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18 September 2014
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Wars and Conflict - The Plantation of Ulster

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Personal Perspective
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Marianne Elliot, Professor of Modern History at the University of Liverpool and Director of the Institute of Irish Studies, examines the native Irish or Catholic response to the Plantation.

Personal perpective by Marianne Elliot
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The Plantation of Ulster: its impact on the Catholic population

The Plantation was not initially intended as a religious campaign against Catholics...

The 'loss of the land' has been a central theme in Irish nationalism and with the penal laws is part of a composite picture of Catholics as a persecuted people. The Plantation of Ulster with English and Scottish settlers was not initially intended as a religious campaign against Catholics. But it took on its own dynamic and effectively became such by the turn of the 17th century. For Protestant settlers too the century established the perception of Catholics poised to take revenge and dispossess them at the first opportunity, for the Ulster Irish* had risen in 1641 and 'massacred' large numbers of the settler population. That the Ulster Plantation was never as total, nor the 1641 uprising as brutal as tradition allows, matters little. Both have continued to be axioms of respective communal identities and along with the religious demography of Ulster, established by the Plantation, these beliefs have remained virtually unchanged for over three centuries.

The Ulster Plantation was the most extensive and comprehensive of England's Plantations in Ireland...

The Ulster Plantation was the most extensive and comprehensive of England's Plantations in Ireland. The 'Flight of the Earls' in 1607, the subsequent rebellion of Sir Cahir O'Doherty and the vast tracts of church land (some 20% of the province, technically confiscated since the Reformation, but relatively untouched till James I's reign) placed an unprecedented amount of territory at the disposal of the crown - virtually the whole of modern Armagh, Cavan, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Donegal. The sudden availability of so much territory presented the new monarch with the opportunity to create a defensible colony and infuse Ulster Irish culture with habits of 'civility' and industry. Like all colonial ventures it was shot through with the cultural elitism of the colonising power. But it was not a blueprint for a general dispossession of the existing inhabitants. Sir John Davies, the Attorney General, credited with master-minding the Plantation, thought Earlier Plantations had failed because all the land had been given to adventurers, forcing the local people into the hills and woods where they became outlaws. He and the Lord Deputy, Chichester, considered the creation of a secure Ulster Irish population alongside the new planter element as vital to the scheme's success.

No one who did not conform to Protestantism and no Irish could rent these lands...

The Plantation scheme involved the division of six counties (Donegal, Londonderry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Armagh and Cavan) into three categories: first, land to be granted to English and Scottish undertakers; second, land to be granted to servitors (usually English government officials) and 'deserving' Irish; third, land belonging to or to be granted to the established church and Trinity College. The undertakers were required within three to five years to settle English or Scots on their lands at a rate of 24 per 1,000 acres, to provide defenses and build stone houses and bawns, or risk hefty fines. No one who did not conform to Protestantism and no Irish could rent these lands. The other two categories were granted with no condition to plant or conform, and here the Irish inhabitants could remain. In fact although some displacement did occur the Irish remained even on undertaker land, for tenants were scarce, and likewise on the lands given to the London Companies: the new county of Londonderry, encompassing Derry and its immediate Inishowen hinterland, part of north Tyrone, and O'Cahan's lands around Coleraine.

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