Famous Irishmen.


Sir Phelim O'Neill.

Famous Irish People.

Read about Sir Phelim O'Neill from A Compendium of Irish Biography, by P W Joyce

( - 1653)

Sir Felim O'Neill was one of the leaders of the 1641 rebellion in Ireland in which he fought under his kinsman Owen Roe O'Neill, Felim O'Neill although he was better known as Phelim O'Neill, was the grandson of Sir Henry Oge O'Neill, one of the O'Neill clan who remained in Ulster after The Flight of the Earls in 1607. This branch of the O'Neill's had sided with the British against The Great O'Neill (Hugh) in The Nine Year War, which resulted in the defeat of the Irish clans in 1603.

In recognition of his service to the crown Phelim O'Neill was allowed to keep possession of the family estates around Kinard in Co Tyrone. After the Flight of the Earls the British government declared all their land forfeit and distributed it among their followers, naturally Phelim O'Neill felt threatened by this and the imposition of harsh anti-Catholic laws which among other things excluded Catholics from public office.

Events came to a head in 1641 when the Scottish Covenanters and English Long Parliament threatened to subdue Catholism in Ireland by invasion. Phelim O'Neill and several Catholic leaders in Ulster decided to seize Dublin and other important towns in Ireland, after which they planned to demand full rights for Catholics and Irish self government. O'Neill was to capture English forts and towns in Ulster, Dublin was to be taken by the Maguire's and the MacMahons in which they were unsuccessful and they captured. O'Neill's army was largely drawn from the peasantry, the large majority of whom had recently been disposed, they began attacking the Scottish and English settlers, whether this was with O'Neill's approval is not clear.

Phelim O'Neill assisted by Rory O'Moore made their way towards Dublin, defeating the government forces at Julianstown, but failed to capture Droheda. By early 1642 the rebellion had spread to all of Ireland, with the British holding Dublin, Cork and Derry, Charles I dispatched a large army to Ireland which was followed by the outbreak of The English Civil War, in which Oliver Cromwell emerged victorious.

The war in England relieved the pressure on Ireland where the Irish Catholic Confederation was formed by leading Catholic landowners, they named it The General Assembly and ruling Ireland independently until 1649, Phelim O'Neill was a member of the assembly, although his influence was rather less than those of greater means. Owen Roe O'Neill returned to Ireland as a trained soldier having left for Europe as a child in The Flight of the Earls, it was he who now commanded the army. Phelim O'Neill served under him as cavalry officer defeating the English at The Battle of Benburb.

In 1648 a rift developed in The Confederate policies, Phelim favoured a deal with Charles I and the Royalists seeing it as a means of defeating The Scottish Covenanters and The English Parliamentary forces. The Second Ormonde Peace as it came to be known resulted in a split with Owen Roe O'Neill, who was supported by most of the Ulster Army, the summer of that year saw the Confederate armies fighting among themselves over the issue.

Cromwell emerged victorious in The English Civil War, his New Model Army was well trained and equipped on 15th August 1649 they landed at Dublin, and proceeded to ruthlessly crush opposition wherever it was found. The Ulster Army was routed at the battle of Scarrifholis in 1650, Phelim O'Neill escaped the battle but was destined to be a fugitive the rest of his life.

Anxious to prevent another rebellion in Ireland Cromwell announced that anyone implicated in The 1641 rebellion and the massacre of Protestant civilians was to be executed. Phelim O'Neill was cited as a ringleader in the Cromwellian Act for the Settlement of Ireland 1652, he was captured on 4th February 1653.

The Cromwellian government set up a court in Dublin, O'Neill was found guilty and executed in August 1653

Go to famous Irish People home page.