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    DEFINITIONS
    ...the so-called principle of alternate succession between the Eoganachta and Dál Chais is an audacious falsehood that cannot have arisen long before the composition of the Caithréim. The guilty propagandist may well have been the author of the Cogadh Gaidhel re Gallaib, where the claim, propounded in the manner of an after-thought, seems to be formulated for the first time. There was nothing gross or brutal about the inventor’s method. Quite simply, with a touch so deft that it was scarcely perceptible, he made a dexterous alteration in the past and brought it into harmony with the actual political situation.

    The itch to pat history into fairer shape is common to all generations! What the concocter of the legend worked upon was the fact that in Munster there existed for many centuries the small state called In Déis Becc. It was in two parts, one north of the Shannon in east Clare, known as In Déis Tuaiscirt, and the other south of the Shannon, in east Limerick, known as In Déis Descirt. From a tract preserved in the Book of Ballymote, Professor MacNeill has shown that each section of this little state had its own king and that there was "a close relation on terms of equality between the kings of the Déis Tuaiscirt and the Déis Descirt." As In Déis Becc as a unit would not have two kings but one, it is extremely likely that the succession passed alternately north and south. In Déis Tuaiscirt became known later as Dál Chais. We may take it then that Dál Chais or In Déis Tuaiscirt enjoyed equal rights with In Déis Descirt south of the Shannon in Limerick, while both together formed a state subject to Cashel. When the Dál Chais became powerful in Ireland it was easy to pretend that their special relationship south of the Shannon embraced not merely In Déis Descirt but the whole of Munster.

    Rev. John Ryan, 1941
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    Detail from the Lizars map of Ireland, 1831.
    Above: detail from the Lizars map of Ireland, 1831.
    Map © Cartography Associates, from the Rumsey Collection.

    Left: detail from satellite photo (click for larger version).

    Charon (MIT Project) 1989, James Coleman ©