The Irish Church, its Reform and the English Invasion

by Donnchadh Ó Corráin, Four Courts, £30

Most people, when they hear about conflict between the Irish and English, think of the great famine of the 19th century or “the Troubles”. But there is a full 800 years of history to consider.

Donnchadh Ó Corráin, emeritus professor of medieval history at University College Cork, takes us back to the Irish Church reform of the 12th century and the English invasion by Henry II. He argues that the reform precipitated the invasion. This is a radical, controversial reassessment.

Ó Corráin insists that he is not using the term “reform” as a value judgment and that he simply wants to understand the changes which took place. He portrays the reformers as people confronting what they perceived as a lack of proper episcopal organisation.

He reassesses the reform movement domestically, reactions to the English invasion, and the international context. He concludes, persuasively, that “the English invasion brought the evil of racism to Ireland and the Irish Church, and divided the population into those who had the benefit of English law and those who did not. The impact on the Irish Church was disastrous.”

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