Nature of National War, 1171-1315 A.D.

From The Historic Case for Irish Independence by Darrell Figgis

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7. During the next few years the nature of the conflict soon became apparent. The English barons set forth with the sword to make good the land their king had benenciently granted to them; and, according to the law their king had proclaimed, the Irish Stateships approved their moral depravity in resisting that sword. Where the barons went they built castles and raided the country; and the Irish kings, finding that they could not resist a permanent soldiery with men who, having close economic interests to maintain, could only be summoned for six weeks' service at a time, set to work to create a standing militia. The movement began in the north. From there the Hebrides and the western parts of Scotland had in earlier times been colonised, and continual contact had been maintained with the colonists. These Hebrideans were now invited to form a militia in Ireland with rights and quarterings on each Stateship according to its ability. Their presence was at once felt. At that time the English barons were attempting to ring the North with a system of castles, but in the early years of the thirteenth century these castles are seen to disappear one by one from the control of the English into the hands of the new militia. Moreover, in the face of the new danger the nation set itself to the adjustment of its dynastic dispute. In 1258, O'Brian, King of Munster, and O'Connor, King of Connacht, drew together and proceeded to O'Neill to acknowledge him as Monarch in order that he might lead them against the foe. The significance of this appears when it is seen that O'Neill came of the old Monarchic line, and that during the eleventh century the O'Briens and the O'Connors had disputed that Monarchic right. The result appeared two years later, when a concerted attack was made. This failed, and three years later an appeal for aid was sent to Hakon of Norway, who died on the voyage. Yet the contest was steadfastly maintained. By its nature it was local and scattered; it had no opportunity to join united force against united force; and the English employed, often with great skill and success, the ancient plan of dividing to conquer; stirring and prompting animosities with great care in order to maintain themselves in a position that grew increasingly more difficult. They prompted rival claimants for kingships, and espoused their cause, with no intention to keep the faith they pledged. Thus they succeeded in keeping the issue continually confused.

The whole country was torn with strife; its harvests burned, and its people put to the sword; Stateships disappeared, and, after the passing of the invader, were reconstructed with difficulty; yet through all the national confusion the contest was persistently maintained. The confusion was on both sides; for many of the English made common cause with Irish rulers against their king; but the general nature of the conflict always shone clearly through the wreck of a despoiled nation.

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