IRELAND, A MILLENARIAN NATION

VIKINGS, NORMANS AND ENGLISH


At the end of the 8th century the pacified Ireland was invaded by the Vikings, which interrupted a period of cultural glory that had flourished around the emerging Celtic Christianity, which was later converged to the Catholic orthodoxy. The invaders’ expansion brought destruction and a fate of dark period which reminded the times of pillage and the fights among the Celtic kingdoms of the island similar to the ones in the past. The Vikings (as it had happened with the Celts before) spread all over Europe, and their vessels, which were very stable and shallow draft, went upstream of the rivers of half of the continent and sowed chaos and destruction. They reached up to places that were so far away from their place of origin such as Sicily, Northern Africa, or the remote places like Greenland, perhaps Northern America and Iceland, which had been previously visited by Irish monks. In most of those places, the Vikings founded kingdoms which, despite being short-lived, made up attempts at settlements in different points of Europe, also in Ireland. The current capital, Dublin, and other cities such as Cork or Limerick, among others, were founded by the Vikings in the middle of the 9th century.

As it has occurred in all long-suffering European history, an invasion succeeded another one, and in the 12th century the Normans appeared in the island. That caused the reaction from Ireland, as it had happened in England, and decided to send a military force to the island to prevent the possibility of invasion. From that moment on, the presence of English contingents has persisted for a reason or another until today, so that the current Ulster or Northern Ireland is the living proof and reminder of those facts.

During the 14th century, England started to pursue the total control of the island. After all, they were lands to be exploited and a masculine population susceptible of being recruited by force in the next wars where England was going to fight. In 1541 the King of England, Henry VIII, proclaimed himself in unison King of Ireland. He even considered the whole island and its inhabitants as personal possessions and tried to impose on them his Anglican faith opposing Rome, which the Irish were reluctant to accept. At the beginning of the 17th century, the last focus of Gaelic resistance succumbed. Shortly afterwards, an important human movement of Protestant English and Scottish started to colonize Ulster with the aim of converting its inhabitants to that faith. That added new tensions in an area which had been strained for centuries due to the presence imposed by the English, who were confronted with the Catholic Roman Church.

In few decades those ‘missionaries’ became landowners who took the Ulster over as they pleased under the English permissiveness. The city of Londonderry (currently Derry), in the north of Ulster, changed into a Protestant bastion that resisted the native Catholic continuous collisions and uprisings. This is still observably reminded today thanks to the strong wall of the city. Later, already in the 20th century, the city became sadly famous for being immersed in incessant and tragic confrontations between British troops and Republicans who were in favour of the reunification with the South.

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