'We feel in England that we have treated you rather unfairly,' Haines says to Stephen Dedalus in the first chapter of Joyce's Ulysses: 'it seems history is to blame.' But he doesn't say which history. The history that accounts for the sporadic but endless killings in Northern Ireland begins no later than 24 December 1601, when Lord Mountjoy's forces defeated Hugh O'Neill's at the battle of Kinsale. After the 'flight of the earls' to the Continent in 1607 the way was clear for the confiscation of land throughout the country. There was a particular plan for the North. In 1610 the English and Scots Privy Councils started the Plantation of Ulster, an arrangement by which settlers were established on the best land in the northern counties of Ireland. These settlers - or 'undertakers', as they were called - started arriving in September: they were to build towns and fortify them, making them the centres of trade. As a case in point, the walls of Derry were completed in 1618. Catholics, 'a threatening majority', as Roy Foster describes them in Modern Ireland 1600-1972 (1988), were not allowed to live in the town, so they clustered in the Bogside beyond the walls.
LRB 5 April 1990 | PDF Download