On leaving France, Dermot McMurrough sought the assistance of Richard Fitzgilbert de Clare, a powerful Norman leader in Wales. Known as ‘Strongbow’ he drove a hard bargain. Yes, he would lead an expedition to Ireland that would restore Dermot MacMurrough to power but on condition that he could marry Aoife, the king’s eldest daughter, and that the right of succession in Leinster would pass to him and his heirs.
Strongbow sent a small advance guard of less than 100. They dug in on the Wexford coast and a large force of Irish and Norse marched against them from Waterford. Before the Irish had time to regroup, the Norman’s burst forth and the Irish were routed.
Subsequently, Strongbow and his army landed and joined forces with the advance party. Together they marched on Waterford and marched on Dublin. It wasn’t long before the city was in their hands.
On returning to Dublin, Strongbow now found the city under siege from a large Irish army, supported at sea by the Norse. The Irish were taken by surprise when the Normans attacked while O’Connor and many of his men were bathing in the River Liffey. This led to the siege being lifted – the Normans had achieved a significant victory over both the Irish and the Norse.
These events had not gone unnoticed in France where King Henry II suddenly realized that if Strongbow were to establish a strong independent Kingdom in Ireland, this could be a threat to his own supremacy. He landed in Waterford in October 1171 with a strong force of soldiers and marched up through the country, where the Normans, the Norse and the Irish had little choice but to submit to them.
The conquest of the southern part of the country was begun by John de Courcy, who, with about 300 knights from the Dublin garrison, captured Downpatrick, capital of the ancient Kingdom of Ulidia from which the province of Ulster gets it’s name.
Photo: Wexford Coast – Photography by Royston Palmer