Iníon Dubh

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Finola McDonnell, Lady Ó Domhnaill, also known by the Irish nickname Iníon Dubh (pronounced in both Scots Gaelic and Ulster Irish as 'In-neen Doo'), was queen consort of Tyrconnell (fl. 1570–1608). She was the daughter of James MacDonald, 6th Laird of Dunnyveg, and Lady Agnes Campbell, and the second wife of Sir Hugh O'Donnell, king of Tyrconnell, and the mother of, amongst others: Hugh Roe O'Donnell; Rory, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell; and Cathbarr O'Donnell. Finola's alias Iníon Dubh comes from the Irish for 'dark daughter', and has been anglicised as Ineen Dubh and Ineen Doo.


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 An Ó Domhnaill (The O'Donnell) four sons, including the last two reigning Kings of Tyrconnell, Hugh and Rory. When her husband Sir Hugh 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[edit]

In 1587 her eldest child Hugh Roe 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 1590, a son by her husband's first marriage, Sir 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[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Iníon Dubh - Forgotten heroine". An Phoblacht. 2007-12-20. Retrieved 2009-01-11.
  2. ^ Highley, Christopher (1997), Shakespeare, Spenser, and the Crisis in Ireland, Cambridge University Press, p. 103, ISBN 978-0-521-58199-8
  3. ^ Morgan, Hiram (1999). Tyrone's Rebellion. Rochester, NY: Boydell & Brewer. p. 133. ISBN 0-85115-683-5.