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O'Neill, Shane

O'Neill, Shane (c.1530–67). The legitimate son of Con O'Neill, he was passed over in 1542 when his father was created earl of Tyrone, presumably because of his youth, and remainder given to an illegitimate son, Matthew. As soon as he grew up he claimed the inheritance, insisting that Matthew's claim was entirely spurious, and by 1557 had driven his father and Matthew O'Neill to take refuge in the Pale. In 1558 he killed Matthew, but at her succession Elizabeth offered to recognize him if he submitted to the lord deputy, Sussex. The negotiations broke down amid mutual mistrust, but O'Neill held his own against Sussex and in 1562 visited Elizabeth in London, where he and his followers (who spoke mostly Irish) created a sensation. On his return to Ireland, he resumed his warfare with gusto, particularly against the Macdonnells. Fresh attempts by Sussex and then Sir Henry Sidney to subdue him failed, but O'Neill, appealing to his old enemies the Macdonnells for support, was assassinated in June 1567.

J. A. Cannon

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O'Neill, Shane

Shane O'Neill, 1530?–1567, Irish chieftain. The eldest son of Con O'Neill, 1st earl of Tyrone, he carried on a bitter feud with his father after Con accepted Henry VIII's nomination of Con's illegitimate son, Matthew, as baron of Dungannon and heir to the O'Neill title. Shane's agents murdered Matthew in 1558, but when Con died in 1559, the English recognized Matthew's eldest son, Brian, as his successor. In 1562, after the murder of Brian, Shane reached a compromise with Queen Elizabeth I in London and was acknowledged as chieftain of Tyrone. Upon his return to Ireland, however, he plunged anew into tribal warfare against his rivals in Ulster. He claimed to be serving Elizabeth in his successful campaign (1564–65) against the MacDonnells, Scottish immigrants on the coast of Antrim. Later, however, he directed his raids and depredations against the English. Defeated by the O'Donnells at Letterkenny, he fled and sought refuge with his former enemies, the MacDonnells, who murdered him.

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