On the 14th September 1607 the most senior of the Ulster Clan Chiefs, The O'Neill Prince of Clanaboy, The O'Donell Prince of Tyrconnell and The Maguire of Fermanagh, left Ireland headed for Spain where they had been promised an army by King Phillip who supported them in their fight against English occupation in Ireland. However, due to a number of events, not least a new peace brokered between the Spanish and English monarchs, the Irish Chiefs went to Rome as guests of the Pope where they would remain for the rest of their lives. The so called Flight of the Earls marked the formal end of the power of the Gaelic aristocracy and Clan system in Ireland and the start of the modern Irish diaspora as we have come to know it. On the 11th September 2007 the Árd Rúnaí of the Clan O'Higgins visited the graves of The O'Neill and The O'Donnell in the Church of St Pietro in Monotorio in Rome where he laid a wreath in advance of the Commemoration in Donegal to mark the 400th Anniversary of the Flight of the Earls.
Don Hugo O'Neill, Prince of Clanaboy and Chief of the Name at Rathmullan.
A special commemoration was held at Rathmullen in Donegal on the 14th September 2007 to mark the 400th anniversary of this important event in the history of Ireland and its Clans. A key element in the commemoration was a call to all Irish Clans to send representatives to participate in the "Walk of the Chiefs and Clans". This was the first gathering of Irish Clans since 1601 when they gathered at Ballymote Castle in Sligo before marching with Red Hugh O'Donnell to Kinsale in Cork to fight against the English. Out of a possible 250 registered Clans just 40 were present in Rathmullen, however, many of those who gathered believe that this will be the first of many occasions on which the Clans will meet in the future.
President McAleese Addresses the Clans of Ireland and Unveils Sculpture
Another highlight of the commemoration was the unveiling of a new sculpture by artist John Behan by President Mary McAleese in the presence of many Clan Chiefs including His Excellency Don Hugo O'Neill, The O'Neill, Prince of Clanaboy and His Excellency Don Carlos O'Neill y Castillo the Marqués de la Granja both of whom are descended from the High Kings of Ireland. The Chief of the O'Higgins, was unable to attend the commemoration but the Clan was represented by our Árd Rúnaí, Dr. James O'Higgins-Norman.
Clans gather on the beach at Rathmullan to remember Flight of the Earls 1607
Clan Ard Rúnaí, Dr. Garreth Fitzgerald and Jim Higgins MEP at the Commemoration