Irish History – quick, easy-to-read summaries

Irish History – quick, easy-to-read summaries

Our history section is designed for people who like articles that are both informative and easy to read.

5-Minute Irish History

Early settlers and Vikings – life in Ireland before the 11th century.
Norman invasion – the Normans invaded and settled all across Ireland.
Ireland becomes part of Britain – Ireland became part of the British Empire.

Ancient Ireland

Before the Celts – first people to live in Ireland.
The Neolithics – the first people to leave their mark on Ireland.
The tomb builders – Ireland’s ancient burial sites.
The Romans – Ireland avoided an Roman invasion.
How the Celts saved Britain – BBC documentary on how the Irish brought civilisation to Britain during the Dark Ages.

Major events

The Vikings in Ireland

Timeline of Viking activity in Ireland – essential timeline of the Vikings in Ireland.
Vikings arrive in Ireland in AD 795 – the Vikings first invaded Ireland in AD 795.
The rise and fall of the Vikings – the Vikings were present in Ireland for nearly 300 years.
Viking cities in Ireland – Many Viking settlements became major Irish cities.
Irish and Viking art – Celtic and Viking culture combined in Irish art.
Brian Boru – the first High King of Ireland.
The Battle of Clontarf – 1014 battle between Brian Boru and the Vikings and the King of Leinster.

The Normans in Ireland

Norman Invasion of Ireland – overview – Overview of the Norman invasion and rule over Ireland.
Why was Ireland vulnerable to invasion – A number of factors left Ireland vulnerable to invasion.
The Norman Invasion 1169-71 – The Normans first arrived in Ireland in 1169.
Normans establish power in Ireland – What did the Normans do once they had power?.
Diarmait MacMurrough – King of Leinster who invited the Normans to Ireland.
Strongbow – The first Norman to hold power in Ireland.
The fall of the Normans – Why the Normans’ power in Ireland couldn’t last.
Edward Bruce – Scottish brother of Robert Bruce tried to take on the Normans.
The Normans in Ireland – timeline – Timeline of Norman involvement in Ireland.

1798 Rebellion

1798 Rebellion – United Irishmen rose up to fight the British for their freedom.
Battle of Ballynahinch – Irish Presbyterian leader’s misguided chivalry cost hundreds of lives.
Key groups and characters – main figures and leaders of the Rebellion.
Essential facts – what you need to know.

The Great Hunger – often called the Famine or the Irish Holocaust

Great Hunger – a million died of starvation and a million more left Ireland forever.
Six things that should have been done – how much of the suffering could have been avoided?
Tom Guerin – little boy who was buried alive.
Choctaw Tribe donated equivalent of €68,500 – Irish receive help from an unexpected source.
Donations to the starving – generous donations were made from all around the world.
Why Ireland exported food as thousands starved – thousands of tons of grain left the country.
Britain’s guilt over Irish Famine – English reporter Mike Nicholson on his book Dark Rosaleen.

Easter Rising

We have several articles about the Easter Rising. Those listed below are just a sample. For a full list click through our Easter Rising Home Page
Overall summary – the rebellion that turned defeat into victory and changed Irish history forever.
Political Background – the key events leading up to the Easter Rising.
Irish Republican Brotherhood – secret underground movement responsible for the Rising.
Irish Volunteer Force – military group of nationalists.
Irish Citizen Army – military trained trade unionists fought in the Rising.
Cumann na mBan – the League of Women played a big part in the Rising.
The Rebel Plan – the British were vulnerable to attack during World War I.
The Rebels Attack – the seizure of the GPO.
The British Reaction – heavy reinforcements drafted in to quash rebellion.
Leaders Executed – harsh treatment of the Rising leaders.
Public Reaction – national sympathy moved towards rebels.
Key sites – rebel strongholds and bloody battles.
Executed leaders – 16 men were sentenced to death for their parts in the Rising.
John Bruton criticises leaders – Former Taoiseach gives his modern-day views.
Interviews with relatives of the Easter Rising rebels – Fascinating insights from the descendants of the rebels.
Guided tour of the key Easter Rising sites – Virtual tour narrated by Colin Farrell

Irish War of Independence

Background to the War – IRA used guerrilla warfare tactics to fight for freedom from Britain.
Michael Collins’ guerrilla tactics – learnt from the mistakes of the Easter Rising.
Spiral of violence – both sides carried out atrocities on revenge killings.
Key groups and characters – main figures and leaders of the War.
Key events – timeline of major conflicts and events.
Essential facts – what you need to know.
Bloody Sunday – historic day of violence and cruelty in Dublin.

The Irish Civil War

Anglo–Irish Treaty split the IRA – former comrades turned to fighting against each other.
Execution of Michael Collins – leader got executed in his home county.
Key groups and characters – main figures and leaders of the War.
Essential facts – what you need to know.
RTÉ 5 minute summary video – Irish historians’ overview of the key characters and events.
The Madness from Within – six-part documentary from RTÉ.

The Troubles in Northern Ireland

Overall summary – The Troubles in Northern Ireland.
The Battle of The Bogside – changed Northern Ireland for ever.
When Taoiseach Lynch spoke out about the Troubles
Full speech by Jack Lynch on the Troubles in Northern Ireland in 1969
British Army in Northern Ireland during the Troubles – Operation Banner
Bloody Sunday 1972 – changed Northern Ireland forever
British Prime Minister David Cameron apologises for Bloody Sunday
Omagh bombing – 29 killed in attack on the Peace Process

Events and episodes

Irish slavery – thousands of rebels transported to the Caribbean in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Missing eleven days – protestors lined the streets crying: “Give us our eleven days back!”
Irish Tricolour flag – the iconic flag of Ireland was the symbol of nationalism for Irish rebels.
‘Forgotten Famine’ of 1879 not so well known famine but left a lasting impression on the country.
The Fethard Lifeboat Disaster – nine Irishmen and two Norwegians died off the coast of Wexford in a failed rescue mission.
The Cavan Orphanage Fire – 35 children were killed in a tragic event that could have been avoided.
Irish weatherman’s crucial role in D Day Landings – things may have turned out differently had it not been for a report from an Irish lighthouse keeper.
The fall of Nelson’s Pillar – statue to British leader destroyed 50 years after the Easter Rising.

Guest writers

Stephen McGarry

Irish Brigades Abroad: Irishmen Against Irishmen

S M Sigerson

Why we need an inquiry into the death of Michael Collins

On this day …





Characters from Irish history

Pat Armstrong – Irish hero of the First World War.
Black Irish – a term used differently around the world. Who were the Black Irish?
Anne Bonny – Irish Pirate Queen of the Caribbean.
‘Black Jack Adair’ – Derryveagh evictions.
Brian Boru – the last High King of Ireland.
Christopher Brady – the man who printed the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.
Molly Brown – Irish American socialite and survivor of the Titanic.
Robert Burke – leader of ill-fated expedition across Australia.
Christabel Burton – outsmarted Nazi officers to free her husband from a concentration camp.
Laurence Carroll – the first western Buddhist monk.
Bridget Cleary – last witch burned in Ireland.
Michael Collins – nationalist soldier, politician, leader, arguably the greatest Irishman of all time.
Tom Crean – ‘Irish Giant’ polar explorer who never left a man behind.
Michael Davitt – member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood.
Éamon de Valera – Easter Rising rebel, Sinn Féin member, founder of Fianna Fáil.
Bridget Dirrane – Republican who knew Padraig Pearse and lived for more than 100 years.
Captain Noel Drury – Irish soldier’s diary reveals the horror conditions in First World War.
Maria Edgeworth – Irish author known as the ‘Irish Jane Austen’.
Robert Emmett – romantic hero from a failed rebellion.
Henry Grattan – an MP – he demanded an independent Irish parliament.
Archibald Hamilton Rowan – co-founded Dublin Society of United Irishmen.
Douglas Hyde – the first Irish President and founder of the Gaelic League.
Mother Jones – campaigner for workers’ and children’s rights.
Peadar Kearney – wrote the lyrics to The Soldier’s Song (Irish National anthem).
President John F. Kennedy – Irish American hugely popular in both countries.
James Larkin – trade unionist who coined the phrase ‘A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay’.
Mike Malloy – ‘Mike the Durable’ survived numerous murder attempts by New York fraudsters.
Stephen Moylan – Irish american revolutionary, credited with coining the phrase ‘United States of America’.
William Smith O’Brien – one of the leading lights of Irish nationalism in the 19th century.
Hugh O’Flaherty – Catholic priest that saved thousands from the Nazis during World War II.
Count Redmond O’Hanlon – aristocratic highwayman known as the ‘Irish Robin Hood’.
Grace O’Malley – Irish Pirate Queen, who was a thorn in the side of Queen Elizabeth for 40 years.
Frank Ryan – journalist caught in tug-of-war between Nazis, FBI, IRA and Spanish rebels during WW2.
Silken Thomas – led a rebellion against the British in Ireland after fearing that his father had been executed by Henry VIII.
Francis Skeffington – Irish nationalist who was murdered during the Easter Rising.
St Patrick – patron saint of Ireland.
Ettie Steinberg – the only Irish Jew executed by the Nazis.
Bob Tisdall – royal bodyguard who quit his job to become an Olympic hero.
Tunnel Tigers – record breaking Irish labourers.