Place:County Meath, Republic of Ireland

NameCounty Meath
Alt namesCounty Meathsource: from redirect
An Mhísource: (Irish)
Contae na Mísource: (Irish)
Meathsource: and Getty Vocabulary Program (English)
Co. Meath
An Mhísource: Encyclopædia Britannica (1988) VII, 993
Contae na Midhesource: Canby, Historic Places (1984) p 2:581
Midesource: Encyclopædia Britannica (1988) VII, 993
Midhesource: Encyclopedia Britannica Online (2002-) "Meath," accessed 8 Oct. 2003
Coordinates53.583°N 6.667°W
Located inRepublic of Ireland     (1922 - )
Also located inIreland     (1200 - 1922)
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
source: Family History Library Catalog

the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

County Meath (; or simply ) is a county in the Eastern and Midland Region of Ireland, within the province of Leinster. It is bordered by Dublin to the southeast, Louth to the northeast, Kildare to the south, Offaly to the southwest, Westmeath to the west, Cavan to the northwest, and Monaghan to the north. To the east, Meath also borders the Irish Sea along a narrow strip between the rivers Boyne and Delvin, giving it the second shortest coastline of any county. Meath County Council is the local authority for the county.

Meath is the 14th-largest of Ireland's 32 traditional counties by land area, and the 8th-most populous, with a total population of 220,296 according to the 2022 census. The county town and largest settlement in Meath is Navan, located in the centre of the county along the River Boyne. Other towns in the county include Trim, Kells, Laytown, Ashbourne, Dunboyne, Slane and Bettystown.

Colloquially known as "The Royal County", the historic Kingdom of Meath was the seat of the High King of Ireland and, for a time, was also the island's fifth province. Ruled for centuries by the Southern Uí Néill dynasty, in the late 1100s the kingdom was invaded by the Anglo-Norman conqueror Hugh de Lacy, who ousted the Uí Néill and established himself as the Lord of Meath. This lordship gradually diminished in size before being formally shired as County Meath in 1297, which was further sub-divided into Meath and Westmeath in 1542. The county took its present boundaries in 1977, when much of Drogheda was transferred to County Louth.

Meath has an abundance of historical sites, including the Hill of Tara, Hill of Slane, Newgrange, Knowth, Dowth, Loughcrew, the Abbey of Kells, Trim Castle and Slane Castle. The county was also the site of the seminal Battle of the Boyne, which was fought near Oldbridge in 1690, ending in the defeat of James II and his flight to France. It is the only county in Leinster to have Gaeltacht regions, at Ráth Chairn and Baile Ghib, and is also one of only two counties outside of the west of Ireland to have an official Gaeltacht (the other being County Waterford).



the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

The county is colloquially known by the nickname "The Royal County", owing to its history as the seat of the High King of Ireland.[1] It formed from the eastern part of the former Kingdom of Mide but now forms part of the province of Leinster. Historically, the kingdom and its successor territory the Lordship of Meath included all of counties Meath, Fingal and Westmeath as well as parts of counties Cavan, Longford, Louth, Offaly and Kildare. The seat of the High King of Ireland was at Tara. The archaeological complex of Brú na Bóinne in the north-east of the county is 5,000 years old and is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site.


The earliest known evidence of human settlement in the county are the Mesolithic flints found at Randalstown north of Navan, which were uncovered during the construction of the tailings pond for Tara Mines in the 1970s. These flints have been dated to 9,500 BC and are one of the earliest traces of pre-historic humans in Ireland. The excavation site at Randalstown also revealed other evidence of hunter-gatherer society, such as a fulacht fiadh and mounds of burnt soil and stone.

Farming was established in the area during the Neolithic period. This provided a surplus of time and resources which was spent constructing great stone monuments to the dead, such as passage graves, court carins and wedge tombs. There are hundreds of surviving examples of these dotted across the landscape, however the most famous Neothlitic monuments in Ireland are those at Brú na Bóinne - Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. These tombs were constructed prior to 3,000 BC making them older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. The site is believed to have been of religious significance and is decorated with megalithic art. Newgrange, the largest pre-historic tomb in Ireland, is most famous for its alignment with the equinoxes, when sunlight shines through a 'roofbox' and floods the inner chamber. In constructing the tomb the early settlers displayed an advanced knowledge of astronomy and a calendar system. However, a writing system would not be developed until the 1st century BC, with the emergence of Ogham.

The arrival of the Celts to Ireland around 500 BC heralded the beginning of the Iron Age and the establishment of most of what would define Gaelic Irish culture for millennia; including Primitive Irish, Irish mythology, Celtic paganism and an early form of the Gaelic calendar. The ancient monuments of the Boyne Valley were assimilated into Celtic culture and mythology, with Cú Chulainn said to have been conceived at Newgrange. Furthermore, tradition states that Sláine mac Dela, of the Fir Bolg, cleared the forest at Brú na Bóinne and built the monuments, becoming the first High-King of Ireland. It was during the Celtic period that Meath was divided into 8 túatha, the primary political unit of Celtic Ireland. The túatha were independent petty kingdoms ruled by a chief who was elected by members of their extended family.

Early Christian period (400–1169)

Kingdom of Meath

Due to a lack of extensive written historical records prior to the 5th century AD, the early history of Meath is murky and largely mythologised. Irish legend purports that the title of "High King of Ireland" stretches back millennia, however it is today known that the Hill of Tara did not become a seat of power until the early centuries AD. In the 400s, Niall of the Nine Hostages, King of the Uí Néill, conquered southward from Ulster and established a kingdom in Meath. As was commonplace in Ireland at the time, the achievements of Niall and his sons were propagandised and mythicised by bards to such an extent that much of what is known about them is considered fictional. Nevertheless, the dynasty of the Uí Néill had become firmly established in the centre of Ireland and they proclaimed themselves the Kings of Tara and Kings of Uisnech. The Uí Néill dynasty subsequently divided into two septs, the Northern Uí Néill who remained in Ulster, and the Southern Uí Néill who now ruled over several small, disjointed kingdoms established throughout modern-day Meath, Westmeath and Dublin.

Following the split, a series of internecine conflicts erupted between members of the Uí Néill septs. The feud was eventually resolved, and as part of the resolution it was decided that the position of King of Tara would alternate between the northern and southern Uí Néill septs. The title alternated between the two septs for over 500 years, with every second king traveling south from Ulster for an inauguration ceremony at Tara. By 740, Domnall Midi of the Clann Cholmáin dynasty, the most powerful branch of the southern Uí Néill, had conquered or subdued all neighboring clans in Meath, and the Uí Néill were recognised as their suzerain. Domnall was now in possession of both Tara, the seat of the Uí Néill, and the Hill of Uisneach, which held symbolic significance as the geographical centre of Ireland. Having secured his power in the heart of the island, Domnall now presided over a unified Kingdom of Mide (Meath), a name derived from the Old Irish meaning "middle".

The first annalistic mention of a "High King of Ireland" or "Ard-Rí" was Máel Sechnaill mac Máele Ruanaid, King of Mide, who died in 862 AD, having achieved many victories against both the Norse and the kingdoms of Ulster. Later historians would retroactively apply the title of "High King" to the earlier Kings of Tara, although there were no contemporary references to either the Kings of Tara or Mide being referred to as Ard-Rí prior to the 9th century. During the reign of Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill in the 970s, the fort of Dun-na-Scia near Lough Ennell became the permanent royal residence, thereby creating two seats of power within the kingdom - one for the High King and one for the King of Mide.

In the late 10th century, the Dalcassians to the south, led by Brian Boru, consolidated their hold over Munster, with Boru establishing himself as King of Munster. The ascendancy of this longtime rival kingdom posed a serious threat to High King Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill, so the two leaders met at Clonfert in 997 and agreed upon a truce, whereby Boru was granted overlordship of the southern half of the island. The Kingdom of Leinster immediately rebelled against Boru and allied with the Norse Kingdom of Dublin. Mide and Munster formed a defensive alliance and, after a series of campaigns throughout 998–999, crushed the forces of Leinster and Dublin, which both became vassals of Munster.

Boru now believed that Munster was the most powerful kingdom in Ireland and therefore he, and not Máel Sechnaill, should be High-King. Máel Sechnaill's claim to the kingship was challenged by Boru in 1002 at the Hill of Tara. The Meath king requested a month-long truce to rally his subordinates to his side, which Boru accepted, however Máel Sechnaill was quickly abandoned by his northern Uí Néill kinsmen. Having failed to raise enough troops to challenge Boru, he was forced to abdicate, thus ending the hereditary right of the Uí Néill to the title of High King. Although they remained Kings of Meath, the power and prestige of the southern Uí Néill would never recover.

Monastic settlement

Traditional accounts of the arrival of Saint Patrick and Christianity to Ireland are centered on Meath and its legendary High Kings. Folklore states that he travelled to the kingdom to light a Paschal Fire on the Hill of Slane, in defiance of High-King Lóegaire mac Néill, who was on the nearby Hill of Tara celebrating a pagan festival. Patrick was then summoned to the king's court and so impressed Lóegaire with his teachings that he was allowed to continue preaching Christianity across Ireland. While Christian missionaries were documented in Ireland long before the time of Saint Patrick, and accounts of his activities are heavily shrouded in myth, what is known is that by the late 6th century AD Christianity had supplanted Celtic Paganism in every corner of the island. In a similar manner to how the Celts assimilated prehistoric traditions into their beliefs, many Celtic pagan beliefs and festivities were adapted to Celtic Christianity, such as Samhain, which became Halloween, and Imbolc, which became St. Brigid's Day.

By the 7th century a network of monasteries and religious settlements had been set up throughout Ireland and Western Scotland, supported by local kings and chieftains. Beginning at this time, the "Golden Age of Irish Christianity" lasted for several centuries. Irish Scholars preserved invaluable Latin texts and Gaelic monasteries developed into centres of learning which attracted theologians from across Europe. These monasteries sent missionaries to northern and central Europe to re-ignite Christianity and Latin tradition in areas where it had lapsed following the fall of the Western Roman Empire. One of Ireland's national nicknames, "the land of saints and scholars", is in reference to this period.

Patronage of the Church was also used as a political tool to project wealth and prestige in Irish kingdoms until the 16th century. Successive High Kings and Kings of Meath supported the establishment of prominent religious settlements and institutions, such as Kells and Clonard Abbey, the latter of which taught Ireland's most significant saints, dubbed the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. During the golden age, the monasteries of Meath produced several of Ireland's most famous artifacts, which are considered to be among the finest examples of Insular and medieval Christian art in existence.

As knowledge of the importance and wealth of the Irish monasteries became more widely known, they began to attract the attention of Vikings, who were raiding throughout Britain and Ireland in the 8th century. The most distinctive feature of Irish monasteries, their round towers, were built in response to these Viking raids. Eventually, the Vikings established kingdoms and founded Ireland's first cities along coastal areas, including in neighboring Dublin. The High Kings and lesser kingdoms waged near-continuous war with these Norse-Gael settlers for over two centuries.

Lordship of Ireland (1169–1542)

Norman period

In 1166, Diarmait Mac Murchada was banished from Ireland by the High King Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair for the abduction of Lady of Meath Derbforgaill ingen Maeleachlainn, wife of Tigernán Ua Ruairc, King of Breifne. Mac Murchada returned with Norman allies and landed at Bannow in Wexford in 1169, after which they conquered northward throughout 1169–70, initiating the Norman Invasion of Ireland. In response, the High King assembled an alliance which included King Magnus Ua Máel Sechlainn of Meath as well as soldiers from Connacht, Breifne and Dublin along with their respective kings. They confronted Mac Murchada's forces at Ferns and an agreement was reached whereby Mac Murchada was acknowledged as king of Leinster, in return for acknowledging Ruaidrí as his overlord and agreeing to send his foreign allies away permanently. However, Mac Murchada breached the agreement and enlisted more Normans to his side before continuing his conquests, capturing Dublin in 1171 and forcing the capitulation of Magnus Ua Máel Sechlainn.

Following Mac Murchada's death in May 1171, Strongbow succeeded him as King of Leinster and, once again, Magnus joined the High-King's coalition army to oust the Normans, however their forces were routed during an unsuccessful siege of Dublin. Fearing that Strongbow was growing too powerful and might set up his own independent kingdom in Ireland, Henry II of England landed in Ireland in October 1171 to establish control over both the Irish and the Normans. Henry's campaign in Ireland was largely successfully and he managed to reign in the Normans as well as a few Irish kingdoms which also submitted to him. Most crucially, he retained the city of Dublin, and Baron Hugh de Lacy was made its bailiff. Henry's appointment of de Lacy was intended to act as a counterbalance to Strongbow. However, in order to achieve this, de Lacy would need a strong holding on Irish soil and it was decided that the Kingdom of Meath was to be granted to de Lacy.

This grant posed an issue for Henry as the previous decade had been a tumultuous time in Meath. There were four rival heirs to the kingship and each claimant held a different part of the kingdom. The strongest claim came from the King of Breifne, Tigernán Ua Ruairc, who - through conquest, marriage and an alliance with the church - had subsumed almost all of eastern Meath into his kingdom by the time of the Norman arrival. Strongbow also had nominal claim to Meath as King of Leinster. A war of succession within the Clann Cholmáin dynasty meant that both Magnus and Art Ua Máel Sechlainn were also vying for the kingship of Meath. To circumvent this problem, Henry defined the borders of Meath as they had been in 1153 and ignored all subsequent subdivisions. In March 1172 he granted control of Meath to de Lacy on the condition that de Lacy could personally retain the kingdom with near total autonomy, if he could conquer it.

Shortly after Henry left Ireland, Hugh de Lacy invaded Meath, setting up countless motte and bailey fortifications throughout the kingdom. de Lacy made the ecclesiastic centre of Trim his stronghold, constructing a huge ringwork castle defended by a stout double palisade and external ditch on top of the hill. With de Lacy now at the border of Ua Ruairc's outermost settlement of Kells, a parlay was arranged and the two leaders met on the Hill of Ward for negotiations. During these negotiations, a dispute erupted and de Lacy's men killed Ua Ruairc. Both sides blamed the other, with the Irish annals reporting that Ua Ruairc was "treacherously slain".

By 1175, de Lacy had conquered the entire territory, executing Magnus Ua Máel Sechlainn that year. He expanded existing settlements into charter towns throughout Meath, including Trim, Athboy, Kells and Navan; and he married Rose Ní Conchobair, the High-King's daughter, in order to cement his claim as Lord of Meath.

Hugh de Lacy died in 1186 and several informal divisions and feuds among de Lacy's descendants over control of the lordship followed over the next century. The Lordship was formally shired in 1297 into the County of Meath. Following this, Meath developed into the largest and wealthiest shire in Ireland, with the eastern portion characterized by well-populated market towns, nucleated villages and a strong commercial focus on labour-intensive cereal cultivation, with one English official noting that Meath was "as well inhabited as any shire in England". Many of the Lordship of Ireland's judges, barristers and government officials such as Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer and Chief Justice of the Common Pleas for Ireland hailed from the county.

Between the 13th and 15th centuries English power diminished significantly in Ireland for three primary reasons. Firstly, there was a reconsolidation and resurgence in the power of the Irish kingdoms which had been shattered during the Norman invasion. Secondly, the onset of the Black Death devastated nucleated settlements such as walled Anglo-Norman towns, but had a significantly smaller impact in more sparsely populated Gaelic kingdoms. Lastly, and of most concern to the English crown, the gradual gaelicisation of the Normans meant that many of the most prominent Anglo-Norman families, who were meant to act as England's viceroys in Ireland, no longer followed English laws or customs.

English authority continued to retreat eastward until Trim, Athboy and Kells were the outermost settlements of The Pale, an area centered around Dublin where English law was still obeyed. This situation meant that by the 1500s part of County Meath was within the Pale while other areas - which were inhabited by both the Gaelic Irish as well as Normans who were once loyal to the Crown - were now outside the control of the authorities in Dublin.

Kingdom of Ireland (1542–1800)

Tudor conquest

The papal bull Laudabiliter of Pope Adrian IV, issued in 1155, recognised the Angevin monarch as Dominus Hibernae (Latin for "Lord of Ireland"). When Pope Clement VII excommunicated Henry VIII in 1533, the constitutional position of the lordship in Ireland became uncertain. Following Henry's split with the church, the Tudors heralded the end of monastic Meath. Church Lands which comprised roughly one third of the county were seized and granted to Protestant English statesmen and soldiers as a form of payment. Monasteries were suppressed and their treasures were either looted or scattered by Irish scholars to protect them. [2] Meath was invaded by Tyrone and its allies in 1539 who raided as far south as Navan, which was razed to the ground. King Conn O'Neill had been recognized as "King of our realm in Ireland" by Pope Paul III and was encouraged to expel Protestant influence from the island. However, the conflict stoked an unexpectedly swift reaction from the typically lethargic Dublin government, and Tyrone was defeated by Lord Deputy Grey and forced to sue for peace in 1541.

Henry had broken away from the Holy See and declared himself the head of the Church in England, and subsequently refused to recognise the Roman Catholic Church's vestigial sovereignty over Ireland. For this reason, and also to address England's waning power in Ireland, Henry proclaimed the Kingdom of Ireland in 1542, with himself as its monarch. The following year, the Counties of Meath and Westmeath Act was passed by the Parliament of Ireland and Meath was officially divided in two. The act was intended to allow a more effective administration in both counties, particularly in Westmeath, which England had lost control of. A new shire town at Mullingar was established along with four new baronies, while Trim retained its status as the shire town of Meath.

Despite the general loyalty of the "Old English" of Meath to the government in Dublin, the introduction of new Anglican English settlers, seen as more reliable by the English government, undermined the power of the Anglo-Norman aristocracy who had remained overwhelmingly Catholic following the Reformation. Although there was fervent anti-Catholic sentiment in England at this time, no punitive laws were enacted out of fear that they would provoke further rebellion. However, this changed following England's victory over the Irish kingdoms in the Nine Years' War in 1603. With Ireland subdued, the English pursued a series of Penal Laws restricting the rights of Catholics, which were accelerated following the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

Protestant ascendancy

The uneasy peace that had persisted between Catholics and Protestants for several decades unraveled when the anti-Catholic Long Parliament gained traction in England in 1640. Fearing further persecution, the dispossessed Irish of Ulster went into rebellion in 1641 to regain the lands they had lost to the plantations. Exaggerated news of brutal Catholic massacres against Protestants spurred the English into aggressive action, and the peaceful lands of Meath were indiscriminately ransacked by puritanical armies in retribution. In response, the lords of Meath met at Trim and issued their remonstrance to King Charles I. Sir John Read was sent to deliver it; however, gripped by anti-Catholic hysteria, officials in Dublin seized Read and tortured him, questioning whether the King and his Catholic wife Henrietta were in league with the Irish rebels.

As the rebellion intensified, the Ulstermen once again conquered southward into Meath, crushing an English garrison at the Battle of Julianstown. A contingent of Old English lords led by Viscount Gormanston rode out to halt their advance. A parlay was arranged at the Hill of Crufty and the Irish, led by O'Moore and O'Reilly, met with the Anglo-Norman gentry of Meath. Seeing that they fought for a common cause, the leaders of the two sides embraced amid the acclamation of their followers, and the lords of Meath rode home to rally their forces against the English.

On 22 March 1642 the Catholic hierarchy held a synod at Kells and almost unanimously agreed that the rebellion was a just war. They drafted a Confederate Oath of Association in May and Meath lawyer Nicholas Plunkett encouraged Catholic nobles to take up the oath. After the outbreak of the English Civil War, an assembly was held in Kilkenny and the provisional government of Confederate Ireland was established, which took up arms with the Royalists against the Parliamentarians. The Royalists were crushed by Oliver Cromwell, who then set about ending the Irish Confederate Wars by engaging in an unquestionably brutal conquest of Ireland, resulting in the death of up to 40% of the island's population.

Following the conquest, further Penal Laws were enacted and Catholics were forbidden to hold government office and stripped of their lands under the Down Survey. Former aristocratic families were forced to send their children abroad for education to Irish seminaries in France and the Spanish Netherlands. The "New English" along with those who had converted to Anglicanism occupied the Parliament, becoming what would later be termed the Protestant Ascendancy. This period also saw an influx of Huguenots into Meath, and surnames such as Beaufort and Metge appeared in the county for the first time.

Some Old English families were able to recover their lands and return to Meath following the restoration of King James II. Although James did little to improve the overall situation of Irish Catholics, he was backed by them during the Glorious Revolution, while Protestants overwhelmingly backed William of Orange during the Williamite War in Ireland. The defeat of the Jacobites at the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690 forced James to flee to France, ending the prospect of an autonomous Irish kingdom. This battle is seen as a seminal event in Irish history and is still celebrated every year by Ulster Unionists.

Towards the end of the 18th century the Penal Laws were relaxed and Catholic merchant families such as Fay and Connolly were granted trading privileges in Trim and Navan. Celebrated Meath sculptor Edward Smyth was commissioned by Catholics in Navan to produce a crucifix for the town's new chapel in 1792, which is still located in the church to this day.[3] As sectarian tensions eased, liberal ideas began to spread among members of the Protestant Ascendancy, such as Wolfe Tone and Henry Grattan, and many came to see themselves as citizens of an Irish nation and championed Catholic emancipation. Ireland briefly secured parliamentary independence through the Constitution of 1782 which ushered in Ireland's first economic boom in centuries, as trade flourished and the population grew exponentially. However, these freedoms were abruptly ended with the Act of Union 1800, when Ireland was subsumed into the United Kingdom.

19th century

The economic boom of the late 18th century came to a sudden and catastrophic halt following the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. During the war, Ireland had become known as the "Food larder of Europe", and the tenant farmers and landlords of Meath relied heavily on tillage, which fetched an artificially high price due to a surge in wartime demand. Further, a substantial number of Irish soldiers who comprised as much as 25% of the entire British Army and Navy during the war were now made redundant. As post-war trade between Britain and Europe recovered, demand for Irish tillage collapsed; however, rents remained the same and the population continued to boom. As economic stagnation set in, the once well-managed, prosperous estates of Meath gave way to mismanagement and absenteeism, and the tenant farmers were pushed further into poverty.

This dire economic state resulted in a surge of Irish nationalism and demands to repeal the disastrous Act of Union. Nationalist sentiment was widespread in Meath, as reflected in the Meath Parliamentary constituency, which returned several of 19th century Ireland's most prominent nationalist politicians, including Daniel O'Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell and Michael Davitt. Owing to its symbolic place in the national psyche, Daniel O'Connell held a rally on the Hill of Tara in August 1843 which was attended by between 500,000 and 1 million people, making it one of the largest crowd gatherings in Irish history.

To address rising poverty and growing unrest in Ireland, the British government set up workhouses in the 1830s and began constructing railroads. However, these efforts were largely unsuccessful and the impoverished of Meath, pushed to the brink by high rents and mass unemployment, were wiped out by the Great Famine of 1845–49. Having reached over 183,000 in 1841, the population of Meath would fall to 67,000 by 1900. The famine had a lasting cultural, societal and linguistic effect on the county. Pre-famine census records show that Meath had been a region with an "undoubted Irish speaking majority", but by the late 1800s the Irish language was virtually extinct within the county. The famine-era workhouse and mass grave at Dunshaughlin is today a memorial to its victims.

The famine shed light on the detrimental effects that Ireland's land laws were having on the economic and social well-being of the country, and the British government's lacklustre response to the crisis further strengthened the cause of Irish nationalists. The Protestant Ascendancy went into steep decline following the famine and many landholders were effectively bankrupt, leading to the ad hoc sale of lands into unproductive use. The push for reform escalated in the 1870s into a period of sporadic violence and civil unrest known as the Land Wars.

Thomas Brennan, of Yellow Furze, co-founded the Irish National Land League in 1879 alongside Michael Davitt. His staunch republicanism and socialist leanings put him at odds with the League's executive, and he was excluded from the Irish National League set up by Parnell in 1882. Brennan moved to the United States and raised money for the republican cause, advocating total Irish independence as opposed to Home Rule to the Irish-American diaspora. This revealed an ideological divide within the nationalist movement, between those who favoured greater legislative independence under the British crown, as had been achieved in the 1780s, and those who advocated for completely severing ties with the United Kingdom.

Some of the political reforms desired by the nationalists were finally realised under the Local Government Act of 1898. The act set up urban and rural districts as well as county councils to take over local government from landlords. Under the reforms, small sub-councils and boroughs were abolished and Meath County Council was granted full control over the jurisdiction. The council sat at Navan, which became the new county town of Meath, ending Trim's 600-year status as Meath's shire town.

20th century

The reforms proposed by the UK government failed to stem the rising tide of nationalism, which spilled over into the 20th century as the 1916 Easter Rising. The Battle of Ashbourne was one of the few skirmishes which took place outside of Dublin during the rising, and was its sole success. On 28 April 1916, members of the Dublin Volunteers Fifth (Fingal) battalion, led by Thomas Ashe, surrounded a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) police station in Ashbourne and demanded their surrender. RIC reinforcements were dispatched from Navan and upon arriving at the scene a firefight ensued during which 8 RIC members were killed and 15 wounded, forcing them to retreat. On the orders of Patrick Pearse, Ashe and his battalion surrendered the following day.

Meath's Eamonn Duggan served as the IRA's director of intelligence during and after the rising, and was a signatory of the Anglo-Irish treaty in 1921. Meath largely sided with the pro-treaty forces during the Civil War, with the Louth–Meath constituency returning one anti-treaty and four pro-treaty TDs in the 1922 general election. Duggan later joined Cumann na nGaedheal and held various ministerial offices until his death in 1936. Following independence, various government-backed Gaelic revival efforts were centered on the county and its history, including the foundation of 5 Gaeltacht areas within Meath, and the symbolic hosting of the Tailteann Games.

The declining population of Meath gradually stabilised as emigration balanced with high natural birth rates. Outward migration from the county remained substantial until the reforms of Seán Lemass in the 1960s strengthened industry by injecting capital into the economy and abandoning the policy of autarky. These reforms, coupled with EEC membership in 1973, brought jobs and investment into the county, and the extraction and textile industries prospered. By the 1971 census Meath's population had surpassed 70,000 for the first time in eighty years. Despite a severe recession in the 1980s, the growth of Meath's economy and population became exponential in the late 1990s and early 2000s during the Celtic Tiger era.

As places such as Trim, Navan and Kells developed into major commuter towns of Dublin, the county grew increasingly reliant on the overheated construction sector, leaving Meath hard-hit by the property collapse in 2008. From 2014 onward, the economy experienced a robust recovery, and by 2016 Meath had the third lowest unemployment rate in Ireland. Meath surpassed its pre-famine population in 2011, becoming one of only five counties in the State to do so.

Geography and political subdivisions

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