County Donegal (Irish: Contae Dhún na nGall) is a county in the northwest
of Ireland. It is one of three counties in the province of Ulster that did
not become part of Northern Ireland. The name comes from the Irish, meaning "the
fort of the foreigners" (a reference to the Vikings) and was named after
the former administrative centre of Donegal Town.
When first created, it was sometimes referred to as County Tyrconnel (Irish: Tír Chonaill), after the Tyrconnel earldom it succeeded. Calling the whole county Tír Conaill is technically incorrect as the Inishowen peninsula (Irish: Inis Eoghain) was historically distinct from Tír Chonaill.
The county consists chiefly of low mountains, with a deeply indented coastline forming natural loughs, of which Lough Swilly is the most notable. The famous mountains or Hills of Donegal consist of two major ranges, the Derryveagh Mountains in the north and the Bluestack Mountains in the south, with Mount Errigal at 751 metres the highest peak. The Slieve League cliffs are the second highest sea cliffs in Europe, while Donegal's Malin Head is the most northernly point on the island of Ireland.
The climate is temperate and dominated by the Gulf Stream, with cool damp summers and mild wet winters. Two permanently inhabited islands, Arranmore and Tory Island lie off the coast, along with a large number of islands with only transient inhabitants. Ireland's second longest river, the Erne, enters Donegal Bay near the town of Ballyshannon. The river Erne, along with other Donegal waterways, has been dammed to produce hydroelectric power.
An extensive rail network used to exist through out the county and was operated by the County Donegal Railways Joint Committee and the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway Company. Even though the railways in Donegal are fondly remembered, the network was completely closed by 1960. The county is served by Donegal Airport.
Like other areas of western Ireland, Donegal has a distinctive fiddle tradition
which is of world renown. Donegal is also well known for its songs which
have, like the instrumental music, a distinctive sound. Donegal artists such
as the bands Clannad and Altan and solo artist Enya, all from Gweedore, have
had international success with traditional or traditional flavoured music.
Donegal music has also influenced people not originally from the county including
folk and pop singer Paul Brady. Popular music is also common, the county's
most famous rock artist being the Ballyshannon born Rory Gallagher.
Mount Errigal sits over Gweedore and the Rosses.Donegal has a long literary tradition in both Irish and English. The famous Irish Navvy-turned novelist Patrick MacGill, author of many books about the experiences of Irish migrant itinerant labourers in Britain at around the turn of the 20th century, such as The Rat Pit and the autobiographical Children of the Dead End, is from the Glenties area. There is a literary summer school in Glenties named in his honour. The Republican and novelist Peadar O'Donnell hails from The Rosses in west Donegal. Modern exponents include the Inishowen playwright and poet Frank McGuinness and the Derry born playwright, and now a resident of Donegal, Brian Friel. Many of Friel's plays are set in the fictional Donegal town of Ballybeg.
Authors in Donegal have been creating works, like the Annals of the Four
Masters, in Gaelic and Latin since the Early Middle Ages. In modern Irish
Donegal has produced famous, and sometimes controversial, authors such as
the brothers Séamus Ó Grianna and Seosamh Mac Grianna from
The Rosses and the contemporary Irish-language poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh
from Gortahork, and where he is known to locals as Gúrú na
gcnoc ("the guru of the hills"). Donegal has also contributed to
culture elsewhere. One Donegal native, Francis Alison, was one of the founders
of the College of Philadelphia, which would later become the University of
Donegal County Council has responsibility for local administration, running
alongside Town Councils in Letterkenny, Bundoran, Ballyshannon and Buncrana.
Both the County Council and Town Councils have elections every five years
(alongside local elections nationally, and elections to the European Parliament),
the last of which took place on the 11 June 2004.
Twenty nine councillors are elected using the system of Proportional Representation, across five electoral areas (Inishowen, Letterkenny, Donegal, Stranorlar, Glenties and Milford). Donegal County Council's main offices are located in the County House in Lifford, but regional offices are located in Carndonagh, Milford, Letterkenny, Dungloe and Donegal.
For general (national) elections, the county is divided into two constituencies, Donegal South West and Donegal North East, with both having three representatives in Dáil Éireann. For elections to the European Parliament, the county is part of the Ireland North-West constituency (formerly Connacht-Ulster).
County Town: Lifford
Car Registration Code: DL
Area: 4,841 km²
Population (2006) 146,956