The Events in Northern Ireland at the Turn of the Century

By SSG

 

Ireland in the period from 1800 to 1916 was dangerous part of British foreign
policy. England’s colonization of northern Ireland with Protestants created a vast
religious intolerance across the island. The English owned the land, often in the form of
absentee landlords. The economic difficulties brought upon the native people, combined
with the hatred of the foreign religion, government, and military caused the Irish people
to become the active revolutionaries, in their quest for home rule.

Ireland came under British control when the Ulster settlement was established.
Ireland had been completely catholic, until these Anglicans settled in the north. The
British military protected them, and they eventually incorporated Ireland into the united
kingdom in 1801. England controlled Ireland, despite attempts by Irish nationalist to
declare independence in 1916. William Pitt was a strong supporter of the union of Ireland
and great Britain. He was the prime minister of England, and created the act of union.
His belief that “Ireland must be ruled in the English interest” was the basis of the Irish
policy. While the Catholics tried to free Ireland, Protestants tried to create a Protestant
republic. Protestants such as john foster demanded the protection by England of Irish
Protestants, and the independent rule of a Protestant king and parliament. Britain
believed home rule would lead to corruption, and maintained it’s control of Ireland.

Although Protestants are the majority in the region of Ulster, the southern part of
Ireland was predominately catholic. Culturally Ireland fought off the British advance,
creating such groups as the daughters of Ireland, which “encourage the study of Celtic
language, the Irish literature, history, music and art; to support Irish manufacture..... and
to combat in every way the English influence.”. Although it was effective in reducing the
cultural influence of England, it failed in the economic perspective. Much of Irish land
was under English landlords. This “idle, nonproducing class used English laws to extract
millions of pounds from Irish soil”. Landlords were hated, and the economic difficulties
faced by the Irish people led to a revolt in 1798, and the declaration of an Irish republic
in 1916.

The English “maintained an army of semi-military police to protect their proprietary rights.”. This military force was the main barrier to Irish independence. As strong as the English military was, it was not the chief source of Irish resentment. It was the English religion, Anglicanism, which caused so great a conflict. The English repressed the papacy, and disposed the catholic church. Thomas Davis begged for England and Ireland to ignore there petty differences, yet they didn’t care. Religious intolerance is a theme still present in modern Ireland.

The Irish question has plagued England for centuries. The unique culture and spirit of the people is difficult to destroy. England’s ability to control Ireland has continued to be a major topic our world, one for which there is no simple answer.