“God made them as stubble to our swords.” –Oliver Cromwell
Cromwell was a viciously effective soldier and rabid anti-Catholic is without question. That he killed thousands of Irish is without question. Apologists of the Lord Protector say, that his tactics were “the norm” for warfare in the 1600s. Intriguingly, the most hated and reviled man in Irish history regularly features in lists of great Englishmen of all time, mainly because he is often perceived as the Father of English democracy.
Cromwell told dispossessed Irish landowners and Catholics that they could go to “Hell or Connacht.” (Connacht is the western province of Ireland, which the Irish Tourist Board will tell you accurately is one of the most beautiful places on earth. However, poor and relatively barren land, particularly at that time, offered little sustenance and opportunity for dwellers.)
In August 1649, Cromwell and 12,000 soldiers arrived in Ireland. During the next ten years of bloodshed it is estimated that about a third of the population was either killed or died of starvation. The majority of Roman Catholics who owned land had it taken away from them and were removed to the barren province of Connacht. Mass evictions, killings and the deportation of over 50,000 men, women and children as prisoners of war and indentured servants to Bermuda and Barbados continued after Cromwell left Ireland.
The land taken from the Catholics by Cromwell was given to the Protestant soldiers who had taken part in the campaign. Before the rebellion in 1641, Catholics owned 59% of the land in Ireland. By the time Cromwell left in 1650 the proportion had shrunk to 22%.
Image | Oliver Cromwell by Samuel Cooper