In 1890 the surname was 23rd most common in Ireland, with 381 births of the name, mostly in Ulster. By 1996, the ranking had slipped to 33rd. The variant Conneely was found exclusively in Connacht in 1890, with most occurrences in Co. Galway.
.Speaker William Connolly (1662-1729) was a member of the Monaghan branch, though born in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal. He amassed enormous wealth by dealing in the property confiscated from the native landowners after the defeat of James II at the Battle of the Boyne. He became a pillar of the Anglo-Irish establishment, holding the Speakership of the Irish House of Commons among other appointments. He is best remembered now for Castletown House, the magnificent Palladian mansion he had built in Co. Kildare.
. Also of the Monaghan family was the rather different James Connolly (1870-1916), founder of Irish socialism. Born of Irish emigrant parents in Edinburgh, he came to Ireland in 1913 as a full-time labour organiser and agitator, founded a worker?s militia, the Citizen Army, and threw in his lot with the nationalist revolutionaries of 1916. His writings have become classics of socialist theory.