CLARE, Irish county. An Chláire.
Co. Clare lies in the northwest of the province of Munster, in the southwest of Ireland. It lies north of the estuary of the River Shannon, and has a coastline on Galway Bay.
In Gaelic history it was the Kingdom of THOMOND, i.e. north Munster, whose Kings were the O’Briens, descendants of Brian Boru, King of Munster and High King until his death in 1014. In 1276 King Edward I granted Thomond as a feudal liberty to Thomas de Clare, cousin of the Earl of Gloucester. The O’Briens fought for forty years with the Clares, father and son. Thomas was killed in 1287 and Richard in 1318 and so the O’Briens prevailed.
The English advance in the reign of Elizabeth I allowed Sir Henry Sidney, the Lord Deputy, to shire Connacht and Thomond in 1570. The latter became the county of Clare (but possibly earlier, in 1560) and was included in the province of Connacht. The provinces of Ireland have long ceased to have administrative significance and so Clare has long reverted to the Munster it had previously belonged to. As far as the Churches were concerned, Clare, which was divided between the dioceses of Killaloe and Kilfenora, remained in the province of Cashel even when administratively in Connacht.
In the Church of Ireland the Bishop of Killaloe is at the head of several united dioceses in a region overwhelmingly Catholic. In the Roman Catholic Church the small Kilfenora merged with a Galway diocese in 1750, but Killaloe remains separate.
County Clare was the scene of one of the most famous by-elections in British history, when Daniel O’Connell was elected in 1828, though ineligible to sit because he was a Roman Catholic. The result was Catholic Emancipation.
The county is 7th in area and 13th in population among the counties of the Republic.