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Dundalk (Irish: Dún Dealgan ) is the county town of County Louth in Ireland, situated close to the border with Northern Ireland. It is sited on the lowest bridging point of the Castletown River. The town crest reads "Mé do rug Cú Chulainn Cróga" (I gave birth to brave Cú Chulainn). In 2003, Dundalk was amongst nine cities and towns to be designated Gateway status in the Irish Government's National Spatial Strategy
Around 3500 BC, the Neolithic people came to Ireland. One of the lasting features they left behind is the Proleek Dolmen at Ballymascanlon, on the northern side of Dundalk.
The Celts arrived in Ireland around 500 BC, having colonised most of Europe. The group that settled in North Louth was known as the Conaille Muirtheimhne and took their name from Conaill Carnagh, legendary chief of the Red Branch Knights of Ulster. Their land now forms upper and lower Dundalk. The poets in Celtic society were known as the fili and were responsible for mythological tales and legends, the most famous being the tales of the Red Branch Knights, the Táin Bó Cuailgne and Cúchulainn.
Dundalk had been originally developed as an unwalled Sráid Bhaile (meaning village; translates literally as "Street Townland"). The streets passed along a gravel ridge which runs from the present day Bridge Street in the North, through Church Street to Clanbrassil Street to Earl Street, and finally to Dublin Street.
In 1169, the Normans arrived in Ireland and set about conquering large areas. By 1185 a Norman nobleman named Bertram de Verdun erected a manor house at Castletown Mount and subsequently obtained the town's charter in 1189. Another Norman family, the De Courcys, led by John de Courcy, settled in the Seatown area of Dundalk, the "Nova Villa de Dundalke". Both families assisted in the fortification of the town, building walls and other fortification in the style of a Norman fortress. The town of Dundalk was developed as it lay close to an easy bridging point over the Castletown River and as a frontier town on the northern extremities of the Pale. In 1236 Bertram’s granddaughter, Rohesia commissioned Castle Roche to fortify the region, and to offer protection from the (then) exclusively Gaelic province of Ulster.
In the 17th century, Lord Limerick (later James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Clanbrassil) created the modern town we know today. He was responsible for the construction of streets leading to the town centre; his ideas came from many visits to Europe. In addition to the demolition of the old walls and castles, he had new roads laid out eastwards of the principal streets. The most important of these new roads connected a newly laid down Market Square, which still survives, with a linen and cambric factory at its eastern end, adjacent to what was once a British Army cavalry and artillery barracks (now Aiken Military Barracks).
In the 19th century, the town grew in importance and many industries were set up in the local area. This development was helped considerably by the opening of railways, the expansion of the docks area or "Quay"; and the setting up of a board of commissioners to run the town.
The town's first rail links were to Dublin in 1849 and Belfast in 1850, placing the town on the main line between these two cities. Further railway links opened to Derry by 1859 and Greenore in 1873.
The partition of Ireland in May 1921 turned Dundalk into a border town and the Dublin–Belfast main line into an international railway. The Irish Free State opened customs and immigration facilities at Dundalk to check goods and passengers crossing the border by train. The Irish Civil War of 1922-23 saw a number of confrontations in Dundalk. The local Fourth Northern Division of the Irish Republican Army under Frank Aiken tried to stay neutral but 300 of them were arrested by the new Irish Army in August 1922. However, a raid on the barrack freed Aiken and two weeks later he took Dundalk barracks and captured its garrison before freeing the remaining republican prisoners there. Aiken did not try to hold the town, however, and before withdrawing he called for a truce in a meeting in the centre of Dundalk.
In the 20th century, Dundalk's secondary railway links were closed: first the line to Greenore in 1951 and then that to Derry in 1957. In 1966 Dundalk railway station was renamed Clarke. Dundalk continued as a market town, a regional centre, a centre of administration and a manufacturing centre during the first fifty years of Irish Independence. During the Northern Troubles period, it became a key security centre. The introduction of competition after Ireland's joining the Common Market revealed that local manufacturing enterprises were unable to deal with foreign competition and Dundalk lost much employment. The town had the highest unemployment rate in Ireland's richest province, Leinster. This created social problems and an environment where many adopted extreme political stances, often in tandem with developments in the nationalist community of nearby Northern Ireland. It was in this period that Dundalk earned the nickname'El Paso'.
The emergence of the Celtic Tiger investment boom resulted in rapid economic development in Dundalk since 2000. Harp Lager, a beer produced by Diageo, is brewed in the Great Northern Brewery, Dundalk. Today many international companies have factories in Dundalk, from food processing to high-tech computer components.
Dundalk Institute of Technology (often abbreviated to DkIT) is the primary higher education provider in the North East of the country. It was established in 1970 as the Regional Technical College, offering primarily technician and apprenticeship courses. It has since evolved to become one of the major third level institutions, providing wide ranging full-time and part-time under-graduate and post-graduate courses.
Ongoing infrastructure evolutions continue in and around Dundalk to meet a programme deadline of 2020. These improvements embrace the road, rail and telecommunication infrastructures for—according to the National Development Plan—a better integration with the neighbouring Dublin, Midlands Gateway, and Cavan/Monaghan Hubs.
Dundalk today retains the linear characteristics of a medieval town, although there is evidence of prehistoric and early Christian settlements. The town is now the sixth largest conurbation in the Republic of Ireland in population and is strategically located on the east coast approximately equi-distant between Dublin and Belfast, the two largest cities on the island. The town has a total population of 35,085 (2006 Census). Dundalk Institute of Technology is the town's third level institution. Dundalk is also home to Internet Service Providers Digiweb & Net1.
Within a 50 kilometres (31 mi) radius there is a population of 428,000. Dundalk is located on the M1 Motorway and is also served by the inter-city rail network. Dundalk is very advantageously positioned in relation to international airports, Dublin International Airport and Belfast International Airport.
Dundalk has a long and proud history of sport with Dundalk F.C and Dundalk R.F.C
In recent years Dundalk has seen the development of new sporting facilities including the JJB Soccer Dome and the Dundalk Ice Dome where local ice hockey teams the Dundalk Bulls play. The Ice Dome hosted the IIHF world Championship of Division III in April 2007.
Dundalk also has a long horseracing tradition. August 2007 saw Ireland's first all-weather horseracing track open up on the site of the old Dundalk racecourse. The course held Ireland's first ever meeting under floodlights on September 27th 2007. Greyhound racing also takes place at Dundalk Stadium.
Dundalk also held its first ever National Fencing tournament in April 2007