An illustration of Hugh O'Neill (c.1540 - 1616) do a formal entry to the English after ~ the suppression of his ireland rebellion | Hulton archive via Getty Images

Boris Johnson desires Ireland to give up the backstop, the legal insurance of keeping an open border after Brexit, as his price for signing a resolve the europe Union.

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But should Ireland give means and trust London? background suggests that might be a mistake. Here are part examples.

The treason of Clannabuidhe

"Game of Thrones" has nothing on this.

Brian McPhelim O’Neill was a 16th century Gaelic mr who hosted lands that contained Belfast and also the surrounding territory. The was the moment of the colonization of Ulster — when land in Ireland’s northeast was forcibly taken over by English and also Scottish inhabitants — that is the root that the island’s department today.

O’Neill sided v English pressures to take on a rival, the an effective chieftain Shane O"Neill, and also was knighted through the crown. However O’Neill soon discovered himself at war with the Earl of Essex, Walter Devereux, who had actually been granted permission to take over his lands by Queen Elizabeth I.


Queen Elizabeth i of England knights explorer Sir Francis Drake; engraved by F. Fraenkel indigenous a illustration by man Gilbert | Hulton save via Getty Images

In the winter of 1574, the Earl that Essex used the pretense of a friendly banquet come wipe out O’Neill and his family, massacring those in attendance and also taking O"Neill, his wife and also brother captive, shortly to it is in executed.

This breach of ancient hospitality rights has actually inspired poetry and was recorded in the medieval Annals the the Kingdom that Ireland together “sufficient cause of hatred and also disgust of the English come the Irish.”

The treaty of Limerick

This to be the treaty that finished the 17th century Williamite war in Ireland, in which the good news Prince william of Orange beat the Catholic King James II. The an initial article the the treaty guaranteed Catholics would maintain their rights and promised an irish parliament would safeguard them.

However, this was swiftly adhered to by a collection of regulations barring Catholics native holding publicly office, owning firearms, offer in parliament, voting, owning a horse worth more than £5, and restricting their ability to inherit or very own property. The stone on i beg your pardon it was reputedly signed is displayed prominently in the centre of Limerick, which takes the nickname “Treaty City” indigenous the event.

The plot of Union

This to be the action that an unified Ireland totally into the uk in 1801 and dissolved that is parliament, partially in response to a rebellion in 1798 the was influenced by the French transformation and deeply rattled London.

“There room a lot of parallels come Brexit. The act of Union to be presented together this huge panacea,” said Fin Dwyer, historian and presenter of the Irish history Podcast. Security was promised for the Irish economy as that was incorporated with the more powerful British market. But protective measures were exit in the subsequent years and also the Irish economy was devastated.

“The result was dramatic. In ~ a pair of years human being were saying the Dublin to be a different city, that all the rich had actually fled to London,” Dwyer said.

The act of Union also promised Catholic emancipation, through lifting the legal limitations on Catholics and enabling them to hold political office. However, this was blocked by King George III when the act was signed. It take it a enormous political movement led by Daniel O’Connell and another 28 years before the restrictions started to be lifted.

Home Rule

Bills come enact Home preeminence — re-establishing a conference in Dublin to offer Ireland a measure up of self-rule — were passed by the home of Commons however blocked by the home of Lords in 1893, 1912 and 1913. Once the Lords" objections were ultimately overcome in 1914 (after the removed of their veto), the bill"s enactment to be delayed indefinitely by the outbreak of world War I.

The recurring delays contributed to the decision by nationalists to give up the parliament route and also mount a rebellion seeking complete independence in 1916.

Those in donate of the union, an especially in the northeast the the island, felt betrayed through British assistance for home Rule. Law on Home ascendancy fanned sectarian emphasize in Belfast and was add by deadly riots; some 500,000 signed the Ulster commitment in 1912 refusing to identify an ireland parliament, and unionists began to militarize to stand up to it.


Britain regulated to betray both nationalists and also unionists v partition.

The idea of fixing the Irish demand for self-rule with strong opposition in the phibìc by splitting the island in 2 was initially introduced by brothers negotiators as a poison pill.

“The entirety idea of cram partition the end there was to scupper home Rule, to do a proposal so damaging that nobody would ever before accept it,” said Tim McMahon, combine professor of background at Marquette university in Milwaukee. “Both nationalists and unionists felt that they were being double-dealt.”

Nationalists to be told that any kind of partition would certainly be temporary. Unionists to be told that the aim was to save the whole island in ~ the U.K., and at worst there would certainly be Home rule for Dublin and also special protection for the nine counties the Ulster. These promises were provided to assist recruit part 210,000 males to fight for Britain in human being War I.


Children talk v British soldiers at a roadblock in a street of Belfast in 1969 | AFP via Getty Images

What ultimately happened was the partition of six counties in Ulster rather than nine, in order come ensure a stable unionist majority, when Britain agreed come an Irish complimentary State the went significantly further than residence Rule. Because that unionists, it to be abandonment. Because that nationalists, partition and also the necessity that members the the new Irish conference would have to swear commitment to the king was so bitter it provoked a polite war.

The department was specifically traumatic because that those who found themselves ~ above the wrong next of the border. North nationalists had thought they would soon live under all-island rule. Unionists in the counties that Monaghan, Cavan and also Donegal suddenly found themselves life in the Catholic-dominated Irish free State.

“You now have actually British politicians saying the Irish space bringing this border increase to stop us indigenous leaving Europe. Together if the Irish put the border there,” claimed McMahon. “I would be leery that negotiating v such human being just together a issue of principle.”

Putting brother first

During world War II, Britain readily available the Irish government of Éamon de Valera unification if the agreed to sign up with the battle effort. De Valera refused, together it would entail stationing brothers forces across the island, and he did no trust the the promise would be kept.

“I think this specific example is a really an excellent one for pointing out why Ireland can be cautious about trusting the british government. Proposals prefer this room done purely in Britain’s self-interest. It’s about finding the details carrot that will lure Ireland to do what they would like,” said McMahon.


Market job in the city of Limerick in 1937 | Fox photos via Getty Images

“There were many suggestions after Brexit prefer "why nothing the ireland rejoin the Commonwealth?" "Why don’t they just leave v us?" That makes perfect sense to someone for whom brothers is No. 1. It makes no sense for someone with any type of sense of the Anglo-Irish connection for thousands of years, or the benefits the Ireland it s okay from its european Union membership now. The purely about British self-interest.”

History offers countless examples of policy collection in London wreaking havoc in Ireland, not the very least in the an excellent Famine that the 1840s, which ravaged the Irish population through starvation, emigration and disease.

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“I think you’ve obtained several occasions where you have this neglect in British national politics for ireland interest. Ns think the problem is that it’s reinforced today by the feeling of the British federal government not acknowledging irish history, and a finish lack of understanding in Britain around these issues,” stated Dwyer.

“I carry out think the reflective the a aware amnesia towards Britain’s imperial past, an knowingly amnesia.”