Ibar (Ibhar, Iberius, Ivory) (d. 500?), bishop and founder of Becc-Ériu and a saint in the Irish tradition, was probably of Ulster origin. The genealogies give his father as Lugna son of Corc, who, according to the strongest tradition, was a dynast of the East Ulster Uí Echach. Ibar's mother is named as Bassar, of the Déisi Breg of Co. Meath. No Life of Ibar survives, but some traditions concerning his childhood and his family were collected together in the Book of Leinster. It is maintained that he was originally called Nennán, but was given the name ‘Ibar’ because the colour of his skin prompted comparison with the iubar (yew-tree).
Ibar is represented as one of a family of eight; he is accorded three brothers (Cóemán Brecc, Mobeóc, and Mac Lugna) and four sisters (Caínech, Mellit, Cortharach, and Bronfhinn Brecc). At least two of these alleged brothers were church founders in their own right: Cóemán Brecc (who seems to be identical to Cóemán son of Nemadan) is associated with Ros Ech (Russagh, Co. Meath), while the hypocoristic name-form of Mobeóc suggests that he, too, was an ecclesiastic. Vague traditions claim that Caínech and Mellit were nuns, while Bronfhinn Brecc is said to have been the wife of Laignech and the mother of four saints. The most prominent of these was Senach Garb of Cell Mór (probably Kilmore, Co. Monaghan); significantly, two of Ibar's supposed nephews, Toimthenach and Lithgein, were associated with churches in Leinster (Ros Glaise and Cluain Mór in counties Offaly and Kildare). Yet another tradition accords Ibar a sister named Mella (confusion, perhaps, with Mellit), the wife of Cormac, king of Leinster, and mother of the illustrious St Abbán (qv).
Ibar is said to have commenced his ecclesiastical career as a hermit on the Aran Islands, where the future church foundress Darerca (qv) spent some time under his guidance. Having moved across the south of the country, he ultimately settled at Becc Ériu (little Ireland, anglicised as Begerin Island), an estuarine island in Wexford Haven which has since vanished. He was followed to this new location by Darerca, who established her convent of Ard Conais under his direction. Ibar is reputed to have kept a school at Becc Ériu, his many pupils including his alleged nephew, Abbán. This may mean that his foundation was later held in high regard as a centre for education.
The hagiographers bring Ibar into contact with Saints Patrick (qv) and Brigit (qv). Some episodes represent Ibar as an adversary of Patrick, although, according to a list from the Book of Armagh, the latter consecrated him bishop. A medieval Kildare list claims that Ibar was the second bishop of Brigit's foundation. The historicity of these Patrician and Brigidine associations may be doubted, but it seems clear that Ibar belonged to the earliest generation of native Irish ecclesiastics and that he did hold episcopal orders; the hagiographers are consistent in styling him bishop, and he is included in the tract ‘Nomina episcoporum’. According to Munster hagiography, Ibar shared a ‘pre-Patrician’ status with three other early church-founders: Declan (qv) of Ardmore, Ciarán (qv) of Saigir, and Ailbe (qv) of Emly. The Life of Ailbe has Ibar concede precedence to the Munster bishop.
Ibar's obit is variously placed between 499 and 504; the Annals of Ulster put it at 500. He probably died on 23 April, the date under which he is commemorated in the martyrologies. He was long venerated in the Wexford area, where he was popularly known as ‘St Ivory’. The Church of Ireland parish church in Wexford town is dedicated to St Iberius.