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Provinces of Ireland
Cúigí na hÉireann
Four Provinces Flag.svg
"Flag of the Four Provinces"
Ireland location provinces.jpg
     Leinster     Munster     Connacht     Ulster
Area: 84,412 km²
Population (2006): 5,962,110

Ireland has historically been divided into four provinces, although the Irish language word for this territorial division, cúige (literally: "fifth part"), indicates that there were once five — Meath (now incorporated into Leinster with parts going to Ulster) being the fifth.

The four provinces are:

Province Flag Irish name Population (2006) Area (km²) Number of
Chief city
Leinster Leinster Laighin
Cúige Laighean
2,292,939 19,774 12 Dublin
Munster Munster Mhumhain
Cúige Mumhan
1,172,170 24,608 6 Cork
Connacht Connacht Connachta
Cúige Chonnacht
503,083 17,713 5 Galway
Ulster Ulster Ulaidh
Cúige Uladh
1,993,918‡ 24,481 9 Belfast
Note 1: "Number of Counties" is traditional counties, not administrative ones.
Note 2: Population for Ulster is the sum of the 2006 census results for counties of Ulster in Republic of Ireland and the 2006 estimated population for Northern Ireland.[1] Population for other provinces is all 2006 census results.

The origins of these provinces (loosely federated kingdoms with somewhat flexible boundaries) of which there were five in existence prior to the coming of the Normans can be traced to the overriding influence exerted in their respective territories by the great Irish dynastic families of O Neill (Ulster), O Melaghlin (Mide), O Brien (Munster), O Conor (Connacht) and MacMurrough-Kavanagh (Leinster). In the post-Norman period the historic provinces 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. In the Irish Annals these five ancient political divisions were invariably referred to as Cúigí, i.e ‘fifth parts’, such as the fifth of Munster, the fifth of Ulster and so on. Later record-makers, dubbed them ‘provinces’, in imitation of the Roman imperial provinciae.

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

The provinces were supplanted by the present system of counties after the Norman occupation in the twelfth century.

Six of the nine Ulster counties form modern-day Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland is often referred to as a province of the United Kingdom. These two inconsistent usages of the word "province" (along with the use of the term "Ulster" to describe Northern Ireland) can cause confusion.

Poetic description

Flag of Mide, the former fifth province of Ireland

This dinnseanchas poem named Ard Ruide (Ruide Headland) poetically describes the 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').

See also


  1. ^ World Gazetteer, Northern Ireland

Simple English

The Four Provinces of Ireland
Ceithre Chúigí na hÉireann
1. Leinster, 2. Munster, 3. Connacht, 4. Ulster
Area: 84,412 km²
Population (2006): 5,962,110

The Provinces of Ireland are the main divisions of Ireland. Ireland is divided into 4 different provinces, or territorial divisions.

The four provinces are:

Province Population (2006) Area (km²) Number of Counties Chief city
Leinster 2,292,939 19,774 12 Dublin
Munster 1,172,170 24,608 6 Cork
Connacht 503,083 17,713 5 Galway
Ulster 1,993,918‡ 24,481 9 Belfast
"Number of Counties" is traditional counties, not administrative ones.

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