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History of Ireland

A Pre-historic Brief:
The first known human settlement in Ireland began around 8000 BC, when hunter-gatherers arrived from Britain and continental Europe, probably via a land bridge. Few archaeological traces remain of this group, but their descendants and later arrivals were responsible for major Neolithic sites such as Newgrange. Following the arrival of St Patrick and other Christian missionaries in the early to mid-fifth century, a syncretised form of Christianity subsumed the indigenous pagan religion by the year 600. Christianity has played a major role in Ireland's history, culture and internal conflict.

Throughout this period, Ireland regained a form of self-governing status through the Parliament of Ireland, but power was limited to the Anglo-Irish, Anglican minority while the majority Roman Catholic population suffered severe political and economic privations. In 1801, this parliament was abolished and Ireland became an integral part of a new United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland under the Act of Union.

In 1922, after the Irish War of Independence, the southern and western twenty-six counties of Ireland seceded from the United Kingdom to become the independent Irish Free State — and after 1948, the Republic of Ireland. The remainder of the island, known as Northern Ireland, remained part of the UK. The history of Northern Ireland has been dominated by sporadic sectarian conflict between (mainly Catholic) Nationalists and (mainly Protestant) Unionists. This conflict erupted into the Troubles in the late 1960s, until an uneasy peace 30 years later.

Devolution and Direct Rule (1998-present):
More recently, the Belfast Agreement ("Good Friday Agreement") of April 10, 1998 brought a degree of power sharing to Northern Ireland, giving both unionists and nationalists control of limited areas of government. However, both the power-sharing Executive and the elected Assembly have been suspended since October 2002 following a breakdown in trust between the political parties. Efforts to resolve outstanding issues, including "decommissioning" of paramilitary weapons, policing reform and the removal of British army bases are continuing. Recent elections have not helped towards compromise, with the moderate Ulster Unionist and (nationalist) Social Democrat and Labour parties being substantially displaced by the hard-line Democratic Unionist and (nationalist) Sinn Féin parties.

On July 28, 2005, the Provisional IRA (PIRA) announced the end of its armed campaign and on September 25, 2005 international weapons inspectors supervised the full disarmament of the PIRA.

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