The son of Shane Og O'Doherty, he was 14 when his father died and had to spend the next few years gaining control of his lordship. He was knighted by Lord Mountjoy, and for a time seem prepared to work amicably with the English authorities. His marriage to Mary Preston, daughter of the 4th Viscount Gormanston, allied him to some of the leading nobles of the Pale, including Thomas FitzWilliam, 1st Viscount FitzWilliam, who in 1608 was required to stand surety for O'Doherty's good behaviour. O'Doherty was one of the Gaelic chieftains whose loyalty the English Crown hoped to gain by a policy of moderation and for a time this seemed to produce the desired result.
Caught up in conspiracies caused by the Flight of the Earls and angered by land confiscations for the Plantation of Ulster, in 1608 Sir Cahir sacked and burned the historic town of Derry and killed the Governor, Sir George Paulet, with whom he had repeatedly quarrelled and who was accused by some of goading him into rebellion by a series of insults, and was even said to have assaulted him. O'Doherty's precise motives for the rebellion are unclear, and its timing is also something of a puzzle, especially as the Privy Council of Ireland had just ordered that the remainder of his lands be restored to him. Revenge on Paulet was perhaps a sufficient motive in itself.
- "Paulet, George (DNB00)." Wikisource, The Free Library. Wikisource, The Free Library, 30 Jan. 2011. Web. 23 Jul. 2012. <http://en.wikisource.org/w/index.php?title=Paulet,_George_(DNB00)&oldid=2342081>.
- "The Flight of the Earls". irishtimes.com. 2012. Retrieved July 23, 2012.
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