This article is about the traditional Irish province. For other uses, see Connacht (disambiguation).


Coordinates: 53°47′N 9°03′W / 53.78°N 9.05°W / 53.78; -9.05Coordinates: 53°47′N 9°03′W / 53.78°N 9.05°W / 53.78; -9.05
State  Ireland
Counties Galway
  Teachtaí Dála 6 Fine Gael TDs
6 Fianna Fáil TDs
2 Independent TDs
1 Sinn Féin TD
  Total 17,788 km2 (6,867 sq mi)
Population (2011)[2]
  Total 542,547
ISO 3166 code IE-C
Patron Saint: Ciarán of Clonmacnoise[3]

Connacht[1] /ˈkɒnɔːt/[4] or Connaught (Irish: Connacht[1] or Cúige Chonnacht) is one of the provinces of Ireland, situated in the west of the country. Up to the 9th century it consisted of several independent major kingdoms (Lúighne, Uí Maine, and Iarthar Connacht). Between the reigns of Conchobar mac Taidg Mór (died 882) and his descendant, Aedh mac Ruaidri Ó Conchobair (reigned 1228–33), it became a kingdom under the rule of the Uí Briúin Aí dynasty, whose ruling sept adopted the surname Ua Conchobair.

At its greatest extent, it incorporated the often independent Kingdom of Breifne, as well as vassalage from the lordships of western Mide and west Leinster. The Kingdom of Connacht collapsed in the 1230s because of civil war within the royal dynasty, which enabled widespread Norman settlement under Richard Mór de Burgh, 1st Baron of Connaught.

The province of Connacht has the greatest number of Irish language speakers at between 5–10% (40,000–55,000) of the population. There are Gaeltacht areas in Counties Galway and Mayo.

Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, 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. The province of Connacht has no official function for local government purposes, but it is an officially recognised subdivision of the Irish state. It is listed on ISO-3166-2 as one of the four provinces of Ireland and "IE-C" is attributed to Connacht as its country sub-division code. Along with counties from other provinces, Connacht lies in the Midlands-North-West constituency for elections to the European Parliament.

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. The Galway Gaeltacht is the largest Irish-speaking region in Ireland covering Cois Fharraige, parts of Connemara, Conamara Theas, Aran Islands, Dúithche Sheoigeach and Galway City Gaeltacht. Irish-speaking areas in County Mayo can be found in Iorras, Acaill and Tourmakeady. According to the 2011 census Irish is spoken outside of the education system on a daily basis by 14,600 people.[2]

There are between 40,000–55,000 Irish speakers in the province, over 30,000 in Galway and more than 6,000 in Mayo. There is also the 4,265 attending the 18 Gaelscoils (Irish language primary schools) and three Gaelcholáiste (Irish language secondary schools) outside the Gaeltacht across the province. Between 7% and 10% of the province are either native Irish speakers from the Gaeltacht, in Irish medium education or native Irish speakers who no longer live in Gaeltacht areas but still live in the province.


The GDP of the province of Connacht is around 15 billion euro.[5]

Area Population Counties City GDP € GDP per person €
West Region 380,000 Galway, Mayo & Roscommon Galway €13.8 bn €31,500
Border Region 430,000 Sligo & Leitrim Sligo €10.7 bn €21,100

Geography and political divisions

The province is divided into five counties; Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo. Connacht is the smallest of the four Irish provinces, with a population of 542,547. Galway is the only official city in the province.

County Population Area
County Galway (Contae na Gaillimhe)250,5416,149 square kilometres (2,374 sq mi)
County Leitrim (Contae Liatroma)31,7981,590 square kilometres (610 sq mi)
County Mayo* (Contae Mhaigh Eo)130,6385,586 square kilometres (2,157 sq mi)
County Roscommon* (Contae Ros Comáin)64,0652,548 square kilometres (984 sq mi)
County Sligo (Contae Sligeach)65,3931,838 square kilometres (710 sq mi)
Grand Total547,54717,788 square kilometres (6,868 sq mi)

Physical geography

Glencar Waterfall at Glencar Lough, County Leitrim

The highest point of Connacht is Mweelrea (814 m), in County Mayo. The largest island in Connacht (and Ireland) is Achill. The biggest lake is Lough Corrib.

Much of the west coast (e.g. Connemara and Erris) is ruggedly inhospitable and not conducive for agriculture. It contains the main mountainous areas in Connacht, including the Twelve Bens, Maumturks, Mweelrea, Croagh Patrick, Nephin Beg, Ox Mountains, and Dartry Mountains.

Killary Harbour, Ireland's only true fjord,[6] is located at the foot of Mweelrea. Connemara National Park is in County Galway. The Aran Islands, featuring prehistoric forts such as Dún Aonghasa, have been a regular tourist destination since the 19th century.

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

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

The largest urban area in Connacht is Galway, with a population of 76,778. Other large towns in Connacht are Sligo (19,452), Castlebar (12,318) and Ballina (11,086).

Largest settlements (2011)

# Settlement County Population
1GalwayCounty Galway76,778
2SligoCounty Sligo20,000
3CastlebarCounty Mayo12,318
4BallinaCounty Mayo10,361[7]
5TuamCounty Galway8,242
6BallinasloeCounty Galway6,659
7RoscommonCounty Roscommon5,693
8WestportCounty Mayo5,543[7]
9LoughreaCounty Galway5,062
10OranmoreCounty Galway4,799
11MonkslandCounty Roscommon4,500
12Carrick-on-ShannonCounty Leitrim3,980
13ClaremorrisCounty Mayo3,979
14AthenryCounty Galway3,950


The name Connacht comes from the medieval ruling dynasty, the Connacht, later Connachta, whose name means "descendants of Conn", from the mythical king Conn of the Hundred Battles. Originally Connacht was a singular collective noun, but it came to be used only in the plural Connachta, partly by analogy with plural names of other dynastic territories like Ulaid and Laigin, and partly because the Connachta split into different branches.[8] Before the Connachta dynasty, the province (cúige, "fifth") was known as Cóiced Ol nEchmacht. In Modern Irish, the province is usually called Cúige Chonnacht, "the Province of Connacht", where Chonnacht is plural genitive case with lenition of the C to Ch.

The usual English spelling in Ireland since the Gaelic revival is Connacht, the spelling of the disused Irish singular. The official English spelling during English and British rule was the anglicisation Connaught, pronounced /kɒnɔːt/ or /kɒnət/.[9] This was used for the Connaught Rangers in the British Army; in the title of Queen Victoria's son Arthur, Duke of Connaught; and the Connaught Hotel, London, named after the Duke in 1917. Usage of the Connaught spelling is now in decline. State bodies use Connacht, for example in Central Statistics Office census reports since 1926,[10] and the name of the Connacht–Ulster European Parliament constituency of 1979–2004,[11][12][13] although Connaught occurs in some statutes.[14][15] Among newspapers, the Connaught Telegraph (founded 1830) retains the anglicised spelling in its name, whereas the Connacht Tribune (founded 1909) uses the Gaelic. Connacht Rugby who represent the region and are based in Galway, use the Gaelic spelling also.[16]


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


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 drove them to Connacht.

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

Enigmatic artefacts 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. 300-c.600), Ol nEchmacht was not a single unified kingdom, but a region. It comprised dozens of major and minor túath; rulers of larger túatha (Maigh Seóla, Uí Maine, Aidhne and Máenmaige) were accorded high-king 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.

Early peoples and kingdoms of Ireland, c.800.

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 nations such as the Auteini and Nagnatae – recorded by Ptolemy (c. AD 90–c. 168) in Geography – gave way to dynasties. 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 that 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 Ulaid, 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 Muireadaigh. 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 Síol Muiredhaigh south into Uí 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 cousins, 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 family name Ó Ceallaigh;[17][18] its spelling sometimes varying slightly from scribe to scribe.

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

Kings and High Kings

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 Éireann, 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 he 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 being recognised as a kind of 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 expulsion 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 occurred, 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. 1194–1242). 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 Muireadaigh, Ó Cellaigh of Uí 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.

Galway 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 England, 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 violently seized. Its 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 and 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 resulted in an estimated 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 conquest of Ireland (c. 1534–1603) brought all under the direct rule of King James I of England. The counties were created from c. 1569 onwards.

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 occurred 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, 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 Connacht set the foundation for the Republic of Ireland. It was a French client republic established by the French Revolutionary Army and United Irishmen during the Irish Rebellion of 1798. It was only the third and decisive time an English army was defeated on Irish soil, the other occasions being the defeats William the Conqueror and William of Orange. The general whom led the campaign later was active with general Andrew Jackson (Old Hickory) at New Orleans. This champion of the rights of man, General Jean Joseph Humbert, is cited for exceptional bravery by President Jackson's biographer Remeni. New Orleans is today still under the Napoleonic code legal system which dispenses with English legal precedent in favour of less costly legal decisions by a Napoleonic judge. The United States Congress recognises such legal changes. Connacht is therefore eligible to be considered for such a legal system an alternative to the now defunct English common law which is not appropriate for a modern European republic. This is why the actions at Castlebar in August 1798 and through 9 September of the same year are significant, as it was the greatest military defeat a British army ever suffered in Ireland.[19][20] It lasted for about 12 days, from 27 August to 8 September, and comprised the northern part of the province of Connacht.

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

The Famine to World War One

Connacht was the worst hit area in Ireland during the Great Famine, in particular counties Mayo and Roscommon. In the Census of 1841, the population of Connacht stood at 1,418,859, highest ever recorded. By 1851, the population had fallen to 1,010,031 and would continue to decline until the late 20th century.

In the Annals of Ulster

Main article: Annals of Ulster

Historical references to Connacht are generally accepted from the early 6th century onwards, commencing with the battle of Claenloch between the Uí Fiachrach Aidhne and the Uí Maine. It is thought that Claenloch is what is now called Coole Lough, four miles north of Gort, in County Galway.

References to 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 16th century), 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


See also: Sport in Galway

Gaelic games

Gaelic football and Hurling dominate sport in Connacht with 212 Gaelic Athletic Association affiliated clubs in the province.[21]

Gaelic football is played throughout the province with the five counties annually competing in the Connacht Senior Football Championship to determine the provincial champion. Mayo GAA have dominated the province in recent years winning the last 5-in-a-row of Connacht titles[22]

Hurling in Connacht mostly played in County Galway. Galway is the only team in the province to compete in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship winning the Liam MacCarthy Cup four times. The Galway hurling team compete in the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship due to the lack of competition in the province.[23]

Rugby union

Connacht is represented by Connacht Rugby in the Pro12 and the Rugby Champions Cup. Connacht home games are played in the Galway Sportsgrounds in Galway.

Association football

Galway United F.C. and Sligo Rovers compete in the League of Ireland Premier Division, Sligo Rovers being the more successful of the two having won the 2012 League of Ireland title and the 2010, 2011 and 2013 FAI Cups.


Moycullen Basketball from County Galway is the only Connacht club to play in the Premier League.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Page five of An tOrdú Logainmneacha (Contaetha agus Cúigí) 2003 clearly lists the official spellings of the names of the four provinces of the country with Connacht listed for both languages; when used without the term 'The province of' / 'Cúige'.
  2. 1 2 "Province Connacht". Central Statistics Office. 2011.
  3. Challoner, Richard. A Memorial of Ancient British Piety: or, a British Martyrology, p. 127. W. Needham, 1761. Accessed 14 March 2013.
  4. John Wells
  7. 1 2
  8. O'Rahilly, T. F. (1942). "Notes, Mainly Etymological". Ériu. Royal Irish Academy. 13: 157. JSTOR 30006811.
  9. Wells, John C. (2008). Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. Pearson Longman. s.v. Connacht; Connaught. ISBN 9781405881173.
  10. "Population of Saorstát Éireann and of each Province at each Census since 1881 and the Numbers of Marriages, Births and Deaths Registered in each Intercensal Period since 1871" (PDF). Census 1926 Volume 1 – Population, Area and Valuation of each DED and each larger Unit of Area. CSO. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  11. "European Assembly Elections Act, 1977, Schedule 2". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  12. "European Parliament Elections Act, 1993, Section 9". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  13. "European Parliament Elections Act, 1997, Schedule 3". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  14. "S.I. No. 91/2014 – Statistics (Carriage of Passengers, Freight and Mail by Air) Order 2013.". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  15. "S.I. No. 200/1987 – Garda Síochána (Associations) (Superintendents and Chief Superintendents) Regulations, 1987.". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  16. "Connacht Rugby Website". Retrieved 2016-07-28.
  19. Beiner, Guy, Remembering the Year of the French: Irish Folk History and Social Memory, University of Wisconsin Press (2007) ISBN 0-299-21824-4 p. 6
  20. "County Mayo: An Outline History; Part 3 – 1600 to 1800". Mayo Ireland.
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