WALES and Ireland usually do battle on the rugby pitch.
And for decades the Celtic cousins have felt bound by an ancient connection.
But a scheme launched today will aim to bring the two nations closer in politics, culture and ultimately – understanding.
Experts from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and Cardiff University, will examine the Irish-Welsh link as part of an international research network. The two-year project will bring together academics from America, Australia and Europe, as well as organisations from Wales and Ireland.
By tracking the two nations’ history and culture, it is hoped the reasons for the countries’ tight links will be explained and maximised.
Dr Claire Connolly, one of the researchers managing the project, said, “For a long time, the only thing people in Ireland knew about Wales was their love of rugby. And a lot of people would refer to Wales as part of England.
“Somehow though, we have ended up talking about being Celtic soul mates, and we want to look at this link by considering the differences and similarities between parts of Ireland and Wales.”
Both share green hills, wet weather and a long tradition of one looking to the other for inspiration on creating a thriving economy – most recently Ireland’s self-created niche as the so-called Celtic Tiger.
Key figures also have longstanding ties with Wales.
Dr Ian Paisley, leader of the DUP and First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly, undertook his theological training at the Barry’s School of Evangelism.
Newport West MP Paul Flynn is said to have had an instrumental role in securing the Good Friday Agreement, due to his Welsh birth and Irish parents giving him an insight into both sides of the conflict.
There were also the hundreds of Irishmen imprisoned in North Wales during the island’s 18th century’s war of independence.
Dr Connolly said, “Part of the link could involve these shared histories and ties, but there are still differences that make the connection less set in stone.
“Being a farming country, Ireland was originally much poorer than Wales. It was also predominantly Catholic whereas Wales was more Protestant and had a lot of industrial wealth.
“Ireland didn’t have the same level of progress, whereas now it does and has become known for this across the UK and Europe.”
The academic also said devolution would have “almost certainly” helped strengthen ties, but added that the relationship would still have emerged without the assemblies being created in Northern Ireland and Wales.
The Ireland-Wales Network will be launched tonight at the Consulate General of Ireland in Wales.
The £48,000 grant awarded to the group by the Arts and Humanities Research Council will fund five meetings to be held in Cardiff and Aberystwyth.
Each meeting will focus on a different aspect of the relationship between the two countries, examining how the two initially became connected, their politics and geographies, as well as looking at Irish, Northern Irish and Welsh music and literature. Researchers from around the globe will participate in the discussions.
Did the Guinness recipe originate in Wales
The most Irish of alcoholic beverages – Guinness – could have originated in Wales, it has been claimed.
A Welsh food and drinks supplier says the famous black stout’s maker took inspiration from a drink a porter shipped from Wales to Ireland.
Deiniol Dafydd, from Conwy, claims a small pub in North Wales may have given Arthur Guinness the idea in the 1700s. The pub, close to Llanfairfechan, was alongside a main coaching route between London and Dublin.
But Guinness’ makers say the recipe is a closely guarded family secret, and has been in the family since the Guinness’s started brewing in 1759.
Since then, Guinness has gone on to become one of Ireland’s most famous exports.
Ten million pints of the popular stout are now sold every day.