Why was England so interested in conquering Ireland?
I think that the question is somewhat anachronistic.  The conquest of Ireland in the 1100s wasn't really "English" -- it was Norman.  The Normans were a group of Vikings who first conquered Normandy in France and then England, Wales, Sicily, parts of Italy, parts of the Byzantine Empire, and then Ireland.  The Cambro-Normans (Normans based in Wales) were especially prominent in the conquest of Ireland.  Their Norwegian and Danish cousins had already conquered parts of Ireland (and founded Dublin, Wexford, etc.) centuries earlier.  The Hiberno-Normans (Normans in Ireland) eventually became "more Irish than the Irish" and were quite Catholic.  It was only in the 1500s that English nationalism per se became a major issue, and Protestantism too.  Anyone with "Fitz-" in his surname is of Hiberno-Norman ancestry.  They "went native" long, long ago, just as the Normans who conquered England eventually went native.  The second, Protestant conquest was a rather different phenomenon. 

It should be remembered that the initial Norman conquest was the result of an inner Irish conflict in which a banished Irish king hired Norman, Welsh, and Flemish mercenaries to help him regain his throne and seek revenge upon his enemies.  Then St. Lawrence O'Toole, the Archbishop of Dublin (he was the first ethnically Irish bishop of this Norse town), helped negotiate the terms by which Henry II, who ruled half of France in addition to England, would be Lord of Ireland. 

So it's somewhat inaccurate to speak of "the English" conquering or ruling Ireland before the 1500s.  For most of the High Middle Ages, the rulers were local Hiberno-Norman rulers who were being assimilated to the general population. 
This article explains issues of ethnic identity, cultural friction, and religion prior to the Tudor conquest: 

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Re: Why was England so interested in conquering Ireland? - by Bonifacius - 07-25-2009, 12:15 AM

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