Nationalist Myth Challenged    
    John Tyndall comments on some new evidence    

Two leading archaeologists have recently produced evidence of the origins of the Irish which badly dents the theory of distinct Celtic ethnicity which forms an important part of the basis of Irish Nationalism.

Richard Warner, of the Ulster Museum in Belfast, said in an address to the Irish Association for Cultural, Economic and Social Relations that:-

"In round terms, the image of the Irish as a genetically Celtic people - in fact the whole idea of a Celtic ethnicity and of Celtic peoples, Irish, Welsh and all the rest of it - is a load of complete cock and bull. The average Irish person probably has more English genes than Celtic."

It was only in the 18th and 19th centuries, Warner said, that the idea of a common Celtic origin caught on, acting as a wellspring of Irish Nationalism. Since independence in the 1920s, Irish children have been taught that the Celts or Gaels settled the country and became the predominant racial group in the 5th or 6th century BC.

The evidence of archaeology, Warner argued, is that most Irish people are descended not from Celts but from Mesolithic hunters and fishermen who arrived around 8000 BC, possibly from Scotland. English invaders, he said, exerted the next greatest influence.

The Celts blossomed as a distinct civilisation around the 5th century BC, but although they were a distinct ethnic group within Central Europe they had no significant effect on the Irish gene pool, Warner continued. "If you find Celtic blood lines now, it will probably be among the Germans."

After prehistoric settlers, Irish leaders such as Brian Boru (born in AD 941) established proper kingdoms. But from about 1170 AD the English began arriving in waves of invasion after Dermot McMurragh, the King of Leinster, invited Richard de Clare, an Anglo-Norman warlord, to help him settle a dynastic dispute. The campaigns of Elizabeth I and Cromwell settled English tenants and former soldiers in Ireland.

In terms of the ability to recognise present DNA values, said Warner, the intrusion of English blood and Southern Scottish would be larger than any other group apart from the original Mesolithic inhabitants.

Professor Jim Mallory, an archaeologist and linguist from Queens University, Belfast, agreed, saying:-

"If you believe the Celtic languages spread late in pre-history, they were accompanied by a minimal population movement. There is no evidence in the archaeological record for a large influx of a foreign population."

Even Celtic music may be no more than a marketing ploy. According to Tommy Munnelly, chairman of the Irish Traditional Music Archive, "We have no idea what kind of music the Celts played."

Warner believes his case will be proved next year when the Royal Irish Academy completes its genetic map of Ireland. Thousands of DNA samples will be analysed and compared with genes from skeletons found by archaeologists.

According to Warner, whose findings were quoted in a report in The Sunday Times of 14th November:-

"There is a final irony in Ireland's 'Celtic' origin. The Aran islands off Galway, whose population is partly descended from a settlement of Cromwell's soldiers, is one of the last refuges of the Irish language. Aran is going to be the last bastion of spoken Irish, so the Irish language will die in the mouths of the English."

    Spearhead Online