In 1366 c.e. the Anglo-Irish parliament met in Kilkenny and produced a body of royal decrees that became known as the Statutes of Kilkenny. The statutes aimed to prevent English colonists living in Ireland from adopting Irish culture and mandated that the Irish conform to English customs before they could obtain certain social, legal, and religious rights.
In particular, the statutes prohibited marriage between English and Irish; ordered the English to reject Irish names, customs, and law; prohibited the Irish from holding positions in English churches; and limited the mobility of peasant labourers. The statutes also sought to prevent the colonists from waging war without the consent of the English Crown.
Other statutes required that the English in Ireland be governed by English common law, instead of the Irish March law or Brehon law and ensured the separation of the Irish and English churches by requiring that ‘no Irishman of the nations of the Irish be admitted into any cathedral or collegiate church … amongst the English of the land’.
Penalties for noncompliance were severe and included death, loss of property, and excommunication. Although they were not ultimately successful, the Statutes of Kilkenny foreshadowed the continuously troubled relationship between England and Ireland in the following centuries.
England’s involvement with Ireland followed from the Norman (French) defeat of the English at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. After occupying England the Normans’ proximity to Ireland naturally led to involvement with their neighbouring country. Ironically, an Irishman helped pave the way for English occupation.
Photo: Aerial view of Kilkenny Castle, Frank Kavanaugh Photography