Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Connections of Egypt with Ireland

The whole world is watching the Egyptians these last few days, as they have insisted on the departure of their despotic ruler - Hosni Mubarak.

So far, the military seems to be the only broad based force for keeping order, but we haven't seen anyone in the military with an urge to appoint permanent military rule. The military, along with the vast majority of Egyptians seem to be oriented around transitioning to democratic rule.

I started looking for connections between Ireland and Egypt, and was surprised at the connections.


Reports say, back in the 1950s, Dr. Sean O'Riordan of Trinity College found faience beads buried at the Mound of the Hostages at the Hill of Tara with skeletal remains. These beads were made from a paste of minerals and plant extracts that had been fired. This was an early way to make glass-like beads. The combination of materials made a self-forming vitreous coating. The faience beads at the Hill of Tara resembled Egyptian faience beads in manufacture and design. Reportedly, the skeleton was carbon dated to approximately 1350 BC. These beads at this location in association with a skeleton that old were latched onto by those who knew the oral history of Scota, a daughter of a pharaoh, who is thought to have settled in Ireland, perhaps by way of Scotland. The fact that faience beads have been found across Europe and the Mediterranean should throw some cold water on the theory, especially given the power of economic trade to spread small beautiful items or the technology to make such items. Still, the fact the same type of beads have been found in Scotland could be cited as support for the Egyptian connection to the misty isles.

Coptic Christian Missionaries

The Coptic Christians which originated in Egypt appear to have established some of the first monasteries and had an influence upon the development and spread of monastic life. The Coptic monks got at least as far as the Island of Lerins off the coast of Gaul. Some think Coptic monks were in Ireland even before Saint Patrick (Naomh Pádraig). Others think Saint Patrick actually spent time with Coptic monks at Lerins after escaping from slavery in Ireland and before he went back to proselytize back in Ireland.

What Follows Revolution

The Egyptians of today and the Irish of early in the last century have another thing in common – revolution.

The government and others in Ireland enjoy talking about the pre-Revolution, the 1916 Easter Rising. The great Irish patriots Patrick Pearse, leading the Irish Volunteers, and James Connolly, leading the smaller Irish Citizen Army, along with 200 members of Cumann na mBan, seized the Post Office and key locations in Dublin and proclaimed the Irish Republic independent of Britain. They lost rather quickly, but they inspired the Irish War of Independence which began with a declaration of independence in January 1919. Both sides agreed to a truce in July 1921 and the Anglo-Irish Treaty formally broke off most of Ireland from Britain.

The Republic of Ireland government likes talking about the Easter Rising and celebrating the War of Independence, but they are strangely silent about what came next.

With the Anglo-Irish Treaty accomplished, a civil war broke out between two groups of Irish nationalists: the Provisional Government and the Republican opposition. The Provisional Government forces supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty, while the Republican opposition thought the Treaty compromised the Irish Republic. The Free State forces won, but the Civil War was bloodier than the War of Independence. Two political parties in the Republic of Ireland: Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are descended from the opposing sides in the Civil War. The bad feelings in Irish society from the Civil War persisted for decades.

So, the Irish example shows while Independence is something to be striven for, the aftermath is just as important as the struggle.

I hope and pray justice, fairness, and peace can reign in the conversion of Egypt to a democratic state.

Post Script: I heard on the Academic Minute, carried on WAMC Public Radio, the modern day Coptic Christians, whose ancestors I spoke about above, were important in the recent uprising in Egypt. Dr. Dyron Daughrity, Pepperdine University said, "The New Year's Day church bombing this year killed 21 people and sent large numbers of Coptic Christians to the streets in protest."

Dr. Dyron Daughrity maintains the Coptic cry for justice was part of the perfect storm which led to the ouster of Mubarak. Find out more by clicking here.

For something lighter, why not check out my post of an interview with the sean nós singer: Brían Ó hAirt.