Shane O'Neil

Justin McCarthy
Chapter IV | Start of Chapter

This time of trouble called forth some powerful champions of the Irish National cause. One of these, Shane O'Neil, has been celebrated in many a popular ballad. The head of the house to which he belonged had acknowledged allegiance to Henry VIII. and received the title of Earl of Tyrone. The English title carried with it, according to English law, the principle of hereditary succession; but when the first Earl died the clan of O'Neil refused to adopt the English practice, and, according to the Irish principle of Tanistry, chose as his successor the member of the House for whom they had the highest regard. This was Shane O'Neil, who was a younger and not even a legitimate son of the Earl of Tyrone, but whose energy, courage, and strong national sentiments had already made him the hero of his sept. Shane O'Neil at once proclaimed himself the champion of Irish national independence. Queen Elizabeth, amid all her troubles with foreign States, had to pour large numbers of troops into Ireland, and these troops, as all historians admit, overran the country in the most reckless and merciless manner. Shane O'Neil, however, held his own, and began to prove himself a formidable opponent of English power.