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Ulster, kingdom of

Ulster, kingdom of (kingdom of Ulaid). The most powerful of the four provinces in the Táin Bó Cuailnge, along with Connachta (Connacht), Laigin (Leinster), and Mumu (Munster). The province of the Ulaid consisted of the whole of northern Ireland with its high seat at Emain Macha, near Armagh. In the Táin, the king of the Ulaid is Conchobor mac Nessa, a prince of the Érainn, and his enemy is Medb of Connachta. The Táin, a story of Ulster heroes, preserves a tradition which may depict an ‘heroic’ culture of the sub-La Tène period, dating back to the 4th cent. As a result of political upheavals and the rise of the Uí Néill in the 5th cent., Ireland was subsequently divided into fifths (coiceds). Armagh became the most important Irish town and was subsequently the seat of an archbishopric. The kingdom of the Ulaid was gradually destroyed and partitioned by the sons of Niall Noígiallach with the aid of Connachta. This conquest established the Uí Néill in the north, whose territory included Armagh, Monaghan, Tyrone, and the greater part of Fermanagh and Derry. The result was the creation of two new kingdoms of Airgialla in the first conquest and Ailech after the conquest of Donegal c.428, later known as Tír Conaill (Tyrconnel) and Tír Eógain (Tyrone). The small kingdom of Dalriada on the Antrim coast migrated to Scotland in the course of the 5th cent. The Uí Néill kingdom was greatly weakened by Viking expeditions from the 9th cent. onwards.

Sandra M. Dunkin

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