Genealogical and Historical Research Service in Ireland

The  MacCARTHY MÓR - A Problem

Dividing Line - Genealogical and Historical Research Service in County Louth, Ireland

Information on this matter can be found on various websites as shown following.

    For those interested in the Gaelic Clans the genealogical problem with the MacCarthy Mór line arose when the wrong descendant claimed the title of 'The MacCarthy Mór' and he became for a while officially recognised as the legitimate holder.

    Some of my own ancestors were called by the surname ‘McCarthy’ in documents of nearly a few hundred years ago. But the surname that is usually found in County Louth is similar to that found further north i.e. ‘MaCartney’ or ‘McCartney’. However my interest was not only in the surname but with a connection of a person claiming to be a member of the Niadh Nask, unknown to me, to my home townland of Castlebellingham.

Information can be found in:-

- article by Professional Genealogist Séan J. Murphy m.a.
  It begins:-

'In what has been undoubtedly the greatest Irish genealogical and heraldic fraud of modern times, Terence MacCarthy of Belfast claimed until his enforced 'abdication' in October 1999 to be a Gaelic Chief, 'The MacCarthy Mór', and also 'Prince of Desmond', head of the 'Royal Eóghanacht Dynasty of Munster'. Crucial to MacCarthy's operations was an organisation known as the 'Niadh Nask', an alleged ancient Gaelic order of knighthood in the gift of his 'dynasty' whose members supposedly wore a 'golden chain'. Is there in fact any evidence that such an order ever existed?

Following the collapse of Terence MacCarthy's Niadh Nask, in 2001 Charles McKerrell of Hillhouse, former 'Chancellor and Brehon' of the order, endeavoured to revive it under the title 'Nia Naisc'. Now based in Scotland, .... Among the more prominent members of the Nia Naisc is the Baron Castleshort, a 'bondsman' of McKerrell of Hillhouse, who has been pictured wearing the insignia of the body: .....'

To read the full article entitled 'The Niadh Nask: An Alleged Irish Order of Knighthood' click on:-

Further information by Mr. Murphy can be found in an article entitled 'Irish Historical Mysteries: The MacCarthy Mór Hoax' at:-
It begins, following the picture referred to,:-

'Ireland currently has a series of official tribunals enquiring into corruption in the 1980s and 1990s, particularly in relation to payments to politicians and perversion of the planning process. It would appear that 'The times that were in it', as the saying goes, permitted the wealthy and powerful to circumvent normal procedures and controls in order to further their own interests. Now genealogy may be comparatively small beer in the general scheme of things, but it too has suffered from the decline in standards which has afflicted so many areas of Irish life. Ireland has been transformed from the underdeveloped but friendly society which so charmed visitors, to the roaring 'Celtic Tiger' where making a buck is the bottom line and values do not rise above the merely monetary. On the face of it, the above picture represents the happy co-existence of the old Ireland and the new Ireland: a Gaelic Chief posing side by side with the President of the Irish Republic. Alas, we shall see that all was not as it appeared ....

Of the newly recognised Chiefs, the one who attracted the most attention and publicity was Terence Francis MacCarthy, styled The MacCarthy Mór, Prince of Desmond. Born in Belfast in 1957 and a graduate of Queen's University in that city, MacCarthy presented via voluminous publications and a large Internet site what appeared at first sight to be an unassailable array of genealogical, heraldic, historical and juridical data in support of his claims. Not only was he Chief of the MacCarthy Clan, but also a Royal Prince of Munster with the power to bestow titles and honours, and all this with the approval of the Irish State. Indeed, in 1996 MacCarthy succeeded in having himself photographed with President Mary Robinson and her husband, to which memorable image we have already referred. MacCarthy also managed to persuade the Cashel Heritage Centre to incorporate in its displays a case containing 'Heirlooms' of his family, which tourism interests promoted as a 'must see' attraction.'

- in Wikipedia, the free encyclopia
  The article states:-

'The Niadh Nask was a self-styled nobiliary association devised by the self-styled MacCarthy Mór, Terence Francis MacCarthy  ... The group dissolved when it was proven that its Grand Master claimed a false pedigree .... However, the order has recently been reformed under the basis of a non-profit organization designed to promote Gaelic culture.....'

To read the full article click on link:-

Further information on Wikipedia can be found for -
         Terence MacCarthy at:-
         James Shortt, Baron of Castleshort at:-
It states:-

'.... In 1990, Shortt became the Director General of the International Bodyguard Association, following the death of its founder Lucien Ott. Under Shortt's leadership, the IBA head-quartered at "Castle Cosey, Castlebellingham" in County Louth, Ireland. In March 2009, Irish media uncovered the fact that Shortt's baronial "castle" was in fact only a modest house built within the village of Castlebellingham ....'

- The Baron James Shortt of Castleshort on the International Bodyguard Association website  at:-


In the early hours of the morning of 7 January 2012 the dwelling, close to the centre of Castlebellingham Village, was gutted by a fire. Luckily for properties in the area the wind was blowing in the opposite direction. By 7 September 2013 the derelict property remains an eyesore on an approach road to the picturesque village.
     The site was eventually sold and by the end of 2022 a new house has been built in its place.

     In late July 2013 I was told that a new Clan organisation has been formed and their website is:

     I have also been asked by someone, stating to be from that new Clan organisation, to delete my original page on '
he MacCarthy Mór - A Problem'. The request stated: ‘we most respectfully ask that you delete it, as we see no reason to further publicise the distasteful episode of Terence McCarthy when it brings nothing but bad memories to MacCarthys ….
and really we do not see where it 'fits' into the professional thrust of your website or your business …’

Since no specific name was provided in the request, supposedly from a person in what I would see as a cultural and voluntary type organisation to my private business, in Ireland, I decided to include this note online. This is not a condemnation of such organisations. As cultural bodies whether styled as Clan, Clan Foundations or One Named Studies they can have valuable tourism benefits to Ireland.

My main reasons for not deleting my original page entitled 'The MacCarthy Mór - A Problem' are:-

1  As a private genealogical and historical research business, operating from a small rural area in Ireland, I think if one finds someone coming into that area with some strange views on an aspect of the business, that is in my case genealogy, then one has a specific legitimate right to let it be known that one has no connection whatsoever with such person or persons or their activities.

2  Historical research, especially from the business angle, is not just about researching the past for its own sake but also to inform the future so, for example, the same mistakes will not be made etc..  Also it is not always about dealing with the negative or ugly events that have happened. Something of value in the past can also be of value in the present if resurrected.

3  My business is not just about genealogy but also history and in particular civil history. The above episode on MacCarthy Mór is an example, and in the genealogy area, of what can happen when the public and private sectors in Ireland become too close. It is not the only problem I have come across but that is for another day.

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© MP McConnon, MC Research, Seabank Road, Castlebellingham, Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland
(Original uploaded 4 March 2011, amended 7 September 2013). Last updated 12 December 2022.