Lifford (Leifear in Irish) is the County Town of Donegal, Ireland. It is the administrative capital of the County and the seat of Donegal County Council, Letterkenny is often mistaken for fulfilling this role. The town is located in the Finn Valley of East Donegal. The town grew up around a castle established there by Manghus Ó Domhnaill, ruler of Tír Chonaill (modern County Donegal), in the 16th century, and later became a British army garrison until most of Ireland won independence in 1922. It is situated across the River Foyle from Strabane, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, and is connected to that town by Lifford Bridge. Lifford has achieved national recognition in the 2008 Tidy Towns Awards as the best newcomer to the competition in Category 'C'.


Lifford came into the possession of Sir Richard Hansard during the Plantation of Ulster in 1607. One of the conditions of his grant was that a ferry crossing be provided over the River Finn. This service continued until 1730 when the first bridge linking Lifford and Strabane was built.

In the 19th century a curious custom existed when if, by the end of the Assizes in Lifford or Omagh courthouses, a jury could not reach a unanimous verdict in a case, they were sent to the "verge" of the county to be dismissed. In the case of counties Donegal and Tyrone, this was the middle of Lifford Bridge.

The present bridge was constructed by engineering company McAlpines in 1964, jointly funded by Donegal County Council and the old Tyrone County Council (the present Strabane District Council was only formed in the early 1970s). During The Troubles in 1968, an attempt was made to blow the bridge up. However, it was only closed for a short time and today remains an important road link.


Lifford Town has a population of 1,448 as of the 2006 census of Ireland. This is an increase from 1,395 on 2002, showing an increase of 3.8%. The town population divides up as 671 male and 777 female residents. Lifford is part of the Parish of Clonleigh with a population of 3,357, the parish is sub-divided for electoral purposes into two separate Electoral Districts, Clonleigh North, population 1,328 and Clonleigh South, population 2,029.


Lifford is in the Dáil Éireann constituency of Donegal South-West. It was formerly in Donegal North-East but due to the population shift within the County an electoral boundary review in 2008 moved the town and environs to Donegal SW. The town also moved from the Letterkenny Electoral Area to the Stranorlar Electoral Area as part of that boundary review. The town is represented by two councillors with Donegal County Council, namely Gerry Crawford (Fianna Fáil) and Tony McDaid (Sinn Féin). Councillor Crawford from Porthall has been elected Donegal County Mayor and Chairman of the Council for 2008. Lifford is represented in Dail Eireann by two Teachta Dála (TD). They are, Mary Coughlan (politician), from Frosses in South Donegal, who is the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Pat "the Cope" Gallagher from Dungloe in West Donegal.

Places of Interest

Lifford has several places of national and international interest, one is the Old Courthouse & Museum, located across from the HQ of Donegal County Council in the Diamond area of the town. The museum houses a permanent display of O’Donnell clan documents & artefacts. It also has minute books from various institutes in Donegal. Another place of international interest is Cavanacor House on the outskirts of the town, the house is the ancestral home of the 11th President of the United States of America, James Knox Polk. His great, great, great grandmother (Magdelene Tasker) was born here in 1634, she later married Capt. Robert Bruce Pollock and emigrated to the USA. King James I dined here at Cavanacor House on his way to the siege of Derry in 1689



Lifford is home to a number of sporting clubs, including

Naomh Padraig GAA Club (which plays in the Donegal Senior Football Division 3), they play their home games at McDermott Park in the Roughan.

Lifford Celtic Football Club (which plays in the Premier Division of the Donegal Junior Football League), their home ground is at Greenbrae Park.

Deele Harps Football Club (which play in the First Division of the Donegal Junior Football League), They play their home games at the Lifford Athletic Club grounds in the Roughan.

Lifford Athletic Club train at the their athletic track & grounds in the Roughan.

The Three Rivers Shotokan Karate Club, The karate club train all age groups from beginner to black belt in the Lifford/Clonleigh Community Resource Centre on the Gallows Lane.



Lifford is known as the ‘Gateway to Donegal’, this is because it is the first town you enter in Donegal when travelling from Dublin on the N2 (A5/A38 through Northern Ireland). Two national primary routes, the N15 to Sligo via Stranorlar, Donegal Town and Ballyshannon and also the N14 to Letterkenny take travellers to all parts in the County. There is also the R265/R236 national secondary route to Derry City. Lifford has several daily bus services operated by Bus Éireann to Dublin Airport / Dublin City Centre (Busáras). They also serve Letterkenny and Ballybofey, where connections can be had for travelling onwards to Sligo with its train and bus station.


  • In 1792 the 6 km (4 mi) Strabane Canal was constructed from the tidal waters of Lough Foyle at Leck, to Strabane. The canal fell into disuse in 1962. In June 2006 the Strabane Lifford Development Commission awarded a £1.3m cross-border waterways restoration contract. The project was launched by President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, in Lifford and involves the restoration of 2.4 km (1.5 mi) of canal and two locks to working order. Work is due to start on the Lough Foyle side of the canal in the summer of 2006.


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