Then and Now

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The Independent Online
September 1996: Iraq has sent its armies into the country's northern, Kurdish region, which is nominally under the protection of the alliance of countries which won the Gulf War of 1991. Iraq justifies this action on the grounds that its forces were invited in by one of the leading Kurdish groups, the KDP, led by Massoud Barzani, which is at war with another group, the PUK.

May 1169: Norman soldiers landed in Ireland for the first time, the advance guard for what became the English conquest of the country. The reason and the justification for their intervention in Irish affairs was an invitation from an Irishman, Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster. MacMurrough had been displaced from his throne some years earlier after running off with another man's wife. Desperate to re-establish himself, he visited the court of Henry II of England to ask for help. He offered, in exchange, to rule in his country as Henry's vassal. Henry was not interested but he gave MacMurrough permission to recruit allies from among his noblemen. So it was that in 1169, some 2,000 Norman soldiers - mostly from Wales - crossed the Irish sea to fight MacMurrough's enemies. MacMurrough gave his daughter in marriage to the Norman commander, Richard de Clare, or "Strongbow", but he soon found he had no power to control the force he had unleashed. So successful were the intruders - in the 12th century little could stop a Norman knight - that in 1171 Henry himself felt obliged to take an army to Ireland to establish royal control over his subjects' ample conquests. As for MacMurrough, he fell ill and died, passing into history and legend as the man who, for greed, betrayed his country to the English. One Irish chronicler wrote bitterly of this King of Leinster "by whom a trembling sod was made of all Ireland", and noted with satisfaction that he "died of an unsufferable and unknown disease". Another noted the date of MacMurrough's passing and wrote simply: "Thenceforward is the miserable reign of the Saxons. Amen, amen."