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Prior to , the county was represented in the Irish Parliament through the Carlow constituency , which returned two MPs. Following the Act of Union , the county was represented in Westminster through the Carlow County constituency, which returned two and later one MPs. Between and the county was split in two, with the northern half of the county becoming Carlow-Kildare , and the southern half joining the Wexford constituency.

In the county was re-merged with Kilkenny for national elections. The county is located within the South constituency for elections to the European Parliament. As the county is part of the South-East Region , some county councillors are also representatives on the Southern Regional Assembly. The area of present-day Carlow has been inhabited for thousands of years, and the county has perhaps the highest concentration of megalithic monuments per square kilometre in Ireland.

Numerous standing stones , bullauns and cairns mark the landscape. Carlow is nicknamed the "Dolmen County", reflecting the abundance of dolmens found within its borders, of which the Brownshill Dolmen is reputed to be the largest in Europe. As Carlow contained both the navigable river Barrow as well as the Slighe Cualann one of the key arterial roads leading to Tara , control of the area was vital to the claim of any prospective king of Leinster, and the area was much fought over. With the exception of a short-lived Norse—Gael settlement near St.

Mullin's in the 9th century, the area remained under the control of the Kingdom of Leinster until the early 13th century. Following the Norman conquest , the "Borough of Carlow" was founded in July , and formed part of the Norman palatine county of Leinster.

The modern county boundary was shaped by the Gaelic Resurgence from the 14th to 16th centuries. During this period, the county was part of the patrimony of the Anglo-Norman Butler dynasty ; however Art MacMurrough-Kavanagh , the ascendant King of Leinster, controlled more than half of the liberty. He was paid by the Anglo-Normans for his "services" in keeping the roads and trade routes of the area free of bandits, but in reality this amounted to nothing more than rent exacted by MacMurrough-Kavanagh as recognition of his sovereignty over the area.

His authority was so absolute that the MacMurrough-Kavanagh's retained control over large portions of the county for centuries, despite radical political changes. In the late 15th-century, James Butler , the 9th Earl of Ormond , purchased land within the county to give to his heirs, rather than enter into conflict with the dynasty.

The informal alliance between the Kingdom of Leinster and the Anglo-Normans remained the status quo for decades, as it kept the peace and made both sides immensely wealthy.

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Cognisant of the political landscape, the Anglo-Normans began to marry into Gaelic families and adapt to native customs, forging alliances with Irish kingdoms to gain the upper hand over their fellow Anglo-Norman rivals. Large areas on the northern and eastern fringes of the Liberty of Carlow gradually fell completely to the O'Moores , O'Byrnes and other chiefdoms. Consequently, when the Tudors reconquered these areas in the mid 16th century as part of the plantations , ownership was not reverted to the Anglo-Normans of Carlow, but was instead granted to settlers from Britain.

Carlow retained its Irish Sea border, though control of this land became disputed with the ruling chiefs of the area who were petitioning for their own shire. These areas were eventually given over to County Wicklow in Following the Irish Confederate Wars in the s, the great majority of Gaelic Irish and Anglo-Norman landowners were dispossessed, and their lands were granted to English soldiers who took part in the Cromwellian conquest. Carlow was one of four counties set aside by the Commonwealth government for the payment of public debt, although much of the land in these counties eventually ended up in the hands of notable regicides , considered "friends of the Republic".

These lands were legally deemed to be in the possession of King Charles II following the Restoration , and many dispossessed Irish nobles were able to petition the king and recover their lands. The Cromwellian conquest therefore had a limited impact on Carlow, as both Charles and the Parliament of Ireland had shown leniency to ordinary soldiers who were granted land elsewhere in Ireland, but all regicides were either exiled or executed. Carlow, along with neighbouring Wexford , saw some of the fiercest fighting of the Rebellion.

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The rebellion in Carlow is particularly infamous for the sectarian excesses committed within the county. Prior to the rebellion, United Irishmen member William Farrell had claimed " there was no part of Ireland where a better feeling of friendship existed between both Catholics and Protestants, nor no part where greater numbers of both were blood relations ". However, in the wake of the French Revolution , local members of the Orange Order organised into a Yeomanry Cavalry Corps which conducted nightly raids on Catholic and Dissenter homes, often burning them to the ground, in search of weapons and revolutionary literature.

As feelings of persecution and religious division grew amongst the overwhelmingly Catholic populace, local United Irish leader Laurence Griffin lamented "the people of Carlow think of all Protestants as Orangemen". Catholics and non-Anglican Protestants could not vote to effect change, so they eventually joined forces with radical liberal Anglicans to overthrow the Parliament. The Battle of Carlow was one of the opening skirmishes of the rebellion in May , and ended in a crushing defeat for the rebel forces.

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Months of intimidation and revenge attacks followed, led by Reverend Robert Rochfort of Clogrennan House, who oversaw the unlawful kidnapping, torture and execution of suspected United Irishmen, earning Rochfort the nickname "the slashing parson ". The abandoned estate at Duckett's Grove served as both an IRA training camp and the headquarters of the Carlow Brigade from to Plagued by poor supply-lines and hindered by a heavy Royal Irish Constabulary RIC presence, the Carlow Brigade was one of the least active of the war and mostly specialised in delaying tactics such as blocking roads, destroying bridges and intercepting mail.

The brigade carried out a botched ambush near Ballymurphy in April , with the loss of 12 members 4 killed and 8 captured and vital munitions, after which no further active engagements with either the RIC or British Army were attempted. Cosgrave , served as TD for the Carlow—Kilkenny constituency from to Carlow is nicknamed the "Dolmen County", reflecting the abundance of dolmens found within its borders. Dolmens or " portal tombs " are above-grove burial chambers which were used by Neolithic farming communities.

The Brownshill Dolmen , situated on the Hacketstown Road R , has a capstone which weighs an estimated metric tons, and is reputed to be the heaviest in Europe. There are at least 10 megalithic tombs within the county, of which 7 are dolmens. Carlow and Kilkenny have 14 dolmens between them, many of which are among the most impressive in Ireland. This is unusual for such a small area. In contrast, County Galway , over twice the size of Carlow and Kilkenny combined, has 7 dolmens, and Cork — Ireland's largest county — has just 2. This suggests that the fertile plains of the Barrow and its tributaries were well inhabited during the prehistoric era.

A total of 57 archaeological sites were identified along the proposed route and yielded a variety of relics, including flint arrowheads and bone scrapers, pottery , hammers and axeheads made of granite and an Iron Age glass bead. These artefacts are now housed in the Carlow County Museum. Their discovery a significant distance from any water sources revealed that the extent of early settlement in the area was more widespread than previously thought. Numerous surviving Ogham stones dot the landscape of the county. The stones use Ogham inscription to record personal names, and were most likely commemorative monuments to the deceased individual.

Many of the stones are inscribed with Old Irish , but some have been distinctly "Christianised" through the influence of local monastic settlements, such as the Rathglass Ogham Stone which reads "Donaidonas Maqi Mariani" — Donaidonas son of. The Patrickswell Ogham Stone, believed to have been associated with the Waterstown ecclesiastical site, is now illegible.

Early Christian settlements were founded throughout Carlow from the 5th to 7th century. An extensive monastic site is located at St Mullin's in the southern tip of the county. The village is named after Saint Moling , who founded a monastery there in the early 7th century.

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An 8th-century manuscript, The Book of Mulling , contains a plan of the monastery — the earliest known plan of an Irish monastery — which shows four crosses inside and eight crosses outside the circular monastic wall. Old Leighlin was the site of one of the largest monastic settlements in Ireland, founded by St Goban in the 6th century. Among the most recent additions are the stained glass windows created by Catherine Amelia O'Brien in Once the cathedral church of the former Diocese of Leighlin , it is now one of the six cathedrals in the Diocese of Cashel and Ossory of the Church of Ireland.

It flourished until the 11th century and taught Saint Finian Lobhar as well as Saint Oncho , who is buried at the site. Another monastery was established by Saint Comhgall in and is located in present-day Carlow town. The monastery, which was by that stage in ruins, lay just outside of it. The burial grounds survive today at Castle Hill and a new church was built at the site in , known as St.

Mary's Church. The oldest known castles within the county date from the first few centuries AD. The two most common forms of early defensive structures were ringforts and Motte-and-bailey castles. This style of fortification remained prevalent for centuries, persisting even after the Norman Invasion in the 12th century. The arrival of the Normans was followed by the widespread construction of stone castles and tower houses throughout Ireland.

These structures did not entirely supplant the earlier forms of fortification, as evidenced by Castlemore Moat , which is an example of a much later Motte-and-bailey. Although stone castles were generally of far superior quality, wooden structures were still favoured by the more mobile Irish kingdoms , as they could be easily constructed and abandoned when necessary.

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As late as the s, the King of Leinster, Art McMurrough-Kavanagh, is recorded as residing in a large wooden fortress in the woods near Old Leighlin. For six centuries, Carlow Castle was the oldest and most imposing stone castle in the county. Built from to , the town of Carlow grew around it, and it once stood as the centrepiece of the walled medieval town, complete with four towers of which two survive.

The castle endured numerous sieges and conquests, and changed hands dozens of times throughout its history, remaining intact.