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 seemed 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 support the English Crown hoped to gain through a policy of moderation and for a time this policy seemed to be working.
Caught up in conspiracies caused by the Flight of the Earls and angered by the confiscation of his lands 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 quarreled. Paulet was accused by some of goading O'Doherty into rebellion by a series of insults, and was also 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. Taking 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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