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Signing of the Treaty of Limerick


THERE has hardly been a war of any importance in any part of the world over the past 400 years without Irish soldiers being involved. For generations Irishmen fought in the great armies of Europe, particularly those of France and Spain, where Irish Brigades figured prominently.

There are countless stories and poems of their gallantry in places such as Cremona, Ramilles and Fontenoy. The Irish were prized soldiers in countries as far flung as Sweden, Austria and Russia. There was an Irish Brigade in the American Revolution, on both sides in their Civil War and also in the Mexican Army. While the tradition of serving in foreign armies had been there for quite a while, it grew enormously after the Treaty of Limerick.
The Battle of the Boyne was a major defeat for the Jacobites but the defeat at Aughrim had a bigger effect on the history of the country. It was the last great stand by an Irish army and it was so nearly won. Afterwards, the army retreated to Limerick, where they were besieged by Ginkel.
Winter was approaching and Ginkel was prepared for a long siege. He had even sent some of his artillery away. The garrison could get supplies from the Clare side of the city so they were in no immediate danger. However, much to Ginkel’s surprise, the Irish requested a truce.
Maybe the French soldiers had enough of this country. Most of the Irish were professional soldiers and maybe they wanted to return to the continent to ply their trade. Whatever the reasons, negotiations began and ended with the infamous Treaty of Limerick.
Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan was chief negotiator on the Irish side and Ginkel led the Williamites. The basics were quickly agreed and the chief justices were brought to be signatories.
The terms of the treaty were in two parts, military articles and civil articles. The military articles were straight forward. What they amounted to was permission for the Irish and French soldiers to go to France and they were also given the option of joining the Williamite side. Over 10,000 soldiers, accompanied by women and children, sailed for France before the end of the year. Most sailed on ships provided by the English as part of the treaty but others sailed on the French fleet, which sailed up the Shannon in the weeks after the treaty had been signed.
The civil articles dealt with the civilian population of the country in the immediate aftermath of the war, particularly in matters of land ownership and religious tolerance.
Once the last of the soldiers had sailed from Ireland, the civil articles were totally ignored. Not only that but such were the objections to the articles by the Parliaments in London and Dublin that they ushered in the Penal Laws. This series of anti-Catholic laws, which went totally against everything agreed in the treaty, left the Catholic population of the country worse off than they had ever been.
It was said that the treaty was broken “ere the ink with which twere writ were dry” and reputedly, the Irish Brigade used “Remember Limerick” as their war cry when entering battle.
The Treaty of Limerick was signed by Ginkel, Sarsfield and their teams on October 3, 1691 – 319 years ago this week.


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