Provinces of Ireland

Provinces of Ireland

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Provinces of Ireland

"Flag of the Four Provinces"
Location
Statistics
Area
Area
Area is a quantity that expresses the extent of a two-dimensional surface or shape in the plane. Area can be understood as the amount of material with a given thickness that would be necessary to fashion a model of the shape, or the amount of paint necessary to cover the surface with a single coat...

:
84,421 km²
Population
Population
A population is all the organisms that both belong to the same group or species and live in the same geographical area. The area that is used to define a sexual population is such that inter-breeding is possible between any pair within the area and more probable than cross-breeding with individuals...

 (2011):
6,241,700


Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 has historically been divided into four province
Province
A province is a territorial unit, almost always an administrative division, within a country or state.-Etymology:The English word "province" is attested since about 1330 and derives from the 13th-century Old French "province," which itself comes from the Latin word "provincia," which referred to...

s
: Leinster
Leinster
Leinster is one of the Provinces of Ireland situated in the east of Ireland. It comprises the ancient Kingdoms of Mide, Osraige and Leinster. Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the historic fifths of Leinster and Mide gradually merged, mainly due to the impact of the Pale, which straddled...

, Ulster
Ulster
Ulster is one of the four provinces of Ireland, located in the north of the island. In ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths ruled by a "king of over-kings" . Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the ancient kingdoms were shired into a number of counties for administrative and judicial...

, Munster
Munster
Munster is one of the Provinces of Ireland situated in the south of Ireland. In Ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths ruled by a "king of over-kings" . Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the ancient kingdoms were shired into a number of counties for administrative and judicial purposes...

 and Connacht
Connacht
Connacht , formerly anglicised as Connaught, is one of the Provinces of Ireland situated in the west of Ireland. In Ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths ruled by a "king of over-kings" . Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the ancient kingdoms were shired into a number of counties for...

. The Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 word for this territorial division, cúige, literally meaning "fifth part", indicates that there were once five; the fifth province, Meath
Kingdom of Mide
Mide , spelt Midhe in modern Irish and anglicised as Meath, was a medieval kingdom in Ireland for over 1,000 years. Its name means "middle", denoting the fact that lay in the middle of Ireland....

, was incorporated into Leinster, with parts going to Ulster.

History


The origins of these provinces (loosely federated kingdoms with somewhat flexible boundaries), of which there were five before the Norman invasion
Norman Invasion of Ireland
The Norman invasion of Ireland was a two-stage process, which began on 1 May 1169 when a force of loosely associated Norman knights landed near Bannow, County Wexford...

, can be traced to the overriding influence exerted in their respective territories by the great Irish dynastic families of Uí Néill
Uí Néill
The Uí Néill are Irish and Scottish dynasties who claim descent from Niall Noigiallach , an historical King of Tara who died about 405....

/O'Neill (Ulster), Uí Máeilsheáchlainn/O'Melaghlin (Mide), Uí Briain/O'Brien (Munster), Uí Conchobhair/O'Conor (Connacht) and Mac Murchadha-Caomhánach/MacMurrough-Kavanagh (Leinster). A "king of over-kings", a rí ruirech was often a provincial (rí cóicid) or semi-provincial king to whom several ruiri were subordinate. Entities belonging to the 1st and 2nd millennia are listed. These do not all belong to the same periods. Over the centuries, the number of provincial kings varied between three and six. No more than six genuine rí ruirech were ever contemporary, with the average being three or four. Also, following the Norman invasion, the situation became somewhat more condensed and complicated than previously.
  • Kings of Ulster
    Kings of Ulster
    The Kings of Ulster were of the Ulaid, and up till about AD 450, ruled as over-kings of the ancient cóiced of Ulster. Ptolemy's map shows them as the Voluntii and adjacent Darini. They were joined in the kingship by the later attested Cruithne...

  • Kings of Munster
    Kings of Munster
    The name Munster is derived from the Gaelic God, Muman. The province of Munster was once divided into six regions: Tuadh Mhuman , Des Mhuman , Aur/Ur Mumhan , Iar mumhan or Iarmuman , Ernaibh Muman , and Deisi Muman...

  • Kings of Mide
    Kings of Mide
    In medieval Ireland, the Kings of Mide were of the Clann Cholmáin, a branch of the Uí Néill. Several were High Kings of Ireland. After the collapse of the kingdom in the 12th century its dynasty, the Ua Mael Sechlainn or Ó Melaghlins, were forced west and settled on the east bank of the Shannon...

  • Kings of Connacht
    Kings of Connacht
    The Kings of Connacht were rulers of the cóiced of Connacht, which lies west of the River Shannon, Ireland. However, the name only became applied to it in the early medieval era, being named after The Connachta.The old name for the province was Cóiced Ol nEchmacht . Ptolemy's map of c. 150 AD...

     (majority: O'Conor dynasty
    O'Conor Don
    The Ó Conchubhair Donn is the hereditary Prince and Chief of the Name of the Royal Family of Connacht, the Clan Ó Conchubhair.-Overview:...

    )
  • Kings of Leinster
    Kings of Leinster
    The following is a provisional list of the kings of Leinster who ruled the Irish kingdom of Leinster up to 1632 with the death of Domhnall Spainnach MacMurrough-Kavanagh, the last legitimately inaugurated head of the MacMurrough Kavanagh royal line...

     (2nd millennium: Uí Cheinnselaig
    Uí Cheinnselaig
    The Uí Ceinnselaig , from the Old Irish "grandsons of Cennsalach", are an Irish dynasty of Leinster who trace their descent from Énnae Cennsalach, a supposed contemporary of Niall of the Nine Hostages...

    )

After the Norman invasion


In the post-Norman period the historic provinces of Leinster and Meath gradually merged, mainly due to the impact of the Pale
The Pale
The Pale or the English Pale , was the part of Ireland that was directly under the control of the English government in the late Middle Ages. It had reduced by the late 15th century to an area along the east coast stretching from Dalkey, south of Dublin, to the garrison town of Dundalk...

, which straddled both, thereby forming the present-day province of Leinster. In the Irish Annals
Irish annals
A number of Irish annals were compiled up to and shortly after the end of Gaelic Ireland in the 17th century.Annals were originally a means by which monks determined the yearly chronology of feast days...

 these five ancient political divisions were invariably referred to as cúigí ("fifths") 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
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 provinciae.

In modern times they have become associated with groups of counties, although they have no legal status. They are today seen mainly in a sporting context, as Ireland's four professional rugby teams play under the names of the provinces, and the Gaelic Athletic Association
Gaelic Athletic Association
The Gaelic Athletic Association is an amateur Irish and international cultural and sporting organisation focused primarily on promoting Gaelic games, which include the traditional Irish sports of hurling, camogie, Gaelic football, handball and rounders...

 has separate GAA provincial councils and Provincial championships
Provincial championships
A Provincial Championship occurs in the Gaelic Athletic Association in Ireland. There are four Provincial councils in Ireland; Ulster, Connacht, Leinster and Munster as well as councils outside Ireland such as that which covers Britain...

.

The provinces were supplanted by the present system of counties
Counties of Ireland
The counties of Ireland are sub-national divisions used for the purposes of geographic demarcation and local government. Closely related to the county is the County corporate which covered towns or cities which were deemed to be important enough to be independent from their counties. A county...

 after the Norman invasion.

Six of the nine Ulster counties form modern-day Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

, which is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is sometimes called a province
Province
A province is a territorial unit, almost always an administrative division, within a country or state.-Etymology:The English word "province" is attested since about 1330 and derives from the 13th-century Old French "province," which itself comes from the Latin word "provincia," which referred to...

 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.

Demographics and politics

Province Flag Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 name
Population (2011) Area (km²) Number of
Counties
Counties of Ireland
The counties of Ireland are sub-national divisions used for the purposes of geographic demarcation and local government. Closely related to the county is the County corporate which covered towns or cities which were deemed to be important enough to be independent from their counties. A county...

Chief city
Leinster
Leinster
Leinster is one of the Provinces of Ireland situated in the east of Ireland. It comprises the ancient Kingdoms of Mide, Osraige and Leinster. Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the historic fifths of Leinster and Mide gradually merged, mainly due to the impact of the Pale, which straddled...

  Laighin
Cúige Laighean
2,501,208 19,800 12 Dublin
Ulster
Ulster
Ulster is one of the four provinces of Ireland, located in the north of the island. In ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths ruled by a "king of over-kings" . Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the ancient kingdoms were shired into a number of counties for administrative and judicial...

  Ulaidh
Cúige Uladh
1,954,727‡ 21,882 9 Belfast
Belfast
Belfast is the capital of and largest city in Northern Ireland. By population, it is the 14th biggest city in the United Kingdom and second biggest on the island of Ireland . It is the seat of the devolved government and legislative Northern Ireland Assembly...

Munster
Munster
Munster is one of the Provinces of Ireland situated in the south of Ireland. In Ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths ruled by a "king of over-kings" . Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the ancient kingdoms were shired into a number of counties for administrative and judicial purposes...

  Mumhain
Cúige Mumhan
1,243,726 24,675 6 Cork
Cork (city)
Cork is the second largest city in the Republic of Ireland and the island of Ireland's third most populous city. It is the principal city and administrative centre of County Cork and the largest city in the province of Munster. Cork has a population of 119,418, while the addition of the suburban...

Connacht
Connacht
Connacht , formerly anglicised as Connaught, is one of the Provinces of Ireland situated in the west of Ireland. In Ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths ruled by a "king of over-kings" . Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the ancient kingdoms were shired into a number of counties for...

  Connachta
Cúige Chonnacht
542,039 17,788 5 Galway
Galway
Galway or City of Galway is a city in County Galway, Republic of Ireland. It is the sixth largest and the fastest-growing city in Ireland. It is also the third largest city within the Republic and the only city in the Province of Connacht. Located on the west coast of Ireland, it sits on the...

Note 1: "Number of Counties" is traditional counties, not administrative ones.
Note 2: Population for Ulster is the sum of the 2011 census results for counties of Ulster in Republic of Ireland and the 2006 estimated population for Northern Ireland. Population for other provinces is all 2011 census results.

Poetic description



This dinnseanchas poem named Ard Ruide (Ruide Headland) poetically describes the kingdoms of Ireland. Below is a translation from Old Irish: