Irish Name: Dhún na nGall: "Fort of the foreigners"
County Town: Lifford
Nickname: Tír Chonaill or Tyrconnell
GAA Colors: Green and Gold
Famous People with Donegal roots: Colm Cille, Isaac Butt, Brian Friel, Charles Macklin, Frances Browne, Maureen Wall, Cathal Ó Searcaigh
County Donegal is one of the traditional counties of Ireland. It is located within the Province of Ulster and is part of the Republic of Ireland. It was named after the town of Donegal. In terms of size and area, it is the largest county in Ulster and the fourth largest in all of Ireland.
Throughout its history, it has sometimes been referred to as County Tirconaill, County Tirconnell or County Tyrconnell. The former was used as its official name during 1922–1927.This is in reference to both the old túath of Tír Chonaill and the earldom that succeeded it.
Uniquely, County Donegal shares a border with only one other county in the Republic of Ireland, County Leitrim. The majority of its land border is shared with Northern Ireland (the counties of Londonderry, Tyrone and Fermanagh). This apparent economic isolation has led to Donegal people maintaining a distinct cultural identity and has been used to market the county with the slogan Up here it's different.Much of the county is seen as being a bastion of Gaelic culture and the Irish language holding the second-largest Gaeltacht area in the country with a population of 24,504. Despite Lifford being the County Town, the largest town (the Principal Town) is Letterkenny.
For centuries, County Donegal has had a very strong and close relationship with the nearby City of Derry. Indeed, up until circa 1600, Derry was usually seen as being part of the old Lordship of Inishowen. Derry continues to serve as a major port for County Donegal, as well as being, together with Letterkenny, a major transport hub and shopping destination for the county. In addition, many, many Donegal people work and/or live in Derry City, while many Derry City natives work and/or live in County Donegal. Derry is also a major educational centre for County Donegal, with many young Donegal people attending third-level institutions or secondary schools in the city. Derry City Council and Donegal County Council also work together on many projects and initiatives.
County Donegal is famous for being the home of the once mighty Clan Dálaigh, whose most famous branch were the Clan Ó Domhnaill, better known in English as the O'Donnell Clan. Until around A.D. 1600, the O'Donnells were one of Ireland's richest and most powerful Gaelic (native Irish) ruling-families.
Within the Province of Ulster only the Clan Uí Néill (known in English as the O'Neill Clan) of modern County Tyrone were more powerful. The O'Donnells were Ulster's second most powerful clan or ruling-family from the early thirteenth-century through to the start of the seventeenth-century. For several centuries the O'Donnells ruled Tír Chonaill, a Gaelic kingdom in West Ulster that covered almost all of modern County Donegal. The head of the O'Donnell family had the titles An Ó Domhnaill (meaning The O'Donnell in English) and Rí Thír Chonaill (meaning King of Tír Chonaill in English).
Based at Donegal Castle in Dún na nGall (modern Donegal Town), the O'Donnell Kings of Tír Chonaill were traditionally inaugurated at Doon Rock near Kilmacrenan. O'Donnell royal or chiefly power was finally ended in what was then the newly created County Donegal in September, 1607, following the Flight of the Earls from near Rathmullan. The modern County Arms of Donegal (dating from the early 1970s) was influenced by the design of the old O'Donnell royal arms. The County Arms is the official coat-of-arms of both County Donegal and Donegal County Council.
The modern County Donegal was shired by order of the English Crown in 1585. The English authorities at Dublin Castle formed the new county by amalgamating the old Kingdom of Tír Chonaill with the old Lordship of Inishowen. However, the English authorities were unable to establish control over Tír Chonaill and Inishowen until after the Battle of Kinsale in 1602. Full control over the new County Donegal was only achieved after the Flight of the Earls in September, 1607.
County Donegal was one of the worst affected parts of Ulster during the Great Famine of the late 1840s in Ireland. Vast swathes of the county were devastated by this catastrophe, many areas becoming permanently depopulated. Vast numbers of County Donegal's people emigrated at this time, chiefly through the Port of Derry. Huge numbers of the county's people who emigrated were to settle in Glasgow in southern Scotland.
The Partition of Ireland in the early 1920s was to have a massive direct impact on County Donegal. Partition cut the county off, economically and administratively, from Derry, which had acted for centuries as the county's main port, transport hub and financial centre. Derry, together with West Tyrone, was henceforward in a new, different jurisdiction officially called Northern Ireland. Partition also meant that County Donegal was now almost entirely cut off from the rest of the jurisdiction it now found itself in, the new independent state called the Irish Free State, known since April 1949 as the Republic of Ireland.
Only a few miles of the county is physically connected by land to the rest of the Republic. The existence of this 'border', cutting Donegal off from her natural hinterlands in Derry City and West Tyrone, has greatly exacerbated the economic difficulties of the county since partition. The county's economy is particularly susceptible, just like that of Derry City, to the currency fluctuations of the Euro against Sterling.
Added to all this, in the late twentieth-century, County Donegal was, by the standards of the rest of the Republic of Ireland, to be adversely affected by The Troubles in Northern Ireland. The county was to suffer several bombings and at least two assassinations. In June 1987, Constable Samuel McClean, a Donegal man who was a serving member of the R.U.C., was shot dead by the I.R.A. at his family home near Drumkeen. In May 1991, the prominent Sinn Féin politician Councillor Eddie Fullerton was assassinated by Loyalist paramilitaries at his home in Buncrana. This added further to the economic and social difficulties of the county. However, the Good Friday Agreement (G.F.A.) of April 1998 has been of great benefit to the county.
Physically, the county is by far the most rugged and mountainous in Ulster. The county consists chiefly of low mountains, with a deeply indented coastline forming natural loughs, of which both Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle are the most notable. The famous mountains or Hills of Donegal consist of two major ranges, the Derryveagh Mountains in the north and the Bluestack Mountains in the south, with Mount Errigal at 749 metres (2,457 ft) the highest peak. The Slieve League cliffs are the highest sea cliffs in Europe, while Donegal's Malin Head is the most northerly point on the island of Ireland.
The climate is temperate and dominated by the Gulf Stream, with warm, damp summers and mild wet winters. Two permanently inhabited islands, Arranmore and Tory Island lie off the coast, along with a large number of islands with only transient inhabitants. Ireland's second longest river, the Erne, enters Donegal Bay near the town of Ballyshannon. The River Erne, along with other Donegal waterways, has been dammed to produce hydroelectric power. The River Foyle separates part of County Donegal from parts of both County Londonderry and County Tyrone
Common Surnames in Donegal: Doherty, Friel, O'Donnell, Gallagher, McSweeney, McLoughlin, Cunningham, McGonigle, Conaghan