By the 12th century, Ireland was divided politically into a shifting hierarchy of petty kingdoms and over-kingdoms. Power was concentrated into the hands of a few regional dynasties contending against each other for control of the whole island. The Northern Uí Néill ruled much of what is now Ulster. Their kinsmen, the Southern Uí Néill, were Kings of Brega (Meath). The kingship of Leinster was held by the dynamic Ui Cheinnselaigh dynasty. A new kingdom rose between Leinster and Munster, Osraige, ruled by the family of Mac Giolla Phádraig. Munster was nominally controlled by the Mac Cartaig, who were however in reality often subject to the Uí Bhriain of Thomond. North of Thomond, Connacht's supreme rulers were the Uí Chonchubhair.
After losing the protection of Tyrone Chief, Muirchertach MacLochlainn, High King of Ireland, who died in 1166, Dermot MacMurrough (Irish Diarmait Mac Murchada) , was forcibly exiled by a confederation of Irish forces under the new High King, Rory O'Connor. Diarmait fled first to Bristol and then to Normandy. He sought and obtained permission from Henry II of England to use the latter's subjects to regain his kingdom. By 1167 MacMurrough had obtained the services of Maurice Fitz Gerald and later persuaded Rhys ap Gruffydd Prince of Deheubarth to release Maurice's half-brother Robert Fitz-Stephen from captivity to take part in the expedition. Most importantly he obtained the support of the Earl of Pembroke Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow.
The first Norman knight to land in Ireland was Richard fitz Godbert de Roche in 1167, but it was not until 1169 that the main forces of Normans, Welsh and Flemings landed in Wexford. Within a short time Leinster was regained, Waterford and Dublin were under Diarmait's control, and he had Strongbow as a son-in-law, and named him as heir to his kingdom. This latter development caused consternation to King Henry II of England, who feared the establishment of a rival Norman state in Ireland....
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