The Royal Household and Administration
The administrative organisation
of the Tyrconnell realm depended heavily on the application of and recourse to
ancient Brehon Law, including leadership succession by elective competition,
under the principles of tanistry within an immediate kinship group, the
derbhfine, and on the hereditary functional roles of particular tributary
families. Within this framework,
the Royal Household was known in Gaelic as "Lucht Tighe" and comprised several offices that were performed
on a hereditary basis for over four centuries largely by the heads and members
of these families:
Lector and Inaugurator of the Chieftancy: O’Friel
Gallowglass and Standard-Bearers: McSweeney
Marshall of Hosts, of Cavalry: O’Gallagher
Custodians of the
Cathach of St. Columba: McRoarty
Historians and Scribes: O’Clery
Brehons or Judges: Breslin and McGilshenan
Bards and Poets: Ward
Stockmen/Cattle Drovers: Timoney
Other customary tributary family positions included the following:
In late Gaelic Ireland, far from the in-breeding of some other cultures, a complicated web of considerable genetic diversity emerged as a result of the increasing frequency of intermarriage between Gaelic, Norman and Old English stock.
This was the underlying reality
behind the old adage of the relative newcomer becoming Hiberniores ipsis
Hibernis, more Irish that the Irish themselves, adopting not only Gaelic
language, dress and manners, but adapting names as well, e.g. FitzMaurice
becoming Mac Muiris. Gaelic lords fostered their sons not only to other
families and clans, but even to those of Norman and Old English origins, and
Inevitably, dynastic marriage became equally cross-cultural, as both sons and daughters became the agents of strategic alliances between great families of different origins. Both fosterage and dynastic marriages strengthened the socio-political power-base for members of the derbhfine to compete for the position of Tánaiste, tanist, and eventually succession as Taoiseach, chieftain. The strongest or most capable, and not always the eldest heir, succeeded on the enabling basis of prevailing political support, and the prospect of military supremacy.
from a 19th century engraving by Creswick and Radcliffe, c. 1850.
Donegal Castle is a now national monument, partly renovated by the Office of Public Works.