The Irish and Scots may be as closely related to the people of Spain and Portugal as the Celts of central Europe, it has been reported.
Historians have long believed that Ireland and Britain were swamped by a massive invasion of Iron Age Celts from central Europe around 500BC.
But geneticists at Trinity College Dublin now claim that the Irish and Scots have as much, if not more, in common with the people of north-western Spain. The report gives credence to theories that Ireland was first settled by a maritime people who settled and travelled along Europe’s western seaboard.
Dr Daniel Bradley, genetics lecturer at Trinity, said that a new study into Celtic origins revealed close affinities with the people of Galicia.
“It’s well known that there are cultural relations between the areas but now this shows there is much more,” Dr Bradley said.
“We think the links are much older than that of the Iron Age because it also shows affinities with the Basque region - which isn’t a Celtic region.”
“The links point towards other Celtic nations, in particular Scotland, but they also point to Spain,” he added.
Historians believed the Celts, originally from the Alpine regions of central Europe, invaded the Atlantic islands in a massive migration nearly 2,500 years ago.
But using DNA samples from people living in Celtic nations and other parts of Europe geneticists at the university have drawn new parallels.
Dr Bradley said that it was possible that migrants moved from the Iberian peninsula to Ireland as far back as 6,000 years ago up until 3,000 years ago.
“I don’t agree with the idea of a massive Iron Age invasion that took over the Atlantic islands,” Dr Bradley said.
“You can regard the ocean - rather than a barrier - as a communication route.”
The study found people in areas traditionally known as Celtic, such as Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Brittany and Cornwall, had strong links with each other and people in Ireland have more in common with Scots than any other nation.
There are also close links between Scotland and Ireland dating back much further than the Plantations of the 1600s when many Scots moved to northern Ireland in search of fertile farming lands, the research showed.
* Researchers from the University of Ulster have claimed to have proven that Ireland and Scotland were never joined by land, as has long been believed. They now think that the first inhabitants of Ireland were mariners and did not come over a landbridge between the two islands.
* It was recently claimed that Ireland fitted the geographical description of the legendary sunken land of Atlantis, said by Greek philosopher Plato to have existed in the sea beyond Spain. It is believed that ancient maritime sailors could have created the myth by confusing Ireland with the Dogger Bank, a submerged shoal in the North sea.