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Anglo-Irish (Irish: Angla-Éireannach) was a term used primarily in the 19th and early 20th centuries to identify a privileged social class in Ireland, whose members were the descendants and successors of the Protestant Ascendancy, mostly belonging to the Church of Ireland, which was the established church of Ireland until 1871, or to a lesser extent one of the English dissenting churches, such as the Methodist church. Its members tended to follow English practices in matters of culture, science, law, agriculture and politics. Many became eminent as administrators in the British empire and as senior army and naval officers.
The term is not usually applied to Presbyterians in Northern Ireland, whose ancestry is mostly Scottish and who are usually identified as "Ulster-Scots." In the United States, people who identify with the Ulster-Scots are usually called "Scotch-Irish."
The term may also be used to describe formal contacts, negotiations, and treaties between the United Kingdom and Ireland. Some examples of this usage are the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, and the Anglo-Irish Summits (as meetings between the British and Irish prime ministers are usually called). In more modern times, many films that are British and Irish co-productions are often referred to as Anglo-Irish films.
The term "Anglo-Irish" is often applied to the members of the Church of Ireland who made up the professional and landed class in Ireland from the 17th century up to the time of Irish independence in the 20th century. In the course of the 17th century, this Anglo-Irish landed elite replaced the Gaelic Irish and Old English aristocracies as the ruling class in Ireland. They were also referred to as "New English" to distinguish them from the "Old English" who descended from the medieval Hiberno-Norman settlers. A larger but less socially prominent element of the Protestant Irish population were the immigrant French Huguenots and the English and Scottish dissidents who settled in Ireland in the 17th and 18th centuries, many of whom later emigrated to the American colonies.
Under the Penal Laws, which were in force between the 17th and 19th centuries (though enforced with varying degrees of severity), Catholic recusants in Britain and Ireland were barred from public office, while Catholics in Ireland were also barred from entry to the University of Dublin and professions such as law, medicine, and the military. The lands of the recusant Roman Catholic elite who refused to take the prescribed oaths were largely confiscated during the Plantations of Ireland and the rights of Roman Catholics to inherit landed property were severely restricted. Those who converted to the Church of Ireland were usually able to keep or regain their lost property, as the issue was primarily one of allegiance. In the late 18th century the Dublin Parliament won legislative independence and the movement for the repeal of the Test Acts began.
The Anglo-Irish social class was usually of mixed Irish and British ancestry. Members of this ruling elite usually identified themselves as Irish while adopting English practices in politics, commerce, and culture. They participated in the popular English sports of the day, particularly racing and hunting, and often intermarried with the ruling classes of Great Britain. The more successful among them spent a significant part of their careers either in Great Britain or in some part of the British Empire.
Pat: He was an Anglo-Irishman.
Meg: In the name of God, what's that?Pat: Because they work. An Anglo-Irishman only works at riding horses, drinking whiskey, and reading double-meaning books in Irish at Trinity College.
Pat: A Protestant with a horse.
Pat: No, no, an ordinary Protestant like Leadbetter, the plumber in the back parlour next door, won't do, nor a Belfast orangeman, not if he was as black as your boot.
Meg: Why not?—From act one of The Hostage, 1958
Thus, in Behan's understanding, the Anglo-Irish were Ireland's leisure class.
At the turn of the 20th century, the Anglo-Irish owned many of the major indigenous businesses in Ireland, such as Jacob's Biscuits, Bewley's, Beamish and Crawford, Jameson's Whiskey, W.P. & R. Odlum, Cleeve's, R&H Hall, Maguire & Patterson, Dockrell's, Arnott's, Goulding Chemicals, the Irish Times, the Irish Railways, and the Guinness brewery (Ireland's largest employer). They also controlled financial companies such as the Bank of Ireland and Goodbody Stockbrokers.
Prominent Anglo-Irish poets, writers and playwrights include Jonathan Swift, George Berkeley, Oliver Goldsmith, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, J.M. Synge, W.B. Yeats, Cecil Day Lewis, Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett, Giles Cooper, C. S. Lewis, Lord Longford and Elizabeth Bowen.
Some of the most prominent British scientists of the 19th century, including William Rowan Hamilton, George Gabriel Stokes, and John Tyndall, were Anglo-Irish. Other Anglo-Irish scientists include George Johnstone Stoney, Thomas Romney Robinson, James MacCullagh, Edward Sabine, Thomas Andrews, William Parsons, George Salmon, George FitzGerald, and in the 20th century, John Joly and Ernest Walton. The celebrated polar explorer Ernest Shackleton was also an Anglo-Irishman.
The Anglo-Irish were also represented among the senior officers of the British Army by men such as Field Marshal Lord Roberts, first honorary Colonel of the Irish Guards regiment, who spent most of his career in India; Field Marshal Lord Gough who served under Wellington, himself a Wellesley born in Dublin to the Earl of Mornington, a prominent Anglo-Irish family in Dublin; and in the 20th century Alan Brooke and Harold Alexander (see also Irish military diaspora).
Discussing the lack of Irish civic morality in 2011, former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald remarked that before 1922: "In Ireland a strong civic sense did exist - but mainly amongst Protestants and especially Anglicans".
Protestants in Ireland, and the Anglo-Irish class in particular, were by no means universally attached to the cause of continued political union with Great Britain: for instance, author Jonathan Swift (1667–1745), a clergyman in the Church of Ireland, vigorously denounced the plight of ordinary Irish people under British rule. Reformist politicians such as Henry Grattan (1746–1820), Wolfe Tone (1763–1798), Robert Emmet (1778–1803), Sir John Gray (1815-1875), and Charles Stewart Parnell (1846–1891), were also Protestant nationalists, and in large measure led and defined Irish nationalism. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, however, Irish nationalism became increasingly tied to a Roman Catholic identity.
During the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921), many Anglo-Irish landlords left the country due to attacks on their family homes. Animosity towards them continued after the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922; many members of the Anglo-Irish class left Ireland, fearing that they would be subject to discriminatory legislation and social pressures. The Anglo-Irish proportion of the Irish population dropped from 10% to 6% in the twenty five years following independence.
The reaction of the Anglo-Irish to the Anglo-Irish Treaty which envisaged the establishment of the Irish Free State was mixed. The Right Rev. J.A.F. Gregg, the Church of Ireland's Archbishop of Dublin, stated in a sermon in December 1921 (the month the Treaty was signed):
It concerns us all to offer the Irish Free State our loyalty. I believe there is a genuine desire on the part of those who have long differed from us politically to welcome our co-operation. We should be wrong politically and religiously to reject such advances.
I think it is tragic that within three years of this country gaining its independence we should be discussing a measure which a minority of this nation considers to be grossly oppressive. I am proud to consider myself a typical man of that minority. We against whom you have done this thing, are no petty people. We are one of the great stocks of Europe. We are the people of Burke; we are the people of Grattan; we are the people of Swift, the people of Emmet, the people of Parnell. We have created the most of the modern literature of this country. We have created the best of its political intelligence. Yet I do not altogether regret what has happened. I shall be able to find out, if not I, my children will be able to find out whether we have lost our stamina or not. You have defined our position and have given us a popular following. If we have not lost our stamina then your victory will be brief, and your defeat final, and when it comes this nation may be transformed.—Seanad Debates, 11 June 1925
The term "Anglo-Irish" is no longer commonly used to describe southern Irish Protestants, or Protestant citizens of the Republic of Ireland as a group, since —despite retaining a certain distinctive identity— they have mostly been keen to stress their Irishness and loyalty to the Republic of Ireland.
Following the English victory in the Nine Years' War (1594–1603), the "Flight of the Earls" in 1607, the traditional Gaelic Irish nobility was displaced in Ireland, particularly in the Cromwellian period. By 1707, after further defeat in the Williamite War and the subsequent Union of England and Scotland, the aristocracy in Ireland was dominated by Anglican families who owed allegiance to the Crown. Some of these were Irish families who had chosen to conform to the established Church of Ireland, keeping their lands and privileges, such as the Dukes of Leinster (whose surname is FitzGerald, and who descend from the Old English aristocracy), or the Gaelic Guinness family. Some were families of British or mixed-British ancestry who owed their status in Ireland to the Crown, such as the Earls of Cork (whose surname is Boyle and whose ancestral roots were in Herefordshire, England).
Among the prominent Anglo-Irish peers are:
Until the year 1800, the peers of Ireland were all entitled to a seat in the Irish House of Lords, the upper house of the Parliament of Ireland, in Dublin. After 1800, under the provisions of the Act of Union, the Parliament of Ireland was abolished and the Irish peers were entitled to elected twenty-eight of their number to sit in the British House of Lords, in London, as representative peers. During the Georgian Era, titles in the peerage of Ireland were often granted by the British monarch to Englishmen with little or no connection to Ireland, as a way of preventing such honours from inflating the membership of the British House of Lords.
A number of Anglo-Irish peers have been appointed by Presidents of Ireland to serve on their advisory Council of State. Some were also considered possible candidates for presidents of Ireland, including: