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Rooney Surname

The following example of the Rooney surname was taken from “THE BOOK OF ULSTER SURNAMES" by Robert Bell.


Though this name originates in Ulster, it is now almost equally common in Leinster and Connacht. Its greatest concentration in Ulster is in Co. Down.

The O'Rooneys, Gaelic ORuanaidh, were a Co. Down sept who were based in the modern parish of Ballyroney to the north of Rathfriland. The name appears often in the ecclesiastical annals and history of the diocese of Dromore, but it is as a literary family that they are most famous. Ceallach O'Rooney, died 1079 was styled Chief Poet of Ireland. Eoin O'Rooney, died 1376, was chief poet to MacGuinness of Iveagh. William Rooney, 1873-1901, was a noted poet who was involved in the Gaelic revival of the late nineteenth century. At that time the name was found to be synonymous with Rowney around Newry in Co. Down and with Roohan and Runian near Ballyshannon in Co. Donegal.

That Runian was found to be synonymous with Rooney is evidence of the absorption by Rooney of the less common Rooneen or Roonian, Gaelic O Runaidhin, a name which originated in central Down but which later became associated with south Donegal and north Leitrim.

There are two different origins for Rooney in Co. Fermanagh and adjacent areas. The O Maolruanaigh were Kings of Fermanagh before the Maguires. Their name was anglicised as Mulrooney, then Rooney. The distinct sept of Mac Maolruanaigh were lords of part of Clankelly as early as 1296. Their name was anglicised as Macarooney and was still rendered thus in the late nineteenth century. It has now been shortened to Rooney.

Taken from "IRISH FAMILIES, their Names, Arms and Origins" by Edward MacLysaght


In modern Ireland this name is seldom if ever found with the prefix O to which it is entitled, since it is O Ruanaidh in Irish. The O'Rooneys were a sept of Dromore (Co. Down) and today they are principally to be found in Ulster and the neighbouring county of Leitrim. Several notable ecclesiastics of the name appear in the history of the diocese of Dromore; Felix O'Rooney, Archbishop of Tuam, was a famous character who ran foul of the ruling O'Connors in Connacht, but in spite of imprisonment by them lived on till 1238, having resigned the episcopate and become a monk. The O'Rooneys were a literary family: Ceallach O'Rooney (d. 1079), was called chief poet of Ireland and Eoin O'Rooney (d. 1376) was chief poet to MacGuinness of Iveagh. This tradition was maintained by John Jerome Rooney (b. 1866), the Irish-American Catholic poet, and by the better-known William Rooney (1873-1901), poet and Gaelic revivalist. There is a place called Rooney's Island in Co. Donegal.