Formal Repudiation of Foreign Dominion, 1315-1318 A.D.

8. Early in the fourteenth century the issue became still clearer when O'Neill, acting in the name of the nation, wrote a general remonstrance on the state of Ireland to Pope John XXII., reciting the evils under which it had fallen, the vices that had been introduced into a state of early simplicity, and stating: "Let no person, then, wonder if we endeavour to preserve our lives and defend our liberties as best we can, against those cruel tyrants, usurpers of our just liberties, and murderers of our persons. So far from thinking it unlawful, we hold it to be a meritorious act; nor can we be accused of perjury or rebellion, since neither our fathers nor we did at any time bind ourselves, by any oath of allegiance, to their fathers or to them; wherefore, without the least remorse of conscience, while breath lasts we shall attack them in defence of our just rights and never lay down our arms until we force them to desist." Finally, he stated that "in order to attain their object the more speedily and surely, they had invited the gallant Edward Bruce, to whom, being descended from their most noble ancestors, they had transferred, as they justly might, their own right of royal dominion."

In so writing, O'Neill spoke not only in the name of the ancient Irish Nation, but also in the name of many of the English lords, with whom peace had been made, and who had foresworn their English allegiance and had accepted the Irish State, Law and Life. Bruce came, was crowned Monarch, and for some years a deadly war was waged, each side wasting the country before the other, and when finally Bruce was overthrown and killed, 1318, the country was reduced to a state of acute famine and distress. Yet the invader's power was broken. He was thrown back upon a district about Dublin that became known as the Pale, and that steadily from this time diminished and drew back its marches towards the coast. In other parts of the country those of the invaders who had succeeded in establishing themselves as lords of territory had by now become absorbed into the polity which they had intended to destroy. They had intermarried with the Irish nation; and most of them had forgotten or discarded the use of the English tongue and the English manner of dress. Their territories were Irish Stateships, with themselves as rulers, in many cases elective. Some of them went through a public formality of renunciation of the nation from which they had come, and reception into the Irish nation. They became the most stubborn resisters of all things English; and thus earned for themselves the title, Hiberniores Hibernicis ipsis.