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A Chronology of Key Events in Irish History
1170 to 1967

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Text and Research: Martin Melaugh
Material is added to this site on a regular basis - information on this page may change

For an expanded and revised version of the information on this page see:
Events 1169-1799   and   Events 1800-1967

This is a draft chronology of key events in Irish history from 1170 to 1967. This chronology has been compiled from a number of sources. Any piece of information which is followed by a question mark in parenthesis (?) is a best estimate while awaiting an update.

Chronology of Key Events in Irish History, 1179 to 1967

1 May 1170   Arrival of Normans in County Wexford.
Arrival of Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, subsequently known as 'Strongbow'.

'Strongbow' became King of Leinster.
October 1171   Arrival in Ireland of Henry II.

Arrival in Ireland of Prince John.

Second visit to Ireland of King John; submission of Irish kings.

Edward Bruce (brother of Robert the Bruce) of Scotland invaded Ireland; Edward proclaimed 'King of Ireland'; killed in battle at Faughart near Dundalk in 1318.

Prince Lionel of Clarence arrived in Ireland to attempt to halt the assimilation of Normans.

Statutes of Kilkenny were introduced to try to stop the assimilation of the 'English born in Ireland' into the Gaelic way of life.

Arrival in Ireland of King Richard II; submission of Irish Kings.

Second visit of King Richard II to Ireland.

Sir Edward Poynings appointed as Lord Deputy (September 1494 - December 1495) of Henry VII;
'Poyning's Law' subjected the Irish Parliament to the control of the English king and council.

Henry VIII became King of England.

Rebellion by Earls of Kildare.

Declaration Act by a complaisant Parliament recognized Henry VIII as king of Ireland . Henry introduced a policy of 'surrender and regrant'.

Elizabeth I became Queen of England.

Irish Parliament accepts Elizabethan church settlement thus recognising Elizabeth I as head of the reformed Church.

1562 (and onwards)
Elizabethan wars in Ireland.

Pope Pius V excommunicated Elizabeth I.

18 July 1579   James Fitz Maurice Fitzgerald arrived in Dingle in Munster with a small Continental Catholic force of Italians and Spaniards, accompanied by the papal legate Nicholas Sanders; Fiztgerald betrayed and killed in August 1579.

Rebels in Munster were defeated, and in November 1580 a force of Italians and Spaniards was massacred at Dún an Óir ("Golden Fort"), Smerwick Harbour, County Kerry.

Munster rebellion against Elizabeth I's military governors.

Plantation of Munster.

Defeat of Spanish Armada.

Hugh O'Neill, the Earl of Tyrone, joined with Red Hugh O'Donnell in rebellion against Elizabeth I in an attempt to preserve the Gaelic way of life.

Hugh O'Neill's victory at the Battle of Yellow Ford.

1598 - 1603
War involving Spanish.

Robert Devereux, 2nd earl of Essex, sent to Ireland to subdue rebellion.
Planters in Munster ousted.

Hugh O'Neill and Hugh O'Donnell, together with Spanish soldiers, were defeated by Mountjoy at the Battle of Kinsale.

James VI of Scotland came to the throne of England, as James I, following the death of Elizabeth I on 24 March 1603.
Hugh O'Neill surrendered.
Tudor conquest of Ireland completed. English law enforced throughout Ireland.

Scottish settlers were 'planted' in the Ards peninsula area of Ulster.

Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, and Rory, son of Hugh O'Donnell, Earl of Tyrconnell, left Ireland and into exile rather than submit to English rule (this became known as 'The Flight of the Earls').

1608 (and onwards)
Plantation of confiscated land in Ulster began. Plantations were planned and carried out in a number of areas of the region including Derry.

[Only 59 per cent of land in Ireland was held by Catholics.]
Catholic-Gaelic Rebellion in an attempt to regain confiscated lands. An estimated 12,000 Protestant planters were killed during the rebellion which was finally crushed in 1649.
English Civil War began.

Catholic Confederation at Killkenny.

Eoghan Ruadh Ó Néill defeats Scottish forces led by Robert Munro at Benburb.

King Charles 1 executed. Cromwell's army left Britain for Ireland. Cromwell's army captured Drogheda, Wexford, and other Irish cities.

Catholic landowners were exiled to Connaught ("to Hell or Connaught!"). Cromwell's army left Ireland.

Cromwellian Plantation.

Restoration of Charles II to throne of England.

Execution in London of Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, St Oliver Plunket.

James II acceded to the throne of England.

[Approximately 22 per cent of land was held by Catholics.]
James II deposed as King in England.
7 December 1688   The gates of the city walls in Derry were shut against the troops of James II, so beginning the Siege of Derry.

28 July 1689   The Siege of Derry ended.
James II landed at Kinsale in Ireland with French support.

William III (William of Orange) arrived at Carrickfergus.
July 1690   William III defeated James II at the Battle of the Boyne.

Catholic forces were defeated at the Battle of Aughrim. Limerick surrendered.

The first of the 'Penal Laws' were enacted against Catholics in Ireland. (The last of the 'Penal Laws' were not overturned until 1829.)

William Molyneux wrote a pamphlet arguing against the right of England to make laws for Ireland.

[Approximately 7 per cent of land in Ireland was held by Catholics.]

Declaratory Act gave Westminster the power to legislate for Ireland.

Henry Grattan became leader of the 'Patriot' party.

1775 - 1783
American War of Independence.

The Irish Parliament won legislative independence from the British Parliament.

The Society of the United Irishmen established in Belfast.

Irish Parliament granted new powers. Catholic Relief Act of 1793.

21 September 1795   Formation of the Loyal Orange Institution (Orange Order) in County Armagh.

12 July 1796   First parade held to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne.
A French fleet of 35 ships with Wolfe Tone on board tried to land at Bantry Bay but were prevented by bad weather.

United Irishmen Rebellion. The Rebellion of 1798 led by Woolfe Tone.
March 1798   Arrest of many members of the Leinster United Irishmen.
May 1798   Arrest and death of Lord Edward Fitzgerald. Rebellion in Midlands.
June 1798   Rebellion in Wexford. Defeat of the United Irishmen at the Battle of Vinegar Hill.
19 November 1798   Death of Wolfe Tone.

The Act of Union passed (to take effect from 1 January 1801).

1 January 1801   Political Union of Great Britain and Ireland.

Rising in Dublin led by Robert Emmet, who was arrested, tried, and executed.

"Battle of Garvagh" between Catholic 'Ribbonmen' and Orangemen.

Apprentice Boys of Derry formed.

Daniel O'Connell's Catholic Association, which campaigned for Catholic emancipation, was formed.

The Unlawful Societies Act was passed which proscribed the Catholic Association and the Orange Order.

Catholic Emancipation Act passed at Westminster.
July 1829   Fierce riots in Belfast followed the banning of the 12 July parades. Rioting spread to County Armagh and County Tyrone and resulted in at least 20 deaths.

Tithe War began. Introduction of 'National' schools.

1832 - 1844
Party Procession Acts enforced to control public demonstrations.

Victoria acceded to the throne.

Daniel O'Connell founds Repeal Association.

The Nation newspaper was founded by Thomas Davis and others.

Daniel O'Connell organised a number of 'Monster Meetings' in a campaign to have the Act of Union repealed.

1845 - 1849
The Great Famine in Ireland. The first cases of blight in the potato crop occured in Ireland leading to famine.

Repeal of Corn Laws.
April 1846   Sale of imported Indian corn began.
August 1846   Public works began to try to relieve poverty, but were stopped in anticipation of the new harvest.
Total failure of potato crop.
Public works programme restarted.
October 1846   First deaths from starvation.

Government soup kitchens were set up to distribute free rations to the most needy.
Fever began spreading throughout Ireland.
The potato harvest was very poor.
Soup kitchens were closed.
Responsibility for relief of hunger and destitution was placed on local rates.
The Irish were left to the operation of natural forces and mercy of the free market.
Failed Nationalist uprising ('Young Ireland Rising') at Ballingarry, County Tipperary. Smith O'Brien, the Young Ireland leader, was arrested. James Stephens fled to France.

1848 - 1849
Worst years of the famine; over 1 million died and over 1 million left Ireland .

12 July 1849   'Battle of Dolly's Brae' when at least 30 Catholics were killed in clashes between 'Ribbonmen' and Orangemen (Government report entitled Battle of Magheramayo).

1850 - 1872
Party Procession Acts again enforced.

James Stephens returned to Ireland.

July 1857   Ten days of serious rioting in Belfast following clashes surrounding the Orange Order parades on 12 July.

James Stephens formed organisation that was to become the 'Irish Republican Brotherhood' (IRB).

'Fenian Brotherhood' organisation founded in the United States of America.

1861 - 1865
American Civil War.

The Irish People newspaper founded.

Rioting in Belfast over the O'Connell monument in Dublin.

James Stephens arrested but later escapes from jail.

Kelly, an American Civil War veteran, travelled to Ireland and took charge of preparations for a Fenian rising.

February 1867   Abortive raid on Chester Castle.
5 March 1867   Failed Fenian Uprising.
12 July 1867   Orangemen march in County Down in defiance of a ban on parades.
September 1867   Kelly rescued from a prison van in Manchester.
23 November 1867   Allen, Larkin, and O'Brien (the 'Manchester Martyrs') executed.
December 1867   Explosion at Clerkenwell.

Gladstone became Prime Minister.
Protestant Church was disestablished in Ireland.

Gladstone's first Land Act.

Rioting in Belfast following Catholic Lady Day march.

Home Rule League founded.

Charles Stewart Parnell elected as Member of Parliament for County Meath.

Irish National Land League founded following initiative by Michael Davitt.

1879 - 1882
Land War in Ireland.

Captain Boycott and evictions.
Charles Stewart Parnell elected leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. Parnell started love affair with Mrs O'Shea.

Gladstone's second Land Act. Irish Coercion Bill and obstructionism.
Charles Stewart Parnell imprisoned in Kilmainham Jail.

'Kilmainham Treaty' and Charles Stewart Parnell's release from Jail.
6 May 1882   'Phoenix Park murders' - The assassination of the British chief secretary of Ireland, Lord Frederick Cavendish, and his under secretary, T.H. Burke. Both were stabbed to death as they walked in Dublin's Phoenix Park by members of a nationalist secret society, the Invincibles.

GAA founded.

Ashbourne Land Act. Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union establised.

June 1886   First Home Rule Bill was defeated in the House of Commons. Eight Catholics died in rioting which followed Protestant celebrations.
July 1886   Further rioting in the north of Ireland followed Orange Order parades. Official eath toll reached 31 by the middle of September.
Ulster Loyal Anti-Repeal Union established.

Charles Stewart Parnell's affair with Kitty O'Shea became public.
November 1890   Parnell Divorce case heard.
December 1890   Parnell was deposed as leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party.

Charles Stewart Parnell lost three bye-elections.
October 1891   Charles Stewart Parnell died.

Second Home Rule Bill. Bill rejected by House of Lords.
Gaelic Laegue established.

Irish Agricultural Organisation Society founded.

The United Irishman newspaper founded by Arthur Griffith.

Land Purchase Act (Wyndham Act).
Formation of the Independent Orange Institution.

Sinn Féin founded under Arthur Griffith.

Liberal Government returned in Britain.

Land Purchase Act.

Two General Elections in which Irish Party held balance of power.
Edward Carson became leader of Ulster Unionist Council.

Parliament Act removed veto from House of Lords.
Formation of the Royal Arch Purple.

Third Home Rule Bill.
Ulster Solemn League and Covenant signed by 447,000 (?).

January 1913   Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) formed and began drilling.
24 April 1913   Large supply of guns from Germany were landed at Larne for the UVF.
November 1913   Irish Citizen Army and Irish National Volunteers formed.
Dublin industrialists instituted a lockout against members of the Irish National Transport and General Workers' Union .

March 1914   Curragh 'mutiny'.
July 1914   Guns were landed at Howth for Irish Volunteers.
August 1914   Outbreak of World War I.
18 September 1914   Home Rule Act on Statute Book but but was suspended for the duration of World War I.
Irish Republican Brotherhood decided on Rising.

Irish Republican Brotherhood was reorganised and a military council formed.

April 1916   Easter Rising in Dublin, which began on Easter Monday (24 April 1916), lasted for a week before being put down. Proclamation of the Irish Republic: Poblacht na hÉireann
3-12 May 1916   Executions of leaders of Easter Rising.
July 1916   Battle of the Somme. The 36th (Ulster Division) lost 5,500 men in the first two days of July.
December 1916   First rebel prisoners released.

July 1917   All rebel prisioners were released.
Eamon De Valera won East Clare election.

Miltary Service Bill.
November 1918   End of World War I.
December 1918   Sinn Féin (SF) won a majority of seats in the General Election.

January 1919   First Dáil Éireann met in Dublin.

1919 - 1921
Anglo-Irish War (or 'War of Independence'; also known as 'the Troubles').

Government of Ireland Act 1920 allowed for the creation of two self-governing units one based on six counties of north-east Ireland (Northern Ireland) the other based on the remaining 28 counties.
March 1920   Black and Tan members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) arrived from England.
November 1920   Kevin Barry hanged (first of a series of 24 executions that ended in June 1921).
21 November 1920   'Bloody Sunday' - The IRA killed 11 Englishmen suspected of being intelligence agents. The Black and Tans took revenge the same afternoon, attacking spectators at a GAA match in Croke Park, Dublin, killing 12 and wounding 60. .
December 1920   Burning of Cork by RIC Auxiliaries.

May 1921   Irish Republican Army (IRA) burn Dublin Custom House.
7 June 1921   George V opened the first Northern Ireland Parliament. James Craig became Northern Ireland's first Prime Minister.
July 1921   There were serious riots across Northern Ireland. On 12 July 1921, 23 people were killed and over 200 Catholic homes destroyed.
6 December 1921   The Treaty of Peace between Great Britain and Ireland ('The Treaty') signed at Downing Street, London.
The Lynn Committee on education established.

Widespread violence in Northern Ireland with approximately 232 people killed and roughly 1,000 injured.
7 January 1922   The Dáil voted by 64 votes to 57 to accept 'The Treaty'.
April 1922   Four Courts occupied by anti-Treaty Irish Republican Army (IRA).
7 April 1922   Special Powers Act was introduced in Northern Ireland.
June 1922   General election in Ireland won by those in favour of 'The Treaty'. Four Courts attacked by Free State Army.
Beginning of the Civil War in Ireland between those for and against 'The Treaty'.
22 August 1922   Michael Collins killed. Death of Arthur Gfiffith.
November 1922   First of 77 executions, which ended in May 1923, carried out by the Free State.
6 December 1922   The Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) came into being.
7 December 1922   The six counties of Northern Ireland opted out of the Free State.

May 1923   The Irish Civil War ended.

Boundary Commission report was shelved and no changes were made to the existing Northern Ireland border.

Eamon de Valera founded Fianna Fáil.
6 May 1926   Emergency Powers Act was introduced in Northern Ireland.

General Election in Free State.
Eamon de Valera entered the Dáil for the first time.

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) was declared an illegal organisation in the Irish Free State.
Ulster Protestant League (UPL) established.

Northern Ireland Government moved to new buildings at Stormont which were opened by Edward, Prince of Wales.
There was rioting in Belfast brought about by resentment over the hardships caused by the depression.
General Election in the Free State. Eamon de Valera formed first Fianna Fáil government in the Dáil. Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners released.

1932 - 1938
Introduction of protectionist policies led to an economic war between the Irish Free State and Britain. This economic war ended in 1938.

Special Powers Act in Northern Ireland.
United Irish Party (later to become Fine Gael) formed.

Lord Craigavon made famous 'Protestant Nation' speech.

Rioting in Belfast during the summer months with 13 people killed.

Public Order Act introduced in Northern Ireland. This gave the Chief Constable the power to impose conditions on parades or public processions if it was thought they would lead to public disorder.

Bunreacht na hÉireann (the Irish Constitution) was approved by a referendum. The Constitution (articles 2 and 3) claimed sovereignty over the whole of the island of Ireland.

Douglas Hyde (a Protestant Irish-speaker from County Rosscommon) was elected as the first President of Ireland.
Economic war with Britain, which had begun in 1932, ended. Britain gave up military and naval rights in 'Treaty' ports.

1939 - 1945
September 1939   World War II, which was known in the Free State as "the Emergency" began. The Free State declared itself neutral.
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) began a campaign of bombing in Britain.
December 1939   IRA carried out a raid on Magazine Fort, Phoenix Park, Dublin.

Germany attempts to enlist the help of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) but various attempts fail.
IRA hunger-strike.

The German Airforce bombed Belfast killing 949 (?) people, injuring 2,000, and destroying thousands of homes. The Irish government sent fire engines to Belfast to help put out the fires. Germans bomb Dublin, mistaking it for Liverpool, and killed 34 people.

Basil Brooke, later to become Lord Brookeborough, became the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.

May 1945   World War II ended.
July 1945   Labour Government came to power in Britain.
Sean O'Kelly succeeded Douglas Hyde as President of Ireland.

Sean MacBride formed Clann na Poblachta (political party).

Education Act introduced.

General Election in Ireland.
Fine Gael entered into a coalition government which ended 16 years of government by Fianna Fáil.

Republic of Ireland established.
Republic of Ireland leaves the Commonwealth.
Ireland Act (1949) guaranteed Northern Ireland's position within the United Kingdom.

Fianna Fáil returned to government in the Republic of Ireland.

A second coalition government took power in the Republic of Ireland.
The Flags and Emblems Act was introduced in Northern Ireland. The Act was exclusively used against the flying of the 'tricolour' (the flag of the Republic of Ireland).

Republic of Ireland joined the United Nations.

1956 - 1962
11 December 1956   The Irish Republican Army (IRA) began what was it called "The Campaign of Resistance to British Occupation"; which was also known as the 'Border Campaign'. As a result of the campaign, Internment was introduced in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The campaign ended on 26 February 1962 because of lack of support.

Fianna Fáil returned to power in the Republic of Ireland.

Seán Lemass was elected as Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister). Eamon de Valera succeeded Seán O'Kelly as President of Ireland.

Radio Telefis Éireann (RTE), the Irish Broadcasting company, began transmission of television programmes.

Terence O'Neill became the Prime Minister of the Northern Ireland government.
John F Kennedy, then President of the United States of America, visited the Republic of Ireland.

17 January 1964
The Campaign for Social Justice (CSJ) was formed. The CSJ was the forerunner of the civil rights movement and it began a programme of publicising what it saw as widespread discrimination, in a number of areas of life, against Catholics in Northern Ireland.
Rioting in Belfast during the election.
Monday 28 September 1964   Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers, acting under instructions from the Minister of Home Affairs, forced their way into the Divis Street offices of the Republican Party and removed the Irish national flag (the tricolour). The move led to serious rioting in west Belfast. [See: Boyd, A. (1969), '1964: The Tricolour Riots']

Sean Lemass, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), travelled to Belfast to meet Terence O'Neill, then Northern Ireland Prime Minister. This was the first official meeting between an Irish Taoiseach and a Northern Ireland Prime Minister. A meeting between the two men also took place in Dublin. The meetings caused uproar amongst unionists.

Rioting broke out in Belfast as Loyalists held counter demonstrations to oppose commemorations of the Easter Rising in 1916.
Early 1966 (?)   Ian Paisley helped to establish the Ulster Protestant Volunteers (UPV) (Holland, 1999: p23).
Early 1966 (?)   The modern version of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) was formed. The UVF issued a statement in May 1966 containing the threat that, "known IRA men will be executed mercilessly and without hesitation".
1966 (?)   The UVF exploded a bomb at Silent Valley Resevoir, County Down.
7 May 1966   The UVF carried out a petrol bomb attack on a Catholic owned bar and off-licence in Upper Charleville Street in the Shankill Road area of Belfast. The attackers missed their intended target and set fire to the home of Matilda Gould (77), a Protestant civilian, who lived next door to the public house. Gould was severely injured in the attack and died on 27 June 1966 as a resulted of her injuries.
27 May 1966   The UVF shot and mortally wounded John Scullion (28), a Catholic civilian, in the Clonard area of west Belfast. Scullion died from his injuries on 11 June 1966.
26 June 1966   The UVF shot three Catholic civilians in Malvern Street in the Shankill area of Belfast. One of those shot, Peter Ward (18), died at the scene and the two other men were seriously injured.
28 June 1966   The UVF was declared illegal.
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) blew up Nelson's Pillar in O'Connell Street in Dublin.
Jack Lynch succeeded Sean Lemass as Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister).

29 January 1967
The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was formed. The civil rights movement called for a number of reforms one of which was for 'one man, one vote', that is, a universal franchise for local government elections. At the time only rate-payers were entitled to votes, and there were other anomalies to do with additional votes for companies. The association also pressed for the end to gerrymandering of electoral boundaries. Other reforms pressed for included: the end to perceived discrimination in the allocation of public sector housing and appointments to, particularly, public sector employment; the repeal of the Special Powers Act; and the disbandment of the 'B-Specials' (Ulster Special Constabulary) which was a paramilitary style reserve police force which was entirely Protestant in its makeup.
November 1967   The Derry Housing Action Committee (DHAC) was formed.
Republican Clubs were declared illegal in Northern Ireland.

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