Ua hartacáin, Cináed (d. 975), was a poet who, according to a note in the Annals of Ulster, belonged to the sept of Cernach Sotal, who held lands in Brega. A kinsman, Fiachra Ua hArtacáin (d. 978), was abbot of Iona. It has been persuasively argued that Ua hArtacáin was already being used as a family name in the late tenth century, being thus one of the earliest Irish surnames. Cináed was patronised by Congalach Cnogba (qv), high-king of Ireland 944–56, and by Amlaíb (Óláfr) Cuarán (qv), king of Dublin 945–80, both of whom feature in his poems. Congalach is mentioned in the poem ‘Án sin a maig Meic ind Óc’: ‘Congalach Culli (?), a leader of warriors’ (§22). Amlaíb is referred to in ‘Achall ar-aicce Temuir’: ‘Amlaíb of Áth Cliath . . . assumed kingship in Bend Étair’ (§21), and the poem was probably dedicated to him.
Cináed wrote antiquarian poetry on the toponomy and heroic saga literature associated with Tara, Co. Meath. The poetry preserves a great deal of what circulated in oral and written form concerning the early Irish heroes. His work is of considerable literary and historical significance, since he is one of the few tenth-century poets who are known to us by name and whose work has survived in any quantity. Geoffrey Keating (qv) mentions him in passing as having died the year Domnall son of Congalach was killed at the battle of Cell Móna (975), describing him as ‘príomáid Ard Macha’ (chief poet-seer of Ard Macha). This ‘Ard Macha’ has been conjectured to be either Ard Macha Brege in Co. Meath or Armagh-breague in the barony of Upper Fews, Co. Armagh.
Cináed's best-known piece is ‘Fianna bátar i nEmain’, a collection of quatrains on the warrior traditions of Emain Macha, now Navan Fort. His poem ‘Doluid Ailill isin caillid’ concerns the fates of Irish kings and their descendants. His obit in several annals describes him as ‘chief poet of the northern half of Ireland’. Apart from what can be gleaned from his poetry, biographical details about him are almost non-existent.