Poyning’s Law

Poynings’ Law to the Plantation of Inishowen

To understand our history from the point of view of the native Irish, it is necessary to go back to 1494 and Poynings’ Law.  Henry VII’s new viceroy, Edward Poynings, summoned the Irish Parliament to Drogheda at the end of 1494 and passed legislation that made it subservient to the British Parliament. Henceforth, the Irish Parliament could not be summoned without the knowledge and agreement of the king, and all its proposed laws had to be submitted to him for approval.

At the beginning of his reign Henry VIII demanded the allegiance of Ireland but realised that a military presence alone was not sufficient to maintain control of the territory. They would have to build castles and other defences in each area they conquered and follow up with a colonisation of English people. It was also recommended that the Irish Church come under the control of the English Church and be anglicised so that it would not stand in the way of the English plan. None of these recommendations were acted upon, since they were considered too expensive.  However after his divorce, rejected by the Pope, and marriage to Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII regarded loyalty to Rome as disloyalty to his own authority and the Roman Catholic Church was no longer acceptable in England.

It was during Henry VIII’s reign that religion became for the first time a major cause of strife and division in Ireland. The Normans and the Gaels had up to now professed the same faith. The dissolution of the monasteries in Ireland from 1536-1540 provided Henry with extensive church land to reward English lords,  officials and soldiers to extend the Pale  and to begin the colonisation  of Ireland.  These extensive church lands were given to English Protestants to take control from the Catholic Gaelic native population. In 1541 Henry VIII was declared King of Ireland by the subservient Irish Parliament.  Subsequent rulers intensified  efforts to install plantations in Leinster  (Queen Mary) and Munster ( Queen  Elizabeth ) forcing the Irish chieftains  ‘to surrender and re-grant’ their own land.   

During the second half of the 16th century Leinster, Munster along with Connaught were subdivided for administrative purposes into the counties that exist today. Gaelic Ulster was the only province to stand its ground.  The death of Shane O Neill left the way open for Hugh O Neill to succeed him. He built up a series of significant alliances with the major Gaelic families of Ulster, but Elizabeth was determined to subdue them. Initially the armies O Neill and O Donnell won many battles against the Crown forces  but the defeat of  at  the Battle of Kinsale was a disaster.  The Earls left Rathmullan on 1607  to seek help on the Continent  bringing to an end  the old Gaelic Order and  the plantation of Ulster ensued.   The unsuccessful rebellion of Cahir O Doherty in 1608 left the way open for King James I to implement a  more radical plantation of the six escheated counties (Donegal,  Tyrone, Fermanagh, Cavan, Armagh and twelve  London Companies   were given Co. Londonderry).

County Donegal like the other escheated counties was granted to undertakers, servitors and native Irish but the Barony of Inishowen was an exception. It was granted to Arthur Chichester, the Lord Lieutenant, for his part in the suppression of the O Doherty rebellion. He was not bound by the same regulations as Ulster Plantation undertakers so he planted the peninsula with army officers ( Hart, Vaughan,) and family relatives  ( Cary) who settled  there and extended their holdings in the following centuries.