The Basque-Irish Connection

As we have learned in class, numerous historians, linguists, ethnographers, and archaeologists alike have attempted to determine the true origin of the Basque people.  A variety of theories have been proposed, analogies drawn, and connections made between the Basque culture and other cultures.  One article in the Irish Times suggests that there may be a connection between the Basque and Irish people.  Genetic studies have shown that the closest relatives of the Irish people can be found in Northern Spain, mainly in Galicia and the Basque country.  Based on the linkages found by studying Y chromosome markers, researchers propose that Ireland was settled by migrants from northern Spain and that many animals currently inhabiting Ireland likely came to the island by boat.  Even more intriguing is the parallel that John Dorney, an independent historian, draws between the Irish and the Basque.  While there are very many significant differences noted and potentially problematic conclusions made in his article, John points out several interesting similarities:

  • Ireland and Basque Country are home to old languages (Gaelige and Euskara respectively) that are strongly tied to “traditional rural culture” and serve as political symbols for national identity
  • Both Ireland and Basque Country established organizations to promote their respective languages and cultures (currently efforts are continued to be made by their government, individuals and organizations to preserve, promote and revive their respective languages, particularly within their education systems)
  • Both Ireland and Basque Country have shared a fear of their national identity being under “mortal threat” which contributed to the development of armed groups who advocated for independence/separation, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA)
  • Both the IRA and the ETA eventually split into two factions, with the left-wing faction renouncing the use of violence and another faction continuing to support the use of violence to further political agenda–-parallel-movements/#.VvFyrMe9HpU


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