Iar Connacht

West Connacht
Iar Connacht
Túatha of Connacht (until 1235)

Coat of arms

Iar Connacht c. 1450, marked on the map as O'Flaherty.
Capital Not specified
Languages Middle Irish, Early Modern Irish, Latin
Religion Catholic Christianity
Gaelic tradition
Government Tanistry
   1051 Amhalgaidh mac Cathal
  1560–1589 Murchadh na dTuadh Ó Flaithbheartaigh
   Established 1051
   Disestablished 1589
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Maigh Seóla
Delbhna Tír Dhá Locha
Conmhaícne Mara
Kingdom of Ireland

West Connacht (Irish: Iarthar Chonnachta; Modern Irish: Iar Connacht) was a kingdom of Gaelic Ireland, associated geographically with present-day County Galway, particularly the area known more commonly today as Connemara. The kingdom represented the core homeland of the Connachta's Uí Briúin Seóla kindred and although they ruled, there were smaller groups of other Gaels in the area, such as the Delbhna Tir Dha Locha and the Conmhaícne Mara. It existed from 1051 onwards, after the Ó Conchobhair, Kings of Connacht, pushed the Ó Flaithbheartaigh to the West of Lough Corrib, from their original territory of Maigh Seóla. Iar Connacht remained a subordinate túath of Connacht, until the 13th century, after which it was more independent.

Galway upon its founding was originally governed by the Ó Flaithbheartaigh of Iar Connacht, but with the rise of the Clanricarde Burkes; a Norman family; it was captured in 1232. Around this time much of Connacht in general fell to the Burkes. Galway's Norman oligarchy later achieved a quasi-independent status to carry out its trade, but there always lingered the threat of it being reconquered by the Gaelic Ó Flaithbheartaigh, particularly during the 14th and 15th centuries. The Normans placed a sign on the gate of the city saying, "From the Ferocious O'Flahertys, O Lord deliver us".


Coastal túath of Connacht

Iar Connacht (West Connacht) came into being during the 1050s, under the kingship of Amhalgaidh mac Cathal, from the Ó Flaithbheartaigh. This clan had originated as part of the Connachta, specifically the Uí Briúin Seóla kindred and were also known as the Muintir Murchada, claiming descent from Murchadh mac Maenach. They were kings of Maigh Seóla from the 9th century onward, the plain lying on eastern side of Lough Corrib (Tuam to Athenry to Maree) and owed fealty to the kings of Connacht. Maigh Seóla was a rich and fertile land and during the kingship of Áed in Gai Bernaig there was a conflict over it, between the kings of Connacht and the Muintir Murchada. The Ó Conchobhair got the better of the conflict and the subsequent descendants of Amhalgaidh mac Cathal gradually began relocating west of Lough Corrib into Iar Connacht (what is today more commonly known as Connemara).

Prior to the aforementioned events, the lands to the West of Lough Corrib were under the Delbhna Tir Dha Locha and the Conmhaícne Mara; these two groups were distinct from the Connachta in general. The Delbhna were under the Mac Con Raoi and the Conmhaícne Mara were under the Ó Cadhla. These people subsequently were subordinated to the new Iar Connacht under the Ó Flaithbheartaigh. The túatha, although part of Connacht continued to come into conflict with the Kings of Connacht at times, for instance Aedh Ua Flaithbheartaigh being killed in 1079 by Ruaidrí na Saide Buide. Ruaidrí himself was the foster-son of Flaithbertaigh Ua Flaithbertaigh and in a political coup, Flaithbertaigh became king of Connacht for 1092–1095, having blinded Ruaidrí. Flaithbertaigh was himself overthrown and later killed by members of Ruaidrí's Ó Conchobhair family.

With the rise of political forces in Munster to the south; namely the Mac Cárthaigh of the Eóganachta and the Ó Briain of the Dál gCais in Thomond, tensions between the Ó Conchobhair and the Ó Flaithbheartaigh cooled somewhat. Iar Connacht suffered several significant invasions from Munster during this time, including during the reign of Conchobhar Ua Flaithbheartaigh who was the first Governor of Dun Gallimhe (Galway) and died there in 1132 defending the fort from Cormac Mac Carthaigh. His successor, Ruaidhri Ua Flaithbheartaigh, too, was killed in 1145 after an invasion from Munster. Towards the end of the 12th century, a quarrel in Iar Connacht between two brothers of the Ó Flaithbheartaigh emerged; Conchubhar Ua Flaithbheartaigh (loyal to the Ó Conchobhair) was killed by his brother Ruadhri Ua Flaithbertaigh (who was allied to the Ó Briain). Cathal Crobhdearg arrested this Ruadhrí in 1197.

Ó Flaithearta and the Normans

The aftermath of the above-mentioned brotherly dispute, would have unforeseen consequences for the Gaels of Connacht. The Normans up until this point did not have much success in Connacht, but in his dispute with his brother; Cathal Carragh Ua Conchobair; the king of Connacht Cathal Crobhdearg Ua Conchobair sought the assistance of Mac Cárthaigh from Desmond and also William de Burgh, a Norman in Ireland originally from Burgh Castle, Norfolk. This was initially a success as Cathal Carragh was killed on the Curlew Mountains in battle during 1202. However, while staying at Cong, the ambitious Norman wanted a heavy payment for his services and frustrated, entered into a pact of conspiracy with the sons of Ruadhri Ua Flaithbertaigh to kill Cathal Crobhdearg. This plot was thwarted however, but it marked the origins of the Burke vs. Connacht conflict in the coming years.

Since the middle of the 19th century most of Iar Chonnachta has been generally called Connemara largely due to the emerging tourist industry of that time.

Diocese of Annaghdown

The religion which predominated at an official level in Iar Connacht was Catholic Christianity. The territory of Iar Connacht was associated with the Diocese of Annaghdown under the Bishop of Annaghdown, which had been formed in 1179. It was not mentioned at the Synod of Ráth Breasail of almost seventy years earlier, where the short-lived and firmly Ó Conchobhair influenced Diocese of Cong, based on the Augustinian Cong Abbey was mentioned instead (famously associated with the Cross of Cong).

List of kings

Kings of Maigh Seóla (later Uí Briúin Seóla)

Kings of Iar Connacht

Taoiseach of Iar Connacht

See also


External links

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