In the late 16th century private dispute between two Old English families, the Butlers and the FitzGeralds, erupted into two rebellions against English rule that left the population of Munster devastated by plague and famine, with thousands of English families planted in their midst to prevent any possible future uprising. The private affairs of the two clans led to the Battle of Affane in County Waterford.

Warfare between noble families was considered a direct challenge to the Queen of England’s authority, and both earls, the Earl of Desmond and the Earl of Ormonde, were brought to London to explain their actions.

Ormonde, a cousin of the queen, convinced her that Desmond was at fault, and Desmond and his brothers were arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London.

This left the FitzGeralds leaderless, and the position of leadership was assumed by Captain James Fitz Maurice FitzGerald. He was given authority over the soldiery of the Desmonds.

Stung by the favouritism shown to the Butlers and ongoing English encroachments of Desmond authority, FitzMaurice launched the first Desmond Rebellion in 1569. Gathering a base of supporting in Cork and attacking the city itself, he then laid siege to Kilkenny with 4,500 men.

In response, the English moved troops into the region and gathered support from the loyal lords in the vicinity. They then launched a scorched earth campaign, devastating the lands of FitzMaurice’s allies, which fractured his army because his allies were forced to leave to defend their own lands.
The weakened FitzMaurice was forced into the Kerry mountains, from which he launched a series of guerrilla campaigns, but ultimately was reduced in strength and, with guarantees that his life would be spared, surrendered to the English in 1573.

Despite the families involved in the initial affray being of Old English stock, FitzMaurice had emphasised the Gaelic nature of his rebellion—he wore Irish dress, spoke Irish, and was called Taoiseach of the Geraldines. At the time English and Irish customs in the region were mixed, but FitzMaurice placed himself firmly to the one side. Perhaps in response to this, Irish customs were outlawed: Brehon law was supplanted by English law, Irish dress was replaced with English dress, and bardic poetry was made criminal.

The manner in which the English had brought about their victory left the Irish resentful and bitter. The Earl of Desmond was released from prison in order to help rebuild his territories, and FitzMaurice left Ireland for the Continent.

Few men were probably expecting FitzMaurice to return, especially not at the head of an army. But in 1579, he landed at Smerwick, near Dingle, with a small force of Spanish and Italian troops. He had styled himself as a soldier of the Counter-Reformation, had been given a Papal indulgence, and supplied with troops and money. This landing ignited the second Desmond Rebellion, a much larger scale and bloodier affair than the first.

The English response was much the same as it was to the first: to massacre, destroy, set ablaze, and ruin all that they could. The rebellion slowly crumbled and fell apart. FitzMaurice himself had been killed early in the rebellion, and the Earl’s brother John became de facto leader, a move which forced the Earl himself, who at the time had been vacillating, to side with the rebels.

Though many of the rebels received pardons at the conclusion of the war, the Earl of Desmond was given no such clemency; he was hunted down and killed at Glenaginty. His corpse was displayed on the walls of Cork city, and his head was sent to Queen Elizabeth.

In the aftermath of a massive scorched earth campaign, Munster was beset with famine and bubonic plague. The provost marshal of Munster, Warham St Leger, estimated that 30,000 people had died of hunger. Long after the war’s conclusion people were still starving, and by some estimates a third of Munster’s population starved to death.

The Annals of the Four Masters state:

‘… the whole tract of country from Waterford to Lothra, and from Cnamhchoill (a wood close to Tipperary) to the county of Kilkenny, was suffered to remain one surface of weeds and waste… At this period it was commonly said that the lowing of a cow or the whistle of the ploughboy could scarcely be heard from Dun-Caoin to Cashel in Munster.’

Edmund Spenser, an English soldier and poet, who served during the war, in his View of the Present State of Ireland, stated:

‘A most populous and plentiful country suddenly left void of man or beast.’
Geraldine power was broken, and the country was a prostrate wasteland. The English formulated plans to plant the country with their own people to prevent the same kind of rebellion from erupting again. This was the first Plantation of its kind in Ireland.

Desmond lands were confiscated and, after a survey by Valentine Browne, Surveyor General parcelled out to soldiers and administrators who had taken part in suppressing the rebellions. Undertakers, wealthy colonists who ‘undertook’ to import tenants from England, were selected to facilitate the Plantation. The survey revealed less available land than the colonists would like, and the scale of the plantation was much smaller than the initially envisaged population of around 11,000. Based on certain estimates the actual population planted was around 4,000.

The Plantation itself was motivated in large part by investors, who could buy confiscated land for next to nothing and exploit the resources of the land for their own benefit. Many of the colonists became extraordinarily wealthy as a result

The Plantation was chaotic, as not only had Desmond lands been seized, but also the lands of co-rebels, and due to ongoing legal disputes, this threw the availability of land into question. Furthermore, undertakers were often accidentally assigned to plant the same land, resulting in some families having to return to England empty-handed.

The chaos meant that the original defensive plan, which involved creating a series of colonist strongpoints, which would mutually support each other, and would buffer attacks from natives, was not implemented. The settlers were spread across the province in small pockets, wherever land was available to be settled. To compensate for this lack of security, troops were provided to undertakers for the protection of the colonists, but by the late 1590s, they had been withdrawn, leaving the colonists vulnerable.

By this point the Nine Years War was already well underway in Ulster, and with O’Neill’s triumphant victory at the Battle of Yellow Ford, his Confederation began to look to Munster for their support. O’Neill named James Fitzthomas as the successor to the now empty Desmond throne, and his allies began to invade Munster. The scattered English colonists and troops could provide no resistance, and fled the country for the safety of city walls. Many fled the country entirely and returned to England.

The Plantation was undone in a matter of weeks. A general uprising of the people of Munster, supported and assisted by O’Neill’s Confederation, had reclaimed the land.

But O’Neill’s war faltered, and at Kinsale the English gained the upper hand. Having lost his southern allies, he finally surrendered to the English in 1603. George Carew, the Governor of Munster, re-started the project, and by the 1620s, the English settler population was four times larger than the initial Plantation had been. This population was strong enough to resist when rebellion struck again in the 1640s and held large tracts of the countryside against Kilkenny’s Confederation.

Posted by Somhairle Buidhe


  1. So what? This is just history.

    70,000-80,000 ancient Britons were massacred by the Romans during Boadicea’s rebellion – but we don’t build a hold victim narrative and identity politics around that – it’s just history.

    100,000 were killed in the Harrying of the North (=Northern England) in 1069-1070 by William the Conqueror – but we don’t build an identity politics around it – it’s just history.

    The Irish for centuries raided the English and Welsh coasts – including enslaving St Patrick – and yet we don’t build an identity politics around it – it’s just history. We’re not told how many English people were enslaved in that way.

    It is INFERIOR to trawl through history looking for things to burnish a victim narrative in the present. Nothing that happened in history matters now. You should try to be HEROES and not VICTIMS.

    Look at Ireland today – the English language has led to huge investment by American firms. You can hardly claim history hasn’t treated you well


    1. @David Webb
      What exactly is your problem? I don’t see this article promoting any political agenda or a victim identity for the Irish people, it’s merely talking about events in our history. Should we forget all of our history if it makes us uncomfortable? And also, do you really think the destruction of our native language and culture was worth it so that we could have investment from American forms? What a contemptible bugman you are


      1. It’s clearly written by a Harry and Meghan-style poor-me victim-monger and a pedlar of the MOPE trope. Irish identity has to stop being framed around exaggerated and decontextualised claims of victimhood – or you will lose your nation altogether as hordes of Africans and Asians flood in. The more you buy into victimhood, the less you can reject others’ claims to victimhood. And you only have to find 5m Africans with a sob story to remove you from the list of the nations of the world entirely via immigration. Start thinking of yourselves as a white nation, one that has a common interest with the English in opposing globalism and immigration, multi-culturalism and wokery. Start laughing at the SF shite who peddle the victim narrative.


        1. Your frequent use of “you” carries the implication that you are not Irish – in which case, how dare you presume to tell us how we should view our history. Irish history is what it is, and while we shouldn’t revel in a victim hood status, we shouldn’t brush over or be ashamed of our history either. This article does little more than glibly quote Wikipedia – but according to you it promotes a victim identity?

          And what’s truly ironic here is that while you tell us to oppose wokery and multiculturalism, your arguments echo those of the wokists themselves, who tell us that we as Irish people have white privilege, despite the fact that our whiteness never prevented us from being victimised or oppressed in our history. The fact that we were a colonised people and have a tradition of nationalism which is counter-colonial and counter-imperialist is something we can use to our benefit – it makes it much harder for the wokists to push white guilt here and demonise nationalism. I fail to see how eschewing our traditional Irish identity in favour of a white identity can do anything to benefit us – we have a wellspring of deeply rooted nationalist tradition to tap into and you would have us disregard all that, and play into the hands of our enemies.


          1. “How you presume to tell us…” – this is the Meghan Markle style “this is my truth”. Of course, as an Englishman, I do have that right. I can point out to you that you are mythologising victimhood in a way that will lose you your entire country. As a member of the dissident right, I support the struggle of ALL white nations to survive, and that includes Ireland.

            The article above quotes Wikipedia (probably itself edited by a Sinn Féiner), but the person – Sómhairle Buí – quotes it in order to make MOPE points.

            No, I do not argue the Irish have white privilege. You argue that the Irish tradition of anti-colonialism can be used to your benefit. Unfortunately, you are 100% wrong there. It channels your nationalism in the victimhood and anti-white direction and makes it likely you will lose your country. Project Ireland 2040??? 1m Africans trucked in??? Yeah, great anti-colonialism there – and it loses you Ireland.

            You are playing into the hands of the globalist enemies of Ireland by peddling your victim narrative. Your allies are actually the English who have the same struggle against immigration and multi-culturalism.

            All I hear from the Irish is “we’ll show the Brits we can do multi-racialism better than them” (this is John Waters’ theory of Ireland’s destructive imitationism), and to “stick it to the Brits” bring in 1m Africans. Where do I start on this? Do you think the African immigrants give a damn about the lords of Desmond and Ormond?

      2. And Karl, it was the Irish who decided to abandon the Irish language, and beat their children for speaking Irish. Here is a quote from a book published in 1912:

        It is difficult to forgive a generation of parents, priests, politicians and teachers who thus flogged the children of the country out of the knowledge of their natural speech. Many parents, it is clear, looking at the course of events in the world, came to the conclusion that English was the language of success and Irish the language of decay and starvation. If they punished their children for being Irish, they thought they were punishing bread-and-butter into their stomachs, if not the bread of life into their souls. Curious to relate, this idea is not dead among Irish-speaking parents even today. Those who know English, though they speak Irish to each other and to grown-up neighbours, very often drop into English when they address their children. (Lynd, Robert. Home Life in Ireland, Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co, 1912, pp92-93.)


  2. Ivaus@thetricolour 05/03/2023 at 2:44 pm

    Brain dead Webb is still pontificating
    Q “So what,this is still just history.
    Q” Nothing that happened in history matters now.
    Q ” It’s Inferior to trawl through history.
    Q ” Repeat Repeat Repeat.
    Berating the Irish at the loss of millions while he laments a lower death of thousands by Romans…trawled through history.
    Go back to your weed boy,back to your cave…your not Irish, nor English, a space cadet for sure..but a Waste of Time


  3. There weren’t killings of millions in Irish history. Yes 900,000 died of disease during the Irish Famine, but those were not killings. It is inferior to trawl through history to create a victim narrative.

    The Irish overplayed their hand in history. They repeated sought to invite the French in and pose a threat to England. That threat was neutralised. Nothing in Irish history was unprovoked.


  4. Ivaus@thetricolour 05/03/2023 at 2:57 pm

    Clearly.. You do not have a life
    Clearly.. You are I’ll informed, a waste of education
    So I say to you eumifcusly go away


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