“There were, he said, no aborigines in Ireland…”

In the Irish Times, Paul Murray provides a good starting point for 2013

It would be easier for all of us if, in John Montague’s words, “old moulds are broken”; and if, like John Hewitt, we scrutinised the myths of our tribe. We would inhabit a happier island if we imbibed some of Hewitt’s gritty integrity that sought to comprehend the other tribe so that the “goat and ox may graze in the same field/and each gain something from proximity”.

Hewitt, like Clarke before him, understood the other. He grasped tribal complexities and the difficulties in finding one’s place in our island’s narratives. He knew that “this is my home and country. Later on/perhaps I’ll find this nation is my own/but here and now it is enough to love/this faulted ledge, this map of cloud above”.

He sought to embrace that which he did not fully understand. A patriot in the best sense.

As ever, read the whole thing.

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  • ‘in the city of our dreadful night/men fought with men because of a threadbare flag/or history distorted in temper” .. Hewitt, 1935

    Time moves on – and history repeats itself, after a fashion.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks a lot, Pete, the whole article really is worth reading.

    Later on, perhaps, if we do find that this nation is our own, four different groups will be able to make common cause with each other.

    One, present citizens of the RoI.

    Two, NI unionists.

    Three, NI nationalists and republicans.

    Four, recent immigrants and their families, on both sides of the present border, who now have as big a stake in any shared future as the rest of us.

    Who can predict how good a shared future might be?

    When young Matilda learned to waltz,
    She said goodbye to Scottish malts,
    And drank the best Australian wines
    With friendly old Ab-or-i-guines.

    (Not by John Hewitt.)

  • Ruarai

    Thanks for the link Pete. Here’s the thing though, for me at least. I just don’t get what these great tribal differences are? Can someone help me with this? What’s the freaking difference?

    Sure, in the past there were power imbalances but, identity-wise, what are the big differences?

    People sound the same, talk the same, look the same, eat the same food, burn in the sun the same, enjoy tribalism the same, wallow in Irish history the same (they just emphasize and exclude different details on an a-la-carte basis). What are the differences?

    Aren’t there a million more differences between someone in Nottingham and Croydon than someone in, say East rather than West Belfast?

    What am I missing?

  • gendjinn

    “There were, he said, no aborigines in Ireland…”

    A statement refuted by DNA analysis. A great book compiling a range of data is Stephen Oppenheimer’s Origins of the British which rewrite the myths we were taught as children as to who we really are.

    The Irish are 90% descended directly from the original paleolithic hunter gatherers that moved into this land at at end of the last ice age.

    While it is understandable that Unionism needs there to be a Celtic invasion to gain some veneer of legitimacy for their invasions and genocides but there is no archaeological or genetic data to support this.

    Come on Pete, at least when it comes to science I expect better from you.

  • otto

    “While it is understandable that Unionism needs there to be a Celtic invasion to gain some veneer of legitimacy for their invasions and genocides but there is no archaeological or genetic data to support this.”

    I thought all the ‘unionist’ invaders with Mc’s and Mac’s (or anglicised ‘sons’) in their names were meant to be of the same original gaelic (and I suppose pre-gaelic) stock as the Irish anyway. Is that not true now?

  • David Crookes

    Oh, horror. You can see what’s coming next.

    The Cruithin. On a website near you. Now.

  • gendjinn


    if you read the link your question will be answered. If you read the book your next set of questions will be answered.

    But in summary – Ireland, Scotland, Wales and adjoining areas are basically all the same genetic stock. The further towards the SE you go the more you see evidence of invaders Keltoi, Roman through Norman.

  • Gopher

    So the paleolithic hunter gatherers descendants, did they not sign the GFA despite all the genocides and invasions real or imagined? Was not that agreement endorsed by the majority of descendants of paleolithic hunter gatherers despite all the genocides and invasions real or imagined? I dont really think anybody who wants to vote for the union in 2012 needs a whacky theory or historical example to support his choice or clear his conscience.

  • “There were, he said, no aborigines in Ireland.”

    Except, of course, there were aborigines in Ireland and demonstrably so. Or did 3000 years of Celtic and Gaelic civilization just magically appear out of thin air sometime around 1916?

    Disputing the existence of indigenous peoples is the oldest colonial trick in the book. One simply argues that the “natives” aren’t really native. Therefore there is no one to invade, no one else’s country to take, no one else to rightfully claim it back. One could easily rhyme off dozens of historical examples where it has been used by invaders. Or those who justify invasion.

    The Israeli and American Right are using the very same arguments at the moment to deny the establishment of a Palestinian state. Because, they claim, there were no aboriginal Palestinian people. A position that is somewhat ironic given that Israel’s right to exist is based in part on the claim that the Jewish people are in effect the aboriginal inhabitants of Palestine.

    As an Irish aboriginal it would make a welcome change if the existence of the many tens of thousands of men, women and children like me who specifically identify or associate with the indigenous language and culture of this country were recognised instead of being told we simply don’t exist. Regardless of our origins.

  • Sometimes I find it hard to believe that there are still people who subscribe to racial purity theories, thinking that that went out of style after Darwin wrote his book and, more recently, after 1945. I don’t know whether such people are better pitied or despised.

  • babyface finlayson

    An Sionnach Fionn
    “As an Irish aboriginal….”
    What definition are you using?
    How many generations of racial purity are required?
    Or will a good érainn surname suffice?

  • otto

    Well I don’t know about aboriginality but I’ve one of those names which occurs either side of the north channel and up and down the west coat of Scotland so I’m happy that I’m probably about where I’m supposed to be regardless of land deals between Earls and Lairds and population swapping across the moyle.

    I like this idea of east ulster prods living on a “fractured ledge”. You can tell Hewitt was from the North Down coast. Makes Bangor sound like Dun Aengus. Then again when I see these hopeful republican maps showing Ireland surrounded by ocean with “only” Antrim and Down have a prod majority and no reference to their proximity to the other banks of the “inner seas off the west coast of Scotland” (just came across that – it’s an international hydrographic term apparently but needs a catchier name) I wonder who has the more screwed up sense of place.

  • Otto,

    When the inhabitants on either side could see the other side easily on even a fairly good day, it’s no wonder in the least that the peoples visited and ended up intermarrying since love does not discriminate.

  • “I like this idea of east ulster prods living on a “fractured ledge”. You can tell Hewitt was from the North Down coast”

    otto, his Hewitt ancestors apparently were from Co Armagh; he grew up in a Methodist family in Agnes Street off the Shankill Road in Belfast; studied at Methodist College and Queens University; and became a socialist and abandoned the creeds. He developed a great affection for the Antrim glens and had a cottage near Cushendall. You can see that fractured ledge on Fair Head from the promenade in Ballycastle.

  • otto

    Well I think it’s metaphor Nevin so raspberries to you and your North Coast parochialism :-). And the wider Hewitt family were Bangor and Ards people throughout. Lots of poems in his collected works involving his Dad and his uncles are set in Bangor and the Ards. No more fiddly factual details please or I’ll have to start quoting.

  • Zig70

    Really, we are already there in our working lives. Politics however is all about creating tribes, Nat v Unionist, FF v FG, Labour v Conservative, Republican v democrat. We are all mongrels at this stage. The problem is mixing nationalism with politics and made worse by mixing religious myopic doctrines that demonises the other lot. That’s the one thing I still have problems with in work life, people whose Christianity teaches them that they are better than the rest.
    Nationalism is just a means of getting you to pay your taxes. The important thing for me is culture and what makes you a person of your community. We have many wonderful things in Ireland that discriminates us should be celebrated and protected. You can’t be a cultural whore and live every bit but you should be able to have your thing without discrimination as long as it doesn’t denigrate someone else and that’s far more the crux than dna.

  • otto

    “Nationalism is just a means of getting you to pay your taxes”

    Love that. It should be on the new Northern Ireland coat of arms.

    Maybe Latin?

    “Nationalismum est iustus a per illa captare tibi reddere vectigalia vestra” (according to google translate)

  • “collected works involving his Dad and his uncles are set in Bangor and the Ards.”

    otto, bring on your ‘fiddly’ quotes 🙂

    Hewitt: “.. of Protestant stock planted in Co Armagh, I too have moved beyond the creeds.” [No Rootless Colonist, Aquarius, 1972]

  • David Crookes

    Otto, the ancient Romans would have said it in two words.


  • otto

    Well if you’re going to be that cynical David what about,


    [edited – moderator]

  • David Crookes

    I’m going to be very rude. Far too many of our local bards have wittered on and on about their own complex identities. By so doing, they have encouraged their readers to engage in obsessive omphaloscopy. We need to get away from that. Health is to look outward. There are less than two million of us in NI, and we are not uniquely important. If you spend a whole Saturday planting trees with members of ‘the other sort’, you’ll realize that the DNA thing is pretty trivial.

    Beware of any political discourse which refuses to engage with the outdoor world. And if you’re going to write poetry, don’t write about your own tortured identity. Write about real things.

  • Zig70

    The thing about your saturday tree planting David is that in NI the conversation changes depending on the audience. Sometimes you see it flow effortlessly polite to racy, bigoted to ecumenical, enlightened to homophobic from the same mouth. I know the guy in work who recently rants about flags when I’m not in the room, otherwise it’s football,slagging coworkers or women. Not unless everyones drinking while tree planting.

  • David Crookes

    Zig70, when you’re planting trees in foul weather with one of the other sort and her a wumman forbye doing the same thing not three feet away from you, the shared adversity helps youse both to forget about your own tortured identities and about your all-important DNA. Once the job is done, youse both drink hot tea from flasks, you eat one of her bacon-and-cheese cartwheels, she eats one of your Paris buns, and a species of racial harmony comes into existence.

  • otto

    Btw Zig, I totally agree with your point re culture being the unifier, especially here where our most prized cultural institutions don’t fit with the lines on our maps. Which is why we should fly the proper Ulster flag every time an Ulster team competes at anything anywhere (Rugby, GAA, Hockey even).

  • otto

    Hey moderator,

    Was I edited at 2:05 for saying that a golfing well-read engineer sounds like Joe (I think he’s admitted to both) or for saying my wife’s nursing isn’t very sympathetic?

    Just asking.

  • @babyface finlayson,

    Please reread what I wrote. I talked about the “…many tens of thousands of men, women and children like me who specifically identify or associate with the indigenous language and culture of this country… Regardless of our origins.”

    That is the definition of aboriginal in an Irish context. Those who identify with the aboriginal language and culture of the island of Ireland, wherever they may originate. The only people who bring “race” into this are those who refuse to recognise the existence of the former for their own biased linguistic, cultural or political reasons.

    That the Irish language and associated culture is indigenous to Ireland is obvious to those beyond these shores. Why else would the Irish language station TG4 be a founding member of the World Indigenous Television Broadcasters Network? An alliance of aboriginal TV stations from around the globe that includes Māori Television from New Zealand and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network from Canada. Or do you denigrate the indigenous cultures of New Zealand and Canada too?

  • Zig70

    Sometimes the difference is a thing to be celebrated. I’m a mongrel without any torture and I’m comfortable in my identity. But if you bring women into it then I’m lost. More complicated than any NI issue. Back to the ironing to gain weapons for the next battle. Easy conned, I know.

  • David Crookes

    Zig70, when the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone cease to be a problem we shall still be left with the supreme dreariness of ironing. I don’t know why. In the early 1960s, on Bridge Street in Belfast, there used to be an automatic shirt-ironing machine in a shop window. Since then we’ve sent men to the moon, and yet weemen are still expected to iron shirts by hand. Another item for the New Ireland Manifesto. It should collar the whole weemen’s vote.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    “But in summary – Ireland, Scotland, Wales and adjoining areas are basically all the same genetic stock. The further towards the SE you go the more you see evidence of invaders Keltoi, Roman through Norman.”
    A slight correction to that if I may, as I also think the Oppenheimer book is essential reading, but draw different conclusions from it. As you suggest, the main difference between the two groups of settlers after the last Ice Age in the British Isles – from whom the vast majority our descent can be traced – is that they came from separate refuges. This was between 15,000 and 7,500 years ago. The western and northern parts of the British Isles were settled by people who had been in northern Spain and moved up the French coast and around (note there was no sea between the Ireland the Great Britain then or between either of those and what is now mainland Europe). The other main movement was of people from the Ukrainian and Moldavian refuges into what is now Britain from the south-east.

    Subsequent invaders left much smaller traces in our ancestry – the Anglo-Saxons left only about 5 per cent in the English gene pool. So broadly everyone in the British Isles shares common ancestry with our European neighbours. What you won’t find is one ‘tribe’ going off on its own and settling Ireland, for example. The ‘Ruy’ male gene cluster for example, which is common in Ireland, especially in the South, only reaches around 25 per cent of the population at its densest and is equally dense in the English-Scottish borders and in Kent. The maps in the Oppenheimer book are a great reminder that we are mainly descended from people who wandered a borderless continent.

    We are all the progeny of ‘invaders’ but mainly ancient and we assume fairly peaceful ones, ‘invading’ land left empty by retreating glaciers – not the Celts nor Anglo-Saxons in the main. I think it’s a stretch to make a case for Irish exceptionalism out of the new DNA evidence about the origins of the people on the island vs the other island. There is certainly no ancient divide between the peoples settling Ireland and Lowland Scotland for example. What there seems to be is a continuum across the British Isles and indeed between us and the rest of Europe. Some modern international borders do reflect some of the ancient population movements but only very patchily. Modern ‘tribes’ were the product of much later coalitions of people – the ‘people of Ireland’ every bit as much as ‘the people of the British Isles’.

  • “Embracing the Ireland we don’t fully understand”

    Murray flits between Ireland, the 26 county State:

    How this State addresses comparable yearnings is the test of a true republic. ..

    .. all anxious to stir the brew and help fashion a vibrant State.

    and Ireland, the island:

    We would inhabit a happier island if we imbibed some of Hewitt’s gritty integrity that sought to comprehend the other tribe ..

    He [Hewitt] grasped tribal complexities and the difficulties in finding one’s place in our island’s narratives.

    so confusion reigns.

  • Alias

    “It was the late Douglas Gageby, that sharpest of editors, who perhaps put it best. There were, he said, no aborigines in Ireland.”

    Gageby, a protestant, didn’t find that membership of ‘the other tribe’ was a bar to landing the top job at Ireland’s ‘paper of record.’ In fact, it was an advantage given that the Irish Times was protestant-owned and discriminated against Catholics for the first 127 years of its existence, with Conor Brady becoming its first Catholic editor in 1986. Gabeby’s daughter, another member of ‘the other tribe’ is currently the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ireland. So exactly where and why do ‘moulds need to be broken’?

    Admittedly, some moulds did need to be broken, e.g. the refusal of protestant-owned businesses such as Guinness to employ Catholics in clerical roles (Gay Byrne’s brother was the first Catholic to get an office job in Guinness in Dublin in the early 60s), the Bank of Ireland no longer discriminates against Catholics for the role of Governor, and, of course, Gageby was the last Protestant to enjoy a position that was then only open to Protestants.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    oh and on Hewitt, I think it’s fair to say his poetry goes way beyond some obsession with identity politics – far from it. But it’s one of Hewitt’s great strengths that he saw and described the realities of ‘the Ulster Protestant condition’ (excuse the phrase) without being either stuck inside it or locked into a dialectic against it.

    Many local poets and writers have sought to place themselves above the ethnically-divided reality of Ulster life – sometimes admirably, sometimes vaingloriously but nearly always in my view mistakenly. Important writers live both in and away from the world of people; I don’t admire glorious isolation in a writer and don’t think it makes for insightful literature, though it may at times have helped create the other-worldly, highly charged artifice. But that’s just my prosaic taste.

    A lot of good writers deliberately disengage from everyday issues and no harm to them – indeed it’s conventional literary wisdom, I suspect, to do so. Given the embarrassingly naive analysis that unearths itself when some literary types try to engage with politics, e.g. the Field Day nonsense, perhaps discretion is the better part of valour after all.

  • babyface finlayson

    David Crookes
    “If you spend a whole Saturday planting trees with members of ‘the other sort’,”
    Were you planting oak or was it;
    ‘the ash you favour more’.?
    Dearie me that’s bad.

  • babyface finlayson

    An Sionnach Fionn
    I certainly don’t denigrate any indigenous culture. Or language.
    They should be celebrated and preserved.
    I was simply curious as to what you meant by referring to yourself as an Irish aboriginal, as it seems quite difficult to define given the history of this island.
    When you say ‘regardless of our origins’, I’m not sure if others would consider that to define aboriginal.

  • David Crookes

    My father planted ash and oak
    While others raved and ranted,
    So on the Twelfth I must evoke
    The ash my father planted.

  • Reader

    An Sionnach Fionn : That is the definition of aboriginal in an Irish context. Those who identify with the aboriginal language and culture of the island of Ireland, wherever they may originate.
    Surely that’s just making stuff up? Insofar as there were aboriginal Irish people, they certainly didn’t speak any Gaelic language, as that arrived as part of a package of much later cultural influences.
    Unless, that is, you have worked out the actual language of the aboriginal people?

  • “you and your North Coast parochialism :)”

    otto, I have North Coast roots of indeterminate depth and parochial to global connections, thanks to modern media 🙂

  • tuatha

    Exogeny is as old as bipedalism, marry/mate out (of tight group) or die out. Pretty simple & lots of fun. Hybrid vigour rules!

  • babyface finlayson

    David Crookes
    That’s not bad.
    I’m taking credit for inspiring you.

  • David Crookes

    Nevin, bravo. Most of us have parochial roots of tremendous depth, and we should count ourselves less than fully human without them!

    tuatha: amen, and three cheers for hybrid vigour. I’ll have high hopes of NI once our recent immigrants start hitting the radar.

    Finally, for ‘il miglior fabbro’:

    If he orders a plateful of venison,
    Any bard unrelated to Tennyson
    Will be flawed by the crime
    Of parodical rhyme
    When inspired by the Babyface Finlayson.

    Must stop: big van stopping outside…..

  • Neil

    Very good DC David Crookes.

  • babyface finlayson

    David Crookes

    I find it ironical
    My lord you’re Byronical.
    For a counter numerical
    You’re a true rhyming miracle.

    I like a good bit of nonsense verse.
    Thanks for making me smile.

  • gendjinn

    Mainland Ulsterman,

    at the end of the day we are all human, we have far more in common than we do in difference. Population genetics, while fascinating, is not the basis for any kind of tribal superiority.

    It is very important to the propaganda and moral engines of the English and British states that the Irish are descended from invaders that replaced the aboriginal inhabitants as they believe it diminishes the illegitimacy of their actions in Ireland. While this is less true of Britain today, it was important in the past and continues to be an important myth to unionism.

  • “Most of us have parochial roots of tremendous depth”

    David, that’s a rather curious claim, considering the limited number of civil and church records. I’d have thought few folks would have known the names and places of birth of all of their greatgrandparents.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, Nevin, I should have expressed myself more clearly. Here is what I meant to say. Most of us feel a deep affection for the places in which we were born and brought up.

    NI is so small that none of us lives far from the sea, and some of us even think of Belfast-to-Derry as a long journey!

    Many people of my age and older can recall a time when they either walked everywhere or took the bus. The near-universal car has tended to weaken the old intimacy of relation between person and place.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    If it’s an important myth to unionists today it’s certainly passed me by.

  • GavBelfast

    Fighting (literally or keyboard warrior style) over such a fecking insignificant (but really rather spolit) place seems even more ludicrous when abroad than it does when at home.

  • Alias

    You might have something therefore if the citizens of a state were able to lead lives that were totally separate from the state control and, therefore, did not require collective control of the state in order to have greater freedom over their own lives.

    History shows that the passive citizen gets thrown to the lions or serves as concubine to the senator.

  • David Crookes

    Right, Alias, so let us wage war on passivity by starting to think outside the playpens of state control and party control.

    The idea of NI getting involved in some kind of UI project while still permanently sliced in two STINKS.

    [It stinks as much as the cowardly old British Labour Party plan for comprehensive education in NI. Under that plan, the whole system of religious segregation would have stayed intact.]

    If the union lasts for another century, unionists are never going to have anything better than being told what to do by a government which dislikes them, and which they themselves cannot influence.

    If a UI is brought about by a referendum tomorrow, the present NI parties will be chiefly concerned with the maintenance of their own power.

    We all deserve better.

    Transmuting unionists like myself who see a UI as desirable have no future in the present partisan set-up.

    The various unionist parties will denounce us as lundies, and weep no tears if we are shot.

    SF and the SDLP will never make room for the all-Ireland monarchism that appeals to us.

    For its part the Alliance Party, having made a creed out of agnosticism, is a cold house for people who get excited.

    All four parties are lacking in the physical and intellectual VIGOUR which our project requires.

    The passivity of the NI electorate, to which many commentators refer, is mirrored by the intellectual passivity of our present politicians.

    That is why transmuting unionists will soon be talking to ordinary working people, and not to politicians.

  • @babyface finlayson,

    If we agree that “race” cannot be defined by genetics or DNA then only language and culture can guide us. One can define oneself as indigenous Irish through speaking the indigenous Irish language, by having due regard for the indigenous Irish culture, and by expressing or associating one’s identity through both. That such an identity is open to those born outside of it is all the more important. And to my mind all the more laudable.

    I know several people born in the United States and Canada, now resident in Ireland, who have more claim to an indigenous Irish identity than many born on this island because of their fluency in Irish and their identification with Irish culture. I know a Czech girl who came here in her early teens and is now a fluent Irish speaker, who uses an Irish form of her surname and forename, and who feels wholly Irish in identity.

    Like some of the First Nations in Canada the definition of “aboriginal” is far greater than simply where one is born or one’s claimed ancestry. It is about language, culture, ethnicity, not bloodlines.


    Where is your evidence that the Irish language arrived as a later cultural package? Where is your proof that it is not entirely indigenous to this country, and to north-western Europe? What traces of a pre-Irish language survive?

    There is simply no evidence whatsoever for any “pre-Celtic” languages in Ireland. The only known language indigenous to the island of Ireland is the Irish language. Even sceptics accept that to have been so for at least the last two thousand five hundred years. If one takes the recent works of professors Barry Cunliffe and John Koch then that figure arguably pushes back four thousand years.

    Do you seriously argue the status of the Irish language as the indigenous language of this island after 4000 years of existence and use on the island?

    Or do you argue that Greek is not indigenous to Greece or the Scandinavian tongues not indigenous to Scandinavia?

    As others have pointed out here it is the colonial invader, or the apologists for colonisation, who always challenge the definition of indigenous. The reasons why are obvious.

  • babyface finlayson

    An Sionnach Fionn
    It seems that you are using some rather ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theories in your definitions.
    ‘Aboriginal’ and ‘indigenous’ mean what you want them to mean rather than what they are generally accepted to mean.
    I’m sure your Czech friend feels Irish and that is lovely, but I can’t agree that she has a claim to an indigenous Irish identity.
    These are simply descriptive terms not value laden ones.

  • The prime definition of “indigenous” by the UN’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations:

    “Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those territories, or parts of them.

    They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal system. This historical continuity may consist of the continuation, for an extended period reaching into the present of one or more of the following factors:

    a. Occupation of ancestral lands, or at least of part of them

    b. Common ancestry with the original occupants of these lands

    c. Culture in general, or in specific manifestations (such as religion, living under a tribal system, membership of an indigenous community, dress, means of livelihood, lifestyle, etc.)

    d. Language (whether used as the only language, as mother-tongue, as the habitual means of communication at home or in the family, or as the main, preferred, habitual, general or normal language)

    e. Residence in certain parts of the country, or in certain regions of the world

    f. Other relevant factors.

    On an individual basis, an indigenous person is one who belongs to these indigenous populations through self-identification as indigenous (group consciousness) and is recognized and accepted by these populations as one of its members (acceptance by the group). This preserves for these communities the sovereign right and power to decide who belongs to them, without external interference.”

    The Irish-speaking communities and citizens of Ireland may define themselves as indigenous through use or identification with the indigenous Irish language and culture of Ireland. Others born outside of the Irish-speaking communities may identify themselves as indigenous through use, adoption or identification with the indigenous Irish language and culture. This is accepted international practice in post-colonial nations or territories with numerous precedents already set.

    My friend speaks Irish, reads Irish, writes Irish, has an Irish form of her name and surname, is involved in traditional Irish music, produce’s Bain-like artwork which she one day hopes to work at professionally, is actively supportive of civil rights for Irish-speakers, intends to send any future children to Irish-medium schools… The fact that she spent the first 14 years of her life in the Czech Republic is irrelevant. She is, as they say “níos Gaelaí ná na Gaeil iad féin”. By any linguistic, cultural or even ethnic definition her identity is indigenous Irish. And that has value to her and those around her.

    Gaelic civilization on the island of Ireland has always absorbed those from outside of our nation, and added their distinctiveness to our own. Whether Scandinavian, Norman-French or Scots-English. That is its strength and the reason why it has endured. Even in its present much reduced state.

  • babyface finlayson

    An Sionnach Fionn
    Thanks for the reply.
    That is an interesting quotation from the UN.
    As I read it the inclusion of self-identification as a factor is designed to recognise the rights of the indigenous community to autonomous self-determination.
    I believe it is a working definition rather than a legally adopted one.
    I cannot see how it was intended to allow someone born and raised in the Czech Republic to call themselves an Irish aborigine.
    Good luck to your friend, but I will stick to the OED definition for now.
    ‘Born or produced naturally in a land or region; native or belonging naturally to (the soil, region, etc.). (Used primarily of aboriginal inhabitants or natural products.)’

  • BarneyT

    Many years ago I scanned a book entitled “The History of the Irish Race”. One thing that stuck with me was a statement implying that those who settled in Ireland eventually became more Irish than the incumbents and in doing so add richness to the Irish culture. If I recall this was applied to the Tuatha de Danann.

    Looking at more recent “invasions”, the same cannot be said…but then again, maybe we have not given it sufficient time. Perhaps therein lays the answer to our current problems. However I do not make any parallels between the Tuatha de Danann and The Bordersmen

  • BluesJazz
  • Barnshee

    “Gaelic civilization on the island of Ireland has always absorbed those from outside of our nation, and added their distinctiveness to our own”

    Failed miserably with the prods then?