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Pale, The

Pale, The. Originally implying a fence, and by inference the area enclosed by it, this was the name given to an area in Ireland in the late Middle Ages similar to the English Pale which developed in the 15th cent. in Calais. Its first recorded usage in Ireland is in a document that dates from 1446–7, when it clearly refers to that part of Ireland to which effective English government had shrunk. While the rest of the island was divided into large semi-autonomous lordships held by Anglo-Irish lords, or remained in the hands of native Irish lords, the Pale was the area surrounding Dublin in which the king's writ ran, and which a determined effort was made to defend. Its exact geographical dimensions, running from Dundalk to Dalkey, and including much of modern counties Louth, Meath, Kildare, and Dublin, were defined by the Irish Parliament in 1488 and at succeeding parliaments, while the famous 1494–5 Parliament held by Sir Edward Poynings passed an Act ordering the construction of a 6-foot bank and ditch around the whole district, parts of which still survive.

Sean Duffy

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