How would 17th-century Irish merchants have dealt with Brexit?

Summer school will look at Irish trade with Europe 400 years ago and EU trade today

Ireland’s trading relationship with the EU, the machinations of Brexit, and the forays of adventurous Irish merchants 400 years ago will be compared at the annual Mícheál Ó Cléirigh summer school.

How 17th-century Irish traders fared in Europe, what they sold and what was fashionable in an increasingly demanding consumer market will be considered in a section on “Traders, Tricksters and Tearaways: the Irish in Europe”.

Dr Mark Empey, lecturer in early modern British and Irish history at NUI Galway, will also consider the activities of the Irish mercantile community of the time, how they adapted to life abroad and why alcohol "was the cause of and solution to all their problems".

‘Four Masters’

The annual school commemorates the life of the Franciscan friar, head of the "Four Masters", four Franciscan friars based in Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal and Louvain, France in the 17th century. He was the chief author of the Annals of the Four Masters, a monastic chronicle of the time.


Running from Friday, May 12th to Sunday, May 14th at the Franciscan friary in Rossnowlagh, the school’s theme this year is parallels in Ireland and Europe between 1617 and 2017.

The school also marks the 400th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone of the Franciscan College of St Anthony at Louvain in Belgium where Ó Cléirigh studied.

Fallout from Brexit

Prof Mary E Daly, recently retired as the only female president of the 232-year-old Royal Irish Academy, will open the school, which will also consider trade today and the political and constitutional fallout from Brexit.

And the impact or otherwise of the Irish language on the EU will be looked at in a paper, “From Tract to Twitter: EU Official Languages and Irish”, given by Dr Regina Uí Chollatáin, head of the UCD School of Irish, Celtic Studies and Folklore.