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Inishowen - A Brief History

  • Inis Eoghain (Inishowen), meaning 'island of Eoghan’, is a peninsula in the north of County Donegal.

  • Predating the formation of County Donegal by centuries, the area was named Inis Eoghain after Eógan mac Néill, son of Niall Naoigeallach (Niall of the Nine Hostages), a legendary High King of Ireland.

  • Eógan’s name is also the source of Tír Eoghain (Tyrone).

  • Eógan is reputed to have died in 465 and is buried in Uisce Chaoin (Iskaheen) in Inishowen.

  • He was the ancestor of the Cenél nEógain (‘kindred of Eoghain’) branch of the Northern Uí Néill

  • The Cenél nEógain founded the Kingdom of Aileach, which at one point incorporated Inishowen, Derry, all of present day Tyrone, and parts of Antrim, Fermanagh and Armagh.

 
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  • Inis Eoghain is also the ancient homeland of the Meic Lochlainn, a clan descended from the Cenél nEógain and part of the Northern Uí Neill, whose dynasty controlled the Kingdom of Aileach for centuries.

  • The Cenel nEógain grew in prominence after the battle of Leth Cam in 827 and eventually expanded across most of central Ulster.

  • The Cenel nEógain kings were also instrumental in defeating attempts by Viking invaders to establish a permanent foothold in Ulster, most notably under Áed Finnliath who fought a large force in Lough Foyle in 866.

  • They also supplied a number of High Kings of Ireland, including Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn (d. 1166), who died just prior to the Norman invasion of Ireland.

  • The decline of the Meic Lochlainn is one of the factors that enabled the Normans to invade Ulster and expand into Inishowen, founding Northburgh Castle in the process.