©2008 abcteach.comDuring the 18
century, many laws were passed that discriminated againstCatholics. The native Gaelic language was banned in schools. By 1778, onlyfive percent of the land was owned by Catholics. In 1801, the Irish parliamentwas abolished and Ireland became part of “the United Kingdom of GreatBritain and Ireland”. Catholics could not hold parliamentary office until 1829.Poverty was widespread. For many Irish, potatoes were the most importantfood. In 1845, disaster struck: the potato blight. This disease destroyed muchof the potato crop for the next few years. The cause of the blight was notimmediately understood, and the English rulers did little to help the situation.About a million people died of starvation or disease. Another million emigratedto escape poverty and starvation. Because of the potato blight, the populationof Ireland fell from more than eight million in 1841 to about six million in 1852.The population continued to decline more slowly until the second half of the20
century.Efforts to gain home rule and improve the condition of the people went onduring the 19
century. There were movements for land reform andmovements to make Gaelic the official language of Ireland once again. Therewas strong Protestant opposition to these demands. By 1900, civil warloomed. The Home Rule act was passed in 1914, which would have givenIreland some autonomy, but it was suspended when the first world warstarted.There was an uprising on Easter Day, April 24, in 1916. The Easter Uprisingfailed to spread beyond Dublin, and the leaders were arrested and executed.Their brutal treatment tipped public opinion in favor of independence. The IrishWar of Independence began in 1919 and continued until 1921.In 1922, the southern 26 counties of Ireland seceded from the UnitedKingdom. The new country called itself the Irish Free State. Gaelic wasrestored as the official national language, together with English. Ties withGreat Britain were cut in 1948. The country became known as the Republic ofIreland. The other six counties in the north of the Ireland, called NorthernIreland, remained part of the UK, which they still are today.This did not end the conflict. There was sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland,between Nationalists, largely Catholics, who wanted Northern Ireland to unitewith the Irish Republic, and the Unionists, mostly Protestants, who were loyalto Great Britain. This unrest exploded violently in the late 1960s, a time calledthe Troubles. It did not end until 1998, when a peace agreement was signed.Economically, things slowly began to look up for the Irish after theestablishment of the Irish Republic. The economy began to grow in the late1950s. The population began to increase for the first time since the potatoblight, but even today, at about 6 million, it has not yet re-attained its 1841level.Ireland joined the EEC (now the European Union) in 1973. Membership didmuch to improve the Irish economy, both through direct aid and by increasingforeign investment there. The Irish economy boomed in the 1990s, so muchso that Ireland was nicknamed “the Celtic Tiger”. After centuries of povertyand suffering, Ireland is now a prosperous, modern country with much to offerthe world.