Ah "The Luck of the Irish." Has a crueler phrase ever been coined? The sad truth is, the Irish are about as unlucky as a race can be while, you know, still being white.
While we may all be a little Irish on Saint Patrick's day, after this little history lesson you'll be grateful you no longer have to be Irish once your liver has filtered the green food dye out of your system (and if you actually are Irish, well, we're sorry).
Historically the best protection a civilization can have against invasion is to be located on an island. Just look at Japan. Until being occupied by America following World War II (USA! USA!) it had never been successfully invaded (although you could argue the high density of ninjas in the country had something to do with it).
At any rate Ireland is an island, they should have had it made, right?
But what if around the 8th century a civilization living not far from Ireland were to develop a culture based on seafaring warfare, piracy and sporty horned helmets? Oh shit ...
... here come the Vikings.
The Vikings' modus operandi was to attack exclusively from the sea, pillage, rape and burn then sail off while trading hearty high fives and congratulatory butt slaps. In other words Ireland being an island nation, something traditionally of great advantage, ended up being a first-night-sober-after-an-alcoholic-binge sized nightmare.
Today we have a fairly harmless image of Vikings (due to the poor research that goes into Hagar the Horrible) but trust us when we tell you that the real Vikings were grade-A dicks. They were basically the bullies of the middle ages, and like that poor red-headed kid that spent most of middle school stuffed in his locker, the Irish were the Vikings' favorite targets and spent over 200 years being metaphorically swirlied.
Speaking of red hair ...
In the Middle Ages, red hair was thought to mean you were a witch, werewolf or a vampire, so apparently there was a time in history other than our own where the sight of David Caruso would have been considered the ultimate horror. For other stretches in history, red hair was believed to mean one was surely a whore or had a wicked awful temper (later research has shown only around 60% of redheads are angry whores).
And even if you didn't fall victim to the superstitious associations with the world's rarest hair color, you certainly wouldn't enjoy some of the crappier consequences of having low levels of dark pigmentation. Like burning to a blistered, bubbly crisp when spending 15 minutes in the sun. Or ending a day at the beach with ungodly spots all over your face and ears and back and shoulders.
And if Al Gore knows what he's talking about at all, most of the world's redheads should be constructing a vast underground bunker for themselves as we speak, if they know what's good for them.
Of course this would only sort of suck if these creatures, most vulnerable to the rays of our otherwise life-giving sun, weren't also the most sensitive to pain. Seriously. By the way, which country has the world's highest concentration of redheads? Oh right, Ireland. We suppose it has a better ring to it than "God hates Irish people" but as far as appropriate national slogans go, "The luck of the Irish" isn't far behind "The easy and high paying jobs of the Mexicans."
Folks really seem to love the Tudors, the English dynasty that ruled England from 1485 to 1603 and included monarchs like King Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. You seemingly can't swing Anne Boleyn's decapitated head without hitting a new TV show or movie starring either Henry VIII or Elizabeth, most of which focus on what Henry's penis happened to be doing while he was king or how Elizabeth made it in a man's world baby. But what was arguably the Tudor's favorite pastime is almost always overlooked. What was that you ask? Why brutally suppressing Ireland and trying to wipe out Irish culture of course!
Yes, once again Lady Luck had pissed in the Irish's stew. The Tudor line came to power when Henry VII defeated Richard III in the War of the Roses (a war that was a lot longer, more bitter and bloody than it's fruity name implies) and true to form the Irish had supported the losing side. Whoops.
From that point on the Tudors saw Ireland as a possible threat and a geographically vulnerable location. So they spent the next 100-years or so violently beating on the Irish like Moe on Curly.
Elizabeth in particular, contrary to the heroic soft-lit portrayal of her you see in the two "Elizabeth" movies, was one supreme bitch when it came to Irish. While trying to subdue Ireland, Elizabeth ordered the English to use scorched-earth tactics, burning the land and slaughtering man, woman and child. This caused widespead famine and countless thousands died from starvation alone.
She also set up plantations across Ireland populated with Protestant English settlers, the idea being that these would be the seeds from which English Protestantism would spring forth and overtake traditional Irish Catholic culture. What could go wrong with that?