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I, too, was taught the horror story that the entire population was wiped out there and at Wexford. It was the indiscriminate slaughter of women and children that bothered me most.
Incredibly, the first document I consulted was the only one that was missed by almost all other Cromwellian scholars – Drogheda’s municipal records of 1649.
Plantations in 16th- and 17th-century Ireland involved the confiscation of land by the English crown and the colonisation of this land with settlers from the island of Great Britain.
They followed smaller-scale immigration to Ireland as far back as the 12th century, which had resulted in a distinct ethnicity in Ireland known as the Old English.
While on one level Ireland seems to be coming to terms with the dying embers of centuries of anti-British sentiment, below the surface it is a different story.
Famine, “the regional failure of food production or distribution systems, leading to sharply increased mortality due to starvation and associated disease”, is one of the great human nightmares – when the normal structures that allow people to regularly feed themselves break down. Modern Ireland, situated in the middle of the rich world, is increasingly isolated from this spectre, but famine has played a crucial role in Irish history.
For much of Ireland’s history, much of the population lived on a knife-edge of hunger.
About 3,000 men, women and children were killed.’ No ambiguity there.
The teacher then picks up a second history book, published by Harper Collins in 2002, where the veracity of the civilian atrocity stories is debated at some length and alternative interpretations presented. The name ‘Cromwell’ is so talismanic that its very invocation still causes Irish hearts to stir.
However, Mountjoy knew that as long as Hugh O'Neill was still in hiding he was still a threat.