Successive attempts to re-conquer Ireland from Dublin and England met with little success but led to vast expenditure. Finally, during the fifteenth century, the English government of Ireland retreated into the Pale * in a desperate attempt to preserve power. The Pale became heavily fortified to this purpose. Dublin realised re-conquest and centralised rule over all of Ireland was now impossible and power became divided between the Gaelic lords, the great Anglo-Irish families and the Dublin government. The Anglo- Irish were crucial in maintaining the lordship. They had become self-reliant and partly Gaelicised (this was precisely what the Statutes of Kilkenny in 1366 had aimed to prevent). Some, such as the Butlers and the Geraldines, were ambitious enough to attempt to create a puppet-lordship over the Dublin government for their own interests.

* [Southern counties of Dublin, Meath, Kildare and Louth]>

When Richard of York arrived in Ireland in 1449 as chief governor for the mad king Henry VI, and also heir to great lordships in Connaught and Ulster, he worked to exploit Ireland and ally the great Anglo- Irish families to his house, engaged in the Wars of the Roses with the Lancastrians. On his return to England and attempt to usurp power, Richard's Irish alliances proved useful.

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