The Confusion of Henry McDonald

Writing in the local newspaper the Belfast Telegraph on Friday 21st September 2013, Henry McDonald wrote of an Ulster Defense Association mural on nationality at Freedom Corner on the Lower Newtownards Road, Belfast:

Analysing the responses of the Protestant working class to the Belfast Telegraph/LucidTalk poll, specifically on the nationality question, you wonder how much has changed since that UDA mural went up.

In the 1970s, the UDA employed obscure academics and ransacked Ulster mythology to come up with the notion of a separate Ulster nation and people – the “Cruithin” – in pursuit of a home-grown anti-Irish/gaelic nationalism. The difference in the 21st century is that the public disorder of the past 10 months has convinced the most socially and politically alienated segment of the urban Protestant population that the only way is pure and simply British.

This represents poor scholarship, and it smacks of lazy journalism and political motivation, since he uses the term “obscure” academics and tells us that “Ulster Mythology” was “ransacked”, in pursuit of an “anti-Irish” nationalism, which is untrue. Nor can he apparently distinguish between nationality and nationalism. He also prefers the  semi-Gaelic term “Cruithin” which he seems to put in inverted commas to infer that they were an invented people, which speaks volumes. Cruthin, of course, represents in English the modern Gaelic Cruithne for Pretani or British, so it is difficult to work out where this confused commentator is coming from or going to here. Like that of Peter Shirlow at Queen’s University, Belfast his work is indicative of an insidious attempt to undermine British history and culture in our universities and the wider world.

The Cruthin, of course, are a historically attested people in Ireland, who occupied large parts of the modern counties of Down, Antrim, Londonderry and Donegal in the early medieval period and anciently the whole country. Their name in Middle Irish is Cruithnig or Cruithni; Modern Irish: Cruithne .Their ruling dynasties included the Dal nAraidi (Dalaradia) in southern Antrim, the Ui Echach Cobo (Iveagh) in western Down and the Cenél Conaill in Donegal. Early sources preserve a distinction between the Cruthin and the Ulaid, who gave their name to the kingdom  of Ulster, although the Dál nAraide claimed in their genealogies to be na fir Ulaid, “the true Ulaid”. The Loigis, who gave their name to County Laois in Leinster, and the Sogain of Connacht are also claimed as Cruthin in early Irish genealogies.

Variations of the name include Cruthen, CrutheniCruthini populi, Cruthne, Cruthni, and Cruithini as well as Cruthin and Cruithne. It is generally accepted that this is derived from Qritani or Qriteni, which is the Old Gaelic version of the Old British Pretani or Priteni. From the latter came Britanni, the Roman name for those now called the Britons or British. Early Irish writers used the name Cruthin to refer to both the north-eastern Irish group and to the Picts of Scotland. Likewise, the Scottish Gaelic word for a Pict is Cruithen or Cruithneach, and for Pictland is Cruithentúath. It therefore obvious that the Cruthin and Picts were the same people or were in some way closely linked. Professor T.F. O’Rahilly describes them as, “the earliest inhabitants of these islands to whom a name can be assigned”. It is therefore obvious that Cruthin was a name used to refer to all the Britons who were not conquered by the Romans – those who lived outside Roman Brittania, north of Hadrian’s and then the Antonine Walls.
This entry was posted in Article. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.