Anyone who starts to take an interest in the medieval texts relating to Ireland quickly picks up the idea that the country was divided into ‘fifths’ or Sacred Centres. Indeed, the Gaelic word cuigeadh still means ‘fifths’ (singular coiced) and the modern-day Gaelic expression which translates literally as ‘the five fifths of Ireland’ refers to the political divisions of Ulster, Connacht, Leinster and Munster. Yes, you have counted correctly. There are only four ‘fifths’ in Ireland. The early legends subdivided Munster into east and west, but this is an artificial adjustment. The earliest clearly datable references to the cuigeadh relate to the kingdoms which emerged in the fifth and sixth centuries. At this date Ireland is considered to be divided into fifths but only four functional divisions are recognisable.
Ireland divided into four ‘fifths’ (adapted from Rees and Ress).
A region known as Midhe (perhaps meaning ‘middle’ or ‘neck’), which incorporated the royal centre at Tara, was regarded as having pre-eminent status and has for many centuries been popularly considered to be the fifth coiced. Yet, politically, from the iron age onwards, Midhe was under the domination of one or other adjoining kingdoms. Tara, with its impressive group of ditched earthworks and the Lia Fail (Stone of Density, used for the coronation of the High Kings of Ireland), indeed had enourmous prestige in the medieval literature yet, when the kings met annually (at Beltain), they did so at a natural outcrop known in recent years as Aill na Mireann, but probably traditionally as Carraig Choithrigi (the Stone of Divisions), which is situated near the less-impressive earthworks on the Hill of Uisnech. Furthermore, it is Uisnech, not Tara, which is the geographical mid-point of Ireland. For instance, it is claimed that a beacon fire on Uisnech can be seen over a quarter of Ireland .
Republished by Blog Post Promoter