The Dominicans first arrived in Ireland in the year 1224, just three years after the death of St Dominic and the arrival of the friars in England. Two foundations were made in Ireland that first year; one in Drogheda and one in Dublin.

Less than one hundred years previously the Anglo-Norman invasion and conquest of Ireland had begun. The Dominican friars initially made foundations in those regions of Ireland under Anglo-Norman control, but they soon established themselves in the Gaelic parts of the island also. The division within the Irish Church generally (along cultural and linguistic lines: Irish and French/English) was present in the Order right up till the 15th century Observant movement.

Twenty four Dominican communities were founded in Ireland in the thirteenth century. They were Dublin (1224), Drogheda (1224), Kilkenny (1225), Waterford (1226), Limerick (1227), Cork (1229), Mullingar (1237), Athenry (1241), Cashel (1243), Tralee (1243), Newtownards (1244), Coleraine (1244), Sligo (1252), Strade (1252), Athy (1253), Roscommon (1253), Trim (1263), Arklow (1264), Rosbercon (1267), Youghal (1268), Lorrha (1269), Derry (1274), Rathfran (1274) and Kilmallock (1291). Only five of these communities had Gaelic founders.



In 1275, 51 years after the arrival of the first Dominicans in Ireland, the communities were formed into a vicariate subject to the English Dominican province. There was subsequently some difficulty in gaining independence from the province of England. In 1314 the vicariate was accorded rights which effectively constituted it as a distinct province but full recognition was withheld.

The according of province status was accomplished in the 1370s, on the eve of the Western Schism (begun 1378). However, an appeal to the Pope resulted in the revocation of the decisions that had led to the founding of the province.

The Observant movement (a movement of reform) swept through Europe and through the different orders of friars at the end of the fourteenth century. The Irish Dominican vicariate did not escape from this development, but in practice the reform was observed more by individual friars than by the institutions. A number of new communities were founded through the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, mostly in the West of Ireland, i.e. were Gaelic influence was strongest. They were Cloonshanville (late 14th century), Portumna (1414), Longford (1420), Toombeola (1427), Urlar (1434), Tulsk (1448), Burrishoole (1486), Galway (1488), Clooneymeaghan (1488) and Ballindoon (1507). Portumna and Longford were founded as houses of observance. The Observant movement tended to establish houses in secluded places rather than in the traditional urban centres. It is thought that those houses established in Connacht (West of Ireland) were part of the reform movement which involved a strict following of the Order’s rules and the solemn celebration of the Dominican liturgy (Dominican Rite Mass and Divine Office). It is clear that the observant movement in Ireland began in the Gaelic culture and later influenced the French/English foundations.

The General Chapter of 1484 saw the foundation of an independent Irish province. Within ten years there was another objection to the granting of independence, and the province was for a second time reduced to the status of vicariate. It would not be until 1536, almost fifty more years, when the province would be definitively established.