The early 19th century saw the rise of Irish nationalism, particularly among the Catholic population. In 1800, British and the lackey Irish Parliament implemented the Act of Union, which merged the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801. Thus, Ireland became an extended part of the United Kingdom, under the direct control of the British Parliament.
Misrule and Famine But this period of assimilation between the two kingdoms was characterized with misrule, especially on Britain’s part. In the 40 years after the Act of Union was legalized, successive British governments were unsuccessful in alleviating Ireland’s political, economic and religious problems. Despite 114 commissions and 61 special committees inquiring into the state of Ireland from 1801 to 1845, 80% of the Irish population (mostly Catholics) lived in poverty and insecurity.
Vast agricultural lands were owned by the Ascendancy class, composed of wealthy and powerful English and Anglo-Irish families. Many of these landlords lived in England and were called “absentees. ” They either leased out their lands to Irish peasants or paid them minimal wages to raise crops and livestock for export. However, tenants rarely received working wages. The lands leased out to them were so small and were of poor quality that they had to rely on the potato, the only crop that can be planted sufficiently on a small and barren patch of land, for sustenance.
The Irish Potato Famine (1845-1849) ensued as a result, reducing Ireland’s population by 20% to 25% from 1845 to 1852 and unleashing a wave of Irish migration to countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. Resistance The Irish Potato Famine became a rallying point for various nationalist movements in the 19th century. As early as 1844, John Mitchell, one of the leading writers of Young Ireland (a 19th century Irish nationalist movement), have been criticizing the British in his writings for the trifling manner in which they allegedly handled the famine.
In 1847, Young Ireland party leader William Smith O’Brien became a founding member of the Irish Confederation, an organization that campaigned for the abolition of the Act of Union and the halting of Ireland’s grain exports (Ireland remained a grain exporter even during the famine). O’Brien lated led the unsuccessful Young Irelander Rebellion at Ballingary, County Tipperary, Ireland in 1848. By the late 19th century, nationalism became the dominant ideology in Ireland. In 1867, the Irish Republican Brotherhood or the Fenians staged an unsuccessful armed revolt against the British.
In 1873, Isaac Butt founded the Home Rule League, which adopted social issues, particularly the question of land redistribution. In 1879, David Michael Davitt (an IRB member) formed the Irish Land League, which upheld tenants’ rights. Cultural nationalism also emerged through the formation of the Celtic Revival, a movement largely initiated by artists and writers of Protestant and Anglo-Irish background that sought to further Ireland’s cultural identity. The Gaelic Athletic Association was also created at this period to promote Gaelic football, hurling and Gaelic handball. Autonomy
The early 20th century was the birth of Ireland as an autonomous state. From the late 19th century, Irish leaders of the Home Rule league demanded for the creation of an Irish parliament within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. This demand eventually led to the introduction of four Home Rule bills, of which two were passed. However, some parties wanted total independence from Britain. On Easter week, 1916, members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood organized an uprising that seized key locations in Dublin and proclaimed an Irish Republic independent of Britain (this revolt was eventually regarded as the Easter Rising).
The Easter Revolt was crushed after six days and its leaders were court-martialled and executed, but it succeeded in bringing back nationalism to the forefront of Irish politics. In the 1918 General Election, the last election held in Ireland under the British Parliament, Republicans won 73 seats out of 105. In January 1919, the members of Sinn Fein (an Irish political party) who were not then still in prison and which included survivors of the Rising convened the First Dail (a unicameral, revolutionary parliament) and established the Irish Republic.
The British Government refused to accept the will of the Irish people, leading to the Irish War of Independence in the same year. North Ireland The Irish War of Independence did succeed in bringing forth Ireland as a free state on December 6, 1921, but it also led to the formation of North Ireland as a part of the United Kingdom up to the present. Historically, North Ireland has always been in favor of the British. In the early 20th century, Unionists, led by sir Edward Carson (generally regarded as the founder of Northern Ireland), opposed the introduction of the Home Rule in Ireland.
Unionists were a minority on the island of Ireland as a whole, but were a majority in the northern province of Ulster, in the counties of Antrim, Down, Armagh and Londonderry and in the nationalist-majority counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone. While the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 6, 1921 ended the fighting in the southern part of Ireland, killings continued in the north and actually escalated until the summer of 1922. In Belfast, 16 people were killed in the two days after the truce alone.
The violence in the city took place in bursts, as attacks on both Catholics and Protestants were rapidly followed by reprisals from both sides. 0 people died in street fighting and assassinations in north and west Belfast over August 29 to September 1, 1921 and another 30 were killed from November 21-25, 1921. Loyalists had by this time taken to firing and throwing bombs randomly into Catholic areas; the IRA responded by bombing trams which took Protestant workers to their places of employment. The tension between southern and North Ireland led to the Irish Civil War in 1922, leaving Irish society and politics deeply divided up to the present.