The first human habitation in Ireland began around 8,000 BC, after the glaciers of the last ice age had receded. Agricultural civilizations began to spring up between 4,500 and 4,000 BC. Major crops during this period were wheat and barley. Around 2,500 BC Ireland entered the Bronze Age, and metalworks and textiles began to be produced. The use of wheels and harnessed oxen helped to improve inhabitants' lives. During the Bronze and Iron Ages, the people in Ireland were involved in trade with the other Celtic and Brythonic cultures that occupied the nearby islands and continent. The Iron Age, which began around 600 BC, also marked the arrival of the Celts to the island. These Celts mixed with the indigenous people of the island, and by the final wave of Celts, the Gaels, a predominantly Gaelic culture had emerged. The Gaels were involved in the establishment of the five or more kingdoms that would exist in Ireland for the next few centuries. In 100 BC, about the time when the Gaels arrived, Ireland entered a mysterious period referred to as the Irish Dark Age, characterized by cultural and economic stagnation. This period lasted until around 300 AD. The extent of the relationship between the Romans and the Irish tribes are unclear. The Romans did not invade, but the discovery of Roman coins in Ireland suggest that they traded.
Around 400, Gaels began to invade the western coast of Britain, establishing the kingdom of Dal Riata on the western coast of Scotland, as well as other kingdoms in Cornwall and Wales. Legend says that in 432 St. Patrick arrived in Ireland and began working to convert the Irish. Other evidence suggests that there were already Christians in Ireland by that time. Regardless, the early 400s marked the beginning of Ireland under Christianity, which would have a huge effect in the Irish. St Patrick is usually cited as preserving the traditions and social practices of the native Irish, as well as codifying the laws and introducing the Latin alphabet. He kept most of the traditions in place, only altering those that conflicted with established Christian practice. The religious traditions of the Druids collapsed, especially after 536. Meanwhile, the Irish Christians were noted as scholars and text illuminators. Monasteries sprung up around the island, and became noted centres of learning. In 684 an English force invaded Ireland, but appears to have left soon after briefly pillaging the island. Ireland's wars remained mainly civil for the next few decades, until 795, when the first Viking attack occurred. The Vikings were able to establish a number of settlements in Ireland, but never managed to conquer the majority of the island. They plundered the monasteries on the island, carrying off many of the treasures kept there. By the beginning of the 11th century their power had begun to wane, and they had left the island by the mid-12th century, leaving behind the cities they had founded, and the various warring kingdoms that controlled Ireland.
A few short years later, in 1168, the Normans invaded, marking their first involvement in Irish matters since 684. At the time Ireland was controlled by an ever-shifting series of dynasties. One leader, Diarmait Mac Murchada, was exiled from Ireland and rallied a Norman invasion force to reclaim his power, and to take over the remainder of the island. Diarmait was able to establish control over several counties, and named his Norman son-in-law, Richard de Clare, as his successor. In 1171 Henry II, the King of England, arrived in Ireland both to inspect the progress of the campaign and to assert his authority over de Clare, as he feared the possibility of competition from another Norman king. He managed to persuade a number of the kings to accept him as an overlord, established in the Treaty of Windsor 1175. This proved exceptionally difficult to enforce, as Henry II was soon too distant from Ireland to force his will on the populace. In 1261 the Norman power in Ireland had greatly declined, and they were defeated in the Battle of Callann, which kicked off a century of warring that ravaged the countryside. In 1348 Ireland was struck by the Black Death, which killed mainly the English and Norman settlers who lived in close quarters in cities and towns, leaving the native Irish, who lived in smaller and dispersed settlements. This allowed for a resurgence of the Gaelic culture that had been repressed in the previous years. English authority retreated to The Pale, the area surrounding Dublin, and by the 15th century had left Ireland almost completely. The Gaelic lords began to retake control of the island, but lost some of their independence with the introduction of Poynings' Law in 1494, which placed the Irish government under the control of the English. After a rebellion attempt in 1536, King Henry VIII decided to place Ireland under the control of the crown. In 1541 he upgraded Ireland's standing, from a lordship to a kingdom, and was named King of Ireland later that year in a meeting of the Irish Parliament that included all of the Gaelic Irish chieftains and the aristocracy for the first time in its existence. There were a series of rebellions against English rule that continued throughout the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and her successor James I. These were mostly quelled, and the English government based in Dublin was able to assert control over the rest of the island. Attempts were made to convert the mostly Catholic population to Protestantism, and ultimately failed. The English attempts to control the population grew increasingly brutal, and largely contributed to the Irish opposition to English rule. From the mid-16th to early 17th centuries the English pursued a policy of colonistion known as the Plantations, in which Catholic landowners were forced out by English and Scottish Protestants. These Protestants established colonies mainly in Munster and Ulster. Penal Laws were instituted that persecuted every person who did not practice in the Anglican Church of Ireland.
The 17th century saw the most bloodshed of any other period in Irish history. Two wars, one in the mid-1600s and the other in the late 1600s, led to the establishment of the Penal Laws. The first, begun with a rebellion in 1641, lasted for several years as the Catholics rebelled against the harsh treatment of the Protestant aristocracy, and ended in 1653 after Oliver Cromwell re-conquered Ireland. This retaking of Ireland killed or exiled almost a third of the Irish population, and most of the land still in the Catholic's hands was confiscated and redistributed to the Protestants. In 1688 Ireland played a large part in the Glorious Revolution, when they supported the Catholic James II against the Protestant William of Orange. Between 1689 and 1691 the Williamite War was fought on Irish soil. After the Battle of Aughrim in 1691, the resistance in Ireland was essentially ended, and the Penal Laws were relaxed to dissuade the Catholics from rebelling again. Throughout the 18th century the economic situation in Ireland grew increasingly worse, which fostered bad feelings among to populace towards the absentee landlords who owned most of the land. Between 1740 and 1741 a famine swept Ireland, killing 400,000 people and causing a further 150,000 to emigrate. Nonetheless the 18th century was relatively peaceful. In 1793 the Irish Catholics were enfranchised, and prior to this some of the Anglo-Irish ruling class had begun to petition for Ireland to be given greater legislative power and better trade relations with England. The Irish Rebellion of 1798 was precipitated by the Society of United Irishmen, a group of Irish Protestants. This rebellion resulted in a bloody suppression, and, in 1800 the introduction of the Act of Union. The Act merged Ireland into the new United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1823 Daniel O'Connell began his ultimately successful bid for the British Parliament, and for Catholic emancipation. In 1829 the Catholic Relief Act was passed.
In 1845 Ireland was struck by the great famine, referred to in Irish as An Gorta Mor. This famine was brought about by a blight on Ireland's most abundant crop, potatoes. During the famine at least 1 million people died, and a further 1 million emigrated, decreasing the overall population of Ireland by some 20 to 25 percent. In 1848 The Young Irelanders led a rebellion against the English, a year before the famine lost its grip on the country. This rebellion was put down, and was followed soon after in 1867 by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who were also put down. Towards the end of the century there was heavy land reform as the practice of the absentee landlord was put to an end. Also throughout the late 19th century, the idea of Irish self-government was again brought up, especially by William Gladstone, who attempted to pass home rule legislation two separate times. Both of these attempts were ultimately defeated. The Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 broke up the powers of the landlords. There were rising tensions between Irish Unionists and Irish Nationalists on the subject of home rule. While most of the country was in support of the nationalists, and was predominantly Catholic and agrarian, the northeast was in support of the unionists, and was predominantly Protestant and industrialised.
Home rule became possible again in 1910, when the Irish Parliamentary Party came into power in the commons. The third attempt at a home rule was introduced in 1912. Unionist opposition was expressed through the Ulster Guard, who were in turn opposed by the Irish Volunteers. The Third Home Rule Act was passed in September of 1914, but suspended for the duration of the First World War. In 1916 the first attempt to implement home rule was made, and was followed between 1917 and 1918 by a further attempt. Both of these attempts ultimately failed. Between 1916 and 1921, Ireland underwent an intense period of political upheaval, in which political violence was rife. This began with the Easter Rising of 1916. Though the rebels at first received relatively little support from the public, the brutal suppression methods used by the English swung the public opinion heavily behind the rebels. In 1918 Sinn Fein, the political arm of the rebels, received a majority in the Irish Parliament. The First Dail, the unicameral government of the Ireland, declared sovereignty over all 32 counties on the island. Between 1919 and 1921 the Irish Republican Army, the army branch, waged a guerrilla campaign against the British occupation. In 1922 the Anglo-Irish Treaty was ratified, and Ireland was partitioned. Twenty-six of the thirty-two counties were given freedom as the new Irish Free State, while the remaining six counties remained in the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland.
The republican movement promptly split into two separate groups, those who supported the treaty, and those who wanted to continue fighting the British until all of Ireland was free. A violent and bloody civil war was waged between the two groups between 1922 and 1923, with the opponents to the treaty ultimately being defeated. The Irish Free State lasted until 1937, when it was renamed as simply Ireland. During this time period it was financially solvent, though unemployment was rampant and emigration was high. During the Second World War Ireland remained neutral, meaning that it was saved from much of the bombing inflicted on its neighbours, though it did suffer heavily from rationing. Nonetheless, tens of thousands of Irish volunteers fought on the side of the Allies. In 1949 Ireland was officially declared a republic, and left the British Commonwealth. In 1968 the Troubles in Northern Ireland began, and persisted until 1998, with some continuing clashes until the early 2000s. During this period loyalist and republican paramilitaries clashed in a series of riots, bombings and other violent confrontations over the issue of the nature of the Irish state. In 1973 Ireland became a member of the European Union, and in 1979 the Irish Pound had all ties cut with the British Pound, becoming its own currency. Irish policies, which had long been dominated by the Roman Catholic Church, began to grow more liberal, and divorce and homosexuality, among other previously discouraged practices, were legalized. In 2005 the Provisional IRA officially announced an end to its armed campaign.
The Country: The Republic of Ireland
Ireland is an island located in the Atlantic Ocean. It takes up a majority of the island on which it is located, and shares a border with Northern Island. It also contains hundreds of islands and islets. It is located across the Irish Sea from Great Britain. Ireland is divided into 26 counties. The capital of Ireland is the city of Dublin, which is located on the eastern coast of the island, and composes its own county.
There are approximately 4,500,000 people in Ireland. A majority of the population is Caucasian, and most of these are native to Ireland. The next largest ethnic group is black, followed by Asian and Mixed. A major ethnic group is Irish Traveller, a nomadic people native to Ireland. Christianity is the dominant religion in Ireland, with the largest denomination being Roman Catholic, who make up 87% of the total Christian population. Islam is a fast growing religion on the island, due mostly to immigration. Four percent of Irish people claim no religion.
There two official languages in Ireland are English and Irish (Gaelic). A majority of the population, about 94%, claim English as their mother tongue, while 10% of the population claims fluency in Irish, and 9% describe it at their mother tongue. In the Gealtacht regions Irish is frequently the first language. Small communities also speak Shelta and Ulster Scots.
The Country: Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is an island located in the Atlantic Ocean. It is part of the United Kingdom, which is composed of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It takes up just over one-sixth of the island, and shares a border with the Republic of Ireland. It stands across the North Channel from Scotland. Northern Ireland is divided into six counties. The capital city is Belfast, which is the largest city in Northern Ireland, and second largest on the island.
There are approximately 1,800,000 people in Northern Ireland, making up 3% of the population of the United Kingdom. A majority of the population is Caucasian, and most of these are native to Northern Ireland. The next largest ethnic group is Chinese, followed by Mixed, Irish Traveller, South Asian and Black. Christianity is the dominant religion, with the largest denomination being Protestant, describing just over 45% of the population. Other religions include Islam, Judaism, Baha'i, Neo-Paganism and Hinduism. Just under 15% of the population report having no religion.
The officially recognised languages spoken in Northern Ireland are English, Irish and Ulster Scots. There are some regions of the country where over one third of the country reports speaking Irish fluently, with about 10% of the overall population claiming some knowledge of the language. About 2% of the population claims to speak Ulster Scots. However, English is still the de facto language, spoken as a first language by almost 100% of the island. Mid Ulster English is the dialect of English usually spoken in Northern Ireland, which derives a great deal of grammar from Irish, and from Ulster Scots as well.
As a country with a rich and tumultuous history, a number of characters in comics have come from Ireland, as have some comics been set there. As well, some historical Irish people and characters have found their way into comics. What follows is a partial list of such characters.
Characters from Ireland include:
Angel (Dark Horse)
Brigid the Protector (Avatar Press)
Billy Cassidy (Vertigo)
Black Tom Cassidy (Marvel)
Maeve Rourke Cassidy (Marvel)
Proinsias Cassidy (Vertigo)
Martin Cleary (Vertigo)
Doyle (Dark Horse)
Michael Finnegan (Top Cow)
Arlana Flaherty (Vertigo)
Cormac Flaherty (Vertigo)
Giunchiglia (Coniglio Editore)
The Morrigan (DC)
Miles O'Brien (DC)
Owen Cooley (DC)
Shamrock Squid (Fantagraphics)
Irish People or Creatures from History or Mythology include:
Celtic Gods; members and related characters thereof