THE IRISH (a brief history of Ireland)

Ireland, never part of the Roman Empire, escaped the catastrophic consequences that overtook Britain with the ebbing of Roman rule after 410.  But though the country had an enduring tradition of Celtic kingship, it never consolidated into a centralised state. From the 9th century, it fell victim to Viking invaders.

By the end of the 5th century, Ireland was the most stable territory in the British Isles. Early medieval Ireland was divided into as many as 150 tribal kingdoms, which by the 6th and 7th century were gradually hardening into five centres of power, all variously claiming overlordship :UIlster, Connaught, Meath, Leinster and Munster.  Of these, the rulers of Ulster, the Uni Neills, who claimed the hereditary title of kings of Tara, were consistently the most dominant, however unlikely they may have been to have exercised overlordship in practice.

However politically fragmented, Celtic Ireland was still a fundamentally dynamic entity whose horizons were by no means restricted to its home island.  From the 5th to the 10th centuries, there were significant Irish kingdoms in many parts of western Britain – for example in Cornwall, Wales and most enduringly in Scotland.  Far from hemming in the Irish, the Irish sea was the highway that led to the creation of a wider Irish world.

It was this maritime world that the Vikings, first recorded from the 790’s, sought to exploit.

Norse raiders may have founded what would become Irelands firsts towns – Dublin, Waterford, Wexford and Cork amongst others. Similarly, Turgeis, the Norse founder of Dublin in 841, may have styled himself ‘King of Dublin’.  Nonetheless, unlike the more settled Danes in eastern England, Norsemen in Ireland were at least as concerned to construct a trading empire across the Irish sea as they were to establish land based kingdoms

The growing political instability created by Irelands feuding kings made effective control impossible.  In a familiar pattern of alliance and counter alliance, the Norse were sucked into Irelands turbulent power struggle. In 902 they were even forced out of Dublin altogether for a short period of time..

Whatever, there maritime domination, the Norse hold on Ireland became increasingly precarious  throughout the 10th century.  The sacking of Dublin in 999,by the king of Munster was followed by a decisive victory over a combined Norse- Leinster army at Clontarf in 1014.  the Norse kingdom of Dublin limped on until 1170, but the Viking role was increasingly peripheral.