Iníon Dubh

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Iníon Dubh, Queen of Tyrconnell (pronounced in Ulster Irish as Neehn Doo; fl. 1570 - 1608), also spelt Inghean Dubh and sometimes Anglicised as Ineen Dubh or Ineen Duv, is the name by which Fionnuala Nic Dhomhnaill (which may be Anglicised as Finola MacDonnell), daughter of James MacDonald, 6th of Dunnyveg and Agnes Campbell, was best known. The name literally means Dark Daughter in the Irish language. She was the second wife of Aodh mac Magnusa Ó Domhnaill, King () of Tyrconnell, and the mother of Aodh Rua (Red Hugh), Rudhraighe Ó Domhnaill and Cathbarr O'Donnell.


The Iníon Dubh was raised at the Stuart court in Scotland, and her powerful connections ensured a healthy recruitment of Scottish mercenaries to O'Donnell's armies after her marriage to him in around 1570.[1]

She bore The O'Donnell four sons, including the last two Kings of Tyrconnell: Aodh and Rudhraighe. When her husband grew senile in his old age, she took over the effective leadership of the territory. She is described in the Annals of the Four Masters as "like the mother of Machabees who joined a man's heart to a woman's thought".[2]

Political activity

In 1587 her eldest child Red Hugh O'Donnell was kidnapped and imprisoned in Dublin Castle. In his absence, she devoted herself to defending her son's claim to the chieftaincy. In 1588 she had her nephew Hugh Gavelach O'Neill assassinated, following an attempted coup on his part.[1] In 1591 a son by her husband's first marriage, Domhnall Dubh O'Donnell, attempted to seize power but was defeated and killed in battle at Lug na Cnamh.[1] Throughout this period she made repeated attempts to secure Red Hugh's release or escape from Dublin Castle.

When Red Hugh finally escaped in 1592, she bought off the remaining claimant Niall Garve O'Donnell (Niall Garbh Ó Domhnaill) and persuaded her husband to abdicate in their son's favour. Historian Hiram Morgan notes that the election of Red Hugh as The O'Donnell in 1592 was "a stage managed affair in which the influence of his mother was paramount".[3]

She retired to Kilmacrennan. In 1608, with all her sons dead, she implicated her son-in-law, Niall Garve, in treasonous activities and saw him sent to the Tower of London.[1] Her date of death is unknown. She also, in her later years, maintained Mongavlin Castle, a small fortress on the banks of the River Foyle, as a residence just south of St Johnston in The Laggan of East Donegal.

O'Donnell family tree

Aodh mac Maghnusa Ó Domhnaill (Sir Hugh O'Donnell), died 1600. 
 = 1stly, an unnamed Irish wife                = 2ndly, Fionnuala "Iníon Dubh" MacDonnell (married Aodh c.1570)
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 |           |          |        |       |        |       |           |           |         |           |          | 
 Donnchadh Domhnall  Ruaidhri Siobhán daughter     Nuala   Aodh Ruadh  Rudhraighe  Maghnus   Mairghead   Máire    Cathbarr
 (Scaite)  d.1590    d.1575  d. 1591  fl.1579     fl.1592  1571-1602  d.1608                alive 1608  died 1662 d.1608
           Domhnall Óg


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Iníon Dubh - Forgotten heroine". An Phoblacht. 2007-12-20. Retrieved 2009-01-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Morgan, Hiram (1999). Tyrone's Rebellion. Rochester, NY: Boydell & Brewer. p. 133. ISBN 0-85115-683-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>