Kingdom of Breifne

Kingdom of Breifne
Bréifne  (Irish)
Breifne c.900
Capital Dromahair
Languages Irish
Religion Celtic polytheism, Christianity
Government Monarchy
King Aodh Fionn mac Fergna
  1250 - 1256 Conchobar O'Ruairc
   Split from Connacht c.700
   Dissolution 1256
Preceded by
Succeeded by
East Breifne
West Breifne
Today part of  Republic of Ireland
Ireland in 1014 showing the patchwork of kingdoms

The Kingdom of Breifne or Bréifne ([ˈbrʲeːfnʲe]; anglicized Breffni, Breffny, Brefnie, Brenny) was a confederation of Irish túaithe headed by a ruirí drawn from the Uí Briúin Bréifne. The Bréifne territory included current day Irish counties of Leitrim and Cavan, along with parts of County Sligo (an area roughly equivalent to the modern Roman Catholic Diocese of Kilmore).

Breifne is said to derive from an obsolete Irish word meaning "hilly", a description which describes the topography of this part of Ireland. It was referred to as the rough third of Connacht.

Alternatively, the Metrical Dindshenchas states the name is derived from Brefne, daughter of Beoan mac Bethaig, a brave soldier-woman.[1]

At its height in the 12th century, when Tigernán Ua Ruairc was king of Bréifne, it extended from Kells in County Meath to Drumcliffe in County Sligo.

In 1296, according to the Annals of the Four Masters "Maelpeter O'Duigennan, Archdeacon of Breifny...died."

In 1256, a great battle was fought between the O'Rourkes and the O'Reillys near Ballinamore. This led to the division of Breifne between the O'Rourkes and O'Reillys. The Bréifne region was split into East Bréifne and West Bréifne.

The Ó Ruairc kings (O'Rourke) maintained lordship over West Bréifne (mainly County Leitrim), while the Ó Raghallaigh kings (O'Reilly) retained lordship over East Bréifne (County Cavan). The Kingdom of Bréifne region was part of the kingdom of Connacht up until the time of Queen Elizabeth I. In that time it was shired into the modern counties Cavan and Leitrim, Leitrim remaining a part of the province of Connacht while Cavan became part of Ulster.

The Ó Ruaircs were effectively lords of Breifne O'Rourke through the turbulent 16th century.

History of Breifne

In ancient times the area that became to be known as Bréifne was said to be occupied by the Erdini, called in Irish 'Ernaigh', who possessed the entire country bordering Lough Erne.

At the time of the Christianization of Ireland (c. 5th–6th century) tribal groupings believed to be in or near Breifne included the Glasraighe, Masraige, Dartraige, Armhaighe, Gallraighe, the Fir Manach, and the Gailenga.

Around the 6th century a people known as the Conmaicne Rein are thought to have moved north from around the present Dunmore in County Galway and settled in Magh Rein (the area around Fenagh). From here they peopled what is now South Leitrim, which became known as Magh Rein, and its inhabitants as the Conmaicne Magh Rein. They consisted of different family groupings – Muintir Eolais, Muintir Cearbhallain (O Mulvey), and Cinel Luachain, among others.

About the 8th century, the area since known as Breifne was conquered and settled by the Uí Briúin who were a branch of the royal family of Connacht. The Uí Briúin established themselves first in modern county Leitrim and then into what is now County Cavan. It can be argued that there is no contemporary evidence to support these speculations.

By the 9th century the O'Ruaircs had established themselves as kings of Breifne.

In the 10th and 11th centuries the O'Ruairc kings of Breifne fought some battles for the title of king of Connacht, four different kings of Breifne gaining the title.

During the 12th century the reign of Tighearnán Ua Ruairc, the kingdom of Breifne was said to comprise most of the modern counties of Leitrim and Cavan, and parts of Longford, Meath, Fermanagh and Sligo.

In the 16th century Breifne O'Rourke eventually became County Leitrim and Breifne O'Reilly became County Cavan.

Old Territories that were at one stage part of Breifne

Duncarbry (Dun Chairbre) marks the border of Cairbre's territory on the Drowes, while the Barony of Carbury in North Sligo still reminds us also today.

Noted chiefs of Cenél Cairpre included O'Mulclohy (Ó Maolchloiche).

According to the Annals of the Four Masters about 476 AD, the battle of Granard was fought by Eochaidh, son of Cairbre, son of Oilioll, son of Dunlaing, son of Enda Niadh against the Ui Dunlainge, Ui Briúin Cualann and Ui Fergusa of North Leinster.

List of the Kings of Breifne

Note: Where mentioned spelling used in the document is used here.

Early kings

Ó Ruairc dynasty, Kings of Bréifne, c. 964 - 1257

Lords of Bréifne Ó Ruairc, 1257-1605

Lords of Bréifne Ó Raghallaigh (Muintir Maelmordha)

O Ruairc, Kings of Breifne, c.1128–1605

This is a list of the Kings of Breifne from after 1128 to 1605.

O'Reillys of East Breifne: O Raghalliagh, Kings of Muintir Maoilmhordha, c.1161–1607

See also



Further reading

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