Port of Galway
Review and History

The Port of Galway is the capital of and only city in Connacht Province, Ireland. Located on Ireland’s west coast on the northern shores of Galway Bay, it is 185 kilometers due west of Dublin and 73 kilometers north-northwest of Limerick. The Port of Galway is Ireland’s fourth largest and fastest-growing city. In 2006, over 72 thousand people lived in the Port of Galway.

The Port of Galway has a solid local economy with a healthy diversity of industries that include manufacturing, tourism, education, distribution, retail, construction, and services in the financial, professional, and cultural arenas. Almost half of the Port of Galway’s workforce is involved in commerce or the professions, and almost 20% are in manufacturing. Much of the Port of Galway’s manufacturing industry is involved in high-tech areas like medical equipment, chemicals, and electronics. Tourism is a major part of the local economy: more than 2.1 million people visited Port of Galway in 2000.

Port History

The “Fort at the Mouth of the Gaillimh” (Dún Bhun na Gaillimhe) was built by the King of Connacht in 1124, and a village grew up around the fort. When the Normans invaded Connacht during the 1230s, the fort was captured by Richard Mor de Burgh. The town thrived under the Normans.

The de Burghs became Gaelicized the longer they lived there, and the town merchants had increasing control of the walled city. By 1484, they had complete control of the Port of Galway, and it won a municipal charter from the English crown. The Hiberno-Norman citizens of Galway did not get along well with their native Irish neighbors.

During the Medieval Ages, the Port of Galway was ruled by fourteen merchant families, 14 of which were Normans, and two were Irish. They were later called the “tribes” of Galways. During the Middle Ages, the Port of Galway was the main Irish port serving trade with France and Spain. Christopher Columbus visited Galway, noting in 1477 that he found evidence of land beyond the Atlantic.

The Port of Galway was generally loyal to the English crown during the 16th and 17th Centuries; however, its Roman Catholic population grew over time, shifting the balance to the rebellion. During the War of the Three Kingdoms between Scotland, Ireland, and England, Galway allied with the Catholic Confederation of Kilkenny. As a result, Oliver Cromwell invaded Ireland and took the Port of Galway after a nine-month-long siege.

In the late 17th Century, the Port of Galway supported the Jacobites, supporting King James II of England in his fight for the English crown with William of Orange. The Port of Galway was captured by William of Orange’s forces in 1691, and Galway’s leading families were ruined as Protestant dominance over Ireland continued for the next century.

By 1762, about 15 thousand people lived in the Port of Galway, yet only 350 of them were Protestants. The old Catholic merchant elite met with great persecution, trade declined, and the condition of the harbor declined. Locals made up for the slow trade by smuggling goods like brandy into the Port of Galway. However, the city’s economic decline continued well into the 20th Century.

During the 19th Century, the Port of Galway was seriously affected by the Irish Famine of the 1840s. Unlike other Irish cities, the Port of Galway lost population as a result of the national tragedy.

The Port of Galway played a small role in Ireland’s political strife of the early 20th Century. The city was the British Army’s western headquarters during the Irish War of Independence, so the Irish Republican Army could do little in Galway against them. Galway began a slow economic recovery during the 20th Century. The once-distant Salthill resort became a suburb, bringing increases in tourism to the Port of Galway. Urban development and re-development changed the face of the city. By the end of the 20th Century, the Port of Galway was a busy cosmopolitan urban center.

Today, the Port of Galway is thought to be one of Europe’s fastest-growing cities, and prosperity has returned at last. Trade, commerce, and manufacturing have increased significantly, and tourism brings tens of thousands of visitors to town each summer and a boom in the service sector.  

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