The Parish of Aughaninshin was created and set up as a separate parish from the Cathedral Parish of Conwal and Leck in 2000. There was some debate as to what to call the new parish, should it be the Parish of the Irish Martyrs or something else. In the end it was widely supported to name the parish after the Franciscan abbey of Aughaninshin, in the town land of Kiltoy, which is visible from the Irish Martyrs Church. The name itself ‘Aughaninshin’, means ‘The field of the Ash Trees’. Different versions of it have been recorded but the correct Irish version of the name is ‘Achadh nUinseann’, Achadh meaning ‘field’ and nUinsean from fuinseog meaning ‘ash’, thus, the ‘field of the ash trees’
Folklore tells of and ancient monastery founded in roughly the 6th/7th century, which pre-existed the Franciscan abbey, however it was not considered as part of a Columban family of monasteries nor did it belong to the Conal Gulban race. History is silent on the origins of this ancient monastery.
The Franciscans arrived in Ireland in the in 1226, and over the following century’s they spread over the country and eventually set up one of their Donegal monasteries on the old monastic site, ‘they established their monastery on a site that had long been held as sacred by the local population’ A History of the Diocese of Raphoe, Vol. 1, Rev. Ed. J. Canon Maguire, (1920). It is believed that this monastic settlement dated from the 13th/14th Century. They remained there until they were evicted in c. 1610, during the Plantations of Ulster. In the 17th century it was recorded as having no resident ‘parson or Vicar’, but it was recorded as one of the five mensal churches in the Raphoe Diocese, the other four at that time being; Killybegs, Leitermacaward, Killygarvan & Raphoe itself. Being a mensal parish, it enjoyed the distinction of having the Bishop as both Parish Priest and vicar, the resident clergymen being the curate. In the mid 17th century it was also recorded as being part of the Gartan parish, but a number of years later it was listed as part of the united parish of Conwal, and remained part of Conwal (and subsequently also with Leck) until it was separated and created as a new parish in 2000.
The Church of the Irish Martyrs is located in the Ballyraine area of Letterkenny town. Up to its construction in 1994, Letterkenny was served mainly by the Cathedral of St. Eunan and Columba.
The area of the Cathedral parish which the Irish Martyrs Church covered became the new parish of Aughaninshin in the year 2000, with Fr. Brian Quinn Adm., becoming its first Parish Priest. Since the Irish Martyrs was built, the following have served as its priests:
- Fr. Brian Quinn P.P. – 1994– present
- Fr Brendan Ward C.C. – September 2018 – present
- Fr. James Gillespie C.C. – September 2014 – August 2018
- Fr. Joseph O’Donnell – September 1998 – September 2014
- Fr. Seamus Dagens – September 1996 – September 1998
- Fr. Fergal Rooney – May 1994 – September 1996