|Regions with significant populations|
|Northern Ireland||407,454 |
(Northern Irish Anglicans)
(Northern Irish Methodists)
(Other Northern Irish Protestants)
|Republic of Ireland||177,200 |
(Other Irish Protestants)
|Standard English, Hiberno-English|
(some Methodist, Catholic or other Protestant)
(see also Religion in Ireland)
|Related ethnic groups|
|English, Irish, Scotch-Irish Americans, Scots, Ulster Scots, Ulster Protestants, Welsh|
Anglo-Irish people (Irish: Angla-Éireannach) denotes an ethnic, social and religious grouping who are mostly the descendants and successors of the English Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland. They mostly belong to the Anglican 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, though some were Roman Catholics. They often defined themselves as simply "British", and less frequently "Anglo-Irish", "Irish" or "English". Many became eminent as administrators in the British Empire and as senior army and naval officers since Great Britain was in legislative and personal union with the Kingdom of Ireland (as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland) for over a century.
The term is not usually applied to Presbyterians in the province of Ulster, whose ancestry is mostly Lowland Scottish, rather than English or Irish, and who are sometimes identified as Ulster-Scots. The Anglo-Irish hold a wide range of political views, with some being outspoken Irish Nationalists, but most overall being Unionists. And while most of the Anglo-Irish originated in the English diaspora in Ireland, some were descended from families of the Gaelic nobility of Ireland who had converted from the Catholic Church to Anglicanism.
The Anglo-Irish, as a class, were mostly opposed to the notions of Irish independence and Home Rule. Most were supporters of continued political union with Great Britain, which existed between 1800 and 1922. This was for many reasons, but most important were the economic benefits of union for the landowning class, the close personal and familial relations with the British establishment, and the political prominence held by the Anglo-Irish in Ireland under the union settlement. Many Anglo-Irish men served as officers in the British Army, were clergymen in the established Anglican Church of Ireland or had land (or business interests) across the British Isles – all factors which encouraged political support for unionism. Between the mid-nineteenth century and 1922, the Anglo-Irish comprised the bulk of the support for movements such as the Irish Unionist Alliance, especially in the southern three provinces of Ireland.
During World War I, Irish nationalist MP Tom Kettle compared the Anglo-Irish landlord class to the Prussian Junkers, saying, "England goes to fight for liberty in Europe and for junkerdom in Ireland."
However, 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 Catholics under the rule of the landlords. 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. The Irish Rebellion of 1798 was led by members of the Anglo-Irish and Ulster Scots class, some of whom feared the political implications of the impending union with Great Britain. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, however, Irish nationalism became increasingly tied to a Roman Catholic identity. By the beginning of the twentieth century, many Anglo-Irishmen in southern Ireland had become convinced of the need for a political settlement with Irish nationalists. Anglo-Irish politicians such as Sir Horace Plunkett and Lord Monteagle became leading figures in finding a peaceful solution to the 'Irish question'.
During the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921), many Anglo-Irish landlords left the country due to arson attacks on their family homes. The burnings continued and many sectarian murders were carried out by the Anti-Treaty IRA during the Irish Civil War. Considering the Irish State unable to protect them, many members of the Anglo-Irish class subsequently left Ireland forever, fearing that they would be subject to discriminatory legislation and social pressures. The Protestant proportion of the Irish population dropped from 10% (300,000) to 6% (180,000) in the Irish Free State in the twenty-five years following independence, with most resettling in Great Britain. In the whole of Ireland the percentage of Protestants was 26% (1.1 million).
The reaction of the Anglo-Irish to the Anglo-Irish Treaty which envisaged the establishment of the Irish Free State was mixed. J. A. F. Gregg, the Church of Ireland 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.
In 1925, when the Irish Free State was poised to outlaw divorce, the Anglo-Irish poet W. B. Yeats delivered a famous eulogy for his class in the Irish Senate:
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.
Nowadays, the term "Anglo-Irish" is not as commonly used to describe southern Irish Protestants of English descent, or Protestant citizens of the Republic of Ireland as a group.
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 Hiberno-Norman 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 elect 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:
Pat: He was an Anglo-Irishman.
Meg: In the name of God, what's that?
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