Uí Néill

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Uí Néill
Uí Néill
Profile
Country Ireland, Scotland
Ancestry Connachta
Ethnicity Gaelic Irish
Chief
Hugo O'Donnell, 7th Duke of Tetuan

The Uí Néill refers to a Gaelic Irish tribe which began as a branch of the Connachta and became the most powerful grouping in the country. They claimed descent from Niall of the Nine Hostages, a famous High King of Ireland said to have lived in the 4th and 5th century. They produced several powerful branches and dynasties in Ireland, including in the north, the most senior O'Donnells who were kings of Tyrconnell and the O'Neills who were kings of Tyrone and Aileach. Further south were the O'Melaghlins who established themselves as kings of Mide.

Several members of the Uí Néill held the High Kingship in Ireland and in fact the Clann Cholmáin kindred in particular dominated it for some time. Some of the most noted of these were Donal O'Melaghlin, Malachy I O'Melaghlin, Donagh O'Melaghlin and Malachy II O'Melaghlin. After the fall of the High Kingship and its replacement by the Norman Lordship of Ireland, the Uí Néill resisted for sometime. During the Tudor period, they remained staunchly Catholic and their fortunes came to be tied to Spain, some of them took part in the Flight of the Wild Geese. Notables from this period include Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, Owen Roe O'Neill and Phelim MacShane O'Neill.

They are also noted for their activity in what would become medieval Scotland. The Apostle of the Picts, St. Columba came from the tribe and helped to introduce Christianity to the area. Some scholars believe that the Dunkeld dynasty who were kings of Scotland, providing twelve monarchs between 1034 and 1286, were descended paternally from the O'Donnells. What is certain is that some Scottish Highland and Islands clans; namely MacNeil, Lamont and Maclachlan; descend from the O'Neills, having settled there in the 11th century.

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