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Re: [vox] [OT] (really OT) question about ireland
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Re: [vox] [OT] (really OT) question about ireland

Quoting Peter Jay Salzman (p@dirac.org):

> this seems to say that the island just west of england is two
> countries: north ireland (where the protestant/loyalist/orangemen
> bonfires were lit) and south ireland.
> i was under the impression that the whole thing was the same country
> and part of the united kingdom.  that paragraph sounds like this is
> wrong.

Heh.  I'm getting flashbacks to when I was 10 years old, and newly 
returned from British Hong Kong, where I had my early education in
the British government school, there.  Imagine me, coming back to the 
California public school system with a British accent, and somebody in 
school mentioned the Republic of Ireland.

"Republic of Ireland?", I asked, perplexed.  "There _is_ no Republic of 
Ireland."  Boy, did *I* get in trouble over that.

Apparently, the wall map of the United Kingdom at Peak School, Victoria,
Hong Kong Island was pretty damned old.  Pre-1922, in fact -- such that
I had been taught that the UK consisted of England, Scotland, Wales, and
Ireland.  Period, without the necessary qualifier.  But I'm getting
ahead of the story.

Up through the 700s, Ireland was left pretty much to itself, and had a
loose network of about seven Celtic kingdoms that were occasionally
unified but usually not.  Around 800, the Vikings arrived and conquered
parts of the island (Go, team!), establishing cities at present-day
Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Limerick, and other places, before
being slowly driven out a few centuries later.  (Too bad.)  

This left Ireland fragmented and occasionally descending into civil war,
until the losing party in one such war (Dermot MacMurrough) made
the stupid mistake of appealing to Edward II of England for military
aid, around 1160.  He did -- but then of course stuck around, beginning
the English (Norman) conquest of Ireland, by 1200.

Following that, you have rule of Ireland as a series of feudal fiefs,
and then massive confusion and strife after England went partially
Protestant (Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, the Cromwells, William & Mary being
Protestant;  James II being Catholic, some others being technically
Protestant but not caring much).  This occasioned much fighting in Great
Britain (the larger island comprising England, Wales, and Scotland), but
even more in Ireland, where the Catholic throne finally lost out for
good when James II was exiled, fled to Ireland to raise an army, where
he was pursued and defeated by William III (William of Orange) at the
Battle of the Boyne River.

After that, Catholics on both islands were subjected to legal
discrimination by "Penal Acts" that in many cases stripped them of all
property -- because the British Crown was now militantly Protestant, and
for people to be otherwise was to be suspected of rebellion and treason.
Also, over a period of centuries, many workers from Great Britain
(especially Scots) came and stayed in Ireland, especially in plantations
in the northeast counties.  The Protestants there became more prosperous
over the years, while the Catholics became both a local minority and
more and more desperately impoverished.

In 1800, the Act of Union dissolved Ireland's separate Parliament and 
merged Ireland completely into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and
Ireland -- but a union where Ireland would be allowed at most 100 seats
of the full 658, with Catholics prohibited from serving at all.  

Most of the Penal Acts were repealed by the mid-1800s, but Ireland
remained politically subordinate to Great Britain in effect and not a
very willing partner.  Resentment broke out into an attempted secession
right in the middle of WWI (the Easter Rebellion of 1916, mostly
confined to Dublin), which London repressed and then carried out mass

Far from settling the matter, the British response crystallised an Irish
independence movement, years of guerilla warfare, and eventual
negotiations in 1922 for not one but two Irish "home rule" (local
autonomy, short of independence) parliaments, one in Stormont for the
north, and one in Dublin for the south.  

The North accepted -- but then started mob-led killings aimed almost
exclusively at Catholic citizens.  The South initially refused the
almost-independence offer, and then eventually negotiated an agreement 
whereby they'd get 26 of the island's 32 counties as an
almost-independent state (the Irish Free State), while the northern six
counties would remain more tightly bound to London, but likewise get
their own parliament.  

The Irish Free State was technically still part of the United Kingdom 
and not fully independent.  In 1937, a new constitution renamed the
state to Eire -- and made it functionally independent but technically
still part of the British Commonwealth.  A second amendment in 1948
renamed it again, to Republic of Ireland, and removed it from the
Commonwealth.  At that point, the United Kingdom's full name of
necessity changed slightly by addition of one new word, to "the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".

Meanwhile, in the North, things kept getting worse for the impoverished
Catholics, and more violent.  In 1972, London dissolved the Stormont
parliament, which had acted to worsen problems rather than fix them.
And there matters more-or-less remain.

The irony of Northern Ireland lies in the various parties' motives:
Northern Catholics would generally prefer union with the Republic.
Northern Protestants are generally militantly against.  The rest of the
UK continues its supervision of the northern six counties, without
enthusiasm.  And the Republic officially has always wanted union, but
unofficially admits it would be catastrophic.  

Why?  Because the six counties are very densely populated, and because
their Catholic minority constitute a severe, ongoing drain on the
British taxpayer, as a long-term underclass with no prospects.  Britain
can afford to fund the massive welfare program required to keep them
from starving to death; the Republic couldn't, if union were to occur.

Cheers,            There are only 10 types of people in this world -- 
Rick Moen          those who understand binary arithmetic and those who don't.
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