The English-Irish Conflict

Die Geschichte des Englisch Irischen Konflikts

Essay 2003 7 Pages

English Language and Literature Studies - Culture and Applied Geography



„Geography gives us our neighbours, but history gives us our enemies.“ This is an Irish saying which describes the love-hate relationship between Ireland and England in a few words. Though England is Ireland’s closest neighbour neither side has ever tried to understand the other one. Irish people make a difference between England, Scotland and Wales. While the Scots and Welsh are seen as a part of the Celtic family the English are the traditional enemy. Still today many Irish feel angry about the way they were treated by the English and about the English attitude towards Ireland these days. There is still a certain degree of racial prejudice since many English people don’t know a lot about Ireland’s history and the English-Irish conflict. However, you cannot really talk of hate between the two countries. The people get on quite well with each other as long as it doesn’t come to politics. The ending of the violence in Northern Ireland gives strong hope that economic, political and social relations between Ireland and England will improve a lot in the near future.[1]

History of the Conflict

Ireland suffered from religious and political tension for many centuries which were leading to hate and murder in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s. What are the origins of this conflict? In the middle of the 12th century there were reformatory efforts in the Irish church which were not following Canterbury anymore. Around 1155 King Henry II. from England got the Pope’s permission to intervene. After years of fights Henry II. became Ireland’s ruler in 1172. However, the country was not conquered systematically. Five years later Henry II. made his son Lord of Ireland. Under his rule the English influence could be expanded in the following years. In the middle of the 13th century the Irish had already lost control over two thirds of their country. England was at the height of its power in Ireland by that time. Its influence decreased during the second half of the 13th century.[2]

The English aristocracy living in Ireland adopted Irish manners and customs more and more. The English crown instructed the Anglo-Irish emphatically to keep the English way of life, but this demand didn’t show the hoped-for effect. Not to lose all of its control England had to subdue Ireland systematically this time. The “Statute of Drogheda” eliminated Ireland’s legislative and judicial independence in 1494. In 1536 Henry VIII. became the head of the Irish church with the approval of Dublin’s parliament. Five years later he was proclaimed King of Ireland. Again the Irish parliament did not object to this.[3]

In the middle of the 16th century England started to settle English people in Irish areas where strong rebellions took place. These settlements were called plantations. At first these measures did not succeed. Finally the Irish rebellion could be put down at the beginning of the 17th century. Hugh O’Neill, the Earl of Tyrone, surrendered and the Gaelic rule and war was over. His huge estates were under English control from then on. English and Scottish settlers could move to Ireland systematically. Irish peasants became tenants of their own land.[4]

In 1641 another rebellion of the Irish took place in Ulster. About 30.000 Protestants were killed in cruel fights. In 1952, after further revolts, the English enacted a law considering the settlement of Ireland. The Catholic landed property was reduced to 20%. Catholic people were made second class citizens. The Protestants beat the Catholics at the “Battle at the Boyne” in 1690. In the following decades new Penal Laws were enacted which forbade Catholic schools and mixed marriages. Catholics were not allowed to have a seat in parliament or to hold public offices. The result was that many Irish emigrated to North America.[5]


[1] Ó Chuláinn, 1997, 23

[2] Witz, 1985, p. 184-5

[3] Witz, 1985, 187-8

[4] Witz, 1985, 188; Händel / Gossel, 1991, 26

[5] Witz, 1985, 188-9; Händel / Gossel, 1991, 26


ISBN (eBook)
File size
368 KB
Catalog Number
Institution / College
University of Flensburg – English Department
English-Irish Conflict British Ireland Irish Republic of Ireland Ulster Northern Ireland Nordirland battle of the boyne




Title: The English-Irish Conflict