The course of the 1641 Rebellion
The plan to seize Dublin Castle failed but Sir Phelim O’Neill, nephew of Hugh O’Neill, second earl of Tyrone, seized as number of key strongholds across south Ulster. Under severe pressure from government forces, the rebels increasingly relied on the support of the dispossessed Irish, who had a more radical agenda to overturn the entire plantation settlement.
In addition, shortly after the discovery of the Dublin plot the Lord Justices publicly blamed all ‘ill-affected papists in Ireland’ for the rebellion. This anti-Catholic rhetoric now prompted members of the Catholic Old English community to join the rebellion of Ulster Irish in the name of the king. In November 1641, at a choreographed meeting at the Hill of Crofty, near Trim in County Meath, leaders of the Old English and Ulster Irish communities formed a new catholic alliance to coordinate their military efforts.
Initially, the war went badly for the rebels, as government troops, reinforced from Scotland and England, won a number of important victories. In August 1642, the outbreak of the civil war in England prevented further supplies reaching Ireland. As the government counter-attack ground to a halt, the Catholics gained vital breathing space to formalise their alliance in the confederate association, based in Kilkenny. For the next seven years, until the arrival of Oliver Cromwell in 1649, an indecisive, yet bloody conflict devastated much of the country.