It is not without justification that early Irish historians deemed pre-Norman Ireland to have been a ‘tribal’, ‘rural’, ‘hierarchical’ and ‘familiar’ society. The island was divided into a large number of small communities [tuatha] governed by a petty king [rí tuatha], elected from a local royal lineage. His sovereignty was based on numerous attributes including his military prowess, lack of physical blemish or disability, wisdom, generosity, impartiality and fitness to rule, attributes which were continually aired in the poems and eulogies of the a quasi-religious literati whose continued favour depended on generous patronage. The 7th and 8th century law tracts depict a hierarchy of kings who could levy tribute from the free families of the kingdom, had a right to demand tribute for themselves and their retinue, were forbidden to undertake servile work and helped to promulgate and enforce the laws. The strength of this familial aspect to early Irish society encouraged the emergence of a strong monastic tradition in the Irish church in the 6th century, based on extreme asceticism and also promoted a flourishing cult of local saints, holy wells and relics. The emergence of larger provincial kingdoms in the 7th-8th century would be closely linked to the later struggle for ecclesiastical supremacy between a number of major monastic foundations associated with St. Patrick [Armagh], St. Brigid [Kildare], St Colmcille [Durrow, Derry, Swords, Kells and Iona] and St. Ciarán [Clonmacnoise]. Moreover, the ‘religious colonialism’ of many of the foundation fathers [Sts. Fursa, Breandán, Colmcille and Columbanus] would also lead to the establishment of a string of great monastic houses stretching from the west of Ireland the farthest expanse of western Christendom and from the Scottish Isles to the Iberian Peninsula. These included such venerable centres of learning as Bangor, Clonmacnois, Kells, Iona, Annegray, Fontaines, St Gall and Bobbio, Irish foundations which provides some justification for the ‘Islands of saints and scholars’ idea behind Thomas Cahill’s phenomenally successful book How the Irish saved Civilization.
One of the most salient features of early Irish Christianity and monasticism was the emphasis on study and a veneration of learning, as evidenced in the writings of the Venerable Bede and many other early Christian and early medieval commentators. This centered on the intensive study of scriptural texts and an immersion in the works of classical writers in Latin and Greek. These monasteries later nurtured an intense interest in vernacular learning, preserving a large corpus of annals, law tracts, genealogies, dinnseanchas [toponymic lore] and ancient literature in Irish as manifest in the surviving collections and copies of annals and great books such as Leabhar Laighean [Leinster], Leabhar na gCeart [Book of Rights], Leabhar Lios Mór [Lismore], Baile an Mhóta [Ballymote], the Books of the Dun Cow [Leabhar na hUidhre] and the Yellow Book of Lecan [Leabhar Buí Leacain]. These books contained the Ruraíocht tales of Cúchulainn and the Red Branch Knights of Ulster, the Fiannaíocht tales of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and his Fianna and the mythological cycle associated with the Celtic Irish gods, the Tuatha Dé Dannann and the Lebor Gabála or Book of Invasions. They also fostered a new literary form in the lyric poetry of 8th century Ireland, an almost pantheistic glorification of God and nature as evidenced in the early poetry of the Fiannaíocht cycle and in the surviving lyrics of Bláthmac. In art, illuminated manuscripts and metal working these Irish monasteries and Irish-trained monks produced some of the greatest masterpieces of the early Christian period, including the Ardagh and Derrynaflan chalices, the books and missals of Kells, Clones, Durrow, Stowe and the Lindisfarne gospels. These not only showed the dizzy heights of ascetic and artistic brilliance which they had attained but suggested a growing wealth, secularism and materialism in the religious houses which sponsored and achieved this artistic mastery.
The church was by no means the only guardian of tradition Irish learning. The filí, the higher caste among the hierarchy of fir léinn or aos dána [learned classes] earned generous rewards for composing eulogies for their patrons or satires against their enemies. Much poetry that survived from the period before 1200 has a predominantly religious or historical slant. This probably comprises the work of the filí as much of the material composed by the bards, at the lower echelons of the literary caste, would not have been subsequently committed to manuscript. The literary orders began to converge in the 12th century with the emergence of a new standard poetic language An Ghaeilge Chlasaiceach [Classical Irish] that involved the dán díreach, a strict rule of metre and rhyme. Their poems were invariably addressed to Gaelic Irish and Anglo-Irish chieftains and barons and would be recited at banquets, funerals or commemorative feasts. The 16th century would witness the importation of the amhrán grá or love poem from Europe, as well as borrowings from the Tudor and Jacobean courtly traditions.
The struggle for political supremacy between the great monastic confederations of Colmcille, Brigid and Patrick [the ultimate victor] would also be waged in the in the heroic, hagiographical lives penned by writers such as Adomnán [Colmcille], Muirchú, Tierchán [Patrick] and Bridget [Cogitosus]. These ‘lives’ sought to promote the sanctity, prestige and power of their founder by portraying them as pious and powerful miracle workers, ever ready and capable of interceding with God for those who had recourse to their monasteries, cults and relics. Thus, their monasteries would attract increasing numbers of pilgrims, valuables, donations and alms-givers. The net result was that these institutions became major receptacles, storehouses and centres of wealth, commerce and trade, thereby attracting the attention of aspiring provincial magnates who could not afford to ignore their economic importance.
By the middle of the 8th century the major monastic institutions became increasingly secularized, abbots disavowed the laws of celibacy, married and passed their monastic inheritances to their sons and daughters. This reflected and closely complimented the political jousting of the emerging provincial dynasties of the Northern and Southern Uí Néill of Ulster and Meath and the Eóganacht and Uí Bhríain of Munster. These would emerge in the centuries before the coming of the Vikings in the 9th century to dominate and subsume the hundred or more tuatha or petty kingdoms into which Ireland had been fragmented. Although this increased secularization did not lead to a total disavowal of their spiritual and religious values the Célí Dé reformers of the 8th century represented a back to basics in Irish monasticism, with a rigid adherence to a strict monastic rule, a regime of vigils, fasting, flagellation and other extreme forms of asceticism. The monasteries of Tamhlaght [Tallaght] and Fionnghlas [Finglas], dubbed ‘the two eyes of Ireland’ in contemporary parlance and organized under the rigid rule of St. Maelruain, spread this strict asceticism across the country. In spite of their phenomenal successes and influence they were merely holding the line against the unfettered ambition and rapacity of powerful dynasts and secularized churchmen, a flimsy dyke that would be utterly consumed by the relentless onslaught of the Vikings.
Ireland had effectively escaped the political and military turmoil that ravaged Europe in the aftermath of the decline and eventual collapse of the Roman Empire. However, by the end of the 8th century Vikings from Scandinavia began their first raids on unprotected Irish coastal monasteries. Stealing gold, jewels, livestock and seizing slaves, captives and hostages they also burned monastic dwellings books, sacred missals, annals and manuscripts. Unprotected monasteries and their inhabitants were utterly powerless against the superior weaponry and fighting prowess of these fierce, mobile sea raiders. Larger fleets soon followed these raiding parties and started to utilize the country’s numerous navigable inland waterways to penetrate further into the interior. They also began to winter in interior and established longphoirt where their ships could be safely docked and defended. In time, they also founded numerous coastal towns and settlements that would place Ireland politically, militarily, economically and culturally in a Viking world that stretched from modern Russia to North American and from Iceland to the Iberian Peninsula. Their ravages precipitated another exodus of Irish monks, clerics and anchorites to the continent. They, in turn, would further contribute to the intellectual life of contemporary Europe. Monks, scholars and learned men flocked to the court of Charlemagne and other great European centres of learning. Dicuil, Scottus [Sedulius] and Don Scottus Eriugena nurtured a Latin and Greek learning, encompassing a whole range of disciplines from literature, poetry, astronomy, spirituality, philosophy, theology and intellectual history.
By the middle of the 9th century the political and military tide slowly began to turn against the Vikings. The emerging provincial kingships such as the southern Uí Néill and the Eóganacht of Munster began to defeat them in battle and started to exploit the military prowess and the economic wealth of recent Viking foundations such as Dublin, Waterford, Wexford and Limerick to further their own military and political ambitions. Internal strive between the Dubh Ghall [Black Foreigners/Danes] and the Fionn Ghall [Fair Foreigners/Norsemen], as well as their increasing tendency to intermarry and align themselves with Irish kings, also served to blunt their political and exclusive military prowess. Leading kings of the Eóganacht of Munster such as Feilimidh Mac Crimthainn and Cormac Mac Cuileann also emulated the attacks and atrocities of the Vikings by sacking churches and monasteries in their successive attempts to impose Eóganacht rule on the country. They ultimately failed to do so, thereby ceding the political and military initiative to their Southern Uí Néill rivals. Máelseachnaill, their greatest 9th century potentate, best remembered for drowning the Viking chief Turgesius in Lough Owel, County Westmeath, had effectively made himself king of Ireland by the time of his death in 862. Supposed military successes and religious crusades against these Vikings became a justification for the regal pretension of the respective provincial dynasties as evidenced in contemporary propagandist works such as the Cogadh Gaedheal Re Gallaibh, Cathréim Cheallach Chaisil and Caithréim Thoirdebaidh which respectively trumpeted the triumphs of the Uí Bhríain, Eóganacht and Uí Chonchubhair claimants to the high kingship.
By the beginning of the 10th century it seemed as if the Uí Néill had established suzerainty over Ireland and that they would finally neutralize the Norse threat. However, the failed to found and maintain a stable national dynasty as exemplified by Niall Glúndubh defeat and death at the hands of Sitric, Norse king of Dublin, in 917. This victory enabled the latter to consolidate his hold on the powerful Norse kingdom of Dublin that emerged as Ireland’s primary centre of population, commerce and trade. While the Eóganacht and Uí Néill grappled for political mastery the upstart Dál gCais emerged from relative obscurity in what is now County Clare in the middle of the 10th century. Under Cennetig and his sons Mathgamhain and Brían Bóraimhe [Boru/of the tributes] they would eventually eclipse their Uí Néill and Eóganacht rivals and secure the ultimate prize by the beginning of the 11th century. Indeed, Brían would eventually become the greatest king of pre-Norman Ireland. Confidently dubbing himself Imperator Scottorum in the entry in the Book of Armagh which records his recognition of the ecclesiastical primacy of the Patrician see [later his final resting place] he came to be portrayed in the annals and Uí Bhríain dynastic propaganda as an Irish Alfred or Charlemagne; a scourge of the pagan Vikings, builder of churches and monasteries, patron of learning and font of justice.
In spite of his triumph the lack of a stable national monarchy and political institutions meant that Brían was forced to rule from the saddle and on the battlefield, holding hostages instead of court, sacking towns and taking tribute instead of issuing decrees and delegating authority. He faced continued affronts to his authority, culminating in the revolt of the Leinstermen, including the Norse kingdom of Dublin. The Dublin Norseman gathered support from Man, Orkney and other far-flung areas of the Viking world while Brían was deserted by many of his erstwhile allies, including his predecessor [and eventual successor] Máelseachnaill II who hoped to use Dál gCais difficulties for his own political ends. The contending armies finally engaged at Clontarf on Good Friday 1014, one of the greatest and bloodiest battles of Irish history. Although Brían’s forces emerged triumphant victory came at a terrible cost to the Dál gCais as the octogenarian Brían, his son and grandson were counted among the casualties. The long-term cost proved even greater as the Dál gCais succumbed to fraternal strife between his surviving sons, although they would briefly re-emerge in the 1070s under his grandson Toirdelbach.
The position of the church remained paramount in these ongoing dynastic struggles. In spite of the incessant Viking raids and the internecine warfare of the 9th and 10th centuries scholarship flourished in the great monastic schools of Clonmacnois, Clonard, Kildare, Lismore and Glendalough which continued to attract and patronize hordes of scholars from England and Europe. While drawing heavily on the Latin and Greek secular traditions, including literatures and histories associated with Homer, Virgil and the Roman and Greek Civil wars, they vigorously persevered in their efforts to preserve and supplement an Irish heroic past. Through its English and European contacts the Irish Church gradually came under the influence of the fresh winds of reform that swept through contemporary European Christendom. The Canterbury primates Lanfranc and Anselm played a prominent role in inducing Irish kings and churchmen to embrace reform and these changes emerged from numerous synods that were organized at the beginning of the 12th century.
The synods of Cashel  and Rath Breasail  dealt primarily with the age-old problems and abuses which preoccupied churchmen throughout contemporary Christendom; simony, clerical celibacy, sanctuary and clerical independence from secular taxation. They also re-imposed episcopacy, introduced provinces, archbishoprics, as well as drawing up the structures of what now comprise the modern diocesan boundaries. This reforming tradition both inspired and was continued under St. Malachy, Ireland’s great reformer and latter-day prophet, whose numerous trips to Rome and close association with St. Bernard of Clairvaux, would bring the Irish church increasingly under the papacy and facilitate the arrival and spread of the reformed monastic orders [Cistercians and Augustinians]. Although nominally successful reorganization was painfully slow. Bishops lacked the resources and clerical and secular co-operation to assist in implementing reforms and administering their diocese, problems accentuated by the lack of a proper parochial structure. Until his death in 1148 Malachy continued to maintain and cultivate his links with the Cistercians and the Roman Pontiff who had appointed him legate and commissioned him to organize reforming synods. This papal concern at the state of the Irish Church would ultimately inspire the papal bull Laudabiliter. Issued in 1155 by Adrian IV [i.e. Nicholas Breakspear, the only Englishman ever to occupy the throne of St Peter] it authorized the Anglo-Norman King Henry II to invade Ireland and conquer her in the interest of reform.
In the meantime, contending Irish dynasts eagerly patronized and associated with these reformers, appreciating their foreign education and invaluable links with Rome, the ultimate source of secular legitimacy. However, this did little to deter them from seeking it in the tradition manner. As a result, the hundred years before the coming of the Norman was the era of what contemporary annalists called the rí Érenn co fressabra [king of Ireland with opposition] when the political and military jousting of the contending Uí Néill, Uí Bhríain, Eóganacht and the upstart Uí Chonchubhair of Connaught turned Ireland into a fód crithigh [‘trembling sod']. Toirdelbach Ó Conchobhair, the leading luminary of this new dynastic contender and grandfather of Ruaidhrí Ó Conchobhair, the last indigenous high-king of Ireland, broke the political and military mould by radically transforming the traditional and heretofore restricted nature of Irish kingship. He formulated laws, levied taxes, granted gifts of confiscated lands to friends and allies, deposed sub-kings and imposed client rulers who ruled as airrí [ministers] and reachtairí [lesser officials]. With greater financial resources derived from the imposition of taxes and confiscated lands and kingdoms he made war on a more intensive and extensive scale. He fortified and encastellated his patrimony west of the Shannon, hired mercenaries, bought allies and built up a navy. He dealt a fateful blow to the regal pretensions of his neighbours the Uí Bhríain by partitioning Munster and setting up the Eóganacht Mhic Chárthaigh in Deas Mumhain/Desmond [South Munster], leaving Tuaidh Mumhain/Thomond [north Munster] under the greatly reduced Uí Bhríain. He also partitioned the kingdom of Míde [Meath], the original power base of the southern Uí Néill, among the lesser kings and he bestowed a large swathe upon his ally Tiernán Ó Ruairc, king of Bréifne. Nevertheless, he failed to install his son as king of Dublin, the control of which was vital to all regal pretensions.
*From the Norman invasion to the Reformation
In relentlessly pursuing the high kingship Toirdelbach and his grandson Ruaidhrí cultivated the powerful king of Bréifne and incurred the hatred of his great enemy Diarmait Mac Murchadha, king of Leinster [forever vilified in the Irish nationalist tradition as Diarmairt na nGall/Dermot of the Foreigners]. This enmity would have earth-shattering consequences for the future of Irish kingship and sovereignty. The upshot of Ruaidhrí’s successful military and political attempts to make himself undisputed high king of Ireland was his banishment of the rebellious Mac Murchada and the partition of his patrimony between his brother and the Mac Giolla Pádraig, king of Osraige [Ossory] The chastened Diarmait fled to south Wales and sought military aid from Henry II and his Norman barons, including Richard Fitz Gilbert, earl of Pembroke [alias Strongbow]. He aided Diarmait in recovering his kingdom and later married his daughter Aoífe, becoming heir to the strategic kingdom of Leinster. Strongbow’s phenomenal success in Ireland alarmed Henry II who had no wish to see such a formidable rival on his flank. His eagerness to at once clip Strongbow’s wings and ingratiate himself with the papacy after his fall from grace over the death of Thomas á Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury, prompted him to take advantage of Laudabiliter to involve himself in Irish affairs. He landed at Waterford o 17th October 1171 with an army of 4,000 men, including over 500 heavily armed Norman knights. He soon cowed his freebooting Norman barons and received the submission of all the kings of Ireland, with the exception of the two great northern lineages of the Cenél nEóghain [northern Uí Néill/O’Neills] and Cenél Conaill [Uí Chonaill, O’Donnells]. In a phenomenally successful attempt to enlist the support of the Irish Church he also convened another great synod at Cashel that endeavoured to deal with continual abuses in the church. Henry finally left Ireland in 1172 and placed his new lordship in the hands of his justiciar Hugh De Lacy.
Like his major rival and many lesser Norman barons De Lacy married and Irish woman with the result that it the succeeding generations many Anglo-Normans adopted the Irish language, customs dress and became a middle nation, neither wholly English or Irish. As a result of intermarriage, fosterage and gossipred [sponsorship at baptism] the Normans increasingly became involved in Irish political quarrels and dynastic strife, becoming ‘more Irish than the Irish themselves in the words one anonymous contemporary commentator. Thus, gaelicization and degeneracy became a major preoccupation with those who constantly bewailed the decline of the lordship. Continued threats to the stability of the lordship prompted Henry II to again intervene directly in 1177. He spent 8 months in the kingdom, partitioned Munster and granted the lordship to his nine-year old son John. As king John later ordered the construction of a large castle in Dublin that would remain the centre of English/British government in Ireland until 1921. He organized an exchequer and a system of records whereby he could properly exploit the financial resources, an invaluable collection of records that were ironically destroyed in the Four Courts inferno the year after the final English/British evacuation of the Castle. English Common Law was also extended to the lordship through a system of common law courts.
The rebellious activities of a coterie of his key subjects, William Marshal, Walter and Hugh De Lacy forced John to again repair to Ireland in 1210. He remained in the country for nine weeks where he also accepted the homage of the most prominent Irish kings. He issued a charter which stipulated that the English common law would be operational throughout the lordship, the forerunner of the famous Magna Carta with which his name will forever be associated. This served to strengthen the remit of royal authority while at the same time curtailing the power and jurisdiction of over-mighty feudal magnates. In reality, however, the king’s writ did not extend to the Gaelic Irish who remained aliens or ‘enemies’ outside the law. They continued to live by their own Brehon Law and their anomalous position in the lordship would continually plague the English rule in Ireland. In time, these two legal systems would coalesce in many parts to form a hybrid march law that would survive until the end of the Tudor conquest.
Wherever the colonists settled they quickly impacted on secular and ecclesiastical politics. As well as generating useful revenues for John and his successors Henry III and Edward I the colonists themselves became increasingly wealthy and tended to dominate the political, economic and ecclesiastical life of their respective areas; The De Lacys in Ulster and Meath, the De Burghs and Berminghams in Connaught, the Geraldine Fitzgeralds in south west Munster and Kildare, the Butlers of Ormond [north Tipperary and Kilkenny], as well as other smaller groups such as the Dennys, Roches Cogans, Keatings, Condons and Purcells in the South; Harolds, Archbolds, Lawlesses and Rochforts in Leinster; the Mandervilles, Logans and Savages in Ulster; Tuites, Flemings and Petits in Meath and the Exeters and Barretts in Connaught. In spite of this, large tracts of Ireland remained effectively unconquered and never fully passed under English subjection. The onset of the Back Death and the consequential demographic and economic catastrophe, coupled with English preoccupation with the Welsh, Scottish and French wars meant the crown began to lose its grip of the lordship and it steadily contracted. In the second half of the 13th century the Irish also began to recover much ground from the Norman ‘interlopers’ in what historians have called a ‘Gaelic Revival’. A new aggressive generation of Irish kings and chieftains took advantage of this decline to sack and loot Norman castles and defensive settlements and seize their ancestral lands. They tended to engage the heavily armed and mailed knights and archers in marshy, marginal and wooded areas which forced them to operate at a disadvantage, while importing heavily armed mercenaries [galloglaigh/gallowglass] from Scotland.
This Anglo-Norman political and military decline, exacerbated by the invasion and rebellion associated with Edward Bruce in 1315, saw the virtual political eclipse of the enormous earldom of Ulster, the emergence of the powerful, gaelicized Burkes of Clanricard in Connaught and the triumph of the O’Briens in Thomond. Assimilation, cultural hybridization and bastardization among the Anglo-Norman added to these stark political and military problems. The net result was that the authority of the Dublin administration shrank to ‘the land of peace’, a small area encompassing the four counties of Dublin, Louth, Meath and Kildare. Another major effect of the abortive Bruce Invasion was the creation of the earldoms of Desmond [Fitzgerald], Kildare [Fitzgerald] and Ormond [Butler] considerably enhanced the prestige of the said families. However, their infighting, continuous scramble for political power and supremacy, and their ongoing conflict with the Dublin government and the English crown over the next two hundred years, would further sap the lordship.
Although Edward II had rewarded the aforementioned lords for their contribution to the defeat of Edward Bruce his son Edward III, who succeeded in 1227, had no intention of allowing them untrammelled power. Forced to postpone his intended campaign in Ireland in favour of another Scottish enterprise he nevertheless moved to reassert crown control of the lordship. In addition to bringing his Irish ‘enemies and English ‘rebels’ to heel he hoped to revert to the golden era of John, Henry II and his grandfather Edward I when the lordship whereby the lordship would become a financial asset to the crown. He caused indignation among the Anglo-Norman political elite by insisting that only English-born officials could serve as justiciar and by revoking all grants of land and liberties made since the beginning of his father’s reign. This also provoked disputes and divisions between the English by birth and blood within the lordship and did much to nurture a separate identity among the latter. The Statutes of Kilkenny, formulated in 1366, attempted to paper over the cracks that had emerged between the two branches of the English in Ireland. The statutes sought to prevent intermarriage, fosterage and gossipred between the English and Irish. In addition, it discouraged the use of Irish language, customs, dress and hairstyles and attempted to nullify the differentiation between the English by blood and birth as manifest in the abusive adages ‘English Hob’ [Fool] and ‘Irish Dog’. The statutes at once provided an admission that the gaelicisation of the lordship had reached crisis proportions, while at the same time asserting English cultural ascendancy as a natural corollary to recent military victories in Wales, Scotland and France and Ireland. The Anglo-Irish, for their part reacted to what they deemed to be affronts to their liberty and the uniqueness of their constitutional position within the Plantagenet kingdoms. Without questioning their loyalty to the king they emphasized the liberties, laws and customs of the lordship of Ireland and decried the intrusive political interference of the English parliament. In so doing, they set a precedent for Patrick D’Arcy and the Irish confederates in the 1640s, the Irish Jacobites in 1689 and Molyneux, Swift Lucas, Grattan and the Protestant ‘Patriots in the 18th century. The separate constitutional position got its loudest airing in 1460 when the Irish parliament decreed that Ireland could only be bound by legislation initiated in its own parliament, a constitution position which prefigured Molyneux’s Case of Ireland’s being bound by over two hundred years and would be repudiated by Poyning’s Law in the 1494.
Edward III’s quest to reform the lordship continued during the minority and reign of his grandson Richard II (1377-99), son of the marital ‘Black Prince’, hero of the Hundred Years’ War. Richard made his first military campaign to Ireland in 1394-5 accompanied with a sizeable army with which he hoped to revive the lordship and exact submissions from the Gaelic Irish. Heading an army of more than 5,000 men he quickly crushed the rebellious Art Mac Murchadha [Art MacMurrough] and his Leinster confederates Ó Mórdha [O’More], Ó Conchubhar [O’Conor] and Ó Nualláin [Nolan]. Overawed by the enormity of the forces arrayed against them and coaxed by diplomacy other prominent Gaelic chiefs such as Ó Néill [O’Neill], Ó Briain [O’Brien], Ó Conchubhar [O’Connor] and Mac Cárthaigh [MacCarthy] also submitted to the king. Instead of punishing their rebellion and disobedience to the crown, however, Richard broke with precedent by promising them access to royal justice and the legal process. This provided a novel approach to crown government in Ireland as the ‘Irish enemies’ for the first time came under the ambit of the law. Mac Murchadha and his Irish allies in turn promised to restore lands that they had seized which the king granted to English knights in an effort to revitalize the lordship.
Richard’s new departure foundered on the rocks of Anglo-Irish political intransigence, ambition and opportunism. Roger Mortimer, who had accompanied the king to Ireland and campaigned against Ó Néill in Ulster and the recalcitrant Irish of Leinster, soon grew impatient at their tardiness in fulfilling their commitments to his liege. His clashes with Ó Néill and the Irish of the midlands sparked wholesale rebellion throughout the lordship, forcing Richard to make another expedition in 1399 at the head of a huge army, furnished with guns, powder and cannon. This campaign proved to be an unmitigated disaster that would have overreaching implications for Irish and English history. On failing to engage his Leinster enemies, the king sought to flush them out of the mountains and fastnesses. Harried by the relentless guerrilla attacks of his enemies and cut off from his supply ships, his army was effectively decimated. The arrival in England of his exiled cousin Henry Bolingbroke forced Richard to abandon his invasion and return to final defeat, deposition and death.
The new Lancastrian dynasty, beset with intestine rebellion and bankruptcy, chose to placate the Anglo-Irish magnates and shore up English government in the counties of the Pale. This policy would continue to be utilized by the warring houses of Lancaster and York until the Tudor conquest. These bastard feudal lordships, while at pains to trumpet their allegiance to whatever dynasty occupied the throne, continued to wage self-serving warfare, embrace Irish language, literature, dress and cultural norms. The ongoing War of the Roses only intensified the age-old conflict between the Fitzgeralds of Desmond and Kildare and the Butlers of Ormond, a conflict that would culminate in the Geraldine ascendancy that survived until the reign of Henry VIII. Thomas Fitzgerald laid the foundations but it would reach it zenith under his son Gerald, the 8th Earl. [Gearóid Mór]. He would dominate Irish politics for over 30 years, serving under five kings as well as crowning a sixth [the Pretender Lambert Simnel] in 1487. The key to Kildare power lay in their vast landed wealth, the strategic location of his earldom in close proximity to the Pale and its strategic position between Dublin and the rival Butlers of Ormond. In addition the Kildares had close marital, military and political links with the major Anglo-Irish and Gaelic families. His ability to employ his tenants and allies in support of crown government made him a cheap and invaluable instrument of crown government. Kildare’s marriage to the king’s ward [Elizabeth Zouch], royal fosterage of their son Gerald, later a boon companion of Arthur, Prince of Wales, provide evidence of his unrivalled status. The king later capped his towering reputation in Ireland with an award of the prestigious Order of the Garter after his defeat of Ulick, earl of Clanricard at the battle of Knockdoe in 1504.
Although Gerald, 9th earl [Gearóid Óg] succeeded his father in 1513 there were straws in the wind for this untrammelled Kildare supremacy. Henry VIII’s admonishment of Scotland and eagerness to bestride the European stage initially diverted his gaze from his ever-troublesome Irish lordship. Nevertheless there were attempts to end the long-running Kildare-Butler feud and stamp out the use of ‘coign and livery’ [a form of billeting which was common in 16th century Ireland], deemed extortion by the already over-burdened inhabitants of the Pale. However, Henry’s breach with Rome and Emperor Charles V over his repudiation of Catherine of Aragon and the onset of the Protestant Reformation had obvious implications for the security of England and Ireland’s place therein. The earl of Desmond quickly became the subject of treasonable traffic with imperial agents and his kinsman Kildare immediately fell under government suspicion. Summoned to London to account for his actions he left Ireland under the stewardship of his son Thomas, Lord Offaly, later 10th earl [‘Tómas an tSioda/’Silken Thomas’ in nationalist parlance]. Rumours of Gerald’s execution, a deliberate reaction to Tudor centralization, a miscalculation of changing Tudor attitudes to rebellion or a message from his incarcerated father drove the young Fitzgerald to renounce his allegiance to Henry. He employed the tried and trusted Geraldine tactic of political and military disobedience. In a dramatic stage-managed submission of the sword of state Thomas formally renounced his Henry VIII as a heretic on 11 June 153. He appealed for papal and imperial assistance for his crusade. This recourse to Europe would become a feature of all Irish rebellions, religious risings or nationalist revolts until 1916.
The rebellion began in earnest with the murder of John Alen, Protestant Archbishop of Dublin and was followed by an abortive attempt to seize Dublin Castle, another precedent for future Irish actions against the crown. Bereft of international aid and deserted by his erstwhile allies Lord Offaly retreated to the Kildare stronghold of Maynooth. It quickly succumbed to bombardment by the English commander Lord Leonard Grey in what became known as the ‘Pardon of Maynooth’. Promised his life as part of his terms of surrender in August 1535 Grey dispatched Thomas and his five uncles to the Tower of London where he remained incarcerated until executed in February 1537. The fall of the House of Kildare forced the Tudor government down the path of radical administrative reform that involved direct rule under an English governor, supported by a large and increasingly expensive army. This constitutional revolution which would culminate in Henry’s assumption of the crown of Ireland, the logical outcome of his break with Rome, from whom the English king had traditionally held the lordship of Ireland. Moreover, the restored and re-invigourated Pale would become a bridgehead for the future subjugation of the whole kingdom
Having dealt so forcefully and savagely with the powerful Kildares, the government encountered little direct opposition among the overawed Irish and Anglo-Irish. Nevertheless, the aggressive administration and military tactics of Lord Grey led to the establishment of a ‘Geraldine League’. Formed by Manus O’Donnell, ‘Prince of Donegal’ and comprising the most powerful Irish chiefs and nobles of the kingdom, it attempted to protect and further the claims of young Gerald Fitzgerald, Thomas’ surviving son. Although they succeeded in having him smuggled to France the League effectively collapsed and its convenors all submitted to the crown. Nevertheless it’s success in galvanizing opposition, its political and military threat to the Pale and the likely possibility of their making contact with the enemies of Henry forced him to adopt a more conciliatory policy. This manifested itself in the recall of Lord Grey, the succession of Sir Anthony St. Leger and the emergence of his ‘Surrender and Regrant’ policy’. This scheme enabled the Gaelic Irish and rebellious Anglo-Irish lords to surrender all rights to their lands that would be vested in the king. There were then restored to them by letters patent, thus giving them legal title to their properties under English Law. In return for their lands these lords promised to renounce their Gaelic titles, assist in the cultivation of English laws and customs, render military service and pay rents for their patrimonies to the crown. By this means Henry raised a number of the key Gaelic Irish nobles to the peerage; Manus O’Donnell became earl of Tyrconnell, Mac William Burke was enobled earl of Clanricard, MacGillapatrick became Baron of Upper Ossory and Henry belted O’Brien as earl of Thomond. Con O’Neill’s ennoblement with great pomp and ceremony in London as earl of Tyrone in 1542 provided Henry with his great triumph.
After Henry’s death and the succession of the minor Edward VI there was a quick return to the policy of coercion, backed by a strong and costly military intervention. In addition, religious opposition slowly began to crystallize around the dissolution of the monasteries and religious houses, although Henry’s generous distribution of the spoils had initially dampened opposition among the magnates. However, the religious reformation initiated by his son Edward VI proved to be deeply unpopular. Nevertheless, little effort was made to rigorously enforce it, even within the Pale. After the brief reign of the catholic Mary I [the ‘Bloody Mary’of the English Protestant tradition] the wheels of reformation began to slowly revolve in the long reign of her half-sister Elizabeth. The act of Supremacy and Uniformity forced office holders to take the oaths and recusancy fines penalized those who did not attend reformed services. Elizabeth had no great missionary zeal and much of her concern sprang from Ireland’s emergence as a security liability to Protestant England in her struggle against Catholic Spain. Under Elizabeth the bulk of the Anglo-Irish gentry retained their loyalty to the crown, while refusing to accept the ecclesiastical settlement. Outside the Pale the friars and lower clergy led the rising chorus of opposition to the new doctrinal changes.
The queen’s new security concerns encroached on the independence of Anglo-Irish and Gaelic magnates such as the Fitzgeralds of Desmond, The Maguires of Fermanagh, the McMahons of Monaghan, as well as the powerful and fiercely independent O’Neills of Tyrone. Munster’s geographical position left it particularly receptive to Spanish influence. Attempts to monitor contacts with Spain, demilitarize the huge Desmond lordship and improve provincial security led to rebellion in 1569. The Elizabethan government under Thomas, 10th Earl of Ormond and the Lord deputy Sir Philip Sydney soon brought the rebellious Butlers and recalcitrant Geraldines to heel. The Provincial governor Sir Humphrey Gilbert and his successor Sir John Perrot subjected the province to a veritable orgy of violence which, coupled with the release of the earl of Desmond from the Tower of London in February 1573, brought the first phase to conclusion. Elizabeth’s unwillingness to provide military support to the lord president meant that he proved unable to keep the peace within the province. For the second phases of the rebellion the Desmond Geraldines enjoyed the diplomatic, financial and military support of the papacy. However, the small papal invasion force which landed in Smerwick, County Kerry, in 1580 was liquidated by the lord Deputy, Sir Arthur Grey and the scorched-earth policy which he subsequently initiated was both praised and graphically portrayed in the writings of Sir Edmund Spenser, particularly the allegorical Faerie Queene (1590-96) and A view of the present State of Ireland. The ruthless suppression of the rebellion and subsequent plantation heralded a major victory in the advancement of royal authority throughout the island. The blueprints for the rebellion were based on Sir Walter Raleigh’s plantation proposals for Virginia. However, the difficulty encouraging ‘undertakers’ from England, a major impediment to the ultimate success of the plantation, continue to plague further schemes until the 1650s.
Although Henry VIII had scored a major coup in securing the allegiance of Conn Ó Néill in 1542 the latter was eclipsed and deposed by his son Shane [An Diomhais/’The Proud’ in the Irish nationalist tradition]. Having killed his older, illegitimate brother Matthew, he repudiated the English earldom and assumed the traditional Uí Néill title. He successfully parried three costly military offensives by the Elizabethan captain-general Sir Henry Sidney. In 1652 Shane finally submitted to the queen in London, a memorable meeting that was graphically described in William Camden’s Britannica. However, his expansionist tendencies, long running feuds with the O’Donnells and MacDonnells and appeals for military aid to Scotland and France prompted Sidney to temper his expansionist zeal by establishing a garrison at Derry. Routed by Hugh O’Donnell in battle at Farsetmore on 8th May 1567 Shane subsequently threw himself at the mercy of his former enemies the MacDonnells who murdered him on 2 June 1567. The wily Toirdelbach Luineach succeeded him as Uí Néill and took advantage of the Desmond Rebellion to assert his provincial hegemony and threaten the Pale. However, his political ascendancy soon came under attack from the powerful sons of the executed Shane and Hugh, son of the murdered Matthew, Baron of Dungannon, later 2nd Earl of Tyrone [Aodh Mór/‘The Great O’Neill’ in nationalist parlance], who the English had set up as a formidable opponent to Toirdelbach Luineach. The wily Hugh, having taken advantage of royal favour to build up a formidable power base, took advantage of the judicial murder of Ever McMahon, crown assaults on the Maguires of Fermanagh, marital alliances with the O’Donnells and O’Reillys and promises of support from Spain and the Pope to build up a powerful confederacy in Ireland which would provide the single biggest threat to the Tudor dynasty. After a number of stunning successes against the cream of Elizabethan forces, including the destruction of the army of her favourite the Earl of Essex, O’Neill was forced to march from his impregnable stronghold in Ulster to relieve a besieged Spanish army which had landed at Kinsale. Defeated in a pitched battle by the Lord deputy Mountjoy O’ Neill retread into the impregnable fastness of Ulster where he waited in vain for additional aid from Philip III of Spain. Assailed on all sides by land and sea he was forced to conclude terms with Mountjoy and signed the Treat of Melifornt three days after the death of the last Tudor monarch. The Nine Years’ War had cost the parsimonious Elizabeth nearly 2,000,000 pounds, eight times as much as any previous war and as much as had been spent on continental wars throughout her reign. Pardoned and received at court by the new king James VI O’Neill continually felt besieged by a rapacious coteries of new settlers who decried his lenient treatment and greedily coveted his huge lordship O’Neill departed Ulster on 4th September 1607 along with Ruaidhrí Ó Domhnaill, earl of Tyrconnell, Cúchonnacht MacUidhir, Lord of Fermanagh, together with their wives, families and a host of followers. a. Although never fully explained the ‘Flight of the Earls’ in September 1607 was probably prompted by government pressure and the fear that a Spanish plot that was being hatched in Spain would be discovered. This exodus would facilitate the Plantation of Ulster in 1609.
It has also been deemed a watershed date in the decline of gaelic literature and society and th onset of Anglicisation. Irish was still the dominant language despite efforts to discourage its from the late middle ages onwards. Although it’s extirpation continued to be state policy its abject failure is best exemplified by the fact that the Earl of Ormond, one of the primary Anglo-Irish lords, read the act of parliament which proclaimed Henry VIII as king for the benefit of those Irish and Anglo-Irish lords who could not understand English. Moreover, the onset of the Protestant reformation under Elizabeth heralded a change in crown policy, a transformation best exemplified by the fact that the queen herself showed an interest in acquiring a rudimentary knowledge of the language of her second kingdom. Indeed, Christopher Nugent, 9th Baron Delvin prepared a small primer for her use and she purportedly addressed the recalcitrant Shane O’Neill in Irish when he repaired to London to make his submission. In the early years of her reign she spearheaded a campaign to provide an Irish translation of the bible, providing money and an expensive Irish print. 1571 saw the appearance of the first Irish language book Aibidil Gaodhelige agus Caiticiosma, a Protestant catechism authored by Seán Ua Cearnaigh, treasurer of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Leabhar na nUrnaightheadh gComhchoidchion [The Book of Common Prayer] followed in 1602 However, more than thirty years would lapse before work on the New Testament ‘An Tiomna Úr’ would be brought to conclusion by William Bedell, Protestant Bishop of Kilmore.
The decade after the ‘flight of the Earls’ saw a decline in the fortunes of the professional learned classes such as poets, scribes, brehons, genealogists and chroniclers. The wholesale destruction of manuscripts, and the carelessness of future generations have deprived us of much evidence with which we might tabulate the extent and influence of the aos dána [learned classes]. Nevertheless, surviving material vastly outstrips contemporary Scotland or Wales and is invaluable in shedding light on contemporary Irish society. The organization of the learning had changed little since the high middle ages. In addition to the monasteries, monastic schools there were secular schools of poetry, genealogy, history, medicine and law. The ‘Ollamh’ or leading scholars of these institutions were men of the highest social status. The onset of the Tudor conquest had seen concerted attempts to curb the activities of harpers, rhymers, chroniclers and bards ‘who commonly go with praise to gentlemen in the English Pale, praising in rhymes called danes [dánta] their extortion, robberies and abuses’. Statutes such as those passed in 1537/1549 ordered the use of martial law and the confiscation of the goods of those who continued to compose for any person except the king [or queen]. Much of the poetry composed in the 16th century, which has survived in manuscripts transcribed in the 17th century or later, would suggest that these attempts proved largely inaffective.
Nevertheless, a number of Duanairí have survived from the period, including poem-books for the Mhic Shadhbhráin [MacGaughrans], Clann tSuibhne [MacSweeneys], Uí Dhomhnaill [O’Donnells], Uí Rathallaigh [O’Reilly], Burkes, Buitléirigh [Butlers], Uí Néill, Clan Aodha Buidhe [O’Neills of Clandeboy], Uí Bhroinn [O’Byrnes] and Mhic Uidhir [Maguires]. Likewise, the position of the Ollamh Taoisigh [Chief Poet], the subject of excellent essays by Osborne Bergin and Pádraig Breathnach, continued to be maintained for most of the seventeenth century, while particular learned families remained associated with particular clans: Mac an Bhaird [Ó Domhnaill], Ó hEodhusa [MacUidhir], Ó Gnímh [Ó Néill], Ó Dálaigh [MacCárthaigh, Mac Gearailt, Ó Caoimh] and MacBruadeadha [Ó Conchobhair]. In spite of this familial structure many prominent poets such as Tadhg Dall Ó hUigínn, Fearghal Óg Mac an Bhaird, Eoghan Rua Mac an Bhaird, Eochaidh Ó hEodhusa and Tadhg Mac Bruadeadha penned verse for a host of different patrons.
The traditional conservatism of the poets as manifest in the strict, conservative metres, literary motifs, illusions and concepts often masks their appreciation of, and reaction to, contemporary events. These included the rapid expansion of English power, the onset of the Protestant Reformation and the introduction of English law, language, dress and manners. The early seventeenth century also witnessed an emerging cult of the House of Stuart, as well as a stark message of impending doom at the sorry plight of Ireland and despair at the continual scattering of her native aristocracy, gentry and clergy. Although Irish had still not lost its dominant position the successive plantations, confiscations and emigrations of the 16th century they had left the door ajar for rapid Anglicisation. In spite of this, and the incessant wars and political turmoil of the 16th and 17th centuries, Ireland witnessed a remarkable vitality in poetic, literary and scribal activity. The Franciscan Order, operating from the Counter-Reformation powerhouse of Louvain and utilising scions of the tradition learned families such as the Uí Chléirigh, Uí Mhaoilchonaire and Uí Dhuibhgheannáin, powered this two pronged effort to stem the tide of the Protestantism and preserve the nation’s literary heritage. Throughout the Jacobean, Caroline, Cromwellian and Restoration periods a stream of confessional and theological works, religious primers and catechisms emanated from these continental colleges, largely directed towards the clergy as opposed to the largely illiterate laity. They reflected the continental training of their authors and drew heavily on contemporary post-Tridentine, counter-reformation works in Spanish, French Latin and Italian. These included Giolla Brighde Ó hEodhasa’s An Teagasg Críostaithe [The Teaching of Christ], (Antwerp, 1611), Suim Riaghlachas Phroinnsias [The rule of St. Francis], (1610-1614) Aodh MacAingil, Scathán Shacramuinte na h-Aithrithe [Mirror of the Sacrament of Confession] (1616), Flaithrí Ó Maolchonaire, Desiderius (1616),
Pivotal to the effort to preserve the nation’s literary heritage was the enormous undertaking of the compilation of ‘Annála Ríoghachta Éireann’ [Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland], compiled by the ‘The Four Masters’ with the support of the Franciscan Order and the patronage of the Sligo nobleman Fearghal Ó Gadhra. Mícheál Ó Cléirigh, the leading luminary among this venerable quartet, was also responsible for producing the Martyrology of Donegal and a revised version of the Leabhar Gabála [Book of Invasions]. Seathrún Céitinn [Geoffrey Keating], whose ‘Fóras Feasa ar Éirinn’ [Foundation of knowledge on Ireland], one of the fathers of Irish history, criticised those writers such as Giraldus Cambrensis, Edmund Spenser, Richard Stanihurst, Edmund Campion, Richard Hamner, Fynes Moryson who he deemed to be ‘dall aineolach i dteangaibh na tíre’ [blind and ignorant in the language of the country]. This monumental worked proved immensely popular, the last ‘best seller’ in the European manuscript tradition, the 1st book of the old testament of Irish Catholic nationalism and the reference work for Irish poets until the 19th century. Céitinn also produced two religious work in Irish ‘Eochairsgaith an Aifrinn’ [A key to the knowledge of the Mass] and ‘Trí Biorghaithe an Bháis’ [Three Shafts of Death]. Later in the seventeenth Dubhaltach Mac Fir Bhisigh, the last in his line of eminent genealogists, assisted Sir James Ware in interpreting Irish manuscripts for his compendium of Irish writers, while he himself compiled his famous ‘Book of Genealogies’, the only surviving copy of the ‘Chronicon Scotorum’ and the ‘Annals of Ireland’.
The first decades of the seventeenth century also witnessed a proliferation of historical works, hagiographical biographies, diaries and social commentary. These including Tadhg Ó Cianáin’s ‘Teitheadh na nIarlaí [The Flight of the Earls], whose author accompanied the fugitives from Lough Swilly, through France and Flanders to Rome and Lughaigh Ó Cléirigh’s Beatha Aodha Rua Uí Dhomhnaill [Life of Red Hugh O’Donnell], a hagiographical, heroic account of the Earl of Tír Chonaill. Cinn Lae Uí Mhealláin [O’Meallan’s Diary] provided an eye-witness account of the Ulster army under General Eoghan Rua Ó Néill, while the satirical ‘Parlimint Chloinne Tomáis’ [Parliament of Clann Thomas], comprised a bitter invective from the learned classes at the effects of the social revolution which occurred in the aftermath the Cromwellian wars. It included a satirical eulogy for Cromwell, king of churls, who had established every boor and upstart. It viciously castigated the vile progeny of ‘Clann Tomáis’ who aped the manners, dress and language of the English settlers. In the realm of poetry there was a general loosening of the traditional metres during the course of the 17th century. Poets such as Seathrún Céitinn, Pádraigín Haicéad, Piaras Feiritéar, Dáibhí Ó Briadair and the authors of five long narrative political poems edited by Cecile Ó Rathille continued the traditions of eulogy and satire. The also commented authoritatively on the state of Ireland, the unprecedented suffering of the Irish, the wars, massacres, transportations and transplantations. They noted the effects on the Irish language, aristocracy and gentry and the Roman Catholic Church, as well as detailing the ongoing legal, religious and political persecution.
This literature, it’s political content and its reaction to the political and religious reformation has been the focus of lively debate and an enormous amount of scholarly editions, historical discourse and literary criticism by a whole host of scholars including Osborne Bergin, Eleanor Knott, James Cearney, David Greene, Tadhg Ó Donnchadha, Paul Walsh, Pádraig Breatnach, Brendan Bradshaw, Breandán Ó Buachalla, Nollaig Ó Muraile, Marc Caball, Bernadette Cunningham, Michelle O’Riordan, Richard McCabe, Wily Mailey, Andrew Hadfield and Patricia Palmer. The woodcuts of the English engraver John Derricke [Ireland’s equivalent of Albrecht Dürer] which accompanying his Image of Ireland with a discovery of the woodkerne (1588) provide the most vivid visual representations of 16th century Ireland. Comprising subjects such as Tudor military campaigns, Irish raids, feastings and submissions, they have figured prominently on recent dust jackets and illustrations of Irish history books.
Latin was taught, studied and readily understood in 16th century Ireland but the great flowering of Latin learning would be fuelled by the Irish Counter-Reformation. Latin had been the language of politics and government in the middle ages and continued to be important in the immediate pre-Reformation period, as well as being the medium for communication with foreigners. Various testaments from the English Jesuit Edmund Campion, a survivor of the Spanish Armada and the Papal Nuncio Giovanni Battista Rinuccini would suggest that a knowledge of vulgar Latin may have been widespread. However, accurate these testimonies may be it is evident that there was an Irish tradition in Latin learning which could be traced from North West Donegal to Vienna and from Naples to Lisbon in the early modern period. In his Zoilomastix, the exiled Irish writer Philip O’Sullivan Beare lists some 86 Irish Catholic writers and the full extent of this literary Diaspora awaits the completion of the ongoing researches of Thomas O’Conor. The Jesuit schools and academies that flourished in most major towns in the 50 years after the onset of the Reformation, fuelled this flourishing of Latin learning. For example, a grammar school presided over by Peter White, one-time graduate of Oriel College, Oxford, boasted students of the calibre of the Jesuit writer Richard Stanihurst and Peter Lombard, later Archbishop of Armagh, who had also chaired the first committee which accused Galileo of heresy. Galway Academy, founded by Dominic Lynch, included scholars of the learning and renown as the historian, chronicler and genealogist Dubhaltach Mac Fir Bhisigh and John Lynch, archdeacon of Tuam and author of Cambrensis Eversus (1662) and Alithinologia (1662-4), refuttals of Giraldus Cambrensis and the champions of the Nuncio Rinuccini. Lynch also penned a hagiographical portrait of Bischop Francis Kirwan as well as a Latin history of the Irish episcopate. Another eminent past-pupil of this school was the historian Roderick O’Flaherty, associate of William Molyneux and the renowned Welsh Celticist Edward Lhuyd. O’Flaherty’s famous work Ogygia (1685) comprised a learned exposition of Irish Catholic loyalty to the House of Stuart and asserted the antiquity of the Kingdom of Ireland. In additon, to these works of theology, religion and history Irishmen comprised some of the most prolific writers, translators and copiers of early modern medical tracts. The names of the Kerry physician Bernard O’Connor [chief physician to Jan Sobieski, king of Poland], Niall O Glacan of Tír Conaill [chief medic to the King of France and Professor of Physics in Bologna and Toulouse] and John Sterne [Founder of the Irish College of Physicians] loom large in the annals of 17th century medical discourse. Throughout the course of the seventeenth century Luke Wadding, David Rothe, Richard Creagh, Cornelius O’Deveney, Richard Stanihurst Richard O’Ferell, Robert O’Connell and the extraordinary literary talent of the Franciscan friars of St. Anthony’s Louvain added and enhanced a long and eminent tradition of history, hagiography, theology and genealogy. Archbishop James Ussher and Sir James Ware provided the main Protestant contribution to historical, antiquarian and Latin learning. Both collaborated and cooperated with Gaelic scholars such as Mac Fir Bhising and Mícheál Ó Cléirigh, while Ware collected manuscripts edited texts and compiled numerous compendia on Irish bishops, writers, scribes and scholars.