Fínshnechtae Fledach (d. 695), son of Dúnchad and king of Tara, belonged to the Uí Néill dynasty of Síl nÁedo Sláine. Fínshnechtae was a strong king who defended the midlands against threats from Leinster and from the north. The Old Irish regnal poem ‘Baile Chuinn’ (the ‘ecstasy’ or ‘vision’ of Conn), which is believed to have been written in his reign, features him under the kenning ‘Snechta fína’ (snow of wine). His sobriquet Fledach means ‘of the feasts’, or perhaps ‘the bountiful’. His father Dúnchad died in 659, at a time when, apparently, two of his uncles, Diarmait Ruanaid (qv) and Blathmac (qv), sons of Áed Sláine (qv), reigned as joint kings of Tara.
Fínshnechtae displayed prudence in his choice of wives, seeking marriage alliances firstly with Ulster and later with Leinster – the sources from which his kingship was under threat. He married Conchenn, daughter of the Dál Fiatach king Congal Cennfhota (qv), and subsequently Derbfhorgaill, daughter of Cellach Cualann (qv). Many stories were told of Fínshnechtae, including one in which he was helped to power by the king of Fir Rois and another in which he generously assisted the future abbot of Iona, Adomnán (qv), when the latter was a young student. Yet another tale relates how Fínshnechtae was tricked by St Mo-Ling (qv) into remitting permanently the tribute owed by the Leinstermen; this episode was woven into the twelfth-century epic, ‘Bóruma Laigen’ (cattle-tribute of the Leinstermen).
Historically, Fínshnechtae came to notice in 675 when he defeated and slew his first cousin and predecessor in the kingship, Cenn-fáelad (qv) son of Blathmac, in the battle of Aircheltair (barony of Kells Upper, Co. Meath). Determined to establish his authority over the northern-based Uí Néill dynasties, he immediately attacked Máel-dúin son of Máel-fithrich, king of Cenél nÉogain, and destroyed his royal site of Ailech. Fínshnechtae's supremacy over the entire Uí Néill confederation is acknowledged in the Annals of Ulster, where he is expressly styled ‘king of Tara’, and in the king-lists, where he is accorded a reign of twenty years. In 677 he faced an incursion by the Uí Máil overking of Leinster, Fiannamail (qv) son of Máel-tuile, but successfully repulsed the latter near the Síl nÁedo Sláine royal site of Loch Gabair (Lagore, Co. Meath). Two years later, he defeated the Dál Fiatach king Bécc Bairrche (qv), who had penetrated as far as Tailtiu (Teltown, Co. Meath). In neither case did Fínshnechtae pursue his victory by seeking territorial expansion; yet it seems that he was quite ruthless in dealing with his enemies. He is said to have been responsible for the assassination in 680 of the Leinster king Fiannamail son of Máel-tuile (Rawl. B. 502, 125a 25). It is also alleged that he prompted the slaying of the Clann Cholmáin dynast Diarmait Dian, son of Airmedach, by Áed son of Dlúthach, who belonged to the Fir Chúl lineage of Síl nÁedo Sláine (LL 42a).
Like most contemporary Irish rulers, Fínshnechtae had close contacts with ecclesiastical circles; through his influence at Durrow he afforded refuge to the exiled Northumbrian dynast Aldfrith (qv). It happened that in 686 an Anglo-Saxon raid took place on the coast of Brega and many prisoners were taken, but it is by no means clear that this was in any way connected with Aldfrith's sojourn in Ireland. After the incursion Fínshnechtae availed of the services of Abbot Adomnán as emissary; presumably a relationship existed between the two which formed the basis for the story referred to above that Fínshnechtae assisted the young Adomnán.
Fínshnechtae briefly retired to clerical life in 688. Before long, a power struggle between rival lineages of Síl nÁedo Sláine, in which Niall son of Cernach of Clann Chernaig Shotail confronted Congalach son of Conaing of the Knowth-based Uí Chonaing, prompted his re-emergence. Renewed intra-dynastic strife, however, led to Fínshnechtae's undoing. He was defeated and slain at Grellach Dollaig (695) by Congalach son of Conaing and Áed son of Dlúthach, which is ironic if the latter really had carried out the assassination of Diarmait Dian at Fínshnechtae's instance.
Fínshnechtae did leave descendants; his son Cathal was the ancestor of Clann Fínshnechtai, but this proved to be a minor line. His immediate successors in the kingship of Síl nÁedo Sláine included his slayer Congalach (slain 696) and the latter's brother Írgalach (qv). For fifteen years after Fínshnechtae's death, however, the kingship of Tara was held by Cenél Conaill in the persons of Loingsech (qv) son of Óengus and his cousin Congal Cennmagair (qv).