SIGHTS AND SOUNDS The National Geographic Genographic Team with Danny O’Toole (Mayo County Council) at their first GAA match in Tourmakeady where the home side took on Westport, from left: Dr Spencer Wells (National Geographic Human Genographic Project Director), Glynnis Breen (Genographic Project), Alexander Moen (Vice President of Explorer Programs), Colby Bishop (Outreach Manager, Explorer Programs) and Danny O’Toole (Mayo County Council). Pic: Michael McLaughlin
Blue-blooded Enda may be related to Niall of the Nine Hostages
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny’s blue-blooded Fine Gael genealogy has long been confirmed, but now a major genographic study by National Geographic has revealed he may have a much more complex royal lineage. Not only is the Castlebar native possibly descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages, the infamous Irish king reputed to have kidnapped Saint Patrick on a raid in Britain back in the fifth century, Mr Kenny may also be related to the infamous Celtic Queen Medb of Connacht.
It turns out, though, that his Minister for State, Michael Ring, as well as the Commodore of the Irish Navy, Mark Mellett, also Mayo natives, could have similar lineage too.
An Taoiseach was among a small group of famous Mayo people whom the National Geographic Genographic Project tested recently, ahead of a more comprehensive swabbing of Mayo people, carried out on Sunday at the National Museum of Country Life, Castlebar. This was the first time the project came to Ireland and indeed northern Europe as part of its international study tracing ancient migratory trends in a bid to understand the genetic roots of populations around the globe back over 2,000 generations.
Project leader, Dr Spencer Wells only revealed the general genetic trends yesterday of ‘the brave VIPs’ whose DNA swabs were sent to National Geographic laboratory in Washington for testing. Dr Wells also referred to the imminence of ‘cultural mass extinction’ by the end of this century and the fact that the world is now losing two languages every week.
“We are all carrying a historical document inside ourselves. It is our DNA. Within the last 200,000 years we all shared ancestry from Africa, and it is only 60,000 years ago since people left Africa, moving into western Europe 35,000 years ago,” Dr Wells said.
While 100 people were invited to participate in yesterday’s genographic swabbing, hundreds more turned up to the event in the hope of tracing their cross-millennial roots. The project has already tested 600,000 people in 140 countries around the world.
Participant James Henry from Ballina said: “I have a real interest in the movement of people across the planet. In my case, I have an Anglo-Norman name and know they came here in 1169 but now, with this test, I am hoping to be able to track my ancestry right back to central Africa maybe. I believe that whether we came here by boats as Berbers thousands of years ago or on a Ryanair plane from Latvia in the last decade, we are essentially all the same.”
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