The Premier of Nova Scotia has waded into a growing controversy of the origins of an ancient Scottish clan.
Worldwide DNA tests have proved that the MacNeils of Barra in the Outer Hebrides are descended from Vikings rather than Irish royalty.
The revelation has generated a social media sensation with MacNeils from Australia to the US expressing shock at the news.
Now the first citizen of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, the Honorable Stephen McNeil, has insisted he has Irish – rather than Norse – roots.
Mr McNeil, who is believed to be descended from Barra MacNeils, told a newspaper in Halifax, Nova Scotia, he doubts there’s any Viking in his blood.
He said; “Rest assured that my two Irish grandmothers will ensure the Irish are well represented in this premier.”
Barra MacNeils, most of whom emigrated in the 18th and 19th centuries, believe they descend from Ireland’s greatest King, Niall of the Nine Hostages through an 11th century Irish prince who emigrated to Scotland.
But the MacNeil Surname Y-DNA project run by genealogists Vincent McNeil and Alex Buchanan has not found any link to Ireland.
Instead, the DNA evidence points towards Norse raiders known to have settled in the Western Isles in the 8th century.
The news has spread quickly with Clan Facebook groups alight with the controversial discovery.
Vincent MacNeil said: “There is one guy from British Columbia who doesn’t believe it at all and at least one woman who appears to be having a hard time letting go of Niall of the Nine Hostages.”
He continued: “What a lot of MacNeils also need to come to terms with is that not all MacNeils come from Barra. It’s the MacNeils of Barra we are talking about here.
“MacNeil means son of Neil but we aren’t all sons of the same Neil.
“Most MacNeils assume they are from Barra because the castle is there but they aren’t.
“So now we have people assuming they are Viking but if their roots aren’t really in Barra they aren’t.”