a tale of two
A comparison of the Treaty of Limerick and
the Treaty of Waitangi with reference to implications for economic and
cultural well-being of the respective indigenous peoples of Ireland
and New Zealand
George Lusty, School of Communication,
Waikato Institute of Technology, November 2006
As a New Zealander of European descent, my family’s history only
goes back in New Zealand as far as the 1850s, then reverts to Europe.
Although identifying as an ethnic New Zealander, much of my cultural
heritage stems from overseas. In researching my own cultural roots,
especially those of Ireland, I have found strong parallels between the
colonial histories of both countries. Although the dates and the indigenous
peoples may be very different, the colonial policies and the effects
on those peoples have been remarkably similar.
It is my view that there are cultural, political and economic parallels
between Irish and New Zealand societies because they both have indigenous
cultures with civil rights and cultural maintenance issues. They have
both been highly influenced by British settlement. They are both island
nations of similar populations that rely on the skills of their peoples
for economic well-being based on export-driven economies. Because of
these similarities, a comparison of the two counties may shed some light
on current cultural, political and economic issues.
The first people settled in Ireland in about 4,000 BC, relatively late
in European terms, with the Celtic people arriving from Europe up to
about 300 BC. According to Celtic tradition, the original people were
Tuatha de Danann, the children of Danu. These are taken to be real people
although they are shrouded in myth. After the Celtic or Irish people
settled there were successive waves of invasion, notably from the Vikings,
Normans and English. These new cultures all made fundamental changes
to Irish society.
One major change was initiated by the Williamite wars, which resulted
in the signing of the Treaty of Limerick in 1691, several articles of
which were to written to protect the land rights and religious freedoms
of the native Irish people. However, the land confiscation was rigorously
applied against those who left Ireland and the penal laws from 1695
onwards, although clearly in breach of the religious articles of the
Treaty, reduced Catholic owned land to about 5 per cent of the whole
by the 1780s.
However, after hundreds of years of overseas rule, most of the island
gained independence in 1922. After a period of little economic growth,
by the 1950s prosperity was increasing. Major economic change started
with the entry of Ireland into the EEC in 1972 and the tripartite agreement
between the state, business and the unions which encouraged economic
Each of these historic processes has had profound effects on the indigenous
cultures with concurrent political and economic effects.
Aotearoa/New Zealand was discovered relatively recently. In about 950
AD the first Polynesian people arrived, with the main migration in about
1130 AD. These people, the greatest navigators in the world at the time,
became known as Maori. In 1642 the first European, Abel Tasman arrived,
followed in 1769 by James Cook. European immigration started in the
late 1700s, reaching a population of about 3,000 by 1840, when the Treaty
of Waitangi was signed between the Indigenous people and the British
Crown. The European population soon rose rapidly, and in the 1860s serious
wars broke out between the Crown and Maori wishing to retain the chieftainship
over their land. Well over a million acres of land was confiscated by
the Crown, leading to impoverishment of Maori people.
In 1975, the Treaty Waitangi Act (1975) was passed by Parliament to
create the Waitangi Tribunal to hear cases where the current actions
or omissions by the Crown were in breach of articles of the Treaty.
In 1985 this Act was made retrospective to 1840, when the Treaty was
signed. Since then, reparations of money, land and tribal authority
have been made.
Since the late 1960s there has been a resurgence of Maori language and
culture and Maori has been made an official language of Aotearoa New
Zealand. In the late1980s, the New Zealand economy was restructured,
on monetarist lines with Maori people taking much of the brunt of the
changes. Since the 1990s, large numbers of immigrants have come in,
mainly from China and New Zealand is now being seen as multicultural,
rather than bicultural.
The export-led New Zealand economy has been developing well, which has
increased the general level of prosperity in the country, although regional
and racial disparities remain.
An examination of historical events in more detail, shows interesting
comparisons in the development of New Zealand and Ireland. Up to the
790s, Ireland was almost exclusively settled by the Irish branch of
the Gaelic family of peoples. They had an aristocratic tribal, pastoral
and agricultural lifestyle, with a system of minor and major kingdoms,
which fluctuated fluidly, depending on the personal attributes of the
incumbents. It is difficult to ascertain the exact nature of the original
peoples, but the material culture evolved gradually from neolithic to
bronze and iron age over about 5,000 years.
Of course one major event was the arrival of Saint Patrick in 432 AD.
St Patrick was not the first Christian missionary to Ireland, but was
certainly the most effective. The Western Roman Empire was defunct at
this time, but St Patrick, as a Romanised Briton, had centuries of civilisation
and Christianity behind him. Although Ireland remained very tribal,
the Christian tradition had a huge impact, especially in making Irish
the oldest written western European language. Most of the early writing
was Christian, or written by clerics in beautifully illuminated manuscripts.
Ireland became the centre of learning of western Europe for several
centuries. Irish material and trading culture was also highly developed,
especially around Limerick, where beautiful intricate artefacts of gold,
silver and bronze were made.
The first major disruption to Irish high culture came with the arrival
of the Viking raiders in 795 AD. The Vikings had excellent ships that
could land on shallow beaches or travel up rivers, suddenly raid and
depart. Churches were natural targets as they were the main depositories
of material wealth. At the same time many cultural treasures, especially
fine metalwork and illuminated manuscripts were either stolen or destroyed.
By 828 AD chroniclers report that Vikings had over-run Ireland. However
it must be remembered that although the Viking raids were devastating,
that most of the raids on church property were in fact carried out by
native Irish. By 841 Viking culture had changed. Because of increased
resistance to their raids, and because of the supremacy of their ships,
most Vikings had become settled, focusing on local and international
trade. It was the Vikings who built Ireland’s first cities, Dublin,
Limerick, Waterford, and Wexford. Dublin became an independent Viking
kingdom, often working in close liaison with the neighbouring Irish
kingdom of Leinster. (O Corrain 1986).
It was in this turbulent time that Brian Mac Cinneide of blessed memory
was born at Killaloe beside Lough Derg, in 941 AD. As the youngest son
of the king of the Dal gCais, he had potential for leadership. He grew
into a tall well-educated and very charismatic man. Although the Dal
gCass were a minor power, through Brian’s efforts, he eventually
became the king of Munster, being crowned at Cashel of the Kings in
978AD. Through military power, he eventually staged a bloodless coup,
displacing the Ui Neill line to become High King of Ireland. His intention
was not just to become king in name only, but to unify Ireland in the
European style as one people under one coherent government. Unfortunately
in 1014 his kingdom was beset by division, and although at the Battle
of Clontarf, Brian destroyed once and for all Viking military ambitions,
he himself was killed at the age of 73. His oldest sons and grandson
were also killed, defeating his desire for a united Ireland. (Weir,
1169 marks the start of the second major disruption of Irish culture
with the arrival of Norman mercenaries in Ireland at the request of
the King of Leinster. The mercenaries have been variously described
as Norman, English, and Cambro-Norman, as they actually came from Wales
and were French-speaking. However, the events of 1169 gave the Plantagenet
kings of England, the opportunity they were looking for to gain a foothold
in Ireland. Over the next hundred years, Norman influence became widespread.
Major impacts on Irish culture were the bringing of the native Irish
church under the discipline of Rome and the abolition of the native
Brehon laws. As the Brehon laws were only allowed to be administered
by certain elite tribes, these tribes had to be suppressed also. Another
effect was the introduction of strict patriarchy and the suppression
of women’s rights. (Richter, 1986)
Many years later, on a September night in 1607, the Earls of Tyrconnell
and Tyrone with ninety seven of their close families and supporters
suddenly fled Ireland to go to France. This sudden event dealt a body
blow to confidence of the ethnic Irish, as they had lost two of their
most important figureheads and many of their other leaders. People have
been at a loss to explain the cause of the sudden ‘flight of the
earls’, but it seems that they were unable to face up to life
under the constraints of the strict rule and surveillance instituted
by Queen Elizabeth. As Mac Curtain (1986) says, all flight is a diminishment
of inner power. When the older civilisation was challenged by a newer,
self-confident one, identity became troubled. In a sense, conquest can
be seen as a modernising force that releases traditional restraints
on the use of land and gives a freer response to market demands. However,
the economic expansion conceals the losses of the many compared with
the gains of a few. Ulster had suffered a shock to its confidence and
had become confused about its roots, one of which was its Gaelic past.
The Earls who fled in 1607, started the diaspora, which continued unabated
until the 1960s. (Mac Curtain).
The power vacuum left served Charles II very well in 1660 when he furthered
the policy of James I regarding the policy of the plantation of Scottish
and English settlers in order to replace the recalcitrant Irish with
more loyal followers. For hundreds of years there had been voluntary
migration between the north east of Ireland and the west of Scotland,
a response to opportunities, rather than government inducements. However
there were leaders and followers and the processes were often orderly,
with the creation of estates, villages, towns and markets. In the sixteenth
century, the principles of colonisation or ‘plantation’,
became much more rigorous and structured. With Ulster in particular,
government intention became the Anglicising or ‘civilising’
Three basic principles were established: … first, that the settler
communities should faithfully recreate the structure of rural England,
a numerical model of which was devised, specifying the exact mix of
freeholders, copyholders, leaseholders, cottiers, artisans and others
required to achieve the ideal social profile on each estate: second
that these communities should be absolutely segregated from all contact
with the natives; and third, that settlers should be Protestants of
English birth. The intention was not merely to establish areas of control
and support, but to provide a model of civilised practice which would
persuade by its manifest superiority, and leaven the Irish mass by the
example of its success. (Clarke 1986).
This was a frank recognition that conquest and control must involve
disowning the original settlers, which was reinforced by confiscations
and the penal laws. Plantation historians wrote lyrically of the sturdy,
hard-working, self-disciplined virtues of their ancestors, while fixed
boundaries and new property laws constrained the Irish, many of whom
were to choose exile. Those who remained were hemmed in by fences and
leases where they had formerly moved freely with their cattle. In the
first phase settlers and natives lived side by side, but a slow sorting
out process soon commenced, prime settlement areas were identified and
the Irish forced onto inferior lands. In 1660, the British government
also assigned inferior status to the more numerous Scottish Presbyterian
settlers who then had to suffer both religious and civil disabilities.
Although plantation had failed in its original terms of reference, its
effect was to free the way for a migratory flow, which produced a more
complex, vigorous and resilient society. At the higher level of society,
the settlers became a privileged and propertied minority, separated
from the rest of society by social class and economic circumstances.
Their ascendancy was expressed by their ownership of the means of production.
At the lower end of the social scale, religion and ethnic affinity became
the proud badges of settler superiority over the natives who they actually
differed little from in terms of material circumstances. (Clarke 1986).
Irish people have had the misfortune to be involved in larger world
events, including problems arising from the replacement of the Catholic
Stuarts by the Protestant house of Orange. The English parliament had
become increasingly dissatisfied with being ruled by the Catholic James
II, and replaced him with his daughter Mary and her husband and first
cousin, William of Orange. James II fled to France, and the Irish people
took the Catholic, Jacobite cause in the hope of restoring their independence
and their lands. This lead to the Williamite wars, with the English
and Dutch on one side and the Irish and French on the other. The concluding
battle took place in Limerick, 1691, where the Treaty of Limerick written
by Baron Godert de Ginkel was signed.
The treaty articles are of two types; 27 short term military articles
for the resolution of the war and 13 civil articles guaranteeing the
property and religious rights of the native Irish who chose to stay
in Ireland. Many of the Irish leaders chose to leave Ireland and fight
on the side of the French king – for those people their lands
and properties were forfeit. For those who chose to stay, the following
civil articles applied:
1. The Roman Catholics of this kingdom shall enjoy such privileges
in the exercise of their religion as are consistent with the laws of
Ireland, or as they did enjoy in the reign of King Charles the second:
and their majesties, as soon as their affairs will permit them to summon
a parliament in this kingdom, will endeavour to procure the said Roman
Catholics such farther security in that particular, as may preserve
them from any disturbance upon the account of their said religion.
2. All the inhabitants or residents of Limerick, or any other garrison
now in possession of the Irish … or [who] have taken protection
and who shall return and submit to their majesties obedience, and their
and every of their heirs, shall hold, possess, and enjoy all and every
their estates of freehold and inheritance, and all the rights, titles
and interests, privileges and immunities, which they and every or any
of them held, enjoyed, or were rightfully and lawfully entitled to in
the reign of king Charles II. … and all persons comprehended in
this article shall have, hold, and enjoy all their goods and chattels,
real and personal…provided … that no person … shall
… refuse to take the oath of allegiance, made by act of parliament
in England, in the first year of the reign of their present majesties,
when thereunto required.
(Accessed from University College Cork, Corpus of Electronic Texts /CELT)
Articles 3 through 13 give specific details in support of the above
Military articles 1 through 27 give detailed guarantees for the safe
evacuation of any Irish troops who wished to leave Ireland and go to
It is interesting to compare the circumstances and text of the Treaty
of Waitangi signed in 1840 between the British Crown and the indigenous
people of New Zealand.
Firstly, the circumstances were very different. The British Government
by 1840 had little desire to add further colonies to its empire as it
had found them a much more expensive alternative to free trade. In 1835,
it had agreed to protect the fledgling state of New Zealand as stated
in the Declaration of Independence (1835). However French and United
States influences were being extended to New Zealand, which were threatening
to British interests. Also very importantly the New Zealand Company,
had several shiploads of settlers on their way from England, to take
up land in New Zealand. Their company philosophy was very similar to
the plantation policies of Charles II. The British government foresaw
ensuing problems, and partly out of self interest and partly from an
intent to protect the interests of the Maori people of Aotearoa/New
Zealand, designed Treaty of Waitangi.
This treaty has both English and Maori language versions, a summary
of which are as follows:
Tiriti o Waitangi (translation) Treaty of Waitangi
Ko te Tuatahi
The Chiefs…give up to the Queen of England forever all the Governorship
(Kawanatanga) of their lands. Article the First
The Chiefs… cede to…the Queen of England, absolutely…all
the powers of Sovereignty…
Ko te Tuarua
The Queen [gives] to the Chiefs, the hapu and all the people of New
Zealand the full chieftainship (tino rangatiratanga) over their lands,
their villages and all their possessions (taonga: everything that is
held precious)… Article the Second
…the Queen…guarantees...to the chiefs and the tribes and
tribes and …families and individuals…full exclusive and
undisturbed possession of the Lands and Estates, Forests, Fisheries,
and other properties which they may collectively or individually possess…
Ko te Tuatoru
…The Queen…will give [the Maori people] all the same rights
as those of the people of England… Article the Third
…the Queen …imparts to [the Maori people]…all the
Rights and Privileges of
Ko te Tuawha
The Governor says that the several faiths (beliefs) of England, of the
Wesleyans, and of Rome, and also Maori custom, shall alike be protected
by him. Silent
A comparison of the two treaties brings out the following points:
The circumstances of the writing of the two treaties were very different;
The Treaty of Limerick was written to end a war, the Treaty of Waitangi
was written with the intention of preventing war.
Article One in the Treaty of Limerick is reflected by article Four in
the Treaty of Waitangi. This article was agreed to on the day of signing,
at Waitangi on 6 February 1840, and has important constitutional implications
for freedom of religion and custom, whether practiced publicly or in
private. New Zealand practice has been to be mainly tolerant and inclusive
of various faiths and beliefs. This tolerance may have stemmed from
this Article, or from a settler attitude of rejecting the divisions
that they had left behind in their former countries.
It is important to note that both the former leader of the opposition,
Bill English, and the Current Prime Minister, of New Zealand both deny
the validity or existence of Article Four, presumably because of the
implications to the government of being bound to actively protect Maori
In Ireland, de Ginkel’s conciliatory attitude to Roman Catholics
who were prepared to give their oath of allegiance to the Crown was
soundly rejected by both Irish and British parliaments, resulting in
breaches of the treaty in a series of punitive laws known as the penal
laws, which gave rise to centuries of serious problems.
Article Two of the Treaty of Limerick deals with property rights. These
are very similar in intention to Article Two of the Treaty of Waitangi.
It is demonstrable that the English were accustomed to writing these
kinds of articles as they are also similar intent to the civil liberties
guaranteed by Prince John in the Charter to Limerick of 1197. Ironically
it seems that monarchs needed to guarantee the civil rights and self
government of cities in order that they could become strong allies against
the hegemony of the aristocracy. (Lee 1997).
As previously stated, the civil articles Two to Thirteen of the Treaty
of Limerick give details of the implementation of Articles One and Two.
The Military articles One through Twenty-nine are interesting as they
propose a peaceful resolution of the war. Irish combatants had the choice
of swearing an oath of allegiance to the Crown, and retaining all their
properties and rights, or of safely removing themselves and their possessions
from the situation. For those people any remaining property was to be
confiscated by the Crown
This can be compared with the massive land confiscations in New Zealand
after the wars of the 1860s between the Crown and Maori tribes over
sovereignty and land ownership issues. In 1861 Governor Browne demanded
‘submission without reserve to the Queen’s sovereignty’
(in Orange 1994, p52). In effect, Maori had to swear an oath of allegiance
to the Queen, or have their lands confiscated. Given the choice of loyalty
to their own people, or loyalty to the Crown, most chose to refuse the
oath of allegiance, resulting in instant eviction and impoverishment
for themselves and their families.
On the positive side, articles Two and Three of the Treaty now have
more authority through the Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal, which in1985
was empowered to hear claims dating back to 1840. Many substantial settlements
have been made, but it is a matter of debate whether the settlements
have been very minimal, or whether they ‘have gone too far’.
Another point of interest is the debate in New Zealand about the differences
in Article One in the Maori and English versions. In Maori, the Chiefs
give Government (Kawanatanga: a regular pattern of decision-making)
to the Crown. In the English version, Maori cede Sovereignty (the right
to make and enforce laws) to the Crown. The interpretation of these
can be seen as being very different in intent and practice. Article
Two in the Maori version guarantees tino rangatiratanga (absolute chieftainship)
over all taonga (any possession or anything held precious). The interpretation
of these articles has lead to much contention. A compromised has been
reached, whereby the Crown has a duty to consult with Maori over anything
that may affect them. Tino rangatiratanga has been defined as Maori
control over Maori things in a Maori way. Of course issues arise over
what are Maori things. This debate is increased when one uses the Maori
text of the treaty. Taonga, can mean, a thing, a possession or anything
held precious. A bench-mark ruling was decided by the British Privy
Council establishing Maori language as a taonga. This was the first
no-material claim under the Treaty of Waitangi Act. This decision obliged
the government to actively protect Maori language through education
and through broadcast media. In the event, education of the language
and in the language is voluntary, although funded by the state. Some
money is allocated to Maori broadcast media, about 20% of the total
state public broadcast budget.
To a certain extent both treaties can be seen as constitutional documents,
setting precedents for the conduct of government. However, the Treaty
of Limerick does not guarantee cultural maintenance as such. The Treaty
of Waitangi, although obliging the state to actively protect Maori cultural
taonga, cannot force the great mass of people to actively comply. Ultimately
cultural maintenance depends on the choices of individual people. The
Irish State has made language learning compulsory, the New Zealand government
has decided that it should be optional.
Irish initiatives did not originate from government policy, but were
based on the will of the people to preserve their culture and restore
their sense of national identity.
The original Gaelic Leaguers saw themselves as conservationists whose
primary objective was to keep the Irish language spoken in Ireland,
by teaching the Irish language to those who knew none. This was an attempt
to stem the rapid abandonment of the language by a people determined
to achieve modernisation. According to Census figures; in 1841, immediately
before the Great Famine, about 50% of the population of over eight million
spoke Irish. Ten years later, in 1851, this had been reduced to 23.3%.
In 1891, only 14.5% claimed to be able to speak Irish.
In 1893 the Gaelic League, very concerned about this situation, promoted
the idea that all Irish people should become fluent in Irish. It successfully
campaigned for Irish to be fully accepted at all national primary schools
and for Irish-speaking children to be taught in their own language.
The cause became very popular, and a major victory was in 1899 when
Irish became a compulsory subject for those wanting to matriculate to
the National University of Ireland. This made in effect, Irish language
compulsory for all post-primary schools with students who needed this
qualification. After the Irish republic became independent in 1922,
Irish became compulsory in all primary and post-primary schools. However,
subsequent census figures showed that although the total number of people
claiming to speak Irish rose, the proportion of people speaking Irish
in the gaeltachtai, or Irish-speaking areas was continuing to fall.
What is also important to remember is that when people become bilingual
in these localities, they do not use both languages, but are ceasing
to speak Irish.
Thomas Davis asserted in The Nation, that ‘a people without a
language of its own is only half a nation’. In order to combat
the decline, the Gaelic League had set itself a monumental task, calling
for a tremendous love of the language. (McCartney1986).
From my personal observation, the Irish language is alive and well
to a certain extent. Some terms are used commonly, such a Taoiseach,
Tanaiste, bangarda and so on. On RTE One, there are quite a few bilingual
historical and cultural commentaries. TG4, the Irish language channel
has most of its programmes in Irish, with subtitles in English for the
pre-recorded programmes. All Irish school children are taught Irish
through primary and post primary schools. Irish radio stations demonstrate
real fluency in the language and a pride in traditional Irish music.
However, there are serious reservations about the success of these initiatives.
In spite of compulsory learning of the language, most people do not
speak it outside the class room. After years of study, all of the 8
year-old children I have asked do not know how to say ‘Hello’
in Irish. Most adults I have met have said that Irish is a very difficult
language to learn and confess to very little knowledge of it. The size
of the Gaeltachtai and the proportion of native speakers within is diminishing.
The fluent speakers seem to be mainly in middle age, with their children
seeing them as being quaint and old-fashioned.
What is the prognostication for the future likely to be? In the battle
for dominance, one language almost always wins. This is based on the
need for people to communicate clearly with each other on an everyday
basis. In the European parliament in Strasbourg, the official language
is French, but in the Eurovision Song Contest, almost all of the songs
were sung entirely in English, with the Eastern Europeans singing in
their native language for part of the songs. The fact is, for most people
it is simpler to use English in an international situation. English
then, has a tremendous status in Ireland as the main language of everyday
national and international use.
It has been said that it is not the actual use of the language, but
the mythology around the language that is important. In Ireland, all
legal notices must be in Irish to be valid, including those regarding
driving offences and notices on building sites. Throughout the country,
feis and ceilidhs are regularly held, and together with singing pubs
are very popular. Gaelic sports such as Hurley and Gaelic football are
holding their own. Hurley/shinty matches are held with Scotland and
International Rules football with Australia.
There is manifest pride of the Irish in their own culture, with Saint
Patrick’s Day celebrated by parades in every town in the State.
The recent triumphs of Munster rugby has been seen as a triumph of ‘the
high kings of Ireland’. In the final of the Heineken European
cup, the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff held 60,000 Munster supporters
and 1,500 from Biarritz. Munster is held to have a loyalty from its
supporters second to none, the supporters being known as the ‘16th
man’ on the team.
In New Zealand, various efforts have been made to preserve Maori language
and culture and enhance the economic well-being of the people. Initiatives
such as wananga (schools of learning), the Kohanga Reo or language nest
movement, primary and post-primary schools in which Maori is the language
of instruction and in which Maori culture predominates. New Zealand
now has a dedicated Maori television channel as well as a proportion
of Maori and cultural programmes on TV One. Although, as in Ireland,
the native speaking communities are shrinking, there is a whole section
of society who are very proud of their cultural traditions. People may
mainly speak English, but they identify as Maori, with Maori values,
customs and beliefs. Non-Maori New Zealanders have some knowledge of
Maori customs and beliefs, with the haka becoming almost compulsory
for international sporting events. The New Zealand National anthem,
written by Irishman Thomas Bracken is now sung in both English and Maori.
It is now inconceivable that it be sung in just one language.
As for the future of the Maori and Irish cultures, they remain in the
care of the hands and hearts of the people themselves.
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