Following on the British EU referendum, some political re-alignment of the British Isles feels inevitable. I propose a re-organization into three states: Ireland, Britain, and Dál Riata (or perhaps Dalriada) which comprises what we now call Scotland and Northern Ireland. Here’s a map.

The British Isles

Vital Statistics · Britain remains the big dog; but the new kid on the block is no slouch; about the same population as Bulgaria (less than Switzerland, more than Denmark) and about as big as Hungary (smaller than Iceland, bigger than Portugal).

BritainDál RiataIreland
Population (M)
Area (km2)130,39594,62070,273

Dál What? · The names are pretty easy; Ireland already has one, and what was once The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland loses its second half and is a little less “Great”, so “Britain” falls out naturally.

As for Dál Riata, that was the name of an early Gaelic “overkingdom” that occupied Ulster and quite a bit of Western Scotland starting around 500 AD, suffered a terrible military defeat at the battle of Mag Rath in 647, but still appeared in contemporary documents into the mid-800s. The best outline of its history I found online was at, under the name “Dalriada”, which is also pretty nice.

Advantages · The other proposals being floated are for Northern Ireland to join Ireland, and Scotland to go indie. Neither of these ideas sound terrible, but there’s an ugly weight of Irish history to work around in the first case, and Scotland plus Ulster makes for a usefully weightier combo than either alone, it seems.

Also, their administrative infrastructures, inherited from the UK, would fit together nicely without too much redesign required.

They’re both wet grey-and-green nations with irregular spelling and good distilleries. Historically, the travel and migration back and forth has been regular, ranging into promiscuous/incestuous territory; the DNA pools are hardly separable anyhow.

Then there are sports; I can see the Dál Riatan side being one to watch in football, rugby, and cricket; and they’d really enjoy their occasional upset victories over the British.

Problems · The toughest one I see is where to put the capital. The most interesting and cosmopolitan city in Dál Riata would be Glasgow, but that’s a long way from Belfast.

You could adopt an approach like Canada and Australia did, and build or enlarge a spot halfway between; a candidate might be Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsula, or alternatively repurpose the Isle of Arran.

Then you’re going to have to invent a constitution. No-one will miss the monarchy much, and it seems like a good opportunity to adopt some psephological innovations along the lines of proportional representation or single-transferable vote.

Then there’s the three-way relationship to figure out. Obviously Ireland will stay in the EU and I can’t see the Euros not welcoming the Dál Riatans with open arms. Schengen-style open borders might be hard to achieve; but I can’t see anyone seriously taking up tariffs.

Whisky vs Whiskey would only be a problem for the small-minded.

Precedents and disclosures · After the Americans disastrously re-elected Dubya in 2004, I proposed redividing North America into three nations, and it seemed to entertain a lot of people, so why not try again? And this map is way more plausible than that one.

Also, if you look at my ancestry, it’s a quarter Norwegian and the rest is pretty well Orange and Scottish. So if they do get together and create Dál Riata, I feel this blog piece has earned me honorary citizenship and a comprehensive whisky/whiskey tour.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Don More (Jun 24 2016, at 23:45)

Thanks for a laugh after a bad week.


From: John Roth (Jun 25 2016, at 09:54)

That makes too much sense, so it's never going to happen. [/cynic]

Actually, I've seen a number of comments in mainstream venues that are proposing exactly this.


From: John Cowan (Jun 25 2016, at 09:55)

On the other hand, if they decide to keep the Queen (who is a Stuart after all) they could be the United Kingdom of Scotland and Northern Ireland: "the UK" for short. And I don't see what's wrong with Edinburgh as a capital.

There remain the questions of flags and of the permanent seat on the UN Security Council.


From: P O'Neill (Jun 27 2016, at 06:47)

You don't really understand anything of the history of The Troubles, do you?


From: Ted (Jun 30 2016, at 05:19)

Purists would argue that Dál Ri­a­ta's capital should be re-established at Dunadd, the ancient hill fort overlooking the Great Moss on the upper part of the Kintyre peninsular, near where the Crinan Canal now links the Firth of Clyde to the Sound of Jura.

This, however is one of the most sublimely beautiful landscapes in the whole of the West of Scotland (a region not short of sublime beauty) and it would be a shame to see it urbanised.


From: John Cowan (Jul 03 2016, at 15:50)

Indeed, capitals should be put in sensible places. It was the classicizing Germans who insisted that Athens become the capital of the new Greek state, despite being a depopulated village. The consequences by way of overcrowding are visible to this day.


From: passerby (Jul 15 2016, at 09:33)

It's Great Britain because it was Grande Bretagne, as distinct from just Bretagne.

The French, again.


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