The Érainn were the second of the
Celtic groups to come to Ireland, as discussed in Chapter II. They arrived from the
Continent between 500 and 100 B.C., and established their La Tène culture throughout the
island as a military aristocracy possessing superior iron weapons technology. They were
akin to the Belgae of Southwest Britain, and were generally known as the Ulaid in the
North, and as the Erainn or Desi in the South, although all the tribes of this ethnic
group were known ultimately to be Erainn. The great Erainnian population groups of around
A.D. 600, such as the Muscraige of Munster, gave rise in the Middle Ages to the
independently branched tribal groups that follow.
Tribes of the Érainn
The Clann Chointeagain (or MacGilfoyles)
The Clann Choinleagain or MacGilfoyles (Mac Giolla
Phoil) were an ancient clan in the territory of the O’Carrolls of Ely, being chiefs
of the territory around Shinrone, South Offally.
The Conmhaicne Rein
The Conmhaicne Rein were a clan whose original
territory was coextensive with the diocese of Ardagh in County Longford. The chief
families of the Conmhaicne Rein included the Muintear Eoluis (MacRannalls and
O’Cornyns), O’Farrells, O’Moledys and O’Quins.
The Muintear Eoluis included the families of MacRannall (Mac Raghnaifl)
and O’Cornyn (0 Cuirnin). The MacRannalls were chiefs in the south of County Leitrim,
and for years alternated alliance and conflict with their powerful neighbors, the
O’Rourkes. The O’Cornyns, on the other hand, became hereditary poets and
chroniclers (historians) to the O’Rourke chiefs.
The O’Farrells (0 Fearghaill) of Annaly were the ruling race of
County Longford, and were seated at the town of Longford, which was known as
"0'Farrell's fortress." In later times they divided into two great branches, the
heads of which were known as O’Farrell Boy, "the yellow O’Farrell,"