

1937-1948 de Valera is Taoiseach

1939 James Joyce publishes Finnegans Wake

1941 A German air raid kills 34 people in Dublin

James Joyce dies

1949 The Republic of Ireland Act makes Eire a republic

1951-1954 de Valera is Taoiseach again

1955 Ireland joins the United Nations

1957-1959 de Valera is Taoiseach for the 3rd time

1959-1973 de Valera is President

1961 RTE begins broadcasting

1969 Beginning of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland

1972 ‘Bloody Sunday’ in Derry. Fourteen people are killed when the British 1st Parachute Regiment opens fire on demonstrators.

Gaelic Radio begins

1973 Ireland joins the EEC (forerunner of the EU)

1974 The sale of contraceptives to married people is legalised

1982 Corporal punishment ends in Irish schools

1985 The Anglo-Irish agreement

1990-1997 Mary Robinson is President of Ireland

1990s Ireland experiences rapid economic growth. It is called the Celtic Tiger.

1994 Cease fire in Northern Ireland

1995 Seamus Heaney wins the Nobel prize for Literature

The Irish people vote in a referendum to allow divorce

1996 Gaelic T.V. begins

1997 Mary McAleese becomes President

1998 The Good Friday Agreement is signed


2004 In a referendum the Irish people voted to stop automatically granting citizenship to anyone born in the country.

Today the population of Ireland is 3.9 million