Today Andy spoke to us about two Irelands. Andy’s parents immigrated from Ireland, so he sees it from a different point of view than most of the rest of us. The Ireland of parties and celebratory drinking is celebrated on March 17 in America. Historic Ireland is a land struggling to regain its freedom from the British and is celebrated on April 24. This year, April 24 is even more important. Because April 24 is the day of the Easter Uprising, which occurred exactly a century ago, April 24, 1916.
England had subdued Ireland over the course of centuries. The English had managed this partly because they had induced the Pope to give it to them. Things became even more confused after England and Scotland united into one country. Suddenly the border regions which had been in turmoil to everyone’s satisfaction, now was in turmoil to everyone’s distaste. They rounded up many of the families in the region who had been cattle rustling across the border (the border reivers) and forcibly exported them to Ireland. The exported border Scotsmen were predominantly Protestant, and Ireland was predominantly Catholic. Land was taken from the native Irish population and given to the newly arrived Scots families.
English law superseded Irish law. Irishmen were disenfranchised, not allowed to own property, firearms or a good horse. Old horses to pull carts were fine, apparently. Notably, the Irish were not allowed an education. Although the disputes were over economic equality, economic justice, and good old fashioned real justice, the primary flames starting the trouble was usually over religious differences. The newcomers were Protestant, and the natives were Catholic.
In 1649-1650 England sent an army to crush Ireland and crush it they did. The radical Protestant leader of England at the time, Oliver Cromwell, passionately hated Catholics and blamed them for all that was wrong in Europe. The Irish lost all political power in their country, and for the most part all economic power as well as their land was taken from them and given to Protestant Scots or Englishmen.
In 1916 England was in the midst of the desperate struggle in Europe we now know as WWI. The Irish decided that they had a chance at a rebellion since the English Army was busy in France. On April 24, 1916 about a thousand fighters rose up and took control of a large bit of central downtown Dublin. But the massive uprising they hoped to inspire did not occur. British forced wiped out the Irish fighters in what we now call the Easter uprising.
But it was not all fruitless. A short 6 years later England granted freedom to the Irish in the 3 southern provinces. Today, April 24 is a solemn memorial date in the Irish Nation. St Patrick’s day is the nation’s day to celebrate. Two Irelands, one heritage.