Did you know Ireland, the UK, Denmark, and Iceland are in a decade-old territory dispute?

A mythical rock is at the centre of it all...

Did you know Ireland, the UK, Denmark, and Iceland are in a decade-old territory dispute?

Chris Murray, YouTube

The price of oil may not be particularly encouraging for exploration activity at the moment but the uninhabited giant rock known as Rockall 270 miles off the Donegal coast has garnered fresh interest from the UK.

The British Government has awarded a grant to Aberdeen University – not to drill around the rock – but to interpret and improve the geological data already available about possible oil and gas reserves.

The UK landed military personnel on the Rock in the 1950s has long laid claim to Rockall, although that claim has never been recognised by the international community.

Historical Irish claims to the rock have been immortalised in the Wolfe Tones' song 'Rock on Rockall,' the chorus goes:

"Oh, Rock on Rockall, may you never fall for Britain's greedy hands,
Oh you'll meet the same resistance,
like you did in many lands,
May the seagulls rise and pluck your eyes and the water crush your shell,
And the natural gas will burn your ass and blow you all to hell."

The British navy attempted to annexe the rock in 1955, hoisting the union flag and cementing a brass plaque on the rock's summit. The 1972 Island of Rockall Act was passed by the British Parliament and claimed the rock as part of Scotland.

However, the UN convention on the law of the sea rules that "Rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf."

Unfortunately for the Tones' the Irish government agreed sea boundaries with the UK in 1988 - which put Rockall in British territory - as illustrated on this map from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

"While Ireland has not recognised British sovereignty over Rockall, it has never sought to claim sovereignty for itself.  The consistent position of successive Irish Governments has been that Rockall and similar rocks and skerries have no significance for establishing legal claims to mineral rights in the adjacent seabed or to fishing rights in the surrounding seas," the Dail was told in response to a parliamentary question from Catherine Murphy in 2012 over the stance of the rock.

While Ireland has agreed the above boundary with Britain, it has never been recognised by the United Nations. It has been disputed by both Iceland, and Denmark (as the country is responsible for the foreign relations of the Faroe Islands).

All parties have maintained their claims and the four countries have met regularly since 2001 in an effort to resolve the issue - but with no success.

The rock is mentioned in both Irish and Scotish folklore - it is said to be a sod of earth pulled from Ulster by the giant Fionn mac Cumhaill and thrown at a rival.

The Scotts believed that it was a mythical rock which would appear three times before the world ended.