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The Council of Finlaggan

In 2003, the High Council of Clan Donald Chiefs decided to reconstitute the ancient Comhairle nan Eilean (Council of the Isles) which served as an advisory council to the Lords of the Isles. Given that the original Council met at Finlaggan on the Island of Islay off the west coast of Scotland, it was decided that the new Council would be called the Council of Finlaggan. The role of the Council of Finlaggan is to provide advice to the High Council on issues referred to them by the Chiefs. The Council of Finlaggan may also bring forward for the consideration of the High Council advice on issues of concern or interest.

The members of the Council function as the eyes and ears of the High Council; to keep the High Council informed about issues, concerns, and developments in their geographical areas. As was the original Council of the Isles, membership on the Council is restricted to sixteen persons, each appointed by the High Council, to serve at the pleasure of the High Council. Appointments must receive the unanimous consent of all the Chiefs. Council appointments are named after the historical strongholds of the Lordship of the Isles.

Ṭiseach and Castle Duntulm Councillor: Major (Retd) Bruce Macdonald, South Carolina, USA.

Castle Dunscaith Councillor: Allan Macdonald of Vallay, Auckland, New Zealand.
  Castle Dunivaig Councillor: Audrey (Bonnie) Thompson, San Francisco, California, USA.
  Castle Ceapach Councillor: Donald M. Macdonald, Edinburgh, Scotland.
  Castle Strome Councillor: James A. McDonald, Savannah, Georgia, USA.
  Castle Kenbane Councillor: The Honourable Hector McDonnell, Antrim, Northern Ireland.

  Castle Mingarry Councillor: Douglas K MacDonald, New Hampshire, USA.

  Castle Invergarry Councillor: William McDonald, Milton, New Zealand.

Castle Dunaverty Councillor: Malcolm C. McDonald, Queensland, Australia.

Castle Ardtornish Councillor: David Macdonald of Castle Camus, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
Castle Borve Councillor: Hector MacDonald, Cambridge, England.

The Original Council of the Isles

The original Comhairle nan Eilean is described by 17th Century historian, Hugh Macdonald of Sleat:

The constitution of the Isles was thus: Macdonald had his Council at Island Finlaggan in Islay, to the number of sixteen, namely: four Thanes, four Armins, that is to say Lords or sub-Thanes, four Bastards - that is squires, or men of competent estates who could not come up with Armins or Thanes, that is freeholders, or men that had their land in factory, as Macgee of the Rinds of Islay, MacNicoll in Portree in Skye, and MacEachern, Mackay, and MacGillevray in Mull, Macillemhaoel or Macmillan etc. There was a table of stone where the Council sat in the Isle of Finlaggan: the which table, with the stone on which Macdonald sat, were carried away by Argyll with the bells that were at Iona. Moreover there was a judge in every Isle for the discussion of all controversies, who had lands from Macdonald for their trouble, and likewise the eleventh part of every action decided. But there might be still an appeal to the Council of the Isles. MacFinnon was obliged to see weights and measures adjusted; and MacDuffie or MacPhie of Colonsay kept the records of the Isles.

Donald Munro, Dean of the Isles writing in 1549 described the Council thus:

The Council was composed of four of the greatest nobles, four thanes of lesser estate, and four great men of the royal blood of Clan Donald, presided over by the Macdonald as 'Herdsman of the Isles'. The four great nobles were Maclean of Duart, Maclean of Loch Buie, MacLeod of Harris, and MacLeod of Lewis. The four thanes were MacKinnon, MacNeil of Barra, MacNeil of Gigha, and one other. The four great men of Clan Donald were the Chief of Clanranald, Maclain of Ardnamurchan, Macdonald of Kintyre, and the chief of the Clan, Alasdair Carrach of Lochaber (the Macdonalds of Keppoch). The Council was also attended by the Abbot of Iona and the Bishop of the Isles.

The Modern Political Comhairle nan Eilean

The British-Irish Council, established in 1998 following the Belfast Agreement and subsequent devolution settlements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is also known as the Council of the Isles. It is an inter-parliamentary body promoting the common interests between the various parliamentary bodies in the British Isles, namely: the States of Guernsey, the States of Jersey, the Oireachtas of Ireland, the Tynwald of the Isle of Man, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament, the United Kingdom Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.

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