THE TRUE FATHER OF IRELAND ; Research by Geneticists at Trinity College Dublin Reveals That One in 12 Irishmen Are Descended from a Fifth-Century Warlord. as David McKittrick Reports, Science Has for Once Revealed the Man to Be More Impressive Than the Myth DNA and the Key to Our Ancestry

By McKittrick, David | The Independent (London, England), January 19, 2006 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

THE TRUE FATHER OF IRELAND ; Research by Geneticists at Trinity College Dublin Reveals That One in 12 Irishmen Are Descended from a Fifth-Century Warlord. as David McKittrick Reports, Science Has for Once Revealed the Man to Be More Impressive Than the Myth DNA and the Key to Our Ancestry


McKittrick, David, The Independent (London, England)


He was already a splendid quasi-mythi cal warrior who trailed clouds of ancient glory, bestriding Irish pre-history as one of the greatest of all the high kings of Ireland. But now Niall of the Nine Hostages has emerged as an even mightier man than previously supposed.

It looks as though he was literally one of the fathers of his nation - a man who, 1,500 years after his death, has up to three million living descendants in Ireland and elsewhere.

Scientific research has revealed that around one in 12 men in Ireland are de scended from Niall, while in the north west of the island - his stronghold - that figure rises to a staggering 20 per cent of the male population. More descendants of Niall are to be found in Scotland and in New York, reflecting Irish emigration patterns.

Niall of the Nine Hostages was a fifth-century warlord who took on the English, the Scots, the French and even the Ro mans, at the same time establishing a series of dynasties which lasted for centuries. Known for his marauding raids, it turns out that his appendage was even mightier than his sword.

He will now be viewed as a smaller-scale Irish version of Genghis Khan, who has been shown by similar research to be the ancestor of millions in Asia and Europe. Genghis's many millions mean he will remain number one in the progeny stakes but Niall's performance is al ready being hailed as formidable.

His family dominated the High King ship of Ireland, proudly describing them selves as the descendants of Niall - the U Neill - down through the centuries. Their extensive power lasted right up until the Elizabethan conquest in 1558-1603. Saint Columba is said to be his great-great grandson.

His legend was so potent that to this day many prominent Irish families boast of their lineage from him. Now the new research indicates that this is no empty claim. The science of genetics has now made a firm connection between a particular chromosome and the genes of families with a traditional link to Niall.

For once modern science has not de bunked an ancient myth - rather, its discovery of Niall's prodigious offspring has confirmed and enhanced what was once thought to be a dubious legend. In this case at least, the man has proved more impressive than the myth.

The research was conducted at the ge-netics department of Trinity College Dublin, by PhD student Laoise Moore and others in a team supervised by Dr Dan Bradley. Niall's lineage was exposed by a study of the Y-chromosome, an element of DNA which uniquely is passed down from father to son through the generations, and which can provide a specific genetic fingerprint.

The team was intrigued to find a strikingly high frequency of a particular type of Y-chromosome in the Irish population, with a peak in the north-west centred around Donegal, Londonderry and Tyrone. Ms Moore and the team, using a technique called "17-marker simple tandem repeat genetic analysis", found a significant link between those with the particular chromosome and those with surnames traditionally linked with the U Neill dynasties. These included familiar Irish names such as Gallaher, Boyle, Do-herty, O'Donnell, O'Connor, O'Kane and Quinn.

Dr Bradley explains: "We sampled 60 people with these names and found the strongest association was with them. Be fore this, everything was mythology, but now there does seem to have been a single male ancestor of this group of powerful dynasties.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

THE TRUE FATHER OF IRELAND ; Research by Geneticists at Trinity College Dublin Reveals That One in 12 Irishmen Are Descended from a Fifth-Century Warlord. as David McKittrick Reports, Science Has for Once Revealed the Man to Be More Impressive Than the Myth DNA and the Key to Our Ancestry
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?