The island history
With the history of Ireland dating back as far as 6000BC, the past has truly paved the way for the island’s buoyant present and future
Did you know?Ireland is thought to have been inhabited from around 6000BC by people of a mid-Stone Age culture.
And about 4,000 years later, tribes from Southern Europe arrived and established a high Neolithic culture. The best-known Neolithic sites in Ireland are the megalithic passage tombs of Newgrange and Knowth in County Meath. Both were built around 3200BC, making them older than Stonehenge in England, and the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. Meanwhile, you can find Iron Age pagan idols built by the Celts on Boa Island in County Fermanagh, in the form of the mysterious and very well preserved Janus.
Ireland’s famous patron saint didn’t actually come from Ireland.
Saint Patrick was taken prisoner from his family home in Britain by Irish raiders and was brought to Ireland to work as a shepherd. After Patrick escaped back to Britain, he had a vision from God telling him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Now credited with introducing Christianity to Ireland, relics of St Patrick’s time here can be seen all over Ireland. One of the best known is Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, where Patrick fasted for 40 days in 441AD. Saint Patrick’s remains are believed to be buried in the grounds of Downpatrick Cathedral, County Down.
The Vikings first attacked Ireland in 795AD.
And in 837AD, 60 Viking Dragon warships appeared at the mouth of the Liffey. Five years later, Dublin was taken, but the Vikings were attacked by the local Irish and fled. They returned 17 years later under Olaf the White and made a permanent settlement at Dyflinn (later to be Dublin). The King’s Palace stood on the present Dublin
Castle site and part of the town’s defences can still be seen at the Undercroft in Dublin Castle.
The latter half of the 19th century was a period of tragedy in Irish history.
Ireland was struck by the Great Famine caused by a potato blight that struck crops over a four-year period from 1845-49. Over a million of the population died from starvation, while other fell prey to diseases. Over two million people emigrated to the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. And between 1848-1950, over six million Irish fled the land. Now the Irish diaspora is thought to contain over 80 million people scattered all over the globe. To learn more about the famine, visit the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh, County Tyrone; The Famine Museum in Strokestown Estate, County Roscommon; The Cobh Heritage Centre and the Famine Commemoration Centre in Skibbereen, both in County Cork.
Modern Ireland now enjoys more immigration than emigration.
Thanks in large part to the boom of the Celtic Tiger economy in the 1990s, the Ireland of the 21st century is a vibrant, culturally rich and ethnically diverse country with an entirely youthful and optimistic outlook – over half the population is under 30, after all!