Burke (de Burgh), Sir Richard (Risdeard an Iarainn, Richard an Iron, ‘Iron Dick’) (d. 1583), 18th lord of MacWilliam Íochtair , was the son of David Burke of the Sliocht Ulick, 15th lord of MacWilliam Íochtair, and his second wife, Finola O'Flaherty. In 1553 he fought a battle against the Bourkes of Gallen, but was defeated and taken prisoner. In 1558, as part of his father's feud with Richard Burke (qv), earl of Clanricard, he led 1,200 Scottish mercenaries into Clanricard. However, they were surprised and routed by the earl's forces. Following his father's death that year, he became head of the Sliocht Ulick of Burrishoole and Carra. His territory comprised the northern shore of Clew Bay between Achill and Westport, and he held castles at Burrishoole (where he resided), Newport, and Carraigaharley. His nickname ‘Iron Dick’ derives from the deposits of iron ore on his lands. He was brave in battle, but violent, illiterate, and unintelligent. These shortcomings were remedied somewhat by his marriage about 1566–7 to Gráinne O'Malley (qv), the legendary pirate queen, who provided her often hot-headed husband with shrewd advice.
In July 1570 Burke fought with the rest of the MacWilliam Íochtair against the royal army at Shrule on the Galway–Mayo border. This battle was the start of the extension of royal authority into Mayo, a development that would complicate Burke's rise within the MacWilliam Íochtair. In early 1571, John mac Oliverus Burke (qv) was elected the MacWilliam Íochtair and Richard became his tánaiste. Initially, John resisted the English, but in March 1576 he and the leading lords of the MacWilliam Íochtair submitted to the lord deputy, Sir Henry Sidney (qv), at Galway. Richard was conspicuously absent. However, his wife appears to have advised against such defiance, and, in May–June 1576, the couple met with Sidney in Galway, offering their services. Sidney accepted and was amused at Grace's dominance of her husband.
In autumn 1579 Burke joined the rebellion of Gerald Fitzgerald (qv), earl of Desmond and the most powerful lord in Munster. Grace was imprisoned from 1576 to 1579, during which time Richard fell under the sway of a catholic priest, Shane McHubert, who undoubtedly urged him to aid Desmond's partly religiously-inspired revolt. He may also have been alarmed by reports that the crown would support John mac Oliverus's son as the next chief of the MacWilliam Íochtair, dashing Richard's previously assured succession to the lordship. Finally, he probably did not appreciate the extent of the crown's power, his lands in the north of Mayo never having been the subject of an English attack. Richard undertook raids into south Connacht during the winter before retreating back into Mayo.
On 11 February 1580 the governor of Connacht, Sir Nicholas Malby (qv), commenced a lightning campaign in Burke's lands, achieving complete surprise. After taking the castle at Donamona on 15 February, Malby put everyone in it to the sword, including women and children, at which resistance collapsed. Burke fled to an island on Clew Bay. Royal troops took Burrishoole on 17 February and Burke surrendered the next day. Having humbled Burke and installed a royal garrison at Burrishoole, Malby accepted the former's submission and restored him to his lands.
Following John mac Oliverus's death in November 1580, Richard feared that the crown would support John's brother Richard mac Oliverus Burke (qv) as the new MacWilliam Íochtair and mustered about 1,700 followers to make good his claim by force. Richard planned on combining at Doonlaur on 1 March with 700 hired Scottish mercenaries and the Clanricard Burkes of Galway. However, Malby camped his forces south of Doonlaur, preventing this juncture. The Clanricards, the Scots, and Richard all withdrew in confusion, suspecting betrayal by their allies. A fearful Richard met with Malby on 2 March and submitted to him. The next day he assisted Malby in attacking and expelling the Scots who remained in the area. After further negotiations at Strade Abbey, Malby promised on 7 March to accept Richard as lord of the MacWilliam Íochtair in return for his loyalty.
On 16 April 1581 Burke was formally recognised by the crown as chief of his clan and was made seneschal of Connacht. In return he was to pay rent to the crown and to maintain royal soldiers stationed in his lordship. He was knighted in September and was also elected as the 18th lord of the MacWilliam Íochtair in the traditional Gaelic fashion at the inauguration site at Rausakeern. On assuming the lordship, he moved his residence to Lough Mask Castle.
In April/May 1582, Burke's men raided Richard mac Oliverus's territory, killing about twenty people. Burke claimed mac Oliverus had violently resisted his attempts to collect taxes due to the crown, but it is more likely that Burke had deliberately provoked him. Indeed, in January 1583, Burke would himself angrily dismiss royal officials who attempted to levy taxes on his own lands. He died shortly before 15 April 1583. With his wife, he had one son, Theobold Burke (qv), who became 23rd lord of MacWilliam Íochtair and was created Viscount Mayo. He also had three illegitimate sons.