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Irish Royalty Part (1)

The following is historical and factual information concerning Irish Royalty via her ancient past and the present Gaelic nobility of Ireland. The write up also covers Chiefs of the name which is the modern day equivalent. Irish Royal Families were dynasties who ruled large overkingdoms and smaller petty Kingdoms on the island of Ireland over the last two millennia Significant kingdoms known from early historical times (3th–7th centuries) included Eóganachta, Corca Laoighdhe, Connachta, Uí Fiachrach, Breifne, Aileach, Airgíalla, Dál Riata, Ulaid, Brega, Mide, Laigin, Osraige, Laois, Muma, Iarmuman, Desmumu, Tuadmumu, Hy Many. Some disappeared or were annexed; others were self-governing until the end of the 16th century.

The Irish kings of Tara (Co Meath) were often recognized as supreme kings of the island from the time of Mael Seachnaill I (9th Century), but the usual reality is that they were kings with opposition, ruling maybe two or three of Ireland's five provinces. Since the Norman Invasion no native Irish king, has ruled as a united sovereign Irish kingdom or state, although the Kingdom of Tyrone maintained occasional international relations and exchanged ambassadors with the Royal Courts of Scotland, Spain, and the Papacy. As was the case with the nations in what is now England, Scotland and Wales, the more powerful of the kingdoms of Ireland all regarded themselves as fully independent entities, rather as Germany was until 1871. In several cases they claimed utterly different racial backgrounds from neighbours; Ireland being home to races such as the Delbhna, Conmaicne Mara, Cruithne, Eóganachta or Deirgtine, Érainn, Fir Bolg, Grecraighe, Laigin, Ulaid, Mairtine, Dáirine, and a host of others. Few claimed to be homogeneous, despite later attempts to make them so.


In order for Clans, Chiefs and Kings to show how their ancestors had proven themselves in battle etc and to emphasize just how ancient a family or clan was, genealogy was cultivated by Royal Irish families (Clans) from at least the start of the early Irish historic era. Upon inauguration, Bards and poets are believed to have recited the ancestry of an inaugurated king to emphasize his hereditary right to rule, a tradition carrying on from Irelands druidic beliefs and pre-history. With the transition to written culture, oral history was preserved in the monastic settlements. Dáibhí Ó Cróinín believed that Gaelic genealogies came to be written down with or soon after the practice of annalistic records, annals been kept by monks to determine the yearly chronology of feast days .Its cultivation reached a height during the Late Medieval Era with works such as Leabhar Ua Maine, Senchus fer n-Alban, Book of Ballymote, De Shíl Chonairi Móir, Book of Leinster, Leabhar Cloinne Maoil Ruanaidh and the Ó Cléirigh Book of Genealogies. This tradition of scholarship reached its zenith with Leabhar na nGenealach, composed mainly between 1649–1650 in Galway, the Clanaboy O’Neills presently have the book of Clanaboy which predates the majority mentioned above the book includes this branch of the families genealogy.

Genealogy had at first served a purely serious purpose in determining the legal rights of related individuals to land and goods. Under the Brehon Laws, ownership of land was determined by Agnatic succession, female ownership been severely limited. Over time, genealogy was pursued for its own merits by the Gaelic learned classes. From c. 1100, various families such as Ó Cléirigh, Mac Fhirbhisigh, Ó Duibhgeannáin, Mac Aodhagáin and Mac an Bhaird became professional historians. They were often employed by ruling families, the most important of whom included Ó Conchobhair, Ó Neill, Ó Domhnaill, Ó Cellaigh, Mac Murchadha Caomhánach, Mac Carthaigh, Ó Briain, Ó Mael Sechlainn, Mac Giolla Padraig. It also became pervasive among the Anglo-Irish, with the recording of the family trees of FitzGerald, Butler, Burke, Plunkett, Nugent, Bermingham and others.

Some clans, such as Mac Fhirbhisigh and Ó Duibhgeannáin were originally hereditary ecclesiastical families, while others (Ó Cléirigh, Mac an Bhaird, Ó Domhnallain) were dispossed royalty who were forced to find another profession (see also Irish medical families).The transmission of this body of lore (seanchas) has resulted in detailed knowledge on the origins and history of many of the tribes and families of Ireland. An anglicised tradition has continued since the 17th-century, translating many of the scripts into English. The practise of genealogy continues to be of importance among the Irish and its diaspora. Historians (such as Dáibhí Ó Cróinín and Nollaig Ó Muraíle) consider the Irish genealogical tradition to have the largest national corpus in Europe therefore present day Chiefs descend from this ancient Irish and Celtic  tradition.

The Irish Genealogical Doctrine

Over the course of several centuries, an evolving genealogical dogma created by the bardic viewed all Irish as descendants of Míl Espáine. This ignored variant traditions, including those recorded in their own works. The reasons behind the doctrine's adoption is rooted in the policies of dynastic and political propaganda. he doctrine dates from the 10th–12th centuries, as demonstrated in the works of Eochaid ua Flainn (936–1004); Flann Mainistrech (died 25 November 1056); Tanaide (died c. 1075); and Gilla Cómáin mac Gilla Samthainde (fl. 1072). Many of their compositions were incorporated into the compendium Lebor Gabála Érenn. it was enhanced and embedded in the tradition by successive generations of historians such as Seán Mór Ó Dubhagáin (d.1372), Gilla Íosa MacFhirbhisigh (fl. 1390–1418) and Flann Mac Aodhagáin (alive 1640). By 1600 it was refined to the point that certain Anglo-Irish families were given spurious Gaelic ancestors and origin legends, such was their immersion in Gaelic culture.

The first Irish historian who questioned the reliability of such accounts was Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh (murdered 1671), who's massive Leabhar na nGenealach included diseperate and variant recensions. Unlike Geoffrey Keating Foras Feasa ar Éirinn, he did not attempt to synthesise the material into a unified whole, instead recording and transmitting it unaltered. However, historians as late as such as Eugene O'Curry (1794–1862) and John O'Donovan (1806–1861) sometimes accecpted the doctrine and a nationalistic interpretation of Irish history uncritically. During the 20th century the doctrine was reinterpreted by the work of historians such as Eoin MacNeill, T. F. O'Rahilly, Francis John Byrne, Kathleen Hughes (historian), and Kenneth Nicholls.

Genealogical compilations

The following are manuscripts consisting of genealogies in whole or part.

  • Leabhar Adhamh Ó Cianáin
  • Book of Ballymote
  • The Book of the Burkes
  • Leabhar Cloinne Maoil Ruanaidh
  • Crichaireacht cinedach nduchasa Muintiri Murchada
  • Cuimre na nGenealach
  • Leabhar na nGenealach
  • Great Book of Lecan
  • An Leabhar Muimhneach
  • Ó Cléirigh Book of Genealogies
  • Leabhar Ua Maine
  • Rawlinson B 502
  • Senchus fer n-Alban
  • Leabhar Clainne Suibhne
  • Book of Leinster
  • Book of Lecan

Lost works

  • Psalter of Cashel
  • Book of Cuanu
  • Book of Dub Dá Leithe
  • Leabhar Airis Cloinne Fir Bhisigh
  • Leabhar Airisen Ghiolla Iosa Mhec Fhirbhisigh
  • Synchronisms of Flann Mainstreach
  • The Chronicle of Ireland

Kinship and Cheiftianship

Early Irish law recognized a number of degrees of agnatic kinship, based on common male ancestor. The closest kin group that is defined is gelfine (bright-kin)—descendants of a common grandfather (including the grandfather's relationships to his descendants and his children). This is followed by the derbfine (certain-kin)—descendants of a common great grandfather, iarfine (after-kin)—descendants of a common great great grandfather, and the indfine (end-kin), all of which contain the old Irish word for kin or family, fine. The derbfine is, by far, the kin-group most commonly mentioned.


The derbfine (pronounced Der-vinn-ah in English; jer-ub-finn-ah in Irish) was an Irish agnatic kinship group and power structure as defined in the first written law tracts. Its principal purpose was as an institution of property inheritance, with property redistributed on the death of a member to those remaining members of the derbfine. Comprising all the patrilineal descendants over a four-generation group with a common great-grandfather, it gradually gave way to a smaller three-generation kinship group, called the gelfine.

Within a clan, on the death of its chief or king, the surviving members of its derbfine would elect from their number a new chief and/or elect his successor, or Tánaiste (in English, his Tanist). A larger number of clan members, either allies or cousins who were too distantly related to be members of the derbfine, would not have a direct say in such an election. So for those that claim that the whole clan voted for a Chief this claim is nonsense the Brehon and succession laws of Ireland were very specific in this regard. The frequent recitations of a clan's genealogy by its bards was therefore a reminder of who was currently in or out of the clan's derbfine as much as it was a claim to ancient lineages. Professor F.J. Byrne of UCD also identified an indfine system used in some clans before 1000AD, with membership going back to a common great-great-great-grandfather, perhaps necessary at a time of frequent warfare. Therefore only the members of the Derbfine could vote for the King or Chief not everyone within the clan. 

Comparative systems

In later Anglo-Saxon England those electable as kings were known as Aethelings, and in Wales as Edlings. The inheritance of the Norman royal line on the death of King Stephen and his succession by his cousin Henry II is similar. Stephen's son was disinherited by consent, Henry was chosen as the equivalent of tánaiste or next chief, and succeeded to the English throne in 1154. The system was again attempted during the incapacity of Henry VI, when the House of York obtained the support of some royal cousins to take the throne in 1461. By then the norm in Europe was the system of primogeniture, which led on to the turbulent succession crises and policies of Henry VIII in 1527-36.

The system of male-line descent in an identity-group with a common great-grandfather is still found in countries like Iraq where it is known as the Khamsa system.One member of the kin-group was its leader, known either as ágae fine (pillar of the family) or cenn fine (head (literally] of the family). He apparently was a senior member selected from the kin-group based on various qualifications. One of his main duties was to take responsibility for members of the kin-group, acting as a surety for some of the actions of members, making sure debts are paid (including for murder). If the member could not be made to pay, the fee was normally be paid by members of the kin. He was also responsible for unmarried women after the death of their fathers.

As mentioned above, the actions of a member could require other kin to pay a fine. However, in certain cases the kin-group could refuse liabilities, although in some cases only after they been proclaimed as a non-member, which might occur if the member did not carry out his responsibilities to the kin. One particularly heinous crime in early Irish law was fingal (kin-slaying), because it was against a group that had some right to trust. The killer had to give up their kin-land, but was still liable for fines incurred by other members of the kin. An undutiful son might also be excluded from certain kin rights as well, especially as sons of a living father generally did not have significant rights of legal actions except as permitted by the father.


Early Ireland practiced partitive inheritance whereby each of the sons received equal portions, and any grandsons whose father predeceased their grandfather equally split their father's portion. Early Irish law typically did not distinguish between "legitimate" and "illegitimate" children, so any recognized, even those of concubines, received a portion. On the other hand, disobedient sons were automatically excluded. In addition, adopted children could receive a portion of kin land, though status as an inheritor, and the inheritance amount had to be explicitly stipulated. When the Normans entered Ireland and saw this practice they named it Gavelkind on account of its apparent similarity to Saxon inheritance in Kent

The divisions of land is somewhat obscure. One maxim suggests that the youngest son divided the land into equal parts. The eldest chose first, followed by the second and so on until the youngest received the remaining land. The intent was to make division of land equal. Other laws suggested that the eldest son had automatic claims to the buildings. However, there are some hints that this only happened if a younger son challenged a division. The normal practice was that the eldest son both divided and chose first, but had to divide equally. More rarely, a father might divide the land for his sons in his lifetime.

While a daughter with brothers did not normally receive a portion of the inheritance in land, she could inherit movable property. However, should there be no sons; some of the law tracts allow the daughter to inherit a limited portion. However, unless her husband was a foreigner to the túath and had no land of his own, the land did not descend to her sons, but instead went to the other members of her agnatic kin group. However, there was apparently pressure for a woman with land to marry a relative to keep the land within the kin group.

Finally, if a man died with no children, the property was distributed between his nearest kin—first the descendants of his father, and if there were no such descendants, then between the descendants of his grandfather, and so on. Any extra land that daughters could not inherit because of female inheritance limits also went to the wider kin. The head of a kin group was entitled to extra property since he was liable for debts a kinsman could not pay.

Land rights of kin

The potential for inheritance by even distant kin meant that, in Early Irish law, those kin all had some sort of right in the land. Land that had been inherited was known as finntiu (kin-land). Certain rights of use of land by the owners kin seem to have existed. Moreover, it was possible that land could be redistributed if a certain branch of the family had few descendants and hence larger shares in the land per person. In such a case, even some more distant cousins could acquire the land, though they benefited less than closer kin. Apparently because of these potential claims it could apparently be difficult to alienate kin-land. However, even when selling land that an individual had acquired separately from inheritance, a portion went to his kin.

Changes in the legal system

Ireland had no regular central authority capable of making new law and hence the Brehon laws were entirely in the hands of the jurists. As such some early scholars felt that the legal system was essentially unchanging and archaic. However, more recently scholars have noticed that some methods of change were laid out within the Brehon laws. In particular, Cóic Conara Fugill mentions five basis on which a judge must base judgment, and at least three offer some room for change: fásach (legal maxim), cosmailius (legal analogy), and aicned (natural law) (the other two are roscad, a type of legal verse jurists were trained to create to mark a statement made by someone who knows the law and teistimin (scriptural testimony)). However, it has not yet been studied in detail how exactly these three innovative methods were used.

Surrender and regrant in the 1500s

In Elizabeth times, the position of Chief of the Name was more important to some Irish leaders than English titles. There are instances where Norman lords of the time like FitzGerald, took to using the Gaelic style of "The" or "Mór" (great) to indicate that the individual was the primary person of his family in Ireland. In the Tudor Period the Kingdom of Ireland was established in 1542, and many of the former autonomous clan chiefs were assimilated by the policy of surrender and regrant. At the same time numerous mentions were made in official records of locally-powerful landlords described as "chief of his nation", i.e. head of a family, whether assimilated or not. Attempts were made by the English to make each "chief" responsible for the good behavior of the rest of his family and followers. The Gaelic practice was for such a man to sign himself by the family surname only. A new practice arose where the English version of the surname was in many instances prefixed by "The", and so for example the head of the Mac Aonghusa clan in County Down would sign as "Mac Aonghusa" in Irish, and as "The Magennis" in English.

The downfall of the Gaelic order in the early 17th century led to a decline of the power of the Chiefs. Plantation efforts, the Wars of Cromwell and King James, meant that by the end of the 17th century, most of the Chiefships of the Name were living outside of Ireland, reduced to poverty, or lost forever. Thereafter, the former kings or chiefs passed their titles down by primogeniture, whereas the usual practice in the Middle Ages was to elect a chief from a group of close cousins known as a derbfine. Their lineages were usually recorded by the Herald's Office in Dublin Castle, set up in 1552, not least because clans in the 16th and 17th centuries had been persuaded to enter the English-law system under the policy of surrender and regrant. Other manuscript genealogies were preserved and published in the 18th century by Charles O'Conor and Sylvester O'Halloran. The Irish Nationalist and republican  movements that developed after 1850 often harked back emotively to the former chiefs' losses, but without ever suggesting that they be reinstated.

Of course from the time of the Norman invasion of Ireland Irish royal families or clans began to fight against these invaders and eventually they join these individuals via Marriage or through agreements to the point where the Norman invaders became assimilated into Irish culture and its way of life. It was not until King Henry VIII of England in the 1530’s started to take an interest in the Old Norman families in Ireland and the leading Gaelic families or clans. He then adopted a policy called Surrender and regrant, whereby the ruling families would surrender the clan lands to the Crown who would grant them titles within the English legal system. In 1555 the Irish College of Arms was set up in Dublin to allow the new lords to acquire coats of arms as in the rest of Europe. This college generally accepted and copied the old genealogies. Some families successfully made the transition from kingdoms to earldoms or lordships — with the same ruling dynasty — into the 17th century and beyond, taking their seats in the Irish House of Lords. However, the wars of 1595-1603, 1641–1650 and 1689-91 often resulted in a loss of land if they supported the losing side. By 1700 all had long been brought fully and firmly under the dominion of English rule, though local feeling for each area as a distinct entity lasted as least as late as the Great Famine.

But to get back to the original point by the time of the Treaty of Limerick in the late 1600’s, almost all Gaelic nobles had lost any semblance of real power in their (former) domain including clan lands. Today, such historical titles have no special legal status in the Republic of Ireland, unlike in Northern Ireland, which remains part of the United Kingdom the Republic of Ireland does not confer titles of nobility under its constitution based on the defeat of England via Irelands uprising and later civil war therefore making itself a Republic .By doing so the Irish government was denouncing its connection to England via British Rule and the Act of the Union this also included its Royal family who in- turn via the King was also the head of the English army and the Church of England from a religious perspective. It was not until much later that some of Irelands greatest Irish Republicans and leaders began to discuss the matter from an historical context and began realize that Ireland had Royal families and Kings long before England did and the Irish constitution was created.

Therefore they found themselves in quite a pickle, but this was not something that could be answered at this time as Ireland was having more pressing issues such as unemployment and its general direction as a country as they were trying to find their identity as a new Nation. However the question of Irish Royalty would not go away and every so often it would become the elephant in the room, firstly most people are unaware that Irish law is based on English law even today, if something changes in the High court in England and they create a ruling the Irish most follow  this is not because the Irish were lazy or wanted to have any ties to England anymore the fundamental question was what do we do now the laws in Ireland have been that way for over 350 years therefore we cant go back?

The Irish could not bring back the Brehon Law system which contained the ancient beliefs of our forefathers because the English had destroyed it and killed its development as a living law, a law that had governed the Irish people and its clans for thousands of years. But they could also not forget about our country’s history and culture including its Royal families and their Chiefs as they were the very fabric of who we were as a nation and as a people. They also knew that based on the ancient laws of Ireland unlike English law Chieftainships and Kingships did not fall from Father to son but a vote by members of the inner clan. However as with most items in Irish history its just not that simple, most historians would tell you that quite a few sons did get their chief status from their Fathers, and when this did not happen feuds would then erupt such as between Shane O’Neill and his Father Conn O’Neill who gave this status to another son Matthew. This is only one example of a feud to be honest there are hundreds of them in Irish history and Royal families over the years. As mentioned above from an historical perspective it was not usual that a son inherited the Chiefs position but the Irish also had a vote by the inner clan (derbfine) concerning the Chieftainship of the clan

The Irish government then decided the following from 1943 until 2003 some of the modern representatives of the Gaelic nobility obtained a courtesy recognition as Chiefs of the Name from the Irish government. The practice ended in 2003 following a very serious scandal which is called the Terence Francis McCarthy affair which basically revolved around an individual that pretended to be descended from an Irish Chief which he was not, under concerns that it was unconstitutional. The Irish government created something called the disputed titles act which remains a bone of contention for many Irish historians and professional Irish Genealogist to the present day. He almost single handedly destroyed the present day Gaelic nobility of Ireland something the English could not do for over 900 years since its invasion by the Normans. Later we will discuss Mr. McCarthy in more detail which is a necessity for those that are truly trying to study this very interesting aspect of Irish culture and history.    

Irish law today

The law of the Republic of Ireland consists of constitutional, statute and common law. The highest law in the Republic is the Constitution of Ireland, from which all other law derives its authority. The Republic has a common-law legal system with a written constitution that provides for a parliamentary democracy based on the British parliamentary system, albeit with a popularly elected president, a separation of powers, a developed system of constitutional rights and judicial review of primary legislation.

The sources of Irish law reflect Irish history and the various parliaments whose law affected the country down through the ages. Notable omissions from the list include laws passed by the First Dáil and Second Dáil, and the Brehon Laws which were traditional Celtic laws, the practice of which was only finally wiped out during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. These latter laws are void of legal significance and are of historical interest only. This leaves us with quite the problem    

The Irish Free State founded in 1922 gave no special recognition, but in 1938, the then Taoiseach, Éamon de Valera, at the inauguration of Douglas Hyde as President of Ireland, welcomed the incoming President with these words. "In you we greet the successor of our rightful princes and in your accession to office we hail the closing of the breach that has existed since the undoing of our nation at Kinsale". In 1948 the government suggested that there should be a "Council" of chiefs, accredited by the Herald, for emotive reasons. In Irish and English law a title is a possession, classed as an "incorporeal hereditament", but the 1937 Irish Constitution forbids the conferring of titles of nobility by the state, as well as the acceptance of titles of nobility or honour without the prior permission of the government. Therefore the Council was also a means of allowing them to use their titles, but only as honorifics and without any political function. In 1943 the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) therefore agreed with Edward McLysaght, then Chief Herald of Ireland, that the titles would be known as "designations" made by the Herald's Office to avoid the constitutional ban. McLysaght deplored that anyone could perfectly legally describe themselves as "chief of the name" (such as The O'Rahilly) without having any written proof of descent, if nobody else claimed the very same title.

Effectively a dual system ran from 1948 to 2003, where the government recognized the chiefs as such, but not their other titles. In such a case, for example, The McDermot, Prince of Coolavin would only be known as "The McDermot" to the Chief Herald, but would be addressed also as "Prince of Coolavin" by his fellow-chiefs. Until 2003 an Irish "Chief of the Name" was a person recognized by the Chief Herald of Ireland as the most senior known male descendant of the last inaugurated or de facto chief of that name in power in Gaelic Ireland at or before the end of the 16th century. The practice was discontinued in that year due to the "MacCarthy Mór" situation.

Abandonment: the MacCarthy Mór Scandal

After genealogical errors in the 1990s saw Terence Francis MacCarthy received recognition, the Irish government decided in July 2003 to abandon this practice. This was partly because of concern that there was no proper legal basis for it. As this concern was backed by an opinion of the Attorney General, in 2003 the Genealogical Office discontinued the practice of recognizing Chiefs. This decision was criticized by some, and was a cause for concern among the recognized chiefs this decision is still leaves many individuals and clans in limbo today with no end in sight.

Modern Irish clan organizations such as Clan Ó Lorcáin (Larkin) have elected honorary chieftains, where no Chief of the Name is known or yet to be proven. Many re-formed Irish Clans are affiliated with the "Finte na hÉireann" or "Clans of Ireland" the independent authority established in 1989 to provide recognition for true Irish Clans the Association of O’Neill clans is fully recognized by this organization. It should also be remembered one only patron of the Oneill Association, Hugo O’Neill, the O'Neill of Cloinne Aodha Buidhe is fully recognized by the Chief herald of Ireland and the Irish government.  

As the law has reverted to the pre-1943 situation, anyone can call himself a Chief of the Name. A 2009 example is the Clan Cian web page (which includes: "Clan Cian is Headed by the recognized Ard Tiarna. F.J. O'Carroll, of Eile O'Carroll, Chief of Name". The group is not recognized by the Irish government or its chief herald, but must be self-recognizing. Its list of officers includes pioneers and tent-assistants and brew-masters, with a large number of American members. It is uncertain how seriously the members take the historical aspect or whether the group is a social club; the original Cian lived 1,500 years ago and probably is ancestral to many Irish people alive today. Unfortunately this is also where some organizations end up making outrageous claims with no historical foundation to justify their creation or anything else to do with Irish history and its realities.   

List of Ireland's Chiefs as at Abandonment, 2003

At abandonment of courtesy recognition in 2003, those previously afforded courtesy recognition included:

Chiefs of the Name

  • O'Brien, Prince of Thomond - Connor O'Brien (Clare).
  • O'Callaghan - Don Juan O'Callaghan (Spain).
  • O'Donoghue of the Glens, Prince of Glenflesk - Geoffrey Paul Vincent O'Donoghue (Offaly).
  • O'Conor Don, Prince of Connacht - Desmond O'Conor (England).
  • MacDermot, Prince of Coolavin - Nial MacDermot (Kildare).
  • O'Donovan - Morgan O'Donovan (Cork).
  • Fox - John W Fox (Australia).
  • McGillycuddy of the Reeks - Donough McGillycuddy (South Africa).
  • O'Morchoe - David O' Morchoe (Wexford).
  • O'Neill of Clanaboy - Hugo O'Neill (Portugal).
  • O'Grady of Kilballyowen - Henry Thomas Standish O'Grady (France).
  • O'Kelly of Gallagh and Tycooly - Walter L. O'Kelly (Dublin).
  • MacMurrough-Kavanagh, Prince of Leinster - William Butler Kavanagh (Wales).
  • O'Donnell of Tyrconnell - Fr. Hugh O'Donel, O.F.M. (a priest, formerly a missionary in Zimbabwe, now retired to Ireland)
  • O'Dogherty of Inishowen - Ramon O'Dogherty (Spain).
  • MacDonnell of the Glens - Randal MacDonnell (Ireland).
  • O'Rourke of Breifne - Geoffrey O'Rorke (Ireland).

Designation dormant

  • O'Toole of Fer Tire

Designation withdrawn

  • MacCarthy Mor, Prince of Desmond - The recognition of Terence Francis MacCarthy (Morocco) was withdrawn in July 1999.

 Gaelic titles with principal claimants/recognition pending

Of verified pedigree

  • Mac Carthy Mór, Prince of Desmond - Currently claimed by Liam Trant MacCarthy, a verified male line descendant of Tadhg na Mainistreach Mac Carthaigh Mór, King of Desmond (d. 1426). It was into the pedigree of Liam Trant MacCarthy's family, known as the MacCarthys of Srugrena (among other names), that the impostor Terence MacCarthy inserted himself.
  • Ó Néill (Mór), Prince of Ulster - Claimed by the Prince of the Fews, Don Carlos Ó Neill, Marques de la Granja, Marques del Norte y de Villaverde de San Isidro, and Conde de Benagairde (Spain), but not applied for. The Prince of the Fews is a male line descendant of Art mac Aodha, King of Ulster (r. 1509-1513/4), grandson of Eóghan Ó Néill Mór, King of Ulster (d. 1456), however it is uncertain if Art was a paternal or maternal grandson, and whether his father Aodh Ó Néill descended from the Tyrone or Clanaboy O'Neills in the male line.

Pedigrees awaiting verification

  • Mac Lochlainn
  • Mac Shane
  • Mac Sweeney Doe
  • O Cathain(O'Cahan) - Claimed by Lt. Col. (USAR-Ret.) Leonard M. Keane, Jr., of Massachusetts, claiming to be a descendant of Seán Ó Catháin, The Ó Catháin (d. 1498). Keane submitted his application to the Standing Council of Irish Chiefs and Chieftains in 2001, but no action one way or the other has been taken. The Genealogical Office has received no formal application from Keane.
  • Ó Dubhda
  • Ó Hara of Leyney
  • Ó Higgins of Ballynary
  • Ó Meehan
  • Ó Séaghdha (O'Shea) - Claimed by Malcolm Richard Archer Shee of Maryland (b. 1955), claiming to be the senior descendant of Elias Shee of Cranmore (1613), younger brother of Sir Richard Shee of Kilkenny, the last to be described as "chief" in contemporary sources. Sir Richard Shee, a legal advisor to the Duke of Ormonde, died in 1608. No formal application has been made for recognition, but the line is well documented in Burke's Irish Family Records and earlier publications.

In Scotland

In general, the same pattern holds true of the Clan Chiefs in Scotland as for Chiefs in Ireland. Titles may vary, but a Chief of a clan is still the recognised leader within a Scottish clan. A difference is that in Scotland Clan Chiefs can be either male or female whereas in Ireland the Clan Chiefs are male. In Scotland it is The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs; in Ireland it is The Standing Council of Irish Chiefs and Chieftains (Irish: Buanchomhairle Thaoisigh Éireann).


Part two coming soon