Our cousins across the Atlantic seem very keen to trace their ancestry back to Ireland (or failing that, Scotch-land; no-one in the Land-of-the-Free™ has so much as heard of Wales). This process seems especially popular with the incumbents of the Oval Office and the current President is no exception (though, Mr Obama does seem able to trace his ancestry to almost anywhere on earth, if required).
As a result, it seems quite tough for the more sporting residents of the Emerald Isle to represent their country as they have to compete not only against their own countrymen but also against the descendants of the Irish diaspora. Indeed, it sometimes seems that as long as a distant ancestor once saw Ireland on a map, partook of a half of Guinness or possessed an article of green clothing, then you qualify as Irish. It is worth noting that this same laxity in the definition of sporting nationality has been somewhat beneficial to the performance of the English – or, perhaps one should say, the South Africa B – cricket team in recent years.
This week, scientists have reported that the Irish diaspora started rather earlier than previously realised – and, on this occasion not as the result of English mis-management or oppression (so far as we know). Analysis of the teeth and bones of long-dead Irish brown bears have proved that these (well, at least their women-folk) were the ancestors of all today’s Polar Bears. Yes, even before St Patrick (allegedly) started purging Ireland of its zoological diversity, some of the bears had left, heading north and adopting a rather natty white livery. I wonder if the Romans had some inkling of this link to the Arctic, as Ptolemy named the island Hibernia after the Latin word for wintry (as opposed to the Latin word for rainy, which might have been more appropriate based on personal experience).
Surely this ancient link must give the Irish a much needed claim on the resources being discovered in (and under) the Arctic? Or at least a few royalties from the sale of Fox’s Glacier Mints? Can it be coincidence that these mints started production in 1922, the very year that the Irish Free State won its independence from Great Britain? I sense a conspiracy…