'Indigenous ethnic groups' In Ireland: do Gaels still exist?

diy01

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Do Gaels still exist, and if so, should they receive official recognition as a distinct ethno-linguistic group in modern Ireland?

Historically Ireland has been home to various ethnic groups, often identified primarily with their mother tongue.

Consider these terms:

Gaoidhil, Gall, Gall-Goídil [Norse-Gael], 'Saxain', Sean-Ghall,

Anglo-Norman, Hiberno-Norman, Old English, 'mere Iryshe', Native Irish, Anglo-Irish, Gaelic Irish, etc...

Some of these labels were in contemporary usage, reflected in surviving manuscripts; other terms were coined by historians centuries later.

If one accepts that Gaels existed historically in Ireland for more than a thousand years as a distinct ethno-linguistic population, the question is... do they still exist even though the vast majority of Irish people today do not have Irish as their mother tongue, and few speak Irish fluently even as a second language.

If John Connors and Brigid Quilligan as Irish Travellers are members of a officially recognised 'indigenous ethnic minority' group, shouldn't Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh or the late Joe Steve Ó Neachtain be considered members of Ireland's indigenous Gaelic minority? (Neither group make up more than 1% of the national population today.)

'Speaking Irish doesn't make you more Irish, just more Gaelic' - something I overheard once.
 
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neiphin

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A fleeting glimpse of a rapidly-disappearing Etonian bumfreezer jacket:

Since most of the 'regular gang' seem already to be on this thread, I'll celebrate this day of the ultimate "England's difficulty' with this snippet of Aneurin Bevan [*]. Here he was in December 1943, noting the disappearance of power from UK elective politics:
When I was quite a young boy my father took me down the street and showed me one or two portly and complacent looking gentlemen standing at the shop doors, and, pointing to one, he said, "Very important man. That's Councillor Jackson. He's a very important man in this town." I said, "What's the Council?" "Oh, that's the place that governs the affairs of this town," said my father. "Very important place indeed, and they are very powerful men." When I got older I said to myself,, "The place to get to is the council. That's where the power is." So I worked very hard, and, in association with my fellows, when I was about 20 years of age, I got on to the council. I discovered when I got there that the power had been there, but it had just gone. So I made some inquiries, being an earnest student of social affairs, and I learned that the power had slipped down to the county council. That was as where it was, and where it had gone to. So I worked very hard again, and I got there—and it had gone from there too. Then I found out that it had come up here. So I followed it, and sure enough I found that it had been here, but I just saw its coat tails round the corner.
[*] Where are those true, fire-breathing Irish Nationalists who could exploit this as 'Ireland's opportunity? [According to Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, that's Daniel O'Connell in 1856.] There are seven (count them!) SF votes out there, sitting on their oh-so-principled abstaining årses, who could be — just this once — doing something for Ireland.
 

DJP

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Do Gaels still exist, and if so, should they receive official recognition as a distinct ethno-linguistic group in modern Ireland?

Historically Ireland has been home to various ethnic groups, often identified primarily with their mother tongue.

Consider these terms:

Gaoidhil, Gall, Gall-Goídil [Norse-Gael], 'Saxain', Sean-Ghall,

Anglo-Norman, Hiberno-Norman, Old English, 'mere Iryshe', Native Irish, Anglo-Irish, Gaelic Irish, etc...

Some of these labels were in contemporary usage, reflected in surviving manuscripts; other terms were coined by historians centuries later.

If one accepts that Gaels existed historically in Ireland for more than a thousand years as a distinct ethno-linguistic population, the question is... do they still exist even though the vast majority of Irish people today do not have Irish as their mother tongue, and few speak Irish fluently even as a second language.

If John Connors and Brigid Quilligan as Irish Travellers are members of a officially recognised 'indigenous ethnic minority' group, shouldn't Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh or the late Joe Steve Ó Neachtain be considered members of Ireland's indigenous Gaelic minority? (Neither group make up more than 1% of the national population today.)

'Speaking Irish doesn't make you more Irish, just more Gaelic' - something I overheard once.
It seems to be a social construct nowadays I believe and anyone can call themselves a Gael.
 

diy01

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Anyone can call themselves anything really but only a small minority of people in Ireland have retained the indigenous language of their ancestors, against all odds. A language community whose presence stretches back at least 1,700 years.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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No
Ireland is a broad nation. We even have the lost tribe of Israel living up on our Tundra, sure.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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The usual attempt to dismiss Irishness, the Celt, the Gael ... I suppose the Three-Leggers (Manx) and the Yellow-Bellies (Cornwall) will be told they are Spanish next.

Serious point though, I've a favourite historical warm thought I ponder when returning to the estate from a sheltered establishment. And that is that we had very little difference between the Celtic nations of Scotland, Wales, Ireland when the Anglo-Saxons were Anglo-Saxonning around in the island next door quite happily.

Of course there were raids on each other's coastline but sure that was probably out of sheer joy at seeing spring. I've read a bit about Anglo-Saxon customs and a bit about our systems before the Normans. There were some common customs that hint at the different history we might have had between the two islands had Harold given William the Bastard a dart in the eye at Hastings.

The Normans have a hell of a lot to answer for in both islands if you ask me.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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No
Quite like the Anglo-Saxon English I have met. Not so keen on the Normans. Or 'trade', as we might refer to them :)
 

Killpatrick

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Do Gaels still exist, and if so, should they receive official recognition as a distinct ethno-linguistic group in modern Ireland?

Historically Ireland has been home to various ethnic groups, often identified primarily with their mother tongue.

Consider these terms:

Gaoidhil, Gall, Gall-Goídil [Norse-Gael], 'Saxain', Sean-Ghall,

Anglo-Norman, Hiberno-Norman, Old English, 'mere Iryshe', Native Irish, Anglo-Irish, Gaelic Irish, etc...

Some of these labels were in contemporary usage, reflected in surviving manuscripts; other terms were coined by historians centuries later.

If one accepts that Gaels existed historically in Ireland for more than a thousand years as a distinct ethno-linguistic population, the question is... do they still exist even though the vast majority of Irish people today do not have Irish as their mother tongue, and few speak Irish fluently even as a second language.

If John Connors and Brigid Quilligan as Irish Travellers are members of a officially recognised 'indigenous ethnic minority' group, shouldn't Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh or the late Joe Steve Ó Neachtain be considered members of Ireland's indigenous Gaelic minority? (Neither group make up more than 1% of the national population today.)

'Speaking Irish doesn't make you more Irish, just more Gaelic' - something I overheard once.
you believe that the indigenous groups are recognized by the native tongues you mentioned, John Connors and, brigid quilligan well here's a little example of their native tongue my family speak it fluently it varies from region depending where your family are from but if you're interested have a look at this and watch it to the end my family are from the south of Ireland so we speak Gammon this family speaks cant but they have a great sense of history and knowledge in the language listen and you may find It interesting.

 
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Barroso

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you believe that the indigenous groups are recognized by the native tongues you mentioned, John Connors and, brigid quilligan well here's a little example of their native tongue my family speak it fluently it varies from region depending where your family are from but if you're interested have a look at this and watch it to the end my family are from the south of Ireland so we speak Gammon this family speaks cant but they have a great sense of history and knowledge in the language listen and you may find. It interesting.
Looking at the kids, they don't seem to speak the Cant. They know some words of it, and it is more like English with strange words mixed through.
 

McTell

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Do Gaels still exist, and if so, should they receive official recognition as a distinct ethno-linguistic group in modern Ireland?

Historically Ireland has been home to various ethnic groups, often identified primarily with their mother tongue.

Consider these terms:

Gaoidhil, Gall, Gall-Goídil [Norse-Gael], 'Saxain', Sean-Ghall,

Anglo-Norman, Hiberno-Norman, Old English, 'mere Iryshe', Native Irish, Anglo-Irish, Gaelic Irish, etc...

Some of these labels were in contemporary usage, reflected in surviving manuscripts; other terms were coined by historians centuries later.
///

Depends what level of inbreeding we will admit to.

Line breeding, now that's a whole different kettle of fish.
 

Dearghoul

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No more now than before, I can still remember Stevie Coughlan on the Late Late.
 

Freemind

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My DNA proves I'm a native Gael. But English is my language. Not in the slightest interested in returning to the Dark ages.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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I'm less than impressed by commercial DNA testing: expensive and less-than-fully illuminating. Do I really want to 'know' (using the term loosely) that Genghiz Khan is somewhere in my ancestry?

Meanwhile, back in the real world, and in real time, a passing visit to a major Eason's may turn up the current issue of British Archaeology. Flick nonchalantly to pages 51-53, there to find Mike Pitts (long time editor of the magazine) on Footprints and boats: new stories of ancient Britain.

The piece attempts a crude overview of where we are, and what we know about how:

there may have been as many as 20 occasions when the existing human population [of Britain] entirely or substantially disappeared and was replaced.
The evidence is derived from:

development-led excavation [...] and the scientific trio of increasingly precise radiocarbon dating [...] and the analysis of isotopes and ancient DNA.
These omissions [...] are not my coyness, but back-references to previous magazine articles.

Pitts' title reflects:

Up to the Mesolithic era, everyone living in Britain arrived, or had arrived on foot. If the sea level was high and Britain was isolated from the continent, nobody came. From around 8,000 years ago, relatively late in the Mesolithic and after a tsunami had swept across what remained of Doggerland [...] the North Sea and the English Channel finally took their modern shape. Walking ceased to be an option. This is the meaning of island Britain: facing a long and varied coast from Norway to Spain and Portugal, the British Isles have been directly accessible to a wider range of people and cultures than would ever have been possible were they landlocked.
Et cetera. Et cetera. As the King of Siam (a.k.a. Yul Brynner) would say.

The relevance of all that here is to note that Ireland was glaciated until the end of the 'Midlandian' period (i.e. until 13,000 years ago). The only areas which seem not to have been subsumed by that final glaciation were a narrow belt across southern Munster and Leinster (but not including west Cork and Kerry) and possibly a bit north of Clew Bay.

General opinion seems to be Ireland was populated only long after that glaciation, and Mesolithic hunter-gatherers arrived here around 7,900 years ago (i.e. the Mountsandel site).

How did they get here? There can be only two ways: a land-bridge (the hydrology suggests that is as unlikely as Boris Johnson's fantasy bridge) or by boat. Boat from beyond the narrow seas? From Iberia? Hmmm ....

Did they survive later arrivals?

And Pitts includes that in a provocative map (but note the vague curve from Brittany up the Irish Sea):

Movements.jpeg
 
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Barroso

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It's a shame that the Céide Fields do not include human remains, which were apparently destroyed by the acidity of the subsequent covering of bog, because while we know that several hundreds of sq kilometres in N Mayo were settled in or around the period represented by the dates in that map, we do not seem to have any human remains from the period.
One question that I frequently ask myself is precisely the one that is touched on in your quotes: are we/some of us descended from those N Mayo men and women, or did they die out due to contact with incoming diseases that they had no immunity against? Or were they killed by a later batch of incomers?

From the available evidence, it seems as though these stoneage people were herders in the main, so it would be particularly interesting to know whether our love of beef farming goes back that far. I wonder if there are finds yet to be made in that part of Ireland which were not covered by bog, and where human or even animal (cattle, sheep, goats) remains will be discovered, including enough DNA to shed light on the matter of any relationship with us modern Irish.
 

Dearghoul

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We never had hunter gatherers?

We were populated initially by the beef barons?

Explains a lot about the psyche I suppose.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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Barroso's point (above, post #15) is valid. Céide Fields leaves many questions open — and they are likely to remain so. The interpretation centre, quite properly, steers the narrow line between explication and speculation.

Céide Fields is neolithic. Mountsandel is an era, even a millennium, earlier.

Mike Pitts, in that British Archaeology piece [post #14], has this, albeit specific to our neighbouring island:
Archaeology and aDNA suggest that Neolithic life ways were carried westwards by people from the Near East via two routes: to the south along the Mediterranean and up through Spain, and through central Europe following the Danube river valley. As the archaeology would predict, Neolithic aDNA shows both of these streams, especially the former. There is a small and constant amount of older hunter-gatherer DNA in the Neolithic genome, but it's the same, and no more, as seen in continental populations, and it's quite possible that it was brought by the new immigrants — who barely mixed with hunter-gathers here at all.
The new aDNA evidence appears to settle a long debate about whether farming was introduced by migrants or copied and adopted by native people. To go beyond bald support for the former, however, and to begin to understand the forces at work ands the impacts' on peoples' lives, requires new archaeological research and discoveries. Genetics appears to support archaeological suggestions that early migrants arrived in the south-east and south-west from different parts of the continent, and pottery, for example — one of the may things brought over by the new farmers — shows stylistic differences between east and west Britain that persist for generations.
Beyond that, I cannot add much. Pitts' summary there seems to revise what David Miles proposed. My limited understanding is we can be fairly convinced Ireland was populated by two separate routes: one from Scotland, the other from the near continent. Any suggestions for recent studies there greatly welcome.
 

Barroso

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We never had hunter gatherers?

We were populated initially by the beef barons?

Explains a lot about the psyche I suppose.
Very likely we did, but their number would have been low.
When new arrivals brought herding or agriculture, their population growth would have been way faster than the hunter-gatherers, always assuming that they weren't wiped out by the new arrivals, as has happened in so many other places, most of N America, large parts of S and Central America and of course Australia to name the most recent examples.

I think I remember reading somewhere that huntergatherer populations have an upper limit of 1 per sq. mile (I'll accept correction on the actual figure, and accept that it would vary to some extent with climate and local resources). Ireland before the famine was pretty much a subsistence society, and reached an average of at least 250 per sq. mile.
Even stone age North Mayo would have supported something like 50-100 per sq. mile, going by the maps available of the area.
 

locke

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I suspect that unless we know we are entirely descended from those who arrived in the last three or four generations that we all (even those identified as Anglo-Irish or Ulster-Scots) have some ancestry from those who inhabited the island 4,000 years ago.

Most evidence now suggests that up to about the 12th or 13th century what were thought to be migrations were actually a case of an aristocracy coming in and imposing culture, but with no replacement of the native population. Until then, it was simply not possible to move the number of people required. In England, genetic testing suggests that even in the areas first settled by the Anglo-Saxons 60% of DNA markers are consistent with Welsh origin. That number only goes up as you move further west.

So the Celts may have come and introduced their culture and language, to be replaced by the Normans who did the same but the people didn't change much until the time of the English plantations. Possibly the Vikings were different as they had small concentrated settlements that didn't spread far.

As an aside very little is known of the languages that were spoken in ancient Ireland. We know Early Irish and it's predecessor Primitive Irish were. There is a little evidence that there was another language spoken in parts of Munster. It's completely possible there were dozens of languages spoken but never written down and that eventually Irish became dominant over them.
 

Barroso

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As an aside very little is known of the languages that were spoken in ancient Ireland. We know Early Irish and it's predecessor Primitive Irish were. There is a little evidence that there was another language spoken in parts of Munster. It's completely possible there were dozens of languages spoken but never written down and that eventually Irish became dominant over them.
Any genuine links on this?
 


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