- For the area, see Ireland (area).
Ireland is a formable nation in the British Isles. It is usually created from one of the eight Irish OPMs, and is a good step up for them. Unlike many other formable nations, however, it does not guarantee being anything more than a regional power. With only five provinces that the formation affects, Ireland can be one of the weaker nations. That said, it does have a chance to be strong, especially in the New World.
Form Irish Nation
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For decades England has attempted to subjugate the Irish population and take control of the island. To unite the Irish lands under a sole flag may be our only chance to repel them.
As of version 1.16, Ireland has been divided into many more provinces. This presents additional opportunities as well as challenges for any Irish minor with ambitions to unite the Emerald Isle.
Forming as an Irish minor
Desmond starts off with a unique set of national ideas, a semi-decent ruler and a more defensible location. Alternatively, Thomond, despite its starting ruler, is a good candidate for a colonial game: its unique ideas give an early boost to diplomatic reputation (making alliances with major powers that little bit easier) while later on, your colonies will benefit from Thomond's additional settler growth.
Whichever you pick, the fastest way to unite Ireland will be through highly aggressive expansion from day one. Before you unpause, purchase an additional cavalry and infantry unit and rival one of your neighbors (only one, since rivaling others before you're ready to attack them increases the likelihood of them forming defensive alliances). Take the mission for a free claim and conquest CB against them. You can declare war as soon as your new troops are ready.
Repeat this process for each of your Irish neighbours in quick succession. Being smart with your diplomats and construction of spy networks will let you fabricate claims (for those you didn't get a mission for), rival, and DOW so quickly they won't have time to prepare. You want the wars to be as rapid as possible, so use your trade fleet to blockade and reduce siege times. In the piece deals, go for annexation and gold. You inflation will shoot up, but the gold will help you pay for mercenaries so that you don't entirely deplete your manpower. You'll also need a war kitty soon for striking at England to recover the Pale.
Speed is key in all this because Tyrone, Ulster, and Leinster often get vassalised early by England (or Scotland), so pushing north/east initially can secure them before this happens. Inevitably, however, at least one will escape your grasp. But with this strategy you can own everything but the Pale and possibly one (or two) other provinces in just a few years.
While you've been doing this, ideally you're boosting relations with and allying Scotland and France in turn. This makes for a tight defensive triangle that means England will not attack you, even with the aggressive expansion you'll accumulate from your brutal opening moves.
Now just wait, because in five years or less the odds are that England will face wars on multiple fronts as well as rebels at home. Keep an eye on their troops/manpower levels in the ledger. Strike when they're weak. It's unlikely you'll be able to call in allies but this is probably unnecessary anyway. England will, nonetheless, most likely still land a 10K stack of troops in Ireland (even if they're all mercs) so be ready. Your cash reserves from earlier conquests come into play here, so grab the mercs you need. England's abysmal starting ruler means you're probably ahead on Military Technology so you shouldn't have a problem.
Sit on the wargoal, peace-out with England's Irish vassals (full annexation) and you'll quickly find you have the warscore necessary to take the Pale from them. It's tempting to hold out for gold etc but be careful, as England can make peace in its other wars without warning, and suddenly you'll find they're rejecting even a generous peace offer and shipping thousands of troops your way. Hopefully you played it well though and you now have all the Irish provinces.
It will still be a while before you hit admin tech 10 and form Ireland, but in the meantime you will want to decide whether you go for a colonial game (taking exploration ideas) or alternatively go for quality ideas and invade England (as of 1.16.2 the 'Luck of the Irish' achievement is available for the new Irish minors). The current state of England, militarily and diplomatically, will inform this decision, as will your own play-style.
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One of the fairly unique advantages to playing as an Irish minor is proximity to the virgin territory of the Americas. If attacking England is not an option the Irish can flee to the New World. Having a capital outside Europe as a Western country provides a huge advantage: every colonized province on that continent will start with no autonomy and will not form colonial nations. However, only single province countries are allowed to move their capitals to a different continent. This can be worked around by releasing one of the other minors as a vassal and selling them any European provinces once there is a foothold on another continent. Colonial nations will form after coring five provinces in one colonial region so move the capital before that.
Only Connacht can get sufficient colonial range at diplomatic tech level 7 to reach Greenland without a Navigator advisor (and with a navigator their first colony can be in Newfoundland). Since Scotland will rival Norway it may be possible to take and core an Icelandic province and skip the Greenland colony. Any location in Gulf of St Lawrence makes a good capital, as trade can be transferred there from anywhere in North America. The Caribbean has the highest base tax and is guaranteed to have rich trade goods. Be wary of setting up in a location that will soon put Ireland in proximity to Spain or Portugal as they will not be shy about attacking when Ireland is still small.
With this route, England might follow in Irish footsteps and start colonizing near. Remember to seize a not-fully developed colony in a war then send a colonist there to automatically change religion and culture. Be wary of the English navy and the possibility of England sending transports across the Atlantic Ocean. Settling in a few locations can minimize the harm they can do.
Be patient, build up to force limits, manpower and income, and strike back when ready. The key is to be patient and to strike back only when stronger army and manpower wise.