Was this battle outside Dublin in 1014 the most significant in Ireland’s history?
Clontarf today is a suburb on the north side of Dublin City with pleasant views over Dublin Bay and the Wicklow Mountains. However Clontarf is best known as the site of one of the bloodiest battles in Irish history.
This year marks the 1,000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf. This battle is widely thought of as the time when the native Irish, lead by Brian Boru, finally defeated the Vikings. Historians however tell us that hostilities began, not between Brian and the Vikings but with Meal Mórdá, the then King of Leinster, who challenged Boru’s claim to be king of all Ireland. As Brian Boru was amassing his armies around Dublin to quell the revolt, Meal Mórdá enlisted the assistance of his Viking cousin Sitric and other allies from Scotland and the Isle of Man. On 23rd of April 1014 the two armies, each numbering about 7,000 men, met at Clontarf.
In the battle that followed Brian Boru lost not only the lives of half his men but also his own life and that of his brother Wolf the Quarrelsome. On the other side 6,000 men were killed and of the leaders of the revolt, only Sitric survived to rule Dublin for a further 28 years. Although Brian Boru’s forces triumphed in battle, the lack of a strong leader meant that the Irish became divided again and descended again into provincial fighting between local chieftains, but the Vikings were never as powerful again.