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Dublin: 12°C Monday 14 June 2021

Plans to mark 1,000 years since "defining" Battle of Clontarf

Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan hoping for major programme to mark Battle of Clontarf (although, fact fans, it took place “closer to Glasnevin than modern-day Clontarf”.)


The Battle of Clontarf, 1014, as envisaged by artist Hugh Frazer in 1826. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

A SERIES OF events is being planned to commemorate the millennium of the Battle of Clontarf at Easter of next year.

Re-enactments, tours, O’Brien reunions and other occasions are being organised to mark the Battle – and death of Brian Boru – which happened in 1014.

Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, has outlined a programme which he said is intended “reflect the influence of the Vikings in Ireland and the Battle of Clontarf as a defining event in our history”.

He said that there may even be an “emblem” or branding designed to pull together events happening around the country, in order to market them together to potential visitors.

The Battle of Clontarf took place in April 1014 on the banks of the river Tolka in Dublin between forces assembled by Brian Boru, who was the nominal High King of Ireland, and Mael Morda, King of Leinster, the Dublin Viking king Sitric and their allies. Deenihan points out that the actual battlefield site is “closer to Glasnevin than to modern-day Clontarf”.

Replying to the Oireachtas on plans for the 2014 millennium, Deenihan veered into a short history note:

The site of the Battle of Clontarf is known to have been on the banks of the river Tolka in Dublin, closer to Glasnevin than to modern-day Clontarf. Glasnevin Trust has maps from circa 1800 that suggest that the ‘bloody acre’ – the historic centre of the battle – are within what is now its land.

There is some more information on that on Clontarf’s local record of events here.

He added that the commemoration will be significant not just to Dublin, but to all areas in Ireland with links to the Vikings. (The Battle of Clontarf – although both Irish chieftains Boru and Mael Morda were killed – was also the last great showdown between Irish clans and Viking forces here.)

Deenihan said: “Cogniscant of the potential of these events to be of wide tourist interest, I continue to encourage the co-ordination of organisations in Waterford, Killaloe and Ballina in emphasising their Viking heritage and links to Brian Ború, as well as with Dublin City Council and groups from Clontarf, to maximise the potential benefit to these areas from increased tourism.”


The Clontarf Viking Festival last year marked the heritage of the area – this is Iain Barber from Terenure in Dublin in re-enactment garb last June. Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland.

While the programme of events is to be finalised, a free two-day conference on the Battle of Clontarf has been announced for 11-12 April next year, in Trinity College Dublin. It will be led by Professor of Medieval History at TCD Seán Duffy whose book, Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf, has just been published. (On sale at €24.99, published by Gill & Macmillan).

In that book, Duffy tackles some of the myths around the Battle and Boru’s death there, especially with reference to his relationship with the Vikings. But it does conclude that “Clontarf was deemed a triumph, despite Brian’s death, because of what he averted – a major new Viking offensive in Ireland – on that fateful day”.

The plans for commemorating the millennium of the Battle have not just commenced in Ireland – there will also be a link to events in Reykjavik, Iceland, and Icelandic writer Vilborg Daviosdottir will be writer-in-residence at the Red Stables in St Anne’s Park for May and June of next year.

Overseas representatives of the O’Brien Clan Foundation came to Ireland two years ago to research what might be done to mark their ancestry in relation to the Battle of Clontarf. This video shows Conor O’Brien, the 18th Baron of Inchiquin, who also takes the title ‘The O’Brien, Prince of Thomond, Chief of the Name’, ie, the modern representative of the line of Brian Boru.

They are planning a reunion for O’Briens in Co Clare to tie in with Killaloe’s celebrations of the historical link next April. Boru’s seat of power was in Thomond. There will also be an O’Brien clan banquet held in Dublin Castle on 23 April next year.

There is also to be an interdenominational service in Christchurch cathedral that morning to mark the millennium and the death of Brian Boru.

For an oddly fascinating tabletop interpretation of the possible military tactics of the battle, watch this video. We’re fairly sure it’s not that accurate but the narrator seems to enjoy it:

via Wargamer Aide de Camp/Youtube

Read our Hidden Ireland guides to some of Ireland’s most amazing historical sites>
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