Tallaght is the largest town, and county seat, of South Dublin, Ireland. The village area, dating from at least the 17th century, held one of the earliest settlements known in the southern part of the island, and one of medieval Ireland's more important monastic centres.
Up to the 1960s Tallaght was little more than a small village in County Dublin, linked to several nearby rural areas which were part of the large civil parish of the same name - the local council estimates the then population at 2,500. Suburban development began in the 1970s and a town centre area has been developing since the late 1980s. There is no legal definition of the boundaries of Tallaght, but the electoral divisions known as "Tallaght" followed by the name of a locality have, according to the 2011 census, a population of 71,504. There are currently calls for Tallaght to be declared a city.
The village core of the district is located north of, and near to, the River Dodder, and parts of the broader area within South Dublin are close to the borders of Dublin City, Kildare, Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown and County Wicklow. Several streams flow in the area, notably the Jobstown or Tallaght Stream (a tributary of the Dodder River), and the Fettercairn Stream (a tributary of the River Camac), while the Tymon River, the main component of the River Poddle (Liffey tributary), rises in Cookstown, near Fettercairn.
The documented history of Tallaght dates back to early Christendom in Ireland but the many archaeological sites in the area suggest the presence of Bronze Age and perhaps even earlier settlers in the area.
8th to 12th centuries
With the foundation of the monastery of Tallaght by St. Maelruain in 769 A.D. we have a more reliable record of the area's early history. The monastery was a centre of learning and piety, particularly associated with the Céli Dé spiritual reform movement. It was such an important institution that it and the monastery at Finglas were known as the "two eyes of Ireland". St. Aengus, an Ulsterman, was one of the most illustrious of the Céli Dé and devoted himself to the religious life. Wherever he went he was accompanied by a band of followers who distracted him from his devotions. He secretly travelled to the monastery at Tallaght where he was not known and enrolled as a lay brother. He remained unknown for many years until his identity was discovered by Maeilruain. They may have written the Martyrology of Tallaght together, and St Aengus also wrote a calendar of saints known as the Féilire of Aengus.
St. Maelruain died in 792 and was buried in Tallaght. The influence of the monastery continued after his death, as can be judged by the fact that, in 806, the monks of Tallaght were able to prevent the holding of the Tailteann Games, because of some infringement of their rights.
In 811 the monastery was devastated by the Vikings but the destruction was not permanent and the annals of the monastery continued to be recorded for several following centuries. After the Anglo-Norman invasion in 1179, Tallaght and its appurtenances were confirmed to the Diocese of Dublin and became the property of the Archbishop. The complete disappearance of every trace of what must have been an extensive and well organised monastic settlement can only be accounted for by the subsequent history of the place, the erection and demolition of defensive walls and castles, and the incessant warfare and destruction that lasted for hundreds of years.
13th to 20th centuries
Throughout the greater part of the 13th century a state of comparative peace existed at Tallaght, but subsequently the O'Byrnes and O'Tooles, in what would become County Wicklow, took offensive action and were joined by many of the Archbishop's tenants. As a result of this the land was not tilled, the pastures were not stocked and the holdings were deserted. In 1310 the bailiffs of Tallaght got a royal grant to enclose the town. No trace of these defensive walls survive and there is no evidence of their exact location, except, perhaps, for the name of the Watergate Bridge which spans the Dodder on the Oldbawn Road.
The continuation of such raids prompted the construction, in 1324, of Tallaght Castle, and it was finished some time before 1349. Tallaght had become an important defensive site on the edge of the Pale. A century later it was reported to be in need of repair.
The 17th and 18th centuries brought many changes to Tallaght. Many mills were built along the Dodder and this brought new prosperity to the broad area, which saw the building of many houses.
When Archbishop Hoadley replaced Archbishop King in 1729 he found the castle in ruins, and had it demolished, building himself a palace at a cost of £2,500. By 1821 the palace too had fallen into ruin and an Act of Parliament was passed which stated that it was unfit for habitation. The following year it was sold to Major Palmer, Inspector General of Prisons, who pulled the palace down and used the materials to build his mansion, Tallaght House, as well as a schoolhouse and several cottages. Tallaght House is now incorporated in St Joseph's Retreat House, situated in the grounds of St Mary's Priory.
An ancient tower was spared in the demolition of the palace and was later incorporated into the buildings of St. Mary's Priory, where it still stands today. It contains a spiral staircase and was originally four storeys high but is now reduced internally to two. Attached to the castle was a long building which was used in the archbishop's time as a brewery and later as a granary and stables. When the Dominicans came, it was converted into a chapel and was used as such until 1883 when the new church dedicated to Fr Tom Burke (now the older part of the parish church)was built.
The Dominicans came to Tallaght in 1855/6 and soon established a thriving priory that was also a seminary for the formation of Dominicans in Ireland and on missions in Trinidad and Tobago, South America, Australia, India, and elsewhere. The cramped accommodation of Tallaght house was replaced by the austere priory in phases of 1864, 1903 and again in 1957. All are bleak, and remain so, but the work that goes on in these buildings is various and dedicated: St Joseph's retreat house, the Tallaght parish, St Catherine's counselling centre, at least two publishing enterprises, individual writing and international research in several domains. Most recently Tallaght Priory has seen the birth of an institute for distance learning, started in 2000 but adapting well to new challenges and the possibility of outreach to a generation awake to the possibilities offered by the internet. This is validated through the Institute for Technology, Tallaght, the priory's closest neighbours.
The grounds of the Priory, the old palace gardens, still retain many features from the historic past such as the Archbishop's bathhouse, the Friar's Walk and "St. Maelruain's Tree", a Persian walnut of the eighteenth century. They are an essential part of the retreat experience for those who come to St Joseph's Retreat House, and also for the life of the community that is otherwise so busy.
The old constabulary barracks on the main street was the scene of the engagement known as the Battle of Tallaght, which occurred during the Fenian rising on 5 March 1867. On that night the Fenians moved out to assemble at the appointed place on Tallaght Hill. The large number of armed men alarmed the police in Tallaght who sent warning to the nearest barracks. There were fourteen constables and a head constable under Sub-inspector Burke at Tallaght, and they took up a position outside the barracks where they commanded the roads from both Greenhills and Templeogue. The first body of armed men came from Greenhills and, when they came under police fire, retreated. Next a party came from Templeogue, and were also dispersed. In 1936 a skeleton, sword-bayonet and water bottle were found in a hollow tree stump near Terenure. It is thought that these were the remains of one of the Fenians who had taken refuge there after the Battle of Tallaght and either died of his wounds or was frozen to death.
In 1888 the Dublin & Blessington Steam Tramway opened and it passed through Tallaght Village. This provided a new means of transporting goods and also brought day-trippers from the city.
While no plan was formally adopted, Tallaght was laid out as a new town, as set out in the 1967 Myles Wright masterplan for Greater Dublin (this proposed four self-contained "new towns" - at Tallaght, Clondalkin, Lucan and Blanchardstown - all of which were at that time villages surrounded by extensive open lands, with some small settlements). Many of the social and cultural proposals in this plan were ignored by the Dublin local authorities, and contrary to planners' suggestions, Tallaght and the other "new towns" were not provided with adequate facilities. Characterised by the same problems associated with poorly planned fringe areas of many European cities, during the 1970s and 1980s Tallaght became synonymous with suburban mismanagement.
While it was absorbed into the larger suburban area of Dublin (including becoming the postal district Dublin 24 in the 1980s), Tallaght has developed a distinctive identity, arising largely from its rapid growth during recent decades, and now has a thriving local arts, cultural, sports, and economic outlook.
Tallaght's Civic Square contains the seat of the local authority, County Hall, a newly renovated and well-equipped library facility, a theatre building and a "cutting edge" 4-storey arts centre named RUA RED (which opened on 5 February 2009). Along with other local libraries and arts groups, it also has another theatre building, and a homegrown youth theatre company. It is also the home to the Tallaght Swim Team, Tallaght Rugby Club, the National Basketball Arena, Shamrock Rovers F.C., and several notable martial arts schools and Gaelic Athletic Association clubs.
In October 2008 "An Bratach Fulaingt", or "The Endurance Flag" was designed for Tallaght during The D'No Project, run by Tallaght Youth Theatre in partnership with Tallaght Community Arts, and funded by Léargas - and was intended to be flown at the new county arts centre, Rua Red, on April 17 and 18th 2009. However, the flag was ultimately not flown and instead its colours were utilised within aspects of the performance.