Sunday, 13 November 2011

Oliver Cromwell Ireland

Oliver Cromwell in Ireland


I would say this is one of the most controversial characters who played a part in Irish history.  In 1642 Charles thought that his own parliament had gone too far when it passed The Great Remonstrance. He was intent on arresting John Pym and others associated with him but found they had been tipped off and had vanished. They were hidden by Puritan loyalists and despite the King's demand for Pym, the citizens of London refused to comply.

A major split then happened when Parliament tried to take control of the Army, and Charles also called on the Army, and inevitably a split took place, and yet another war began. Those loyal to Parliament were called Roundheads and those loyal to Charles were known as Cavaliers.

The Roundhead strength was in London and the South and with parliament now out of reach of the king, it passed many reforms. At the same time Charles had an army in Ireland that he would much rather have had in England and the Irish tried to get concessions from Charles with out success. Charles was defeated, tried and executed in 1649 and the parliamentarians now had full control.

The king’s death had a dramatic impact on Ireland.

The royalist cause was now strengthened in Ireland with Ormond, Inchiquin and the Ulster Scots now in control in the government.  This was further supported by the arrival of Prince Rupert who entered Kinsale Harbour with ships and men at the ready.  Rinucci, realising his mission was now going to work left for Rome in 1649 leaving O’Neill as the only serious soldier in Ireland.

Oliver Cromwell was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland by the English parliament and with his Puritan army Cromwell arrived in Dublin in 1649. He wasted no time in setting about his business and simply crushed any opposition. Sir Arthur Aston, had his headquarters in Drogheda, but Cromwell used his artillery to take this stronghold and around 3,500 men, women and children were put to death. He continued this pattern across Wexford and many other towns surrendered rather than be completely destroyed.



Not long after that Dundalk, Newry and Carlingford all surrendered to the might of his army which contained over 13,000 well armed soldiers.  Oliver Cromwell in Ireland had slaughtered those in Drogheda and he repeated this once again when he captured the garrison at Wexford.

The news of these slaughters filled the Irish with fear and many garrisons simply surrendered fearing the might of his army and the fear of death.  Bishop MacMahon of Clougher was executed in Enniskillen and his head was displayed upon a spike at the castle. Cromwell also seized the property of the Catholic Churches and hunted down their priests and only returned to England when he believed his work was well and truly completed in 1650. He left his son in law Ireton in charge to finish off any resistance.  It had also been agreed that Cromwell’s soldiers could have the land for their efforts in the Puritan war.

This follow on from the rebellion meant that any sympathisers were identified and pushed to the West coast of Ireland, west of the River Shannon to the poorest of lands. This included rules like not being able to live near the sea, near any town and not close to the River Shannon.

The younger men did try to put up a resistance but they were dealt with ruthlessly until they eventually were forced to give up.  Many including Sir Phelim O’Neill were sentenced and hanged.  The soldiers who had fought against the parliament were allowed to enlist for Foreign Service and some 30,000 went off to fight in the service of Spain, Frand and Austria.

Many other men, women and children were shipped to the West Indies and sold as slaves. The laws forbidding the Catholic religion were now enforced with some passion but priests went into hiding and Catholics continued to attend masses and practise their faith.

The Death of Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell died in 1658 and was replaced by his son Richard as the Lord Protector.  There was however a desire in England to once again restore the monarchy and Charles II was made king in 1660.

This gave the Catholics hope that their lands would be restored to them as they had faught and indeed died for both this Charles and his father before him.  This was not recognised by the new king and in 1661 yet another parliament was assembled in Dublin and once again was predominantly a Protestant parliament.

They passed an act of settlement which gave legality to the settlers who had fought for Cromwell and to those Protestants who had their lands removed.  If Catholics could prove they played no part in the war they too could have their lands restored.

The cases of proving innocence were a difficult thing to achieve but many did and the process had to be stopped as Cromwell’s settlers grew anxious at the number of cases which were being successful.  When things finally settled Catholics owned about one third of the land.  The population at this time was just over one million with 800,000 being Roman Catholic.

Charles II was keen to restore the established church in Ireland and now it was the turn of the Presbyterians to suffer as they were fined, imprisoned or banished from Ireland.  Like the Catholic priests before them their ministers also went into hiding and continued to preach their faith.

The king’s brother James the Duke of York was a Catholic and the king was also believed to be a Catholic and so rumours swept the land that the king was planning to restore the Catholic faith.  Catholics went through yet another period of persecution as many innocent people were arrested on false testimony, one of these being the archbishop of Armagh, Dr. Irish History Oliver Plunkett. Again, Oliver Plunkett plays a hugely significant part in Irish history.