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Connacht (/; Irish: Connachta or Cúige Chonnacht), formerly spelled Connaught, is one of the provinces of Ireland, in the west of Ireland. Up to the 9th century it consisted of several independent major kingdoms (Lúighne, Uí Maine, and Iarthar Connacht).
Between the reigns of Conchobar mac Taidg Mór (died 882) and his descendant, Aedh mac Ruaidri Ó Conchobair (reigned 1228–33), it became a kingdom under the rule of the Uí Briúin Aí dynasty, whose ruling sept adopted the surname Ua Conchobair. At its greatest extent, it incorporated the often independent Kingdom of Breifne, as well as vassalage from the lordships of western Mide and west Leinster. Two of its greatest kings, Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair (1088-1156) and his son Ruaidri Ua Conchobair (c.1115-1198) greatly expanded the kingdom's dominance, so much so that both became Kings of Ireland.
The Kingdom of Connacht collapsed in the 1230s because of civil war within the royal dynasty, which enabled widespread Anglo-Irish settlement under Richard Mór de Burgh, 1st Baron of Connaught, and his successors. The English colony in Connacht shrank from c. 1300-c. 1360, with events such as the 1307 battle of Ahascragh (see Donnchad Muimnech Ó Cellaigh), the 1316 Second Battle of Athenry and the murder in June 1333 of William Donn de Burgh, 3rd Earl of Ulster, all leading to Gaelic resurgence and colonial withdrawal to towns such as Ballinrobe, Loughrea, Athenry, and Galway. Well into the 16th-century kingdoms such as Uí Maine and Tír Fhíacrach Múaidhe remained beyond English rule, while many Anglo-Irish families such as de Burgh, de Bermingham, de Exeter, de Staunton, became entirely Gaelicised. Only in the late 1500s, during the Tudor conquest of Ireland, was Connacht shired into its present counties.
The province of Connacht has the highest number of Irish language speakers among the four Irish provinces. Currently, the total percentage of people who consider themselves as Irish speakers in Connacht is 39.8% (more than 202,000 persons). There are Gaeltacht areas in Counties Galway and Mayo.
The province of Connacht has no official function for local government purposes, but it is an officially recognised subdivision of the Irish state. It is listed on ISO-3166-2 as one of the four provinces of Ireland and "IE-C" is attributed to Connacht as its country sub-division code. Along with counties from other provinces, Connacht lies in the Midlands–North-West constituency for elections to the European Parliament.
The name comes from the medieval ruling dynasty, the Connacht, later Connachta, whose name means "descendants of Conn", from the mythical king Conn of the Hundred Battles. Originally Connacht was a singular collective noun, but it came to be used only in the plural Connachta, partly by analogy with plural names of other dynastic territories like Ulaid and Laigin, and partly because the Connachta split into different branches. Before the Connachta dynasty, the province (cúige, "fifth") was known as Cóiced Ol nEchmacht. In Modern Irish, the province is usually called Cúige Chonnacht, "the Province of Connacht", where Chonnacht is plural genitive case with lenition of the C to Ch.
The usual English spelling in Ireland since the Gaelic revival is Connacht, the spelling of the disused Irish singular. The official English spelling during English and British rule was the anglicisation Connaught, pronounced / or /. This was used for the Connaught Rangers in the British Army; in the title of Queen Victoria's son Arthur, Duke of Connaught; and the Connaught Hotel, London, named after the Duke in 1917. Usage of the Connaught spelling is now in decline. State bodies use Connacht, for example in Central Statistics Office census reports since 1926, and the name of the Connacht–Ulster European Parliament constituency of 1979–2004, although Connaught occurs in some statutes. Among newspapers, the Connaught Telegraph (founded 1830) retains the anglicised spelling in its name, whereas the Connacht Tribune (founded 1909) uses the Gaelic. Connacht Rugby who represent the region and are based in Galway, use the Gaelic spelling also.