Local time: :


The first humans arrived in Ireland between 7,000 and 6,000 BC after the end of the last ice age. The first Irish people lived by farming, fishing and gathering food such as plants and shellfish.

Then about 750 BC the Celts arrived in Ireland. They brought iron tools and weapons with them. Ireland was divided into many small kingdoms and warfare between them was frequent. Fighting often took place in chariots.

The 1100's brought the English, or more accurately, the Normans. Their castles began to dot the countryside, and an uneasy accommodation began between native clans and the conquerors. A meld of the two cultures ensued, but under Elizabeth the Great, new English armies gradually conquered all.

Ireland remained Catholic while England turned to Protestantism. Deposed English kings found the restive populace a natural source of manpower. Cromwell invaded and put the countryside to torch, killing thousands. When William of Orange triumphed over the Catholic armies of King James II, punitive laws deprived Catholics of any rights. Catholic churches were forbidden, schooling was forbidden, holding land was forbidden.

The history of the next several hundred years is one of periodic, unsuccessful revolts against the ascendant English and Protestant rulers.

In 1916, an Easter Uprising was put down by the English and the leaders of that revolt were shot. Their martyrdom galvanised the Irish populace as nothing else could, and guerrilla warfare eventually succeeded in dislodging the British. But, the price of British exit from 26 counties of Ireland was the retention of 6 of Ulster's counties where the majority of the people were Protestant. Ulster's fate remained the great battleground of modern Irish politics. Only in 2007 was a political settlement reached in the north.

In 1973 Ireland joined the European Economic Community, which is now the European Union. The result has been dramatic. A lackluster, agricultural economy was transformed into the "Celtic Tiger," the most rapidly growing economy in Europe. A mostly rural populace has become mostly urban, and an island on the periphery of Europe has become the largest exporter of software in the world.