Northern Uí Néill
The Northern Uí Néill is the name given to several dynasties in north-western medieval Ireland that claimed descent from a common ancestor, Niall of the Nine Hostages. Other dynasties in central and eastern Ireland who claimed descent from Niall were termed the Southern Uí Néill; the dynasties of the Northern Uí Néill were the Cenél Conaill and Cenél nEógain, named after supposed sons of Niall: Conall and Eógain. The Northern Uí Néill's over-kingdom in its earliest days was known as In Fochla and In Tuaiscert, both meaning "the North", was ruled by the Cenél Conaill. After the Cenél nEógain's rise to dominance, it became known as Ailech, it is claimed in medieval Irish texts that around 425, three sons of Niall Noígiallach—Eoghan, Conal Gulban, Enda—along with Erc, a son of Colla Uais, his grandchildren, invaded north-western Ulster. The result was the vast reduction in the territory of the Ulaid, with the portion of land taken by the three sons of Niall becoming the kingdom of Ailech; this land was divided between the three brothers as such: Conal Gulban took the western portion and named it Tír Chonaill.
The lack of contemporary evidence has cast doubt on the validity of traditional accounts, with questions raised whether such an invasion took place, as well as whether the invaders belonged to the Uí Néill at all. Despite the questions over the validity of the traditional accounts, these alleged sons of Niall are collectively known by historians as the Northern Uí Néill. From the 8th century onwards sponsored by Áed Allán, a Cenél nEógain king of Tara, Congus, the bishop of Armagh, early Irish historians constructed propaganda to shore up and cement Uí Néill political supremacy along with the ecclesiastical supremacy of Armagh; this involved the ruthless re-writing and doctoring of genealogies, lists of kings and early annals, tracing the current situation as having primacy all the way back into the undocumented 5th century. In tandem, about a dozen peoples became designated within what was called Uí Néill in Tuaiscirt, of which the Cenél Conaill and Cenél nEógain were the most dominant. By the 13th-century, the Cenél Conaill had come to dominance over the original territory of the Northern Uí Néill in County Donegal, sponsored their own history, which incorporated elements from earlier historical revisions.
Known as the Eachtra Conaill Gulbain, "The otherworld adventures of Conall Gulban", it details how sons of Niall Noígiallach, the eponymous ancestor of the Uí Néill dynasties, came forth from Connacht, invaded the north-western territory of the Ulaid, conquering it from the indigenous people, the Dál Fiatach. This territory equated to present-day County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. Here they founded their own over-kingdom and dynasties: the Cenél Conaill and Cenél nEógain,Detailed analysis of maternal ancestries, hagiography and saints’ genealogies, has brought the origins of the Cenél Conaill branch of the Northern Uí Néill into question, with it being claimed that they are most a branch of the Cruithin, linked to the Uí Echach Coba of Iveagh, Conaille Muirtheimne. Adding to the confusion over the true origins of the Cenél Conaill and Cenél nEógain, recent DNA analysis of descendants from both branches shows a common ancestor in the north-west of Ireland dating from around 1,730 years ago.
Niall Noígiallach has been ruled out by historian Brian Lacey as being this ancestor, providing other possible candidates including: Cana mac Luigdech Lámfhata, Dál Fiatach leader of Sentuatha Ulaid. The over-kingdom of the Northern Uí Néill was known as In Fochla, meaning "the North", with the over-king styled as rí ind Fhochlai, the "king of the North", it was divided into several sub-kingdoms. The territory of the Cenél Conaill was called Tír Conaill, meaning "the land of Conall"; the territory Tír Conaill held by the late 16th century, would become the basis for County Donegal. The territory of the Cenél nEógain was called Inis Eógain, meaning "Eógain's island", the name of which survives today as the name of the Inishowen peninsula, their king was styled as rí Ailig, the "king of Ailech", with their base being the Grianan of Aileach at the entrance of the Inishowen peninsula. The Cenél Conaill and Cenél nEógain are assumed to have established lordship over their neighbouring local tuatha.
The Cenél Conaill were the dominant branch, were so from the 6th to late 8th centuries. However throughout the 6th and 7th centuries and the Cenél nEógain are claimed to have been vying over dominance of the over-kingdom. In 734, after a challenge from Áed Allán, king of the Cenél nEógain, the Cenél Conaill over-king of the Northern Uí Néill, the Uí Néill as a whole, Flaithbertach mac Loingsech abdicated. From onwards the Cenél Conaill's dominance started to wane, their rulers would never again attain the status of over-king of the Uí Néill, it was from this point that the lengthy rotation of the kingship of Tara between the Cenél nEógain and Clann Cholmáin of the Southern Uí Néill started. The power of the Cenél Conaill collapsed around the 780s, allowing the Cenél nEógain to advance against them. According to the Annals of Ulster, in 788 the Cenél nEógain as part of a southwards push burned the monastery of Derry, built by the Cenél Conaill in the 6th century; the following year, 789, the battle of Cloítech occurred between the Cenél nEógain, led
Áed Uaridnach was an Irish king, High King of Ireland. He is sometimes known as Áed Allán, a name most used for the 8th-century king of the same name, this Áed's great-great-grandson. Áed was the son of Domnall Ilchelgach and brother of Eochaid mac Domnaill, considered to have been High Kings by some sources. He belonged to the northern Cenél nEógain kindred of the Uí Néill, he was King of Ailech from 604 to 612Áed, it was said, was preceded as High King by the joint rule of Áed Sláine and Colmán Rímid and ruled from 604 to 612. Áed is mentioned in the earliest Irish King list contained in the Baile Chuind, a late 7th-century Irish poem. In 605 Áed won a victory over the King of Brandub mac Echach at the Battle of Slabra. Leinster was a target of the Uí Néill for inaugural raids and the levy of a cattle-tribute; the Annals of Tigernach place the beginning of his reign after this event. The cause of Áed's death is unknown. According to one recension of The Book of Invasions he "died of plague in Tara".
The Cenél Feradach, led by the descendants of Suibne Menn, overshadowed Áed's branch of the Cenél nEógain—the Cenél maic Ercae—and it was not until the time of his great-grandson Fergal mac Máele Dúin that the Cenél maic Ercae again provided a High King of Ireland. Áed's son Máel Fithrich mac. CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts at University College Cork TLH: Thesaurus Linguae Hibernicae at University College Dublin
Áed mac Néill called Áed Oirdnide, was King of Ailech. A member of the Cenél nEógain dynasty of the northern Uí Néill, he was the son of Niall Frossach. Like his father, Áed was reckoned High King of Ireland, he was King of Ailech from 788 onwards and High King of Ireland from 797. The conflict between Cenél nEógain and Cenél Conaill for the leading role in the north appears to have turned on control over the lands of the minor Cenél nEndai branch of the Uí Néill which lay around Raphoe. Communications between the northern and southern branches of Cenél Conaill based on the north-west coast of Donergal and in the south around Donegal town, ran through these. While Cenél nEndai were clients or allies of Cenél Conaill, as they had been before Áed Allán defeated Flaithbertach mac Loingsig in the 730s, Cenél Conaill had the upper hand, provided kings of Tara and kings of the North. By the death of Niall Frossach, if not earlier, Cenél nEndai were again under the sway of Cenél Conaill; the region was still disputed in 787 when Máel Dúin defeated Domnall and appears to have gained some recognition as king of the North as he is so styled at his death the following year.
Áed succeeded Máel Dúin as king of Ailech, but was challenged by Domnall whom he defeated at the battle of Clóitech in 789. This appears to have been the final attempt by kings of Cenél Conaill to regain control of the lands around Raphoe, seized by Cenél nEógain; the annals record a battle in 791 at Tailtiu, site of the oenach Tailten. The summoning of this gathering was one of the prerogatives of the High King at which he would demonstrate his power and standing. Whether Áed brought an army south to disturb the oenach, or whether the conflict was provoked by Donnchad, is unknown; the outcome was that Áed fled from Tailtiu and was pursued as far as Slane. Several of Áed's allies are said to have been killed including the kings of two branches of Uí Chremthainn, an Airgíalla dynasty whose lands lay around Clogher and Clones, it is on this occasion that the Chronicle of Ireland calls Áed Áed Ingor, Áed the Unfilial or Áed the Undutiful, the only byname used in early sources. It is supposed that this refers to his conflict with his father-in-law Donnchad Midi, although the term mac ingor, a term from early Irish law refers to the undutiful son who does not support his biological father.
Whatever the origin of the name may have been, it is plainly not flattering. In 794 Áed is recorded as campaigning against the Mugdorna Maigen at a time when Donnchad was involved in war with Munster; the lands of Mugdorna Maigen lay around the upper reaches of the river Fane, with the chief church at Donaghmoyne, County Monaghan. Although reckoned one of the nine tribes of the Airgíalla, the Mugdorna were clients of the southern Síl nÁedo Sláine branch of the Uí Néill rather than of Áed's Cenél nEógain dynasty like most of the Airgíalla. Although Donnchad's authority waned in the last decade of his life, he remained the dominant figure until his death on 6 February 797. Following Donnchad's death, Áed moved to ensure, he defeated two of Donnchad's brothers, Diarmait and Fínsnechta, along another Fínsnechta, a son of Fallomon mac Con Congalt of Clann Cholmáin Bicc, at Druim Ríg in south Brega. A poem in the Annals of Ulster portrays this as vengeance for the death of Áed's uncle Áed Allán at the hands of Donnchad's father Domnall Midi at the battle of Seredmag in 743.
Some time in 797 Áed devastated Mide and the Annals of Ulster take this to mark the beginning of his reign. In 802 Muiredach, king of Mide, died, he was the last of Donnchad Midi's known brothers. Áed led an army south to Mide where he divided the lands of Clann Cholmáin between two of Donnchad's sons and Conchobar. If this was intended to reduce the power of potential rivals, it proved ineffective. Ailill and Conchobar met in battle in 803 at Rath Conaill. Ailill was killed leaving Conchobar as sole king of Mide. In 804 Áed devastated the area twice in one month; that same year King of Leinster, submitted to him. However Áed was not satisfied with this and in 805 he made a hosting to Dún Cuair and installed Muiredach mac Ruadrach and Muiredach mac Brain as joint kings of Leinster. Finsnechta took refuge with Muirgius mac Tommaltaig, the King of Connacht, who aided him in recovering his throne in 806. In 808 Conchobar of Meath made a bid for the high kingship and was joined by King Muirgius of Connacht.
They advanced as far as the assembly grounds of Tailtiu but on the appearance of Aed's army the allies dispersed. Áed pursued them and burned the borders of Mide In 808 or 809 Áed again attacked Leinster but was defeated on the banks of the Liffey. In 809 Áed campaigned against Ulaid and defeated them ravaging from the Bann to Strangford Lough; the motive for this conflict was the killing of Dúnchú, superior of the monastery of Tulach Léis, by the Ulaid. In 815 one of Áed's brothers, Colmán mac Néill, was killed by the Cenél Conaill. and Áed led an expedition against them in revenge. In 818 Áed again assembled his forces at Dún Cuair and attacked Leinster, dividing Leinster between his two candidates who were unable to retain their position; that same year the vice abbot of Cell Mór Enir was killed by the Laigin. As a result, Áed led another expedition versus Leinster and laid waste the land of Cualu as far as Glenn dá Locha. In 819 Áed died near Áth dá Ferta in the territory of Conaille Muirtheimne in modern County
Diarmait mac Cerbaill
Diarmait mac Cerbaill was King of Tara or High King of Ireland. According to traditions, he was the last High King to follow the pagan rituals of inauguration, the ban-feis or marriage to goddess of the land. While many stories were attached to Diarmait, he was a historical ruler and his descendants were of great significance in Medieval Ireland, he is not to be confused with the Diarmait mac Cerbaill, son of king Cerball mac Dúnlainge. It is believed that the earliest of the Irish annals which came to make up the lost Chronicle of Ireland were kept as a contemporary record from no than the middle of the 7th century, may be rather older as it has been argued that many late 6th century entries have the appearance of contemporary recording. There is general agreement that the annals are based, in their earliest contemporary records, on a chronicle kept at the monastery on Iona, that the recording moved to somewhere in the midlands of Ireland only around 740. Although it is thus possible that the records of Diarmait's times in the annals are nearly contemporary, the history of the annals is complex and much debated, so that it is uncertain to what extent surviving late annals such as the Annals of Ulster and Annals of Tigernach faithfully reproduce the earlier records.
Diarmait mac Cerbaill was the last to hold the sacral kingship of Tara. He has some title to be ranked as the first Christian high-king of Ireland. Two of his sons bore the Christian name of Colmán, deriving from the Latin Columbanus; this ambivalent character, together with the fact that he was the direct ancestor of the two most powerful dynasties of the Southern Uí Néill, made him an obvious figure for saga and legend. Diarmait was the son of Fergus Cerrbél, son of Conall Cremthainne, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, yet of Niall's own historicity there is little reason to doubt. His descendants quarrrelled incessantly among themselves after the manner of most Irish dynastic families and had no cause to invent a common ancestry, since by unanimous testimony the high-kingship of Tara prior to Niall's days had not been the preserve of any one tribe or family. By the end of the fifth century, however, it was well on the way to becoming so. Niall's sons and grandsons proclaimed their intention of monopolising it to the exclusion of their western cousins by discarding the tribal appellation of Connachta and adopting the dynastic name Uí Néill, nepotes Néill.
As a great-grandson of Niall and his descendants were counted among the Uí Néill, the name meaning "descendants of Niall". The two great Southern Uí Néill dynasties of the midlands were the Síl nÁedo Sláine, kings of Brega in the east, the Clann Cholmáin Máir in Mide with their centre in the heart of modern Westmeath; the former are more prominent in the seventh century, but after the death of Cináed mac Írgalaig in 728 all the high-kings of the Southern Uí Néill come from the Clann Cholmáin except for a brief period between 944 and 956 when the king of Knowth, Congalach Cnogba, restored the high-kingship to the Brega line. It is remarkable that the Síl nÁedo Sláine and Clann Cholmáin derive their origin, not directly from Niall Noígiallach, but from his great-grandson Diarmait mac Cerbaill; the annals date Diarmait's reign as high-king from about 544 to 565. The petty Uí Néill kings of Cenél nArdgail traced their ancestry to an uncle of Diarmait's, but never won the high kingship. Besides Colmáin Már and Áed Sláine, Diarmait had a third son Colmáin Bec, whose descendants, the dynasty of Caílle Follamain, ruled an area corresponding to the baronies of Fore, between Mide and Brega.
Diarmait's immediate origins may arouse some suspicion. In spite of his patronymic the genealogical tradition says that his father's name was Fergus, nicknamed Cerrbél or'crooked mouth', his grandfather Conall son of Niall was nicknamed Cremthainne, to distinguish him from his brother Conall Gulban, ancestor of the Cenél Conaill. The habit of giving the same name to different sons remained common among the prolific Irish princes until the sixteenth century; the Annals of Tigernach record that Diarmait celebrated the Feast of Tara, his inauguration as King, in 558 or 560. The previous King of Tara, according to the earliest lists, was Óengarb, an epithet meaning "extremely rough", presumed to refer to Diarmait's kinsman Tuathal Maelgarb. What followed the inauguration was "a unpropitious reign for so famous a king". Diarmait was defeated at the battle of Cúl Dreimne in 560 or 561; this was the "Battle of the Books" the result of Diarmait's judgement in a dispute between Columba and Finnian of Moville.
Columba, it is said, had secretly copied a book belonging to Finnian, the matter of ownership of the copy had come to be settled by Diarmait, who adjudged in Finnian's favour saying "o every cow its calf and to every book its copy." Columba sought support from his kinsmen among the Cenél Conaill and the Cenél nEógain of the northern Uí Néill who went to war with Diarmait. This is a late tradition, annalistic accounts claim that the battle was fought over Diarmait's killing of Diarmait of Curnán, son of Áed mac Echach, the King of Connacht, under Columba's protection. Following this defeat, Diarmait lost the battle of Cúil Uinsen to Áed mac Brénainn, king of Tethbae in Leinster. Diarmait played no part in the great Uí Néill victory over the Cruthin at Móin Daire Lothair in 563, he was killed in 565 at Ráith Bec in Mag Line in Ulster by Áed Dub mac Suibni, king of the
Armagh is the county town of County Armagh and a city in Northern Ireland, as well as a civil parish. It is the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland – the seat of the Archbishops of Armagh, the Primates of All Ireland for both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland. In ancient times, nearby Navan Fort was a pagan ceremonial site and one of the great royal capitals of Gaelic Ireland. Today, Armagh is home to two cathedrals and the Armagh Observatory, is known for its Georgian architecture. Although classed as a medium-sized town, Armagh was given city status in 1994 and Lord Mayoralty status in 2012, both by Queen Elizabeth II, it had a population of 14,749 people in the 2011 Census, making it the least-populated city in Ireland and the fifth smallest in the United Kingdom. Eamhain Mhacha, at the western edge of Armagh, is believed to have been an ancient pagan ritual or ceremonial site. According to Irish mythology it was one of the great royal sites of Gaelic Ireland and the capital of Ulster.
It appears to have been abandoned after the 1st century. In the 3rd century, a ditch and bank was dug around the top of Cathedral Hill, the heart of what is now Armagh, its circular shape matches the modern street layout. Evidence suggests that it was the successor to Navan. Like Navan, it too was named after the goddess Macha – Ard Mhacha means "Macha's height"; this name was anglicised as Ardmagh, which became Armagh. After Christianity spread to Ireland, the pagan sanctuary was converted into a Christian one, Armagh became the site of an important church and monastery. According to tradition, Saint Patrick founded his main church there in the year 457, it became the "ecclesiastical capital" of Ireland. Saint Patrick was said to have decreed. According to the Annals of the Four Masters: Ard Mhacha was founded by Saint Patrick, it having been granted to him by Daire, son of Finnchadh, son of Eoghan, son of Niallan. Twelve men were appointed by him for building the town, he ordered them, in the first place, to erect an archbishop's city there, a church for monks, for nuns, for the other orders in general, for he perceived that it would be the head and chief of the churches of Ireland in general.
In 839 and 869, the monastery in Armagh was raided by Vikings. As with similar raids, their goal was to acquire valuables such as silver, which could be found in churches and monasteries; the Book of Armagh came from the monastery. It is a 9th-century Irish manuscript now held by Trinity College Library in Dublin, it contains some of the oldest surviving specimens of Old Irish. Brian Boru is believed to be buried in the graveyard of the St. Patrick's Church of Ireland cathedral. After having conquered the island during the 990s, he became High King of Ireland in 1002, until his death in 1014. In 1189, John de Courcy, a Norman knight who had invaded Ulster in 1177, plundered Armagh. Armagh has been an educational centre since the time of Saint Patrick, thus it has been referred to as "the city of saints and scholars"; the educational tradition continued with the foundation of the Royal School in 1608, St Patrick's College in 1834 and the Armagh Observatory in 1790. The Observatory was part of Archbishop Lord Rokeby's plan to have a university in the city.
This ambition was fulfilled, albeit in the 1990s when Queen's University of Belfast opened an outreach centre in the former hospital building. Three brothers from Armagh died at the Battle of the Somme during World War I. None of the three has a known grave and all are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. A fourth brother was wounded in the same attack. On 14 January 1921, during the Irish War of Independence, a Royal Irish Constabulary sergeant was assassinated by the Irish Republican Army in Armagh, he was attacked with a grenade as he walked along Market Street and died of his wounds. On 4 September 1921, republican leaders Michael Collins and Eoin O'Duffy addressed a large meeting in Armagh, attended by up to 10,000 people. During the Troubles in Armagh, the violence was substantial enough for the city to be referred to by some as "Murder Mile". Over the span of 20 years, 24 individuals were killed in 13 different incidents. Armagh City and District Council was a single district council until 2015 when it merged with Banbridge District Council and Craigavon Borough Council under local government reorganisation in Northern Ireland to become Armagh and Craigavon District Council known as the ABC council.
In the Armagh and Craigavon District Council election, 2014, a total of two Sinn Fein, two SDLP, one DUP and one UUP councillors were elected from Armagh electoral area. In 2018 the Lord Mayor of the ABC council was Julie Flaherty and the Deputy Lord Mayor was Paul Duffy. Armagh is part of the Armagh. In the 2017 elections, the following were elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly: Megan Fearon, Cathal Boylan, Conor Murphy, Justin McNulty of the SDLP and William Irwin of the DUP. Together with part of the district of Newry and Mourne, it forms the Newry & Armagh constituency for elections to the Westminster Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly; the Member of Parliament is Mickey Brady of Sinn Féin. He won the seat in the United Kingdom general election, 2015; as the seat of the Primate of All Ireland, Armagh was regarded as a city, recognisably had the status by 1226. It claimed the title by prescription.
Clonard Abbey was an early medieval monastery situated on the River Boyne in the Republic of Ireland, just beside the traditional boundary line of the northern and southern halves of Ireland in modern County Meath. The village of Clonard is nearby; the monastery was founded in about 520 by Saint Finnian, who constructed a single cell at the site. The original site may have been at nearby Ard Relec. According to medieval chronicles, Finnian was led to the site by an angel who told him that it would be the place of his resurrection, he was well-travelled, based his monastery on the training he received at Tours and Llancarfan. Finnian was buried on the site after his death in about 549. During the sixth century, some of the most significant names in the history of Irish Christianity studied at the monastery. Clonard was situated on the Esker Riada, Ireland's main east-west road in early medieval times, adding to its prominence; however it was on the boundary between the kingdoms of Leinster and Meath that were at war.
From the eighth century onwards, Clonard came under the control of various rival political dynasties, by the mid-ninth century, it was the leading church of the Irish midlands. The abbot of Clonard led the clergy of the midlands in the same fashion that the abbot of Armagh led those in the north. During its heyday, a hymn written in Finnian's honor claimed that the monastery's school housed 3,000 pupils receiving religious instruction at any given time. A great part of the abbey erected by St. Finian was burnt in 764. Like many monastic sites in Ireland, Clonard suffered heavy losses under the Viking raids of the ninth through eleventh centuries. In the year 838 the Danes put the clergy to the sword, they returned again in 888. In 939, King of Cashel, assisted by the Danes of Waterford, plundered the abbey. In 970, son of Murcha and burnt Clonard. From the Synod of Ráth Breasail, it was the centre of the new see of Clonard, to which, were added the bishoprics of Trim, Ardbraccan and Slane, indicating its importance at the time.
This was confirmed at the Synod of Kells in 1152. In 1113, King of Munster, plundered Meath and forcibly carried off the riches of the whole province, lodged for safety in the abbey church. A great part of the abbey, all the library, was consumed by accidental fire in 1143; the abbey and town were despoiled and burnt in 1170, by M'Murcha, aided by Earl Strongbow and the English, having been afterwards rebuilt, they suffered a similar fate in the year 1175. That same year, son of Hugh de Lacy, erected on the ruins of the ancient abbey, an Augustinian monastery. Clonard fell into decline during the twelfth century, in 1202, the Norman bishop de Rochfort transferred the see from Clonard to Trim in the new Diocese of Meath. Little remains of the site today. From the air, the outlines of some wall boundaries and other earthworks are visible. See Annals of Inisfallen AI748a Kl. Repose of Mo-Dímóc of Cluain Iraird. AI870.1 Kl. Repose of Suairlech of In tEidnén, abbot of Cluain Iraird. AI926.1 Kl. Repose of Colmán son of Ailill abbot of Cluain Moccu Nóis and Cluain Iraird.
AI954.2 Repose of Dub Inse, learned bishop of Ireland, of Cellachán, king of Caisel, of Éladach the learned, abbot of Ros Ailithir, of Uarach, bishop of Imlech Ibuir, of Célechair, abbot of Cluain Moccu Nóis and Cluain Iraird, of Cormac Ua Maíl Shluaig, learned sage of Mumu, of Lugaid Ua Maíl Shempail, abbot of Domnach Pátraic, of Cenn Faelad son of Suibne, anchorite of Cluain Ferta Brénainn. Clonard Heritage Trail List of abbeys and priories in County Meath
Máel Sechnaill mac Máele Ruanaid
Máel Sechnaill mac Máele Ruanaid known as Máel Sechnaill I, anglicised as Malachy MacMulrooney was High King of Ireland. The Annals of Ulster use the Old Irish title rí hÉrenn uile, "king of all Ireland", when reporting his death, distinguishing Máel Sechnaill from the usual Kings of Tara who are only called High Kings of Ireland in late sources such as the Annals of the Four Masters or Geoffrey Keating's Foras Feasa ar Éirinn. Máel Sechnaill was a grandson of Donnchad Midi mac Domnaill of Clann Cholmáin, King of Tara from around 778 to 797. Clann Cholmáin was a sept of the Uí Néill. While the southern Uí Néill had been dominated by the Síl nÁedo Sláine Kings of Brega in the 7th and early 8th centuries, the Clann Cholmáin were dominant from the time of Máel Sechnaill's great-grandfather Domnall Midi; the Kingship of Tara, a symbolic title, alternated between Clann Cholmáin as representatives of the southern Uí Néill and the Cenél nEógain as representatives of the northern Uí Néill. Máel Sechnaill became king of Mide and head of Clann Cholmáin after killing his brother Flann in 845, king of Tara in 846 on the death of Niall Caille mac Áeda of the Cenél nEógain, who drowned in the Callan River close to Armagh.
He had appeared in the Irish annals some years earlier, being noticed in 839, again 841 as a result of fighting among the chiefs of Clann Cholmáin when he killed his cousin Diarmait, son of Conchobar mac Donnchada, when Diarmait had tried to depose Máel Sechnaill's father as king of Mide. Prior to Máel Sechnaill's coming to power, the southern Uí Néill had been disunited, until Niall Caille defeated Feidlimid mac Crimthainn, king of Munster, at Mag nÓchtair in 841, the midlands had been ravaged by the Munstermen. At the same time, Ireland was a target for Viking raids, although these appear to have been of minor significance. Niall Caille inflicted a heavy defeat on the Norsemen in 845 at Mag Itha shortly before Máel Sechnaill became king of Mide. Late in 845 the Norse chieftain Thorgest or Turgesius, who had emulated Feidlimid mac Crimthainn by attacking Clonmacnoise and Clonfert, was captured by Máel Sechnaill, drowned in Lough Owel. Máel Sechnaill's reign was portrayed in sources as being a matter of war with the Vikings and Norse-Gaels, thanks to works such as the Cogadh Gaedhil re Gallaibh, a panegyric written for Muircheartach Ua Briain, grandson of Brian Boru.
The annals tell of frequent battles between Máel Sechnaill and the Viking, both when they were acting on their own and as allies to Cináed mac Conaing or Cerball mac Dúnlainge. But he was on occasions allied to the Norse-Gaels. In 856 "reat warfare between the heathens and Máel Sechnaill with the Norse-Irish" is reported by the Annals of Ulster. Máel Sechnaill's real achievements were in Munster. Shortly after killing Cináed with the aid of Tigernach mac Fócartai, Máel Sechnaill met with the king of Ulster, Matudán mac Muiredaig, the chief cleric of Ulster, Abbot of Armagh. Here Máel Sechnaill was acknowledged as High King by the Ulstermen; this did not end strife between the Uí Néill and the kings of Ulster as Armagh was raided by Máel Sechnaill in 852. However, Ulster provided troops for Máel Sechnaill, whose army is called "the men of Ireland" in 858; the annals record expeditions to Munster to obtain tribute and hostages in 854, 856 and in 858, when his army killed several kings, wasted the land and marched south to the sea.
Máel Sechnaill's attempts to obtain the submission to the Munster kings of the Eóganachta were obstructed by the ambitious king of Osraige in Leinster, Cerball mac Dúnlainge. Cerball, known to Icelanders' sagas as Kjarvalr Írakonungr, raided Munster and obtained allies and mercenaries from among the Norse and Norse-Gaels of southern Ireland; the Fragmentary Annals of Ireland, a combination of annals and history written in the 11th century for Donnchad mac Gilla Pátraic king of Osraige and Leinster, say that the expedition of 854 was led by Cerball on Máel Sechnaill's orders, although Máel Sechnaill himself appears to have raided into Munster that year. It is reported that Cerball joined forces with Ivarr, a king of the "Dark foreigners": in 859, they challenged the power of Máel Sechnaill mac Máele Ruanaid; the Annals of Innisfallen are alone in reporting an expedition by Cerbthe power of all with allies from Munster against Máel Sechnaill in 859, said to have reached as far north as Armagh.
The Annals of Ulster however, states that Cerball entered Mide with a great army, supported by Norse allies, Amlaíb and Ivar. A general assembly of kings and clerics in 859 at Rahugh in County Westmeath settled matters by detaching Osraige from Munster. Máel Gualae mac Donngaile of Munster and Cerball both consented to the change, little loss to the Eóganachta who had but exercised any control over Osraige. Máel Sechnaill's successes raised more opposition from his Uí Néill kinsmen than from subject kings or the Norse and Norse-Gaels, the latter part of his reign was spent in conflict with the northern Uí Neill, led by Áed Findliath, son of Niall Caille. In 860 Máel Sechnaill led an army raised from Munster and Connacht against the northern Uí Néill; the annals say that Áed Findliath and Flann mac Conaing, brother of Cináed, led a night attack on Máel Sechnaill's camp near Armagh, beaten off with heavy loss to Áed and Flann. Further fighting between Áed and Máel Sechnaill is reported in 861, again in 862.
Máel Sechnaill died peacefully on 27 November 862. His obituary in the Annals of Ulster states:Máel Sechnailll son of Máel Ruanaid, son of Donnchad, son of Domnall, son of