‘British Isles’ References Leave Irish Eyes Frowning

Posted By: January 28, 2008

‘British Isles’ References Leave Irish Eyes Frowning

Sunday Tribune (Dublin) Sunday, January 27, 2008
Conor McMorrow

THE globally renowned National Geographic organisation has
changed the way it refers to Ireland . . . no longer
calling it a “British Isle”.

National Geographic, which is one of the largest non-profit
scientific and educational institutions in the world, took
the decision to change the way they refer to Ireland after
receiving a complaint from an Irish-American lobby group.

Fr Sean McManus, president of the Irish National Caucus
group, complained when he noticed that the print and online
version of National Geographic’s ‘Travel Catalog 20082009’
had a page advertising its May and July guided tour
“Exploring the British Isles” that listed Ireland as part
of the British Isles.

After spotting the “absurd error” McManus said: “Who wants
to go with a travel company that is so geographically
confused and disoriented?

National Geographic claims Ireland is in ‘the British
Isles’, and proceeds to list the places on its tour of
Ireland: Skellig Rocks/Dingle Peninsula, Aran Islands,
Cliffs of Moher and Co Donegal.

“Northern Ireland is not even mentioned thereby making it
impossible for National Geographic to try to make the
argument that the North ‘is British’. Therefore, they have
simply no excuse for its absurd error.”

McManus also complained that the catalogue had been
introduced by the National Geographic president “who bears
the proud name of John M Fahey”.

The Sunday Tribune has learned that on 23 January, Fahey
replied to McManus informing him that National Geographic
had “revised” the way it referred to Ireland in its online
information and would make similar changes in future print
editions. It will now refer to ‘the British and Irish

He concluded his letter to McManus: “It’s our sincere hope
that National Geographic Society can quickly be restored to
your good graces, as well as those of St Patrick, and
anyone else who was concerned we had lost our way. It would
warm my heart!!”

McManus told the Sunday Tribune, “John Fahey is a classy
guy. I commend him on his quick and appropriate action.

“Now Irish-Americans can continue to admire National
Geographic without cognitive dissonance.”

The latest furore over the term “British Isles” comes
little over a year since Irish school book publishers,
Folens, decided to omit all references to “the British
Isles” from its widely-used school atlas.

Until last year, the glossy world atlas had a section of 31
pages with maps and information, all of which showed
Ireland under the heading of the British Isles.

In the past the term has been used in a purely geographical
sense to make clear Ireland’s proximity to Britain.

In October 2005, after Folens announced that they were
scrapping the term, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot
Ahern stated: “The term ‘British Isles’ is not used by the
Irish government and has no official status . . . the term
was not recognised in any legal of intergovernmental

It was also reported at the time that the Irish Embassy in
London had been urged to monitor media in Britain for “any
abuse of the official terms as set out in the Constitution
of Ireland and in legislation”.

Fr. Sean Mc Manus
Irish National Caucus
Capitol Hill
PO BOX 15128
Washington, DC. 20003-0849