The Causes of Discontent Between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland

Topics: Ireland, Henry VIII of England, Republic of Ireland Pages: 22 (5367 words) Published: March 3, 2006
The causes of discontent between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, and timeline:

The seed of religious division in Ireland was sown by the Reformation movement and a king's desires. The reformation religious movement of the 1500's that led to Protestantism. It had a tremendous impact on social, political, and economic life, and its influences are still felt today. The movement began in 1517 when Martin Luther, a German monk, protested certain practices of the Roman Catholic Church.

Henry VIII (1491-1547), king of England (1509-1547), and founder of the Church of England. The son of King Henry VII, he profoundly influenced the character of the English monarchy. In 1527, Henry announced his desire to divorce his wife, on the grounds that the papal dispensation making the marriage possible was invalid. The chief reason for the divorce, however, was that Catherine had failed to produce a male heir. Her only surviving child was Mary, later Mary I of England.

Henry now proceeded to dissolve one by one the ties to the papacy. With the aid of parliamentary legislation, he first secured control of the clergy, compelling that group in 1532 to acknowledge him as head of the English church. In the following year, Henry secretly married Anne Boleyn, who was crowned queen after Henry's obedient archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, declared the marriage with Catherine void and that with Anne valid. An act of succession affirmed the declaration of the archbishop and established Anne's progeny as heirs to the throne. Anne's only surviving child, Elizabeth, later Elizabeth I, was born in 1533. Although Henry was immediately excommunicated, he repudiated papal jurisdiction in 1534 and made himself the supreme ecclesiastical authority in England.

In 1537, the Irish Parliament declared the Anglican religion to be the "established" (i.e., official) religion of the Church of Ireland. Anglicism also became a part of the "English culture" that Henry was forcibly imposing on Ireland. However, this complicated the task enormously because there was virtually no indigenous sympathy for "reform" among either the Gaelic-Irish or the Norman-Irish, who remained totally committed to the Pope.

The Battle of Kinsale, along with the "Flight of the Earls", marked the end of the old Gaelic order, and established England as conqueror of Ireland. What followed next -- the 17th Century "Plantations" -- were perhaps the most important development in Irish history since arrival of the Celts. They divided Ireland apartheid-like into two hostile camps.

Under these Plantations -- the Ulster Plantation (1609), the Cromwellian Plantation (1652) and the Williamite Plantation (1693) -- 81% of the productive land in Ireland was confiscated from the native Irish (Gaelic-Irish and Norman-Irish alike, but invariably Catholic), and transferred to new immigrants (invariably Protestant) from Scotland and England. The Plantations impacted Ireland in two major ways. First, they introduced into Ireland a new community -- eventually 25% of the populace -- which differed radically from the natives not only in religion, but also in culture, ethnicity, and national identity. Second, in Ireland's overwhelmingly agrarian economy -- where land equaled wealth and power (and vice versa) -- the Plantations caused a massive transfer of wealth and power to non-native landlords, whose backbreaking rents then thrust 85% of the natives into crushing poverty and degradation. The Plantations are the root cause of the class warfare (rich landlord versus poor tenant) and religious/cultural clashes that have plagued Ireland since 1610.

Plantations were the medieval equivalent of "ethnic cleansing" in that -- in theory at least -- all occupants of confiscated land were to be evicted and resettled in Connacht where they would be less of a military threat. Anti-Catholic animus played a role in the Plantations, but other motivations were more important. For the new...
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