Provinces of Ireland

Last updated

Provinces of Ireland location map.svg
Coat of arms of Leinster.svg
Coat of arms of Connacht.svg
Coat of arms of Ulster.svg
Coat of arms of Munster.svg
Provinces of Ireland
Irish provinces
Location Ireland
Number4
Populations550,742 (Connacht) 2,630,720 (Leinster) 2,105,666 (Ulster) 1,280,020 (Munster)
Subdivisions Counties

Since the early 17th century, there have been four Provinces of Ireland: Connacht, Leinster, Munster, and Ulster. The Irish word for this territorial division, cúige, meaning "fifth part", indicates that there were once five; however, in the medieval period there were more. The number of provinces and their delimitation fluctuated until 1610, when they were permanently set by the English administration of James I. The provinces of Ireland no longer serve administrative or political purposes but function as historical and cultural entities.

Contents

Etymology

In modern Irish the word for province is cúige (pl. cúigí). The modern Irish term derives from the Old Irish cóiced (pl. cóiceda) which literally meant "a fifth". [1] This term appears in 8th-century law texts such as Miadslechta and in the legendary tales of the Ulster Cycle where it refers to the five kingdoms of the "Pentarchy". [1] In the 12th century Lebor na Cert (Book of Rights), the term means province, seemingly having lost its fractional meaning with seven cúigeadh listed. [1] Similarly this seems to be the case in regards to titles with the Annals of Ulster using the term rex in Chóicid (king of the fifth/province) for certain overkings. [1]

History

Early medieval coiceda
(over-kingdoms) of Ireland, c. 800 Ireland early peoples and politics.gif
Early medieval cóiceda (over-kingdoms) of Ireland, c. 800

The origins of the provinces of Ireland can be traced to the medieval cóiceda (literally "fifths") or "over-kingdoms" of Ireland. There were theoretically five such over-kingdoms, however in reality during the historical period there were always more. [2] [3] At the start of the 9th century the following are listed: Airgíalla, Connachta, Laigin, Northern Uí Néill (Ailech), Southern Uí Néill (Mide), Mumu, and Ulaid. [2] [3] These seven over-kingdoms are again listed in the 12th-century Lebor na Cert. [1]

Structure

Each over-kingdom was divided into smaller territorial units, the definition of which, whilst not consistent in Irish law tracts, followed a pattern of different grades. [2] In theory in the early medieval period:

This pyramid structure however by the later medieval period had little validity. [2]

Paul MacCotter proposes the following structure of lordship in the 12th century: High-king of Ireland; semi-provincial king, such as Connacht, Ulaid, Desmumu; regional king, such as Dál Fiatach and Uí Fhiachrach Aidni; local king or king of a trícha cét , such as Leth Cathail or Cenél Guaire; and taísig túaithe at the bottom. [4]

Early medieval period

Map of Ireland's over-kingdoms circa 900 AD. Ireland900.png
Map of Ireland's over-kingdoms circa 900 AD.

The kingdom of Osraige, which had its genealogy traced back by early Irish genealogists to the Laigin, was part of Mumu from the 6th to 8th century and ruled by the Corcu Loígde dynasty. [5] By the 7th century Osraige had lost their dependence on the Corcu Loígde, [5] with the restoration of the local Dál Birn dynasty. Osraige remained part of Mumu until 859 when Máel Sechnaill I, king of the Uí Néill, forced Mumu to surrender it to his overlordship. [5] [6] After this situation ended it became an independent kingdom which gradually moved towards the Laigin sphere of influence as they sought to claim the Laigin kingship. [5] It was during the 9th century that Osraige, ruled by Cerball mac Dúnlainge, became a major political player. [7]

Airgíalla had come under the dominance of the Ulaid, [8] however Niall Caille, the son of Áed Oirdnide, brought it under the hegemony of the Northern Uí Néill after defeating the combined forces of the Airgíalla and Ulaid at the battle of Leth Cam in 827. [9] [10] [11] [12]

Later medieval period

After a period of dynastic infighting in the early 12th century, Osraige fragmented and after a heavy defeat at the hands of High-King Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn became part of Laigin. In 1169, the king of Osraige, Domnall Mac Gilla Pátraic, hired the Norman knight Maurice de Prendergast to resist the Laigin king, Diarmait Mac Murchada, who had also recruited Norman aid. [13]

In 1118, the king of Connacht, Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair, aided the Mac Cárthaigh of south Munster in a rebellion against the ruling Uí Briain dynasty. [14] This resulted in the division of Mumu into two: Tuadmumu (Thomond, meaning "north Munster") to the north under the Uí Briain; and Desmumu (Desmond, meaning "south Munster") to the south under the Mac Cárthaigh. [14] Ua Conchobair would then conquer the heartland of the Uí Briain situated around modern County Clare and make it part of Connacht. [14] This was to force them to accept Cormac Mac Carthaig, king of Desmumu, as the king of Mumu. [14] Despite Ua Conchobair's aid, Mac Carthaig and the Uí Briain would form an alliance to campaign against Connacht's hegemony, and by 1138 ended the threat from that kingdom. [14] The following decades would see Mumu united and repartitioned several times as the Uí Briain and Mac Cárthaigh vied for complete control. [14] In 1168, the king of Connacht, Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair, ensured Mumu remained divided. [14] After Henry II, king of England, landed in Ireland in 1171, the Mac Cárthaigh submitted to him to prevent an Uí Briain invasion. [14] The Uí Briain eventually followed suit in submitting to Henry II. [14] The eagerness of these submissions encouraged Henry II to revive the papal grant, Laudabiliter, for Ireland. [14]

Norman Ireland

Osraige would be amongst the first Irish kingdoms to fall following the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1170, and was soon afterwards split from Leinster and made part of the royal demesne lands of Waterford. [5]

In the years following the invasion, the kingdoms of Connacht, Desmumu, Laigin, Mide, Tuadmumu, and Ulaid formed the basis for the Norman liberties of Connacht, Desmond, Leinster, Meath, Thomond and Ulster respectively. [15] [16] These liberties were later subdivided into smaller ones that became the basis for the counties of Ireland. [15]

The Northern Uí Néill remained outside of Norman control, eventually absorbing the greater part of Airgíalla, which had by the end of the 12th century lost its eastern territory (afterwards known as "English Oriel" and later as Louth) to the Normans. [11] Airgíalla would eventually no longer be reckoned an over-kingdom however it survived in present-day County Monaghan for as long as the Gaelic order survived, [17] with the last king of Airgíalla being Hugh Roe McMahon, who reigned from 1589 until his execution in September/October 1590.

With the collapse of English control in Ireland following the Bruce campaign in Ireland in 1315, and the subsequent collapse of the Earldom of Ulster, the Gaelic order had a resurgence and the Clandeboye O'Neills of the Northern Uí Néill stepped into the power vacuum in Ulster bringing it under the sovereignty of the O'Neills of Tyrone. After this they claimed for the first time the title of rí Ulad, "king of Ulster", amalgamating their territory into one united province. This reduced the number of provinces to five—Connact, Leinster, Meath, Munster, and Ulster.

Tudor period

Johann Homann's 1716 map of Ireland. Note that he incorrectly places County Clare in Connacht; it had actually been returned to Munster in the immediate years after 1660. 1716 Homann Map of Ireland - Geographicus - Ireland-homann-1716.jpg
Johann Homann's 1716 map of Ireland. Note that he incorrectly places County Clare in Connacht; it had actually been returned to Munster in the immediate years after 1660.

During the reign of Mary I (1553–1558), the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Thomas Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex, sought to divide Ireland into six parts—Connaught, Leinster, Meath, Nether Munster, Ulster, and Upper Munster. [15] His administrative reign in Ireland however was cut short and even with his reappointment by Elizabeth I (1558–1603) this plan was never implemented. [15]

Sir Henry Sidney during his three tenures as Lord Deputy created two presidencies headed by a Lord President to administer Connaught and Munster. [15] In an attempt to reduce the importance of the province of Munster, Sydney, using the River Shannon as a natural boundary took Thomond and made it into the county of Clare as part of the presidency of Connaught in 1569. [15] Around 1600 near the end of Elizabeth's reign, Clare was made an entirely distinct presidency of its own under the Earls of Thomond and would not return to being part of Munster until after the Restoration in 1660. [15]

The exact boundaries of the provinces of Ireland during the Tudor period changed several times, usually as a result of the creation of new counties:

It would not be until the reign of Elizabeth's successor, James I, that Meath by 1610 would cease to be considered a province and that the provincial borders would be permanently set. [15]

Prehistory

The earliest recorded mention of the major division of Ireland is in the Ulster Cycle of legends, such as the Táin Bó Cúailnge . [20] [21] The Táin is set during the reign of Conchobar Mac Nessa, king of Ulster, and is believed to have happened in the 1st century. [22] In this period Ireland is said to have been divided into five independent over-kingdoms, or cuigeadh whose (kings) were of equal rank, not subject to a central monarchy. [20] [1] [22] [23] Pseudo-historians called this era Aimser na Coicedach, which has been translated as: "Time of the Pentarchs"; [20] "Time of the Five Fifths"; [22] and "Time of the provincial kings". [23] It was also described as "the Pentarchy". [20] [21]

The five provinces that made up the Pentarchy where: [20] [21] [22]

Historians Geoffrey Keating and T. F. O'Rahilly differ suggesting that it is Munster, not Leinster, that formed two of the fifths. [23] [24] These two fifths were called by Keating: Cuigeadh Eochaidh (eastern Munster) and Cuigeadh Con Raoi (western Munster), [24] both named after their respective king. Eoin MacNeill discounts this suggestion citing the Táin Bó Cúailnge, which makes mention of Eochaidh as king of all Munster, with Cu Roi simply a "great Munster hero". [20] He also cites that the Táin makes mention of the four fifths of Ireland that waged war on Ulster, which made reference to only one Munster. [20] Another reason given by MacNeill was a problem made by Keating himself. According to Keating, when the province of Míde was being founded, it was created from portions of each province which all met at the hill of Uisnech. The boundaries given by Keating himself for the five provinces however meant that this would have been highly unlikely, with the boundary between his Munster fifths nowhere near this area. [20]

Pseudo-historians list 84 kings of Ireland prior to the formation of the Pentarchy. When this mythical kingship was interrupted is a matter of dispute. The Annals of Tigernach state that Ireland was divided into the five upon the slaying of Conaire Mór, however it is suggested alternatively that it happened upon the death of Conaire's father, Eterscél Mór, the 84th king of Ireland. [23] Keating however suggests it occurred in the reign of Eochu Feidlech who was the 82nd king of Ireland. [23]

MacNeill claims that this division of Ireland into five is pre-historic and pre-Gaelic, describing the Pentarchy as "the oldest certain fact in the political history of Ireland". [20] The notion of Ireland being divided into five permeated itself throughout Irish literature over the centuries despite what the cuigeadh representing no longer existing by the time of Saint Patrick in the 5th century. [20] By then, Ireland had become divided into seven over-kingdoms. [20]

The Three Collas and the founding of Airgíalla

The main body of the events in the myth of the Three Collas may have occurred in the late 4th to early 5th century, however as the centuries passed the myth underwent updating and alteration. [25] The most oft quoted version of their story was written by Geoffrey Keating in the 17th century in his work the Foras Feasa ar Éirinn , also known as "The History of Ireland". [25]

In it the Three Collas—Colla Menn, Colla Da Crioch, and Colla Uais—were the sons of Eocaidh Doimlén. [25] It is from them that the Airgíalla are said to descend, branching off from the rest of the Connachta. [25] The Northern and Southern Uí Néill dynasties are claimed to descend from Eocaidh's brother, Fiacha Sraibhtine. [25] According to the story the Collas were told by Fiacha's son, Muiredach Tirech, the High King of Ireland, to conquer land of their own to pass on to their descendants, directing them to wage war on the Ulaid to avenge a slight against their great-grandfather Cormac mac Airt. [25]

The Collas with their army along with a host from Connacht marched to Achaidh Leithdeircc in Fernmagh, southern Ulaid, and fought the Ulaid in seven battles over the course of seven days. [25] The host from Connacht fought the first six battles, and the Collas fought the seventh. [25] It is after this last battle that the king of Ulaid, Fergus Foga, was killed and his army routed. [25] The Collas then pursued the Ulaid east of the "Glen Righe" (the valley of the Newry River in eastern County Armagh), before returning to loot and burn the Ulaid capital, Emain Macha, after which it never again had a king. [25] They then took possession of central Ulaid spanning the modern counties of Armagh, Fermanagh, Londonderry, Monaghan and Tyrone founding the over-kingdom of Airgíalla. [25]

Usage

In modern times the provinces have become associated with groups of counties, although they have no legal status. They are today seen mainly in a sporting context, as Ireland's four professional rugby teams in Pro14 play under the names of the provinces, and the Gaelic Athletic Association has separate GAA provincial councils and Provincial championships.

Six of the nine Ulster counties form modern-day Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland is a province of the United Kingdom, and is sometimes referred to by this term.

In modern times politically the four provinces were referred to in the proposal of Éire Nua ("New Ireland"), which was supported by the Provisional IRA and Sinn Féin during the 1970s and early 1980s for a federal United Ireland. The proposal was particularly associated with the Dublin-based leadership group centred on Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Dáithí Ó Conaill, who were the authors of the policy. Éire Nua envisaged a united Ireland that would be created when the British withdrew from Northern Ireland, and the creation of a federal state with assemblies for each of its four historic provinces.

Coats of arms

Provincial Arms of Ireland.svg
Quartered coat of arms

Each province is today represented by its own unique arms and flag. These are joined together to represent various All Ireland sports teams and organisations via the Four Provinces Flag of Ireland and a four province Crest of Ireland, with examples including the Ireland national field hockey team, Ireland national rugby league team, Ireland national rugby union team and Irish Amateur Boxing Association.

Demographics and politics

Province Arms Flag Irish namePopulation (2016)Area (km²)GDP (euro) (2012)GDP per capita (euro) (2012)DensityNumber of
Counties
Chief city
Leinster Coat of arms of Leinster.svg Flag of Leinster.svg Laighin
Cúige Laighean
2,630,72019,800100 bn40,000126.512 Dublin
Ulster Coat of arms of Ulster.svg Flag of Ulster.svg Ulaidh
Cúige Uladh
2,158,850‡21,88250 bn23,00096.39 Belfast
Munster Coat of arms of Munster.svg Flag of Munster.svg Mumhain
Cúige Mumhan
1,280,39424,67550 bn40,00050.56 Cork
Connacht Coat of arms of Connacht.svg Flag of Connacht.svg Connachta
Cúige Chonnacht
550,74217,78815 bn30,00030.55 Galway

Note 1:"Number of Counties" is traditional counties, not administrative ones.
Note 2:Population for Ulster is the sum of the 2016 census results for counties of Ulster in Republic of Ireland and the 2016 mid-year population estimates for Northern Ireland. [26] Population for other provinces is all 2016 census results.

Poetic description

Ard Ruide

"Cuchulain in Battle", illustration by J. C. Leyendecker in T. W. Rolleston's Myths & Legends of the Celtic Race, 1911 Cuinbattle.jpg
"Cuchulain in Battle", illustration by J. C. Leyendecker in T. W. Rolleston's Myths & Legends of the Celtic Race, 1911

The dinnseanchas poem named Ard Ruide (Ruide Headland) poetically describes the five kingdoms of Ireland. Below is a translation from Old Irish:

Connacht in the west is the kingdom of learning, the seat of the greatest and wisest druids and magicians; the men of Connacht are famed for their eloquence, their handsomeness and their ability to pronounce true judgement.

Ulster in the north is the seat of battle valour, of haughtiness, strife, boasting; the men of Ulster are the fiercest warriors of all Ireland, and the queens and goddesses of Ulster are associated with battle and death.

Leinster, the eastern kingdom, is the seat of prosperity, hospitality, the importing of rich foreign wares like silk or wine; the men of Leinster are noble in speech and their women are exceptionally beautiful.

Munster in the south is the kingdom of music and the arts, of harpers, of skilled ficheall players and of skilled horsemen. The fairs of Munster were the greatest in all Ireland.

The last kingdom, Meath, is the kingdom of Kingship, of stewardship, of bounty in government; in Meath lies the Hill of Tara, the traditional seat of the High King of Ireland. The ancient earthwork of Tara is called Rath na Ríthe ('Ringfort of the Kings').

The Táin

The epic poem, An Táin Bó Cúailnge (the Cattle Raid of Cooley) describes a war between Connacht and Ulster, and is perhaps best known for  Chulainn's single handed defence of Ulster against the champions of Connacht in turn, while his comrades were disabled by a spell.

See also

Related Research Articles

Leinster Traditional province in the east of Ireland

Leinster is one of the provinces of Ireland, situated in the east of Ireland. The Leinster province comprises the ancient Kingdoms of Meath, Leinster and Osraige. Following the 12th-century Norman invasion of Ireland, the historic fifths of Leinster and Meath gradually merged, mainly due to the impact of the Pale, which straddled both, thereby forming the present-day province of Leinster. The ancient kingdoms were shired into a number of counties for administrative and judicial purposes. In later centuries, local government legislation has seen further sub-division of the historic counties.

History of Ireland (400–800) aspect of history

The early medieval history of Ireland, often called Early Christian Ireland, spans the 5th to 8th centuries, from the gradual emergence out of the protohistoric period to the beginning of the Viking Age. The period notably includes the Hiberno-Scottish mission of Christianised Ireland to regions of pagan Britain and the spread of Irish cultural influence to Continental Europe.

Ulaid

Ulaid, or Ulaidh, was a Gaelic over-kingdom in north-eastern Ireland during the Middle Ages, made up of a confederation of dynastic groups. Alternative names include Ulidia, which is the Latin form of Ulaid, as well as in Cóiced, which in Irish means "the Fifth". The king of Ulaid was called the rí Ulad or rí in Chóicid.

Connachta

The Connachta are a group of medieval Irish dynasties who claimed descent from the legendary High King Conn Cétchathach. The modern western province of Connacht takes its name from them, although the territories of the Connachta also included at various times parts of southern and western Ulster and northern Leinster. Their traditional capital was Cruachan.

Toirdhealbhach Ua Briain, anglicised Turlough O'Brien, was King of Munster and effectively High King of Ireland. A grandson of Brian Bóruma, Toirdelbach was the son of Tadc mac Briain who was killed in 1023 by his half-brother Donnchad mac Briain.

History of Ireland (800–1169) aspect of history

The history of Ireland 800–1169 covers the period in the history of Ireland from the first Viking raids to the Norman invasion. The first two centuries of this period are characterised by Viking raids and the subsequent Norse settlements along the coast. Viking ports were established at Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Cork and Limerick, which became the first large towns in Ireland.

Niall mac Áeda, called Niall Caille to distinguish him from his grandson Niall mac Áeda, was High King of Ireland.

Cathal mac Finguine was an Irish King of Munster or Cashel, and effectively High King of Ireland as well. He belonged to the Eóganacht Glendamnach sept of the dominant Eóganachta kin-group whose members dominated Munster from the 7th century to the 10th. His father, uncle, grandfather, and great-grandfather had also been kings of Cashel, so too were his son and grandson.

Máel Sechnaill mac Máele Ruanaid, also known as Máel Sechnaill I, anglicised as Malachy MacMulrooney was High King of Ireland. The Annals of Ulster use the Old Irish title rí hÉrenn uile, that is "king of all Ireland", when reporting his death, distinguishing Máel Sechnaill from the usual Kings of Tara who are only called High Kings of Ireland in late sources such as the Annals of the Four Masters or Geoffrey Keating's Foras Feasa ar Éirinn.

Airgíalla mediaeval Irish overkingdom

Airgíalla was a medieval Irish over-kingdom and the collective name for the confederation of tribes that formed it. The confederation consisted of nine minor-kingdoms, all independent of each other but paying nominal suzerainty to an overking, usually from the most powerful dynasty. Airgíalla at its peak roughly matched the modern dioceses of Armagh and Clogher, spanning parts of counties Armagh, Monaghan, Louth, Fermanagh, Tyrone and Londonderry. Its main towns were Armagh and Clogher. The name's usage survives as a cultural area of folk tradition in South East Ulster and adjoining areas of County Louth.

Kingdom of Munster kingdom in South Gaelic Ireland

The Kingdom of Munster was a kingdom of Gaelic Ireland which existed in the south-west of the island from at least the 1st century BC until 1118. According to traditional Irish history found in the Annals of the Four Masters, the kingdom originated as the territory of the Clanna Dedad, an Érainn tribe of Irish Gaels. Some of the early kings were prominent in the Red Branch Cycle such as Cú Roí and Conaire Mór. For a few centuries they were competitors for the High Kingship or Ireland, but ultimately lost out to the Connachta, descendants of Conn Cétchathach. The kingdom had different borders and internal divisions at different times during its history.

Events from the 7th century in Ireland.

Events from the 5th century in Ireland.

Events from the 8th century in Ireland.

Events from the 11th century in Ireland.

Northern Uí Néill

The Northern Uí Néill is the name given to several dynasties in north-western medieval Ireland that claimed descent from a common ancestor, Niall of the Nine Hostages. Other dynasties in central and eastern Ireland who also claimed descent from Niall were termed the Southern Uí Néill. The dynasties of the Northern Uí Néill were the Cenél Conaill and Cenél nEógain, named after supposed sons of Niall: Conall and Eógain.

References

Citations

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Koch, pp. 459–460.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Duffy (2014), pp. 8–10.
  3. 1 2 Byrne.
  4. MacCotter, p. 46.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Duffy (2005), p. 358.
  6. Duffy (2014), p. 19.
  7. Duffy (2005), p. 74.
  8. Duffy (2014), p. 21.
  9. Bardon, p. 14.
  10. Duffy (2005), pp. 490–1.
  11. 1 2 Duffy (2014), p. 24.
  12. Duffy (2005), p. 12.
  13. Duffy (2005), p. 32.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Duffy (2005), p. 458.
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Falkiner, Caesar Litton. The Counties of Ireland: An Historical Sketch of Their Origin, Constitution, and Gradual Delimitation. Royal Irish Academy.
  16. MacCotter, p. 186.
  17. Connolly, p. 12.
  18. John G. Crawford, Anglicising the Government of Ireland: The Irish Privy Council & the Expansion of Tudor Rule 1556–1578, Blackrock, 1993
  19. Desmond Roche, Local Government in Ireland, Dublin, 1982
  20. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Eoin MacNeill (1920). The Five Fifths of Ireland.
  21. 1 2 3 Hogan, p. 1
  22. 1 2 3 4 Hurbert, pp. 169–171
  23. 1 2 3 4 5 Stafford & Gaskill, p. 75
  24. 1 2 John MacNeill, p. 102
  25. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Schlegel, pp. 160–4.
  26. "2016 Mid Year Population Estimates for Northern Ireland". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency . 22 June 2017. Retrieved 26 January 2018.

Sources