Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Roots of the Conflict

Where should we start with the conflict and troubles between Christian denominations in Ireland?

In 1169, a group of Norman, Welsh and Flemish forces came ashore in Wexford, Ireland.

Why did these foreigners invade Ireland?

They were invited by Dermot MacMurrough, or Diarmait Mac Murchada in Irish, the ousted King of Leinster who sought their help in regaining his kingdom. Leinster was, and still is, the eastern portion of Ireland. Diarmait only wanted the foreign help getting his Kingship of Leinster back. He planned that after this, he would become the High King of Ireland. However, in the process his son, who had been taken hostage, was killed and in his grief, Diarmait died a few months later.

The leader of the foreign knights was Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, alias Strongbow. He had been promised the hand of Diarmait's daughter, Aoife of Leinster, as an incentive to conduct the invasion. Aoife married Strongbow in 1170.

Then Henry II over in England became concerned and ordered the foreign invaders back to England. When Diarmait died, Strongbow said as he was now King of Leinster, he had to stay to rule his land.

Supposedly, the Holy Catholic Church owned all of Ireland. Henry II had gotten the Pope, who just happened to be English, to state he could invade Ireland back in 1155. Seeing Strongbow accumulating so much land, Henry II decided to invade Ireland himself. In months he had rolled up all of Ireland and obtained the submission of the Irish Kings.

Did you follow all that?

Maybe I'm a shallow American, but my eyes tend to glaze over when these seemingly complicated histories are told. I am not bored, just lost. My ancestors are both Irish and English, so I don't even have a side to root for. I've simplified this telling, and you could guess the rest of the story which leads up to the present day conflict in Northern Ireland is long and detailed.

But let's look at this story for a moment.

An ousted king. Swashbuckling knights invading. A queen marrying one of the invading knights. It's all so human and has been played out probably thousands of times across the globe over the eons. But this is when this whole Irish/English conflict all started.

Just prior to these events, Ireland was invaded multiple times by Vikings. The Vikings came to hold big territories in Ireland. Many of the Vikings came to live in Ireland and were absorbed into the populace. Somehow the Irish hold no resentment to those with Viking names. They don't bear any perceptible enmity to Norwegians or Swedish folks. So events that came after the English invasion of Ireland were also key.

Still, without Diarmait wanting to be king again, without Strongbow wanting to prove himself in leadership, without knights not wanting to prove themselves and gain riches, without Aoife marrying Strongbow, without the Pope having it written down that the Holy Catholic Church owned Ireland, without Henry II wanting to expand his kingdom, without any one of these things this whole conflict might not have started.

Over 800 years is a long conflict. Maybe not the longest, but it is long. The peace makers have their work cut out for them, right?

By the way, if any of you were worrying about Aoife being forced into an arranged marriage and all, she seems to have been able to take care of herself. Aoife fought in battles on behalf of her husband, Strongbow, and earned the nickname Red Eva or Aoife Rua in Irish.

And if you are interested in how this relates to subsequent history outside Ireland, the following people have Diarmait and Aoife as their ancestor:

George Washington, Marie-Antoinette, Charles Darwin and Winston Churchill.

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