Historical precedents for some questions arising from Brexit will be explored in an inaugural lecture by Seán Duffy, newly appointed Professor of Medieval Irish and Insular History, in Trinity College Dublin on Wednesday, November 28th 2018.
The prospect of the UK leaving the EU has reignited calls for a second independence referendum in Scotland and a border poll on Irish unity.
There is even talk of a realignment of national groupings so that the English and Welsh, who voted to leave, could do so. Scotland and Northern Ireland, where a majority voted to stay, could remain in the EU, forming a new entity!
Professor Duffy will discuss how, 700 years ago an Irish-Scottish union was established – by no less than Scotland’s King Robert the Bruce.
After his victory over the English at Bannockburn in 1314 – a battle for independence – Bruce was invited by the Irish to send his younger brother to become king and to lead a campaign against English rule.
He did so, and for three years from 1315 Edward Bruce, the heir presumptive to the throne of Scotland, attempted to rule as king of Ireland, until killed by the English at the battle of Faughart near Dundalk 700 years ago in October 1318.
In his inaugural lecture, entitled “King Robert Bruce the Irishman”, Professor Duffy will explain that a union of Ireland and Scotland was not as outlandish as it might seem.
He will illustrate how Robert the Bruce, Scotland’s greatest king, used his Gaelic heritage to forge a Celtic alliance of Irish and Scots.
“My research on the relations between Ireland, Scotland and Wales in the Middle Ages has examined in detail the Bruce family connection with Ireland and their immersion in the Gaelic world of the West Highlands, the Islands, and Galloway. The family had a strong Irish connection stemming from Edward and Robert Bruce’s mother, a Gael from the Firth of Clyde. It was because of his Gaelic heritage that Robert Bruce could write to potential Irish allies from Rathlin Island in 1306-7 reminding them that the Scots and Irish have ‘sprung from one seed of birth’ and have ‘a common language and customs’.”
“And it was because of his Gaelic heritage that the Irish, having helped Bruce secure his position as king of Scots—in the teeth of English opposition that culminated in King Robert’s great victory at Bannockburn—could turn to him and his family for assistance. Together they initiated a Celtic Alliance of Irish and Scots—and the Welsh, whose involvement the Bruce’s also solicited. The purpose of which, O’Neill says (in a letter to MacCarthy of Munster which historians have wrongly neglected), is to ‘shake off the heavy yoke and tyranny of the English’. Anti-English sentiment is not a modern phenomenon. It was alive and well long before Brexit in the days of King Robert Bruce the Irishman and while today a three-state union might seem far-fetched, 700 years ago, a similar entity was established by Scotland’s King Robert the Bruce.”