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An Mhumhain
Flag of Munster
Coat of arms of Munster
Coat of arms
Location of Munster
State Ireland
Counties Clare
 • Total 24,675 km2 (9,527 sq mi)
 • Total 1,280,020
 • Rank 3rd in Ireland, 2nd in the Republic of Ireland
Time zone UTC±0 (WET)
 • Summer (DST) UTC+1 (IST)
Eircode routing keys
Beginning with E, H, P, T, V, X (primarily)
Telephone area codes 02x, 05x, 06x (primarily)
ISO 3166 code IE-M
Patron Saint: Ailbe of Emly a. Munster is part of the South constituency; the six Munster counties contain 67.7% of the population of this constituency.

Munster (Irish: an Mhumhain or Cúige Mumhan) is one of the provinces of Ireland, in the south of Ireland. In early Ireland, the Kingdom of Munster was one of the kingdoms of Gaelic Ireland ruled by a "king of over-kings" (Irish: rí ruirech). Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the ancient kingdoms were shired into counties for administrative and judicial purposes. In later centuries, local government legislation has seen further sub-division of the historic counties.

Munster has no official function for local government purposes. For the purposes of the ISO, the province is listed as one of the provincial sub-divisions of the State (ISO 3166-2:IE) and coded as "IE-M". Geographically, Munster covers a total area of 24,675 km2 (9,527 sq mi) and has a population of 1,280,020, with the most populated city being Cork. Other significant urban centres in the province include Limerick and Waterford.


Rock of Cashel Uebersicht
The Rock of Cashel, Co. Tipperary, historical seat of the Kings of Munster

In the early centuries AD, Munster was the domain of the Iverni peoples and the Clanna Dedad familial line, led by Cú Roí and to whom the king Conaire Mór also belonged. In the 5th century, Saint Patrick spent several years in the area and founded Christian churches and ordained priests. During the Early Middle Ages, most of the area was part of the Kingdom of Munster, ruled by the Eóganachta dynasty. Prior to this, the area was ruled by the Dáirine and Corcu Loígde overlords from the early 7th century onwards, perhaps beginning with the career of Faílbe Flann mac Áedo Duib. Later rulers from the Eóganachta who would dominate a greater part of Ireland were Cathal mac Finguine and Feidlimid mac Cremthanin. Notable regional kingdoms and lordships of Early Medieval Munster were Iarmuman (West Munster), Osraige (Ossory), Uí Liatháin, Uí Fidgenti, Éile, Múscraige, Ciarraige Luachra, Corcu Duibne, Corcu Baiscinn, and Déisi Muman. By the 9th century the Gaels had been joined by Norse Vikings who founded towns such as Cork, Waterford and Limerick, for the most part incorporated into a maritime empire by the Dynasty of Ivar, who periodically would threaten Munster with conquest in the next century. Around this period Ossory broke away from Munster. The 10th century saw the rise of the Dalcassian clan, who had earlier annexed Thomond, north of the River Shannon to Munster. Their leaders were the ancestors of the O'Brien dynasty and spawned Brian Boru, perhaps the most noted High King of Ireland, and several of whose descendants were also High Kings.

By 1118 Munster had fractured into the Kingdom of Thomond under the O'Briens, the Kingdom of Desmond under the MacCarthy dynasty (Eóganachta), and the short-lived Kingdom of Ormond under the O'Kennedys (another Dalcassian sept). The three crowns of the flag of Munster represent these three late kingdoms.

There was Norman influence from the 14th century, including by the FitzGerald, de Clare and Butler houses, two of whom carved out earldoms within the Lordship of Ireland, the Earls of Desmond eventually becoming independent potentates, while the Earls of Ormond remained closer to England. The O'Brien of Thomond and MacCarthy of Desmond surrendered and regranted sovereignty to the Tudors in 1543 and 1565, joining the Kingdom of Ireland. The impactful Desmond Rebellions, led by the FitzGeralds, soon followed.

By the mid-19th century much of the area was hit hard in the Great Famine, especially the west. The province was affected by events in the Irish War of Independence in the early 20th century, and there was a brief Munster Republic during the Irish Civil War.

The Irish leaders Michael Collins and earlier Daniel O'Connell came from families of the old Gaelic Munster gentry.


Noted for its traditions in Irish folk music, and with many ancient castles and monasteries in the province, Munster is a tourist destination. During the fifth century, St. Patrick spent seven years founding churches and ordaining priests in Munster, but a fifth century bishop named Ailbe is the patron saint of Munster.

In Irish mythology, a number of pagan goddesses are associated with the province including Anann, Áine, Grian, Clíodhna, Aimend, Mór Muman, Bébinn, Aibell and Queen Mongfind. Each is historically associated with certain septs of the nobility. The druid-god of Munster is Mug Ruith.

The province has long had trading and cultural links with continental Europe. The tribe of Corcu Loígde had a trading fleet active along the French Atlantic coast, as far south as Gascony, importing wine to Munster. The Eóganachta had ecclesiastical ties with Germany, which show in the architecture of their ceremonial capital at the Rock of Cashel.

The majority of Irish ogham inscriptions are found in Munster, principally in areas occupied by the Iverni, especially the Corcu Duibne. Later, Europe's first linguistic dictionary in any non-Classical language, the Sanas Cormaic, was compiled by Munster scholars, traditionally thought to have been directed by the king-bishop Cormac mac Cuilennáin (d. 908).

The School of Ross in Munster was one of Europe's leading centres of learning in the Early Middle Ages.


Several sports in Munster are organised on a provincial basis, or operate competitions along provincial lines. This includes traditionally popular sports such as hurling, Gaelic football, rugby union and soccer, as well as cricket (Munster Cricket Union), hockey (Munster Hockey Union), and others.

Hurling and football

Further information: Munster GAA, Munster Senior Hurling Championship, and Munster Senior Football Championship

Munster is noted for its tradition of hurling. Three of the four most successful teams in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship are from Munster; Cork GAA, Tipperary GAA and Limerick GAA. The final of the Munster Senior Hurling Championship is one of the most important days in the Irish GAA calendar.

Traditionally, the dominant teams in Munster football are Kerry GAA and Cork GAA, although Tipperary GAA and Limerick GAA have also won All-Ireland Senior Football Championships. Kerry in particular are the most successful county in the history of football.

Rugby Union

Thomond Park
Thomond Park in Limerick - one of two venues in the province which host Munster Rugby games

Rugby is a popular game in the cities of Limerick and Cork. Munster Rugby is an Irish Rugby Football Union representative side which competes in the Pro12 competition, winning in 2003, 2009 and 2011 and in the Heineken Cup, winning in 2006 and 2008. Until 2016, the Munster side was the only Irish side to have defeated the New Zealand All Blacks.


Association football is also a popular game in Munster, with the Munster Football Association governing a number of aspects of the game in the province. Four Munster clubs play in the Airtricity League of Ireland; Cork City F.C. and Limerick FC in the League of Ireland Premier Division and Waterford United & Cobh Ramblers in the Irish First Division.

Irish language

Further information: Munster Irish

The Irish language, or more specifically Munster Irish, is spoken as a first language in Gaeltachtaí (Irish speaking areas) in a number of areas in the province. This includes West Kerry (Corca Dhuibhne), South Kerry (Uíbh Ráthach), West Cork (Múscraí), south-west Cork (Oileán Cléire), and parts of Waterford (Gaeltacht na Rinne or Gaeltacht na nDéise).

There are about 35,000 Irish language speakers in Munster, with 9,737 native speakers in the Munster Gaeltacht areas of Cork, Kerry and Waterford. There are also 12,219 pupils attending 46 Gaelscoils (Irish language primary schools) and 22 Gaelcholáiste (Irish language secondary schools) in the province.


Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1981 998,315 —    
1986 1,020,577 +2.2%
1991 1,009,533 −1.1%
1996 1,033,903 +2.4%
2002 1,100,614 +6.5%
2006 1,173,340 +6.6%
2011 1,246,088 +6.2%

The province includes nine local government structures, made up of six counties and three cities:

County/City Population Area (km²)
County Clare 117,196 3,450
County Cork 399,802 7,500
Cork City 198,582
County Kerry 145,502 4,807
County Limerick 100,394 2,756
Limerick City 102,161
County Tipperary 158,754 4,305
County Waterford 62,276 1,857
Waterford City 51,519
Total 1,246,088 24,675

Urban areas

Munster has many large towns (including a number of growing satellite towns) and is the province with the most cites in the Republic of Ireland.

Patrick Street, Cork City, Ireland - - 338215
Patrick Street, Cork City
Limerick castle
River Shannon and King John's Castle, Limerick City
Waterford city at night - - 1034017
Waterford City Quays

In order of size (2011 census figures; urban areas with over 10,000 inhabitants):

Urban areas 5,000–10,000


2014 CSO figures indicated that GDP per capita in the province ranged from €28,094 in the South Tipperary/Waterford (South-East) region, to €50,544 in Cork and Kerry (South-West). Disposable income in the province was approximately €22,000 per person in 2008 - behind the Eastern and Dublin region (€25,000 per person) and ahead of the Border, Midland and Western regions (€20,000 per person).

Area Population Counties City GDP € (2012) GDP per person € GDP € (2014) GDP per person €
South-West Region 660,000 Cork & Kerry Cork €32.3 bn €48,500 €33.745 bn €50,544
Mid-West Region 380,000 Limerick & North Tipperary & Clare Limerick €11.4 bn €30,300 €12.116 bn €31,792
South-East Region 460,000 Waterford & South Tipperary Waterford €12.8 bn €25,600 €14.044 bn €28,094
Source: Eurostat


Munster's agricultural industry centres around the Golden Vale pasturelands which cover counties Cork, Limerick and Tipperary. Kerry Group manufactures dairy products from the dairy cows of the region, and Glanbia is a food producer which operates an "innovation centre" in the region. Dawn Meats also operate from County Waterford.


Irish-owned retailer Dunnes Stores was founded in Cork, and Ireland's largest supermarket group, the Musgrave Group, is also based in Munster.


Large employers in the region include AOL, Bausch & Lomb, Dairygold, Dell, Amazon, Motorola, Amgen, Pfizer, Analog Devices, Fexco Financial Services, Vistakon, Waterford Crystal, Apple Computer, Intel, Novartis, O2, Lufthansa Technik, Kerry Group, Siemens, Sony and Blizzard Entertainment. The largest employment hub in Munster is Metropolitan Cork, where a number of multinational firms are located in the Cork city area, including at Little Island. The Shannon Free Zone near Limerick city is also a centre of employment.

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See also

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