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The early history of Ireland is often told as a mix of story, myth and fact. Generations have passed on an oral tradition discussing the mythical people who once inhabited the land. Megalithic monuments of stone tables, underground passages and tombs remain a mystery today. Their existence is often attributed to faeries. These structures have survived centuries untouched; to tamper with the magical arrangements would surely bring bad luck.
Ireland’s history has been plagued by invaders. One group of people who once had influence over the land were the Celts. They brought with them iron weapons, chariots, and the arts of poetry and music. While the Celtic culture thrived, the government remained disorganized with intense division and tribal conflict. While rulers desired complete domination of the island, none were successful.
Vikings came to Ireland at the end of the 8th century, and raided Irish monasteries for gold, jewels and art. News of the wealth on the small island brought more invaders, who eventually started to settle in the region. The Irish eventually led a successful campaign to unseat the Vikings though their imprint on culture still exists, like at the city walls of Waterford.
The Normans, successful in conquests of Britain, set their sights on Ireland and invaded with a strong force. Over time they blended with local people and loyalties to England were blurred. Centuries of struggle followed with Ireland trying to shake English influence. The Tudor monarchs in England reasserted control in Ireland, Henry VIII went so far as to call himself the king of all Ireland.
British and Irish discord continued on for centuries. In fact, the issue of complete Irish unification versus inclusion in the United Kingdom still remains a hot-button political issue for many to this day. But now the politics are dealt with democratically and both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have the opportunity to flourish.
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