Exactly one century ago Irish socialist James Connolly's Labour in Irish History described native Irish society as pre-capitalist communalism, an egalitarian society with tribal ownership of the land:
The Irish chief, although recognised in the courts of France, Spain, and Rome, as the peer of the reigning princes of Europe, in reality held his position upon the sufferance of his people, and as an administrator of the tribal affairs of his people, while the land or territory of the clan was entirely removed from his private jurisdiction. In the parts of Ireland where for 400 years after the first conquest (so-called) the English governors could not penetrate except at the head of a powerful army, the social order which prevailed in England – feudalism – was unknown, and as this comprised the greater portion of the country, it gradually came to be understood that the war against the foreign oppressor was also a war against private property in land.
Here Connelly is uniting his own socialist beliefs with the anti-English nationalism that was popular at the time. For him, rejection of British rule was one with the rejection of capitalism and private ownership of the land. The egalitarian nature of pre-Norman Ireland was a justification for the creation of a modern socialist, nationalist Ireland.
Odd, then, than in 1973 Murray N. Rothbard's pro-capitalist, anti-state book For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto used pre-Norman Ireland for precisely the opposite reason, as a state-less anarchy of private property and a historical example to bolster support for modern capitalist anarchy:
And this was also a society where not only the courts and the law were largely libertarian, but where they operated within a purely state-less and libertarian society. This was ancient Ireland — an Ireland which persisted in this libertarian path for roughly a thousand years until its brutal conquest by England in the seventeenth century....
For a thousand years, then, ancient Celtic Ireland had no State or anything like it. As the leading authority on ancient Irish law has written: "There was no legislature, no bailiffs, no police, no public enforcement of justice . . . . There was no trace of State-administered justice...."
There were occasional "wars," to be sure, in the thousand years of Celtic Ireland, but they were minor brawls, negligible compared to the devastating wars that racked the rest of Europe. As Professor Peden points out, "without the coercive apparatus of the State which can through taxation and conscription mobilize large amounts of arms and manpower, the Irish were unable to sustain any large scale military force in the field for any length of time. Irish wars . . . were pitiful brawls and cattle raids by European standards."
So which was it: socialist paradise or anarchist Utopia? Either way pre-Norman Irish tribalism failed to defend itself from Norman and English conquest, making it a questionable example for a secure modern society. Advocates of political ideologies who back-fit modern narratives onto ancient historical societies and events might be tinkering with the truth just a bit. Be wary of that.