A Brief History of Ireland and Dublin
In a nutshell, Ireland's history is: warring tribes, St Patrick, warring tribes, Vikings, warring tribes, Normans, warring tribes, King Henry VIII, Oliver Cromwell, King William of Orange, Easter 1916, Independence, European Union, warring tribes...
No real recorded history of Dublin until the Vikings sailed up the River Liffey in the 9th century. Ireland at that time was populated by a lot of Celtic tribes constantly at war with each other, St Patrick having converted some of the pagans to Christianity in the second half of the 5th century. Then the Vikings came over from Denmark, said 'Hej' and that was that. They liked Dublin because it was a good spot for catching salmon and handy for grabbing and exporting slaves. They made their bases at rivermouths across Ireland, including at Limerick, Waterford, Wexford, Cork and Galway - all Ireland's current cities, basically.
Dublin's name in Irish is Dubhlinn, meaning 'black pool', which may derive from a deep river pool where salmon gathered. The original Viking settlement is at a place called Wood Quay, just upriver (on the south bank) from the quaint Ha'penny Bridge, past U2's Clarence Hotel and now the location for the bunker-like offices of Dublin City Council (the original Viking origins of Dublin were dug up and skipped to make way for these horrible offices). The Vikings did annoy the locals, (something to do with the slave trade, perhaps) so a warrior called Brian Boru, from Killaloe, Co Clare, became the first to unite the Irish tribes against a common enemy. Boru's army defeated the Vikings in the Battle of Clontarf on Dublin's north city coastline in 1014. But Boru was killed in the aftermath of the battle. Ouch.
The Norman invasion began in 1169, commanded by Henry II. The Pope at the time gave Henry dominion over the "barbarous nation" of Ireland so that its "filthy practices" may be abolished, its Church brought into line, and that the Irish pay their tax to Rome. The Normans ruled the roost, mixing with the locals,until King Henry VIII decided to reconquer Ireland in 1566. The mainly Catholic Irish peasantry were never treated well and there was the occasional rebellion and famine, with Daniel O'Connell, the Liberator, bringing about Catholic emancipation in 1829. Dublin's main street, and the bridge leading from it to the southside, is named after O'Connell, as is the main street of virtually every town in Ireland. The Great Irish Famine of 1845-49 was a major event, with over a million starving to death. Dublin was largely insulated from the Famine, as the seat of British power, the centre of a defended coastal strip called The Pale, its citadel Dublin Castle. The Pale gave us the expression 'Beyond the Pale', meaning something weird and bizarre. Dubliners call people from outside the city 'culchies' or 'boggers' while country people call Dubliners 'Jackeens' because they loved to fly the 'Union Jack' flag in deference to the British rulers. So there you have it.
But the drive for independence continued, with the Easter Rising, a mainly Dublin event, beginning on 24 April, 1916. Led by Padraig Pearse and the Irish Volunteers, it lasted for six days with much of the action taking place around the General Post Office (GPO) on O'Connell Street. The rebellion was crushed and its leaders executed in Kilmainham Gaol. This outraged the Irishand a War of Independence was launched in 1919. Led by Michael Collins, it was intelligence-led, used innovative guerrilla tactics, and brought about independence in 1921. But Ireland was partitioned, Ulster remaining part of the United Kingdom, and this caused a brutal Civil War, which ended in 1922. A bitter taste remains and Ireland's political landscape is still described as 'Civil War politics'. Neil Jordan's film Michael Collins is an excellent evocation of the period.
Pearse and Collins are revered as heroes (de Valera less so), with many streets and buildings around Dublin named after them. But we owe Britain a great deal, including our love of the language, the finest architecture in Dublin, a key emigration destination and a strong bond between the peoples.
Dublin today is capital of a broken nation, an utterly bankrupt economy and a people with little faith in the inbred political class that caused thespectacular collapse, which began in 2008. There is a general sense of malaise and despondency and a visible urban decay in vacant retail units, derelict office blocks and so-called ghost housing estates. There has also been a noticeable increase in beggars, vagrants and homeless people on the city streets. But Dublin's people have not lost their sense of humour, their joy of life and their love of going out, dining, drinking, partying. Dublin people remain among the friendliest and best-mannered on Earth and are very welcoming.
Dublin was, back in the 'boom' times, considered to be Europe's party capital. The joie de vivre isn't quite as bubbly these days, but it is coming back, and there is still a discernible buzz to the city centre, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights. Go taste it!
This weekend, Ireland remembers the Rising. The Easter Rising of 1916, often simply called The Rising, was the key event in Irish history. It was that important. Ireland was changed utterly and, as famed poet William Butler Yeats kind of said, 'A terrible beauty was born'.
A Very Brief History of the Easter Rising
Easter Monday, 24 April, 1916
Ireland was part of the British Empire. Irish republicans decided to launch an insurrection while Britain was distracted by World War 1 (1914-18). A number of armed groups took part: Irish Republican Brotherhood, Irish Volunteers, Irish Citizen Army and Cumann na mBan, a women's organisation. The rebels had small arms and faced the mighty British Army.
Patrick Pearse led the Irish Volunteers, rose to command the GPO HQ unit and, eventually, unconditionally surrendered. Pearse signed the Proclamation of Independence, along with six others: Thomas J. Clarke, Seán Mac Diarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, Éamonn Ceannt, James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett.
The Proclamation of the Irish Republic was read by Pearse at the General Post Office, GPO, on O'Connell St, Dublin 1, on Monday, 24 April, 1916, and the flag of the Irish Republic was raised.
Key battles took place in Dublin, mainly around Mount Street and the Grand Canal, the Four Courts and North King Street, the South Dublin Union, now St James's Hospital, and St Stephen's Green, with significant rebel successes. Rebel positions in the GPO and Liberty Hall were shelled by British artillery, including from a gunboat on the River Liffey. The only major event outside Dublin was a series of successful rebel attacks in Ashbourne, County Meath.
Saturday, 29 April 1916.
Casualties, Irish Rebels
64 dead, 16 executed.
Casualties, British Forces
16 Irish leaders, including the seven signatories of the Proclamation of Independence, were executed, mostly by firing squad in Kilmainham Gaol. Roger Casement, captured while trying to bring Germany into the conflict, was hanged in London.
Impact on course of Irish history
The Rising put militant republicanism back on centre stage, after the 19th century's mainly pacifist attempts at achieving Irish freedom. On January 21, 1919, republican abstentionist MPs, by then known as Sinn Fein, declared the independence of the Irish Republic. The Irish War of Independence began that same day, with an ambush by the newly-formed Irish Republican Army (IRA) on British forces. The War concluded with the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 6 December, 1921, with Britain giving up control of the 26 counties. Britain held on to the six counties of Northern Ireland.
The loss of the six counties bitterly divided Irish republicans, leading to the vicious Irish Civil War, 28 June 1922 – 24 May 1923. Pro-Treaty forces, led by Michael Collins and with British support, won. The two leading political parties in Ireland today, Fine Gael (Pro-Treaty) and Fianna Fail (Anti-Treaty), are the direct descendants of both sides in the Civil War. The Rising gave Ireland her independence and led to the Republic we have today. This is justifiably a source of pride to Irish people. But it is also valid to wonder if the Republic which was created made all the horror and death worthwhile. At the time of writing, March 2016, Ireland has no democratically-elected Government and nobody really cares. The European Union has taken the role of empire.
The Easter Rising led to the War of Independence, which led to the Irish Civil War, so all three events are linked and should be understood. These Wikipedia pages are top quality, easy reading:
Easter Rising, 1916: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_Rising
Irish War of Independence, 1919-21: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_War_of_Independence
Irish Civil War, 1922-23: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Civil_War
Check the official website for all events being held across the country to mark the Rising. Key commemoration happens over Easter weekend 2016, though the dates do not correspond, but there are events all year long.