Random Ramblings from a Republican
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
The Battle of Clontarf

Source: Irish Heritage Group

The Battle of Clontarf took place outside the town of Dublin on Good Friday (probably April 23rd by following the calender), 1014.

The combatants were led on one side by Brian Boru, then high-king of Ireland, and on the other by the Vikings of Dublin, supported by some of the Leinster Irish and also by Vikings of England, Scotland, the Isle of man, France and the Orkney Islands.

Brian Boru

Boru was a native of Co Clare, and belonged to the Royal house of Thomond. From his early youth he led his followers against the Vikings, who at that time controlled large coastal areas around Ireland. He defeated them in several battles and eventually succeeded in clearing the Vikings from Munster. When his older brother, Mahon, was murdered in 976, Brian Boru became King of Munster. In 1002 he became King of Ireland and his main goal from then on was to clear the Vikings from the whole country. He eventually forced them to a massed battle on Good Friday, 1014. Some accounts say that this battle took place as a result of a dispute over a game of chess with the King of Leinster.

The Battle

Brian brought his army across North Dublin, into the vicinity of Glasnevin, Drumcondra, and Santry. He was joined by the Ulster Irish and several other Irish chiefs from the West as well as a contingent of Scottish Gaels. He was also joined at the battlefield by the King of Meath, which was a separate province at the time. However, the Meath men took no part in the battle. The Vikings and their reinforcements prepared themselves along the coast between Dublin and Clontarf. Much of the land that is today around Clontarf and Fairview was reclaimed from the sea in more recent times, and it is likely that the main fighting took place nearer to what is now Glasnevin and Drumcondra, about 2-3 kilometres from the current coastline.

Brian was an old man by this time, probably well into his seventies, and his chiefs persuaded him to take no active part in the battle. He remained in his tent behind the Irish lines. His 30,000 strong army was commanded by his eldest son. The number on the opposing side is not known but it is likely to have been of about the same magnitude.

The fighting began in the morning and raged for most of the day. There were heavy losses on both sides, but towards evening the Irish forces gained the upper hand and eventually completely routed the Vikings. Many of the Vikings fled into the sea at Clontarf. However, other groups were cut off by the advancing Irish and they scattered in all directions. One of these groups headed West and ended up fleeing past the Irish encampment, where they came across King Brian. A short struggle ended in the death of both Brian and two of his attackers. The victorious Irish troops returned to find their King lying dead in his tent. They bore him from the field along the North road, towards Armagh, where at his own request the great King was laid to rest.


Although the Irish won this great battle, there was a high price to pay. The High-King and his eldest son were dead and so were many of the chieftains who had supported them. The power vacuum led to a series of wars between the various kingships, which eventually led, 150 years later, to the invasion of the Normans and the beginning of English involvement in Ireland.

The Battle of Clontarf was one of the biggest battles of its time and resulted in the defeat of the Viking armies. As a result the iron grip of the Vikings, which had controlled North Western Europe for centuries, began to wane. Over the next fifty years, they were pushed further back towards their homelands in Norway and Denmark by other tribes (including the Normans who were themselves in part descended from the Vikings). It is clear, therefore, that the Battle of Clontarf played a major part in ending the power of the Vikings forever. 
Friday, April 18, 2008
An Phoblacht
Republican News
April 18, 1981



A Long Kesh prison doctor has informed the family of IRA hunger-striker and Westminster MP, Bobby Sands that his life span should now be measured in days rather than weeks.

The nationwide euphoria, naturally felt at Sands' truly historic electoral victory in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, must be urgently transformed into decisively effective, political pressure on the British Government. The Brits must be forced to cease their intransigence and to grant political status to republican prisoners in the H-Blocks and Armagh Jail, and thus save the life of Sands, and the lives of his three comrades on hungerstrike; Frankie Hughes, Patsy O'Hara, and Raymond McCreesh.

Laying Down Their Lives

Today, H-Block hunger-striker Bobby Sands, IRA Volunteer, and Westminster MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, is slowly dying inside Long Kesh prison camp. Time is running out for Sands, whose markedly deteriorating physical condition is now increasingly giving grave cause for concern.

On Wednesday, a prison doctor informed his family that his life spand should now be measured in days, rather than weeks.

Just as in 1916 there were men and women in Ireland prepared to lay down their lives in repudiation of British rule and in assertion of Irish sovereignty, so too this Easter weekend four young Irishmen, including Sands, lie in the prison hospital in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh on hungerstrike, preparing to lay down their live in the service of that same cause.

The battleground for this, the last necessary rising against the injustice of British Rule in Ireland, has, because of partition, been in the occupied six counties. But the real battleground for the political status campaign has been within the confines of jail, fought by imprisoned republicans.

They, like the signatories who put their names to the 1916 proclamation, have fallen into the clutches of a brutal enemy, and even under these harsh conditions make no apology for having upheld in arms, and now through the force of personal courage, their Irish republicanism.

To the fore in this battle is Bobby Sands, whose principled stand was overwhelmingly endorsed by the nationalist people in the historic by-election victory in Fermanagh and South Tyrone last week. By this Easter Sunday, Bobby Sands will be on his fiftieth day of hunger-strike, Frankie Hughes will be on his thirty-sixth day, and Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O'Hara will be on their twenty-ninth day.


But Bobby Sands' life and the lives of his three comrades can still be saved, and the H-Block/Armagh prisoners' just demands can be won. The euphoria naturally felt nationwide at Sands' truly historic electoral victory, must be urgently transformed into decisively effective political pressure. The rising anger and tremendous solidarity of the nationalist people - as unquestionably demonstrated by the election victory - must increasingly be impressively demonstrated on the streets, and forcefully transmitted to London via what levers of power are available in Dublin and Belfast, especially through pressurising the Fianna Fail and SDLP leaderships, who pose themselves as representatives of the nationalist people.

The formula for a prisoners' victory remains precisely the same as ever, despite the continued intransigence and arrogant contempt for Irish opinion demonstrated this week by British premier Margaret Thatcher and Northern direct-ruler Humphrey Atkins.


The British must be forced to realise that the cost to them - measured in terms of growing political instability in Ireland and an increasingly tarnished international image - of denying the prisoners their rightful political status, will inevitably exceed the cost of dropping their criminalisation policy. A doomed policy, discredited internationally by the nationalist electorate of Fermanagh and South Tyrone symbolically rejecting it at the polls on behalf of the nationalist people as a whole.

And no wonder. For the British government's five-year old attempt - after eight centuries of attempts - to criminalize the cause of Irish independence and those who seriously attempt to achieve it, is an attack not just on republicans but chips something off all those with a national consciousness, no matter to which particular political or cultural organisation they may belong. This attack is all-embracing and intolerable, because it fundamentally presupposes a right on Britain's behalf to interfere in Irish affairs and set political values, and to accept that it is to be immediately compromised.

Also, the methods Britain has employed to enforce this criminalisation policy have been cruel and inhumane and need no further recitation.

This Saturday (April 25, 1981) a national march and rally is being held in Dublin. A week on Sunday a similar demonstration is planned for Belfast. Be there!

These protests will provide the last opportunity to peacefully demonstrate on the streets that the Irish people are not prepared to allow Bobby Sands to be a sacrificial lamb on the altar of British inhumanity and short-sighted political expediency.

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Ta ar la anois.

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