Northern Ireland Timeline

Last Updated: 08/08/2014 - 10:12

Date

Summary

Event

400s AD St Patrick

Saint Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland. 
Patrick had been had been taken to Ireland as a slave. He escaped to France where he studied to become a priest. He later returned to Ireland and successfully converted the people .

1170 First English involvement in Ireland

Turlogh O'Connor overthrew Dermot MacMurrough King of Leinster, MacMurrough asked King Henry II of England for help. MacMurrough rewarded the English soldiers that helped him to regain his kingdom with land. 

1171  

Earl of Pembroke - Strongbow - King of Leinster
When MacMurrough died, Strongbow proclaimed himself King of Leinster.  

After 1171  

Irish Land seized by English Barons
English Barons seized land in Ireland.

1300s All land in Ireland under English control.

 English Barons continued to seize land in Ireland and by the 1300s they held nearly all land in Ireland. However, loyalty to England had weakened and many of the former English Barons now considered themselves Irish rather than English. 

1400s English control confined to the Pale

By the end of the fifteenth century English control was confined to a small area around Dublin. This area was known as the Pale. Those beyond the Pale were considered barbarians.

1534 Henry VIII took control in Ireland

Ireland was ruled by the Earls of Kildare who were English noblemen who had settled in Ireland. Henry invaded and tried to take that control away.

1541 Henry VIII King of Ireland

Henry VIII forced Ireland's government to declare him King of Ireland. Once declared King, Henry began to introduce new laws that increased English control of Ireland. Henry also tried, without success to introduce Protestantism to Ireland.

1500s English Monarchs continue to control Ireland

After Henry VIII's death, his children, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I continued to try to increase English control in Ireland. Mary attempted to do this by using plantation - giving land in Ireland to settlers loyal to England. She seized land in central Ireland, gave it to English settlers and renamed the land 'Queens County' and 'Kings County'. Elizabeth tried to establish Protestantism in Ireland by outlawing Catholic services and executing some Bishops and Priests. However, this only had the effect of uniting the Catholics more strongly against English rule.

Late 1500s Ulster Revolts

Shane O'Neill and Irish chieftain and later his son the Earl of Kildare led a series of revolts in Ulster protesting against English rule in Ireland.

Summer 1610 Ulster Plantation began

James I attempted to stop the Ulster revolts by using plantation. He gave land in Ulster to English and Scottish Protestant settlers and created a Protestant majority in Ulster. Catholics became worried as plantation increased fearing that they too would lose their land.

October 1641 Ulster Rebellion

The Irish in Ulster rebelled against English rule. The violence of the rebellion saw the deaths of many. In England it was alleged that the Catholics had massacred Protestants and many people wanted revenge.

 11th September 1649 Massacre of Drogheda

Oliver Cromwell took an army to Ireland determined to put an end to Irish revolts against English rule. He massacred a large number of Catholics at Drogheda as 'revenge' for the alleged massacre of Protestants in 1641. Cromwell then gave even more Irish land to English Protestants and new established anti-Catholic laws which took away many political rights.

23rd April 1685 James II King of England

James II became King of England and Scotland. James was a Catholic and he abolished many of the anti-Catholic laws established in Ireland. 

November 1688 Glorious Revolution 

The British invited William of Orange to come take the throne of England and Scotland. When William arrived in England with his army, James II fled to Ireland. James II organised an army to help him fight William and regain the throne. However, many Protestants, especially those in Ulster supported William of Orange. 

1st July 1690 Battle of the Boyne

William's army defeated James II at this battle fought on the river Boyne in the North East of Ireland. Many Ulster Protestants fought with William and they became known as Orangemen. The event is still commemorated today. Every 12th July Orangemen march through Ulster to mark the defeat of Catholic James II at this battle.

1703 Protestants own 90% of the land

Over the past century, thousands of Catholics had been transported abroad or resettled in new areas and even more land had been seized by English Protestants. By 1703 90% of the land in Ireland was owned by English nobles to whom the Catholic peasants had to pay rent.

1695 - 1728 Penal Laws

These were a series of laws passed against Catholics in Ireland including -

  • Preventing Catholics from carrying weapons and owning horses worth more than £5

  • Restricting the rights of Catholics to education  

  • Restrict their rights to education.

  • Preventing Catholics from buying land   

  • Stating that on death property should be equally divided between all sons rather than inherited by the eldest. 

  • Banning Catholics from serving in the army

  • Preventing Catholics from holding public positions

  • Preventing Catholics from entering the legal profession

  • Preventing Catholics from voting or serving as MPs

January 1801 Act of Union

This act abolished the Irish parliament and formally united Ireland and Great Britain to become the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

1800s Unrest in Ireland

Following the Act of Union there were a number of revolts in protest against the growing numbers of poor and homeless people in Ireland. English landlords had realised that they could earn more from their land by turning it into grazing land than they were receiving in rent from the Irish tenant farmers. In order to do this they had to evict the tenant farmers. Thousands of farmers and their families were simply thrown out onto the streets and their homes destroyed.

1845 - 1848 The Potato Famine

Potato was the staple diet of the Irish. Although other crops such as wheat and oats as well as beef, mutton, pork and poultry were in plentiful supply, these were shipped abroad by the English landowners for profit, the Irish people mainly lived on potatoes. In 1845 the potato crop in Ireland was struck by a disease and half the crop failed. The situation was worse in 1846 and 1847 leaving people starving. Around a million people emigrated to America and Canada. The British government did not send money to help the starving people fearing that they would use it to buy guns to revolt against English rule. Landowners continued to ship produce abroad. More than 1.5 million people starved to death. Those that survived were filled with hatred for the British government that had refused to help.

1875 Charles Stewart Parnell elected Irish MP

Charles Stewart Parnell believed in Home Rule (that Ireland should be ruled by an Irish parliament and separately from Britain) and managed to convince the British Prime Minister William Gladstone to introduce a bill in Parliament.

8th April 1886 First Home Rule Bill

This bill proposed that 

  • A separate parliament and government should be set up in Dublin.

  • This parliament would control all Irish affairs except defense issues, foreign relations, trade and issues relating to customs and excise. Westminster would deal with these issues.

  • Westminster would no longer have any Irish MP's in it.

However, many Irishmen felt that Home Rule did not go far enough. They were worried that there would be no Irish MPs in Westminster to defend Irish interests. Protestants in Ireland, especially those in Ulster, were worried that the Parliament would be mainly made up of Catholics.

The Bill was defeated.

February 1893 Second Home Rule Bill

Gladstone again tried to introduce Home Rule for Ireland but was again defeated.

28th November 1905 Sinn Fein Formed

The political party Sinn Fein, meaning 'we ourselves' was formed. Their aim - to free Ireland from British rule and gain independence for the whole of Ireland. 

April 1912 Third Home Rule Bill

The proposals for Home Rule in Ireland were approved by Parliament. Home Rule was to become law in 1914.

January 1913 Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) formed

The Protestants in Ulster made it known that they would resist any attempt to introduce Home Rule in Ireland.

1912 - 1920 New Plans for Home Rule with Partition

It was clear that the Ulster Protestants would not accept Home Rule so in order to avoid violence,  the British government came up with a new solution. Home Rule with Partition. Home Rule would be introduced in the South but six predominantly Protestant counties in the north would stay a part of the United Kingdom. This solution is largely the cause of the problems in Ireland that exist to this day. Nationalist remain committed to the idea of a united free Ireland, while Protestants are unwilling to accept anything less than partition.

25th November 1913 Irish Volunteers formed

To show their support from Home Rule, many Catholics joined the British army to fight Germany. However, as it emerged that the UVF would try to block Home Rule militant groups formed from these volunteers to counter the UVF. They became known as the Irish volunteers.

24th - 29th April 1916 The Easter Rising & Foundation of IRA

About a thousand rebels from the Irish Volunteers decided to take advantage of the fact that Britain was losing the war against Germany and proclaim an Irish Republic. Led by Patrick Pearse and James Connoly they seized Dublin's General Post Office on Easter Monday. British forces poured into Dublin including gunboats that fired on the rebels from the river Liffey. The fighting lasted five days and caused more than 400 deaths and 2,500 injuries. The rebels were forced to surrender. Those who had taken part in the Easter Rising became known as the Irish Republican Army.

May 1916 Easter Rising Rebels executed

Seventy rebels were sentenced to death by the British forces. Fifteen executions were carried out, the remainder, including Michael Collins, were imprisoned. The executions led to a rise in support for Sinn Féin. 

December 1920 Partition (Government of Ireland Act)

The Government of Ireland Act introduced partition to Ireland. Two parliaments were introduced, one in Dublin to serve twenty-six counties and one in Belfast to serve six northern counties. The twenty-six counties were known as the Irish Free State and were given a measure of independence. The government of these counties was known as the Provisional Government. The six northern counties were to remain part of the United Kingdom but they would have their own parliament, the Stormont. A Council of Ireland was set up to oversee measures common to both parts. Unionists (those who want to remain a part of the United Kingdom) support Partition but Republicanists (those who want all of Ireland to be a separate independent republic) oppose partition.

6th December 1921 Irish Free State Treaty

This treaty between Britain and Ireland, legalised Partition. Violence, especially in the six northern counties escalated as Catholics showed their opposition to Partition. 

1922 Civil War

In early 1922 British forces began to leave Ireland. Their stations were handed over to the Irish Volunteers. However, the Volunteers were split between those that supported Partition and those that did not. Those that did became known as Free State soldiers while those that did not were known as Irregulars. Tension between the two groups escalated into violence which lasted for just over a year and left hundreds dead including Michael Collins leader of the Free State soldiers. The violence was eventually put down by the Provisional Government and 1100 rebels were interned (imprisoned without trial).

21st December 1948 Creation of Republic of Ireland

The Irish Free State was granted full independence from Britain under the terms of the Republic of Ireland Act. However, the six northern counties remained part of the United Kingdom.

January 1967 Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) Formed

The Northern Ireland Government was dominated by the Unionist party and as a part of the United Kingdom anti-Catholic laws that had been passed in the nineteenth century were still in force. The NICRA was largely based on the US Civil Rights Movement that fought for equality for black Americans and wanted to see the anti-Catholic measures abolished and equality for Catholics in Northern Ireland. 

1968 Civil Rights Protests

The first Civil Rights protest march took place in March. The second took place in Derry in October despite it being banned by the Minister for Home Affairs, William Craig, claiming that the movement was a front for the IRA. The Royal Ulster Constabulary were sent in to break up the march. They used excessive force, much of which was televised and broadcast worldwide. The tactics of the RUC left Catholics fearful and untrusting of them. The British government could no longer take a back seat and forced the Stormont to make reforms, however, the changes were minimal and in no way met the demands of the Civil Rights Movement.

1969 Tension between Catholics and Protestants

Catholic demands were no nearer being met and with the approach of the two main Unionist marches (the march of the Orangemen on July 12th and the march on August 12th to commemorate the siege of  Derry  in 1689 when apprentice boys closed the gates on King James) tension between Catholics and Protestants was high.

August 12th - 15th 1969 Battle of Bogside

As the Apprentice Boys marched past Catholic Bogside there were clashes which forced the intervention of the RUC. However, the rioting escalated and the police were stoned and petrol-bombed. The NICRA called on Catholics to take the pressure off Catholics in Bogside by mounting demonstrations in Belfast. Consequently there was rioting in Belfast as well and the RUC were unable to cope. The Northern Ireland government had no choice but to call for British troops to be sent in to put down the riots. The first British troops arrived on the 15th August. In the Bogside area of Derry barricades were put up and neither the RUC nor British troops were permitted access to the Catholic area. In order to avoid further bloodshed the British troops allowed the 'no go' areas to stand. 

28th December 1969 IRA Split

The IRA splits into two wings - the Marxist-oriented Official IRA and the more hard-line Provisionals. 

August 9th 1971 Internment Introduced

The Civil Rights Movement continued to protest despite a ban being placed on all marches and the IRA continued to make attacks on British troops resulting in the death of a British soldier. In the face of increasing calls for internment for IRA members, it is introduced on 9th August 1971 and around 350 people were immediately arrested and interned. The following 48 hours saw violence and protests against internment that left 17 dead including 10 civilians.

1971 Protests Against Internment

Throughout the remainder of the year protests against internment continued. The protests included violence, withholding of council rents, strikes and resignations by officials.

30th January 1972 Bloody Sunday

A march organised by the NICRA against Internment and the ban on marches took place in Derry. In order to ensure that the march was peaceful the IRA had promised to stay away. British soldiers had put up barricades to prevent the marchers entering the city centre square. A section of the marchers and some observers confronted soldiers manning the barricade. British paratroopers opened fire killing 14 and injuring 13 others. 

1972 Direct Rule imposed

Following Bloody Sunday there was a rise in support for the Provisional IRA. In February the British Embassy in Dublin was burnt. It was clear that the British government had to do something to try to quieten the situation. As a result, in March the Northern Ireland government was suspended - Northern Ireland was to be directly ruled from Westminster. One of the first actions by Westminster was to order the dismantling of the 'no-go' areas set up in 1969. The IRA responded by using increasing violence.

29th November 1974 Prevention of Terrorism Act

With the British becoming increasingly active in Northern Ireland, the IRA launched a bombing campaign which targeted public areas both in Ireland and on the British mainland. Bombs exploded in Dublin, Monaghan, Guildford, Woolwich and Birmingham killing and injuring civilians. The government responded by introducing the Prevention of Terrorism Act which allowed suspects to be detained without charge for up to seven days

1980s Hunger Strikes

In 1976 the British government had removed 'special prisoner status' for those imprisoned for political acts. The prisoners had campaigned for 'political prisoner status' since 1976 by using both the 'blanket protest' refusing to wear prison clothes and donning a blanket instead and the 'dirty protest' where prisoners refused to clean their cells and smeared excrement on the walls. When these had failed prisoners began going on hunger strikes. Bobby Sands was the first hunger striker in 1981. He and nine others died as a result of the hunger strike. They were considered martyrs - around 100,000 people attended Bobby Sands' funeral. Although no concessions were won from the British government, support for the Political wing of the Provisional IRA increased considerably.

15th November 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement

Leaders of Britain and Ireland met to discuss the situation. The resulting Anglo-Irish agreement gave Dublin some control over Northern Ireland affairs. Unionists were outraged and the agreement was never fully implemented.

15th December 1993 Downing Street Declaration

Following talks between the British Prime Minister and the Irish leader, this declaration was issued. It stated that the people of Northern Ireland should be free to decide their own future and that representatives of various groups should meet to discuss a solution. Sinn Fein was offered a seat provided that IRA violence was ended. As a result the IRA declared a cease fire in August 1994 and were followed a month later by a cease fire declaration from Loyalist groups.

1996 Peace Talks

Multi-party peace talks began chaired by US senator George Mitchell. Mitchell proposed that disarmament should begin but this led to a stalling of the talks and the IRA broke its cease fire and violence resumed. 

10th April 1998 Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement

In 1997 the British government proposed a resumption of peace talks. Once again Sinn Féin were invited on condition that a six-week cease fire had been observed. In July 1997 the IRA announced the cease fire. After months of discussion a settlement is reached on Good Friday 1998. 

Terms in Brief:
Ireland shall not be one united country without the consent of a majority in Northern Ireland
The people of Northern Ireland have the right to call themselves either Irish or British
A multi party assembly will be elected to govern the community.
A north/south council be set up to consider areas of mutual interest
An Anglo-Irish council be set up to consider areas of mutual interest
All people shall have basic human rights, civil rights and equality
Linguistic diversity to be recognised - Irish to be taught in all schools
Paramilitary groups to be decommissioned within two years
A gradual reduction in the number of security forces deployed in Northern Ireland
To work towards having an unarmed police force
Political prisoners to be released providing the ceasefire is maintained

A referendum held on 23rd May 1998 showed an overwhelming majority of the people of Ireland supporting the Good Friday Agreement.