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Connachta / Cúige Chonnacht

State  Ireland
Counties Galway
 - Teachta Dála
 - Total 17,713.18 km2 (6,839.10 sq mi)
Population (2006)
 - Total 503,083

Connacht (pronounced /ˈkɒnəxt/ or /ˈkɒnɔːt/[1]Irish: Connachta / Cúige Chonnachtpronounced [ˈkɔnəxtə]), formerly Anglicised as Connaught, is the western province of Ireland, comprising counties Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo. Its main urban centres are Galway in the south, and Sligo in the north. It is the smallest of the four Irish provinces, with a population of 503,083.



Glencar Waterfall at Glencar Lough, County Leitrim

Connacht is composed of five counties: Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo. The highest point of Connacht is Mweelrea (814 m), in Mayo. The largest island in Connacht is Achill, also the largest island of Ireland. The biggest lake is Lough Corrib.

Much of the west coast - Connemara, Nephin, Erris - is ruggidly inhospitable, and poorly condusive for agriculture. However it is also very scenic. It contains the main mountainous areas in Connacht, including the Twelve Bens, Maumturks, Mweelrea, Croagh Patrick Nephin Beg, Ox Mountions, Dartry Mountions.

Killary Harbour, Ireland's only natural ford, is located at the foot of Mweelrea.

The Aran Islands, featuring spectacular pre-historic forts such as Dún Aonghasa, have been a regular tourist destination since the 19th century.

These areas, together with County Leitrim, have since the 1840s experienced the highest emigration in the province.

Inland areas such as east Galway, Roscommon and Sligo have enjoyed greater historical population density due to overall good agricultural land and better infrastructure.

Rivers and lakes include include River Moy, River Corrib, the Shannon, Lough Mask, Lough Melvin, Lough Allen, Lough Gill

The largest urban area in Connacht is Galway city with a population of 72,414 in the city proper. There is only one other city Sligo (pop. 40,402) (including suburbs). There are many large towns including Castlebar (pop. 10.600) and Ballina (pop. 10,409).

See also:

Cúige Chonnacht

In Irish the province is usually Cúige Chonnacht, meaning the province (literally, the fifth) belonging to the Connachta dynasty. Ireland had five provinces until the Norman Conquest, and the dynasty claimed descent from the mythical king Conn. An alternative anglicised spelling which was officially used during English and British rule is Connaught.[2] In 1874 Queen Victoria granted the title Duke of Connaught to her third son, and could trace a descent from the Connachta.[3]

Early history

Listoghil Complex, Carrowmore, County Sligo, with a small satellite tomb, tomb 52, in the foreground

Up to the early historic era, Connacht then included County Clare, and was known as Cóiced Ol nEchmacht. It is said that the Fir Bolg ruled all of Ireland right before the Tuatha Dé Danann arrived. When the Fir Bolg were defeated, the Tuatha Dé Danann were so touched by the courage of their enemy that they would give them a quarter of Ireland. They chose Connaught.

Sites such as the Céide Fields, Knocknarea, Listoghil, Carrowkeel Megalithic Cemetery and Rathcroghan, all demonstrate intensive occupation of Connacht far back into prehistory.

Enigmatic artifacts such as the Turoe stone and the Castlestrange stone, whatever their purpose, denote the ambition and achievement of those societies, and their contact with the La Tène culture of mainland Europe.

In the early historic era (c. 400-c.500), Ol nEchmacht was not a single unified kingdom. It instead comprised of dozens of major and minor túath; rulers of larger túath (Maigh Seóla, Uí Maine, Aidhne and Máenmaige) were accorded high kingly status, while peoples such as the Gailenga, Corco Moga and Senchineoil were lesser peoples given the status of Déisi. All were termed kingdoms, but according to a graded status, denoting each according the likes of lord, count, earl, king. Something of this can be found in the still-current title, King of the Claddagh.

Early peoples and kingdoms of Ireland, c.800. Click to enlarge.

Some of the more notable peoples included the following:

For an extensive list of nations known to have resided in Connacht during this era, see Cóiced Ol nEchmacht.

By the 5th century, the pre-historic tribal polities were giving way to dynasties. Older nations such as the Auteini and Nagnatae - recorded by Ptolemy (c. AD 90–c. 168) in Geography (Ptolemy) - gave way to dynastic hereditary rule. This is demonstrated in the noun moccu in names such as Muirchu moccu Machtheni, which indicated a person was of the Machtheni people. As evidenced by kings such as Mac Cairthinn mac Coelboth (died 446) and Ailill Molt (died c. 482), even by the 5th century the gens was giving way to kinship all over Ireland, as both men were identified as of the Uí Enechglaiss and Uí Fiachrach dynasties, not of tribes. By 700, moccu had been entirely replaced by mac and hua (later Mac and Ó).

During the mid-8th century, what is now County Clare was absorbed into Thomond by the Déisi Tuisceart. It has remained a part of the province of Munster ever since.

The name Connacht arose from the most successful of these early dynasties, The Connachta. By 1050 they had extended their rule from Rathcroghan in north County Roscommon to large areas of what are now County Galway, County Mayo, County Sligo, County Leitrim. The dynastic term was from then on applied to the overall geographic area containing those counties, and has remained so ever since.

One of hundreds of small initials from the Book of Kells, in a script known as "insular majuscule," a variety of uncial script which originated in early medieval Ireland.

See also:

The Kingdom of Connacht

Ireland's main kingdoms as of 1014. Clockwise from the north-east they are Ulaidh, Airgíalla, Mide, Laigin, Munster, Connaught, Breifne and Aileach. The city-states of Dyflin, Weisforthe, Vedrafjord, Corcach and Luimneach are shown. Missing are kingdoms of Osraighe and Uí Maine.

The most successful sept of the Connachta were the Ó Conchobair of Síol Muiredaig. They derived their surname from Conchobar mac Taidg Mór (c.800-882), from whom all subsequent Ó Conchobair Kings of Connacht descended.

Conchobar was a nominal vassal of Máel Sechnaill mac Máele Ruanaid, High King of Ireland (died 862). He married Máel Sechnaill's daughter, Ailbe, and had sons Áed mac Conchobair (died 888), Tadg mac Conchobair (died 900) and Cathal mac Conchobair (died 925), all of whom subsequently reigned. Conchobar and his sons's descendants expanded the power of the Síl Muiredaig south into Ui Maine, west into Iar Connacht, and north into Uí Fiachrach Muaidhe and Bréifne.

By the reign of Áed in Gai Bernaig (1046-1067), Connacht's kings ruled much what is now the province. Yet the Ó Conchobair's contended for control with their cousions, the Ua Ruairc of Uí Briúin Bréifne. Four Ua Ruairc's achieved rule of the kingdom - Fergal Ua Ruairc (956-967), Art Uallach Ua Ruairc (1030-1046, Áed Ua Ruairc(1067-1087) and Domnall Ua Ruairc (1098-1102. In addition, the usurper Flaithbertaigh Ua Flaithbertaigh gained the kingship in 1092 by the expedient of blinding King Ruaidrí na Saide Buide. After 1102 the Ua Ruairc's and Ua Flaithbertaigh's were subborned and confined to their own kingdoms of Bréifne and Iar Connacht. From then till the death of the last king in 1474, the kingship was held exclusively by the Ó Conchobair's.

The single most substantial sub-kingdom in Connacht was Uí Maine, which at it maximum extant enclosed central and south County Roscommon, central, east-central and south County Galway, along with the territory of Lusmagh in Munster. Their rulers bore the surname Ó Cellaigh.

Though the Ó Cellaigh's were never elevated to the provincial kingship, Ui Maine existed as a semi-independent kingdom both before and after the demise of the Connacht kingship. Notable rulers of Ui Maine included

Kings and High Kings

Rory O'Connor Stone Carving.jpg
Stone carving of Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair from Cong Abbey

Under kings Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair (1088-1156) and his son Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair (c.1120-1198) Connacht became one of the five dominant kingdoms on the island. Tairrdelbach and Ruaidrí became the first men from west of the Shannon to gain the title Ard-Rí na hÉireann (High King of Ireland). In the latter's case, he was recognised all over the island in 1166 as Rí Éire, or King of Ireland.

Tairrdelbach was highly innovative, building the first stone castles in Ireland, and more controversially, introducing the policy of primogeniture to a hostile Gaelic polity. Castles were built in the 1120s at Galway (where he based his fleet), Dunmore, Sligo and Ballinasloe, where dug a new six-mile canal to divert the river Suck around the castle of Dun Ló. Churches, monasteries and dioceses were re-founded or created, works such as the Corpus Missal, the High Cross of Tuam and the Cross of Cong were sponsored by him.

Tairrdelbach annexed the Kingdom of Mide; its rulers, the Clann Cholmáin, became his vassals. This brought two of Ireland's five main kingdoms under the direct control of Connacht. He also asserted control over Dublin, which was even then recognised as the national capital.

His son, Ruaidrí, became king of Connacht "without any opposition" in 1156. One of his first acts as king was arresting three of his twenty-two brothers, "Brian Breifneach, Brian Luighneach, and Muircheartach Muimhneach" to prevent them from usurping him. He blinded Brian Breifneach as an extra precaution.

Ruaidrí was compelled to recognise Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn as Ard-Rí, though he went to war with him in 1159. Mac Lochlainn's murder in 1166 left Ruaidrí the unopposed ruler of all Ireland. He was crowned in 1166 at Dublin, "took the kingship of Ireland ...[and was] inaugurated king as honourably as any king of the Gaeidhil was ever inaugurated;" He was the first and last native ruler who was recognised by the Gaelic-Irish as full King of Ireland.

However, his expulstion of Dermot MacMurrough later that year brought about the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169. Ruaidrí's inept response to events led to rebellion by his sons in 1177, and his deposition by Conchobar Maenmaige Ua Conchobair in 1183.

Ruaidrí died at Cong in 1198, noted as the annals as late "King of Connacht and of All Ireland, both the Irish and the English."

Had the Norman invasion of Ireland not occoured, the Ó Conchobair dynasty may well have established themselves as the royal family of Ireland. The senior head of the clan, the O'Conor Don, is still recognised as the presumptive claimant to the throne of Ireland, should it ever be re-established.

High medieval era

Connacht was first raided by the Anglo-Normans in 1177 but not until 1237 did encastellation begin under Richard Mor de Burgh (c. 11941242). New towns were founded (Athenry, Headford, Castlebar) or former settlements expanded (Sligo, Roscommon, Loughrea, Ballymote). Both Gael and Gall acknowledged the supreme lordship of the Earl of Ulster; after the murder of the last earl in 1333, the Anglo-Irish split into different factions, the most powerful emerging as Bourke of Mac William Eighter in north Connacht, and Burke of Clanricarde in the south. They were regularly in and out of alliance with equally powerful Gaelic lords and kings such as Ó Conchobair of Síol Muiredaig, Ó Cellaigh of Ui Maine and Mac Diarmata of Moylurg, in addition to extraprovincial powers such as Ó Briain of Thomond, FitzGerald of Kildare, Ó Domhnaill of Tír Chonaill.

Lesser lords of both races included Mac Donnchadha, Mac Goisdelbh, Mac Bhaldrin, Mac Siurtain, Ó hEaghra, Ó Flaithbeheraigh, Ó Dubhda, Ó Seachnasaigh, Ó Manacháin, Seoighe, Ó Máille, Ó Ruairc, Ó Madadháin, Bairéad, Ó Máel Ruanaid, Ó hEidhin, Ó Finnaghtaigh, Ó Fallmhain, Breathneach, Mac Airechtaig, Ó Neachtain, Ó hAllmhuráin, Ó Fathaigh.

The map of c.1651 displaying the medieval town, which now forms the modern city centre.

Independent from both Gael and Gall was the town of Galway, the only significant urban area in the province. After expelling the Burkes of Clanricarde, its inhabitants governed themselves under charter of the king of England. Its merchant families, The Tribes of Galway, traded within Ireland, as well as Britain, France and Spain till it was reckoned one of Ireland's most eminent towns. It was something of an oddity as it was ruled by a merchant middle class of elected freemen, whereas both Gaelic-Irish and Anglo-Irish lordships were inherited by those of noble blood, or voilently seized. It's Mayor enjoyed supreme power but only for the length of his office, rarely more than a year. Galway's inhabitants were of mixed descent, its families bearing surnames of Gaelic, French, English, Welsh, Norman and other origins. In contrast to much of the rest of the province, they were literate, multi-lingual and actively sought the protection of the English Crown. They however remained devout Catholics, which displeased the Anglo-Irish administration, and later, the House of Stuart.

Connacht was the site of two of the bloodiest battles in Irish history, the Second Battle of Athenry (1316) and the Battle of Knockdoe (1504). The casualties of both battles were measured in several thousand, unusually high for Irish warfare. A third battle at Aughrim in 1691 would result in an estimate 10,000 deaths.

All of Connacht's lordships remained in states of full or semi-independence from other Gaelic-Irish and Anglo-Irish rulers till the late 16th century, when the Tudor reconquest of Ireland (c.1534-1603) brought all under the direct rule of King James I of England. The countys were created from c.1569 onwards.

The Arts c.1100 to 1700

Literary and historical works were produced in Connacht during these centuries included the Book of Ballymote (c.1391), the Great Book of Lecan (between 1397 and 1418), An Leabhar Breac (c. 1411), Egerton 1782 (early 1500s), and The Book of the Burkes (c.1580). Writers and learned people of the times included:

Signature page from the Annals of the Four Masters, Peregrine Ó Duibhgeannain's signature is last in the list

Confederate and Williamite Wars

During the 17th century representatives from Connacht played leading roles in Confederate Ireland and during the Williamite War in Ireland. Its main town, Galway, endured several sieges (see Sieges of Galway), while warfare, plague, famine and sectarian massacres killed about a third of the population by 1655.

One of the last battles fought in pre-20th century Ireland occoured in Connacht, the Battle of Aughrim on 12 July 1691.

Early modern era

Connacht was mainly at peace between 1691 and 1798. A population explosion in the early 18th century was curbed by the Irish Famine (1740–1741), which led to many deaths and some emigration. Its memory has been overshadowed by the Great Famine (Ireland) one hundred years later.

The Republic of Connaught had a brief existence in 1798 with French military support.

Learned people from the province in this era included the following:

The Famine to World War One

War of Independence to the present


Connacht–Ulster was one of Ireland's four regional constituencies for elections to the European Parliament until it was superseded in 2004 by the new constituency of North–West.

See also:

Sport in Connacht

See also:

Irish language

The Irish language is spoken in the Gaeltacht areas of Counties Mayo and Galway, the largest being in the west of County Galway covering Cois Fharraige (Irish meaning 'by the sea'), and parts of Connemara, and Dúithche Sheoigeach (Joyce Country).

See also:

See also


  1. ^ according to the Oxford English Dictionary
  2. ^ The spelling Connaught reflects the former English practice — in Ireland, though not in Scotland — of representing the Gaelic voiceless velar fricative /x/ as gh (compare lough for loch), gh having been used in Middle English for the same sound. Although this sound later disappeared from standard English, the spelling of words like "thought" and "caught" remained unaltered -- and in a further Anglicisation the "new" English pronunciation of -aught was even applied in Britain to titles like that of the Duke of Connaught. In Ireland the original pronunciation remained intact, the Gaelic-style spelling Connacht now used more often in English. It may have gained currency by mistranslation of the Irish name into English: in Irish, the form Cúige Chonnacht 'province of Connacht' is almost always used, and this may have led to people misunderstanding genitive case Connacht as the Gaelic version instead of nominative case Connachta.
  3. ^ Genealogical link via the O'Neills of Tyrone


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




The name Connacht means "(land of the) descendants of Conn

Alternative spellings


Proper noun

Wikipedia has an article on:



  1. The western province in Ireland, comprising of counties of Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, and Sligo.


  • Irish: Connachta

Simple English

Connacht (or Connauct) is one of the four provinces in Ireland.


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