Irish people

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Peoples

Irish people
Total population 85,000,000 (est.)
Regions with significant populations Ireland :
   5,081,726 Ireland-born

Great Britain :   

  • Irish Born: 794,000
  • An estimated 6,000,000 have at least one Irish grandparent :   

United States :   

  • Irish Ancestry: 34,487,790
  • Scotch-Irish
      Ancestry: 5,323,888 (estimates suggest that the true number of Scots-Irish in the USA is more in the region of 27 million. )

Canada :
Australia :
Argentina :
New Zealand :
   1,000,000 est.
**See Demographics of Germany

Language Irish, English, Ulster Scots
Religion Roman Catholic, Protestantism
Related ethnic groups Scottish, Manx, Welsh, English, Cornish, Bretons, Icelanders, Norwegians

The Irish are a northwest European ethnic group who originated in Ireland. People of Irish ethnicity outside of Ireland are common in many western, especially commonwealth and North American, countries.


During the past 9,000 years of inhabitation, Ireland has witnessed many different peoples arrive on its shores. Legendary early arrivals included the Nemedians, the Fomorians, the Firbolgs and the Tuatha Dé Danann, though with the exception of the Firbolgs, they are now treated as deities rather than actual human incursions.

A little over three-quarters (76.9%) of the Irish population belonged to the Catholic Church, 12.34% were Anglican, and 9.2% were Presbyterian. The most important of the minority religions were Methodists at 8%, and ‘others’—Baptists, Brethren, Quakers, etc.—together amounted to less than 1%. By the time of the First World War in 1914, there had been a slight decrease in the number of Catholics (73.86%), and a slight increases in Anglicans (13.13%) and Presbyterians (10.04%). There were also important changes in other congregation sizes: Methodists by 1914 made up 1.42% of the population, and others accounted for 1.55%.

The culture of the aboriginal Irish - though not the population - may have been transformed (or certainly influenced) by the arrival of Celtic culture from continental Europe between 600 BC and 150 BC. Despite assertions to the contrary, only a small number of Celts may or not have ever settled in Ireland. Irish insular culture therefore may have developed as a result of cultural exchange with the Celtic groups that did settle, those on mainland Europe, the peoples of Britain and the native Irish.

The names the ancient peoples of Ireland (creators of the Ceide Fields and Newgrange) used for themselves are not known, nor are their language(s). As late as the middle centuries of the 1st millennium AD the inhabitants of Ireland did not appear to have a collective name for themselves. Ireland itself was known by a number of different names – Banba, Scotia, Fódla, Ériu by the islanders; Hibernia and Scotia to the Romans; Ierne to the Greeks.

Likewise, the terms for people from Ireland – all from Roman sources – in the late Roman era were varied. They included Attacotti, Scoti, and Gael. This last word, derived from the Welsh gwyddel (meaning raiders), was eventually adopted by the Irish for themselves. However, as a term it is on a par with Viking, as it describes an activity (raiding, piracy) and its proponents, not their actual ethnic affiliations. The general term Pretani (or the prefix prit-) was sometimes applied to all the indigenous inhabitants of the British Isles ("Pretannic Isles") by the Greeks. The equivalent Roman prefix for these celtic islands (which they called Britannias and Britanniae) was Brit- (with similar pronunciation to prit-), and is the historical origin of the words Briton and British in Old English. Somewhat ironically, the word British is now more commonly associated with predominantly Anglo-Saxon United Kingdom than with its insular origins. However, Greek sources at the time cannot claim to have had an in-depth understanding of the ethnic nature of Ireland and Britain.

The term Irish and Ireland is derived from the Érainn, a people who once lived in what is now central and south Munster. Possibly their proximity to overseas trade with western Britain, Gaul and Hispania led to the name of this one people to be applied to the whole island and its inhabitants.

A variety of historical ethnic groups have inhabited the island, including the Airgialla, Fir Ol nEchmacht, Delbhna, Fir Bolg, Érainn, Eóganachta, Mairtine, Conmaicne, Soghain and Ulaid.

The shared language and culture of these peoples (and indeed the peoples of Atlantic Europe) is one that can be placed among the European peoples. Current genetic research supports the idea that people living in the Britain and Ireland are on average mainly descended from the indigenous European Paleolithic (Old Stone Age hunter gatherers) population (about 80%), with a smaller neolithic (New Stone Age farmers) input (about 20%). Paleolithic Europeans seem to have been a homogenous population, possibly due to a population bottleneck (or near-extinction event) on the Iberian peninsula, where a small human population is thought to have survived the glaciation, and then expanded into Europe during the Mesolithic period. The assumed genetic imprint of Neolithic incomers is seen as a cline, with stronger neolithic representation in the east of Europe and stronger paleolithic representation in the west of Europe. The frequencies of Y-chromosome haplotypes in the Irish population are similar to that of most other populations of Atlantic Europe, especially the Basques of northern Spain and southern France. Y-chromosome analysis also seems to indicate that the Vikings that settled in Dublin came from Norway rather than Denmark. Mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited through the female line, shows part of the maternal ancestors of the Irish to be of broad north European origin.

Other recent evidence, involving a very large number of DNA markers distributed over the entire genome, suggests that most Irish people of today are genetically affiliated with people from other Celtic Nations, many Atlantic European populations and some other North European populations, while modern Spaniards and Portuguese have more Mediterranean inputs. Genetic research shows that since humans settled in Ireland in the Paleolithic and Mesolithic times the main incoming populations were of broad North European origins, however in Spain the main incoming populations following Paleolithic times were of Mediterranean origins, although the Paleolithic element, also known as Basque or Iberian, continues to be the clearly dominant one in both areas to this day .

In fact, in two recently published books, Blood of the Isles, by Brian Sykes and Origins of Britons, By Stephen Oppenheimer, both authors state that according to genetic evidence, most Irish people and most Britons descend from the Iberian Peninsula, as a result of different migrations that took place during the Mesolithic and the Neolithic and which laid the foundations for the present-day populations in the British Isles, indicating an ancient relationship among the populations of Atlantic Europe.

One legend states that the Irish were descended from Míl Espáine (coined Milesius, from Latin "Miles Hispaniae", meaning "Soldier of Hispania"). The character is almost certainly a mere personification of a supposed migration by a group or groups from Hispania to Ireland, but it is supported by the fact that the Celtiberian language is more closely related to insular Celtic than to any other. This legend is the source of the term " Milesian" in reference to the Irish. If this invasion was as large as the mythology would suggest, it would account for the genetic similarity of the Northern Iberian populations and the Irish.

The Vikings were mainly Norwegians and despite their notorious reputation in Irish history, did not settle in particularly large numbers nor did they significantly alter the Irish polity. The arrival of the Normans brought Welsh, Flemish, Normans, Anglo-Saxons and Bretons, most of whom became assimilated into Irish culture and polity by the 15th century. The late medieval era saw Scottish gallowglass families of mixed Gaelic-Norse-Pict descent settle, mainly in the north; due to similarities of language and culture they too were assimilated. The Plantations of Ireland and in particular the Plantation of Ulster in the 17th century introduced great numbers of Scottish, English as well as French Huguenots as colonists. Despite these divergent backgrounds most of their descendants consider themselves Irish – even where they are aware of such ancestry – mainly due to their lengthy presence in Ireland.

Historically, religion, politics and ethnicity became intertwined in Ireland, with Protestants generally identifying as British and Irish and most Roman Catholics as exclusively Irish. This is far less true today, although connections between ethnicity and religion can still be observed - especially in Northern Ireland. Four polls taken between 1989 and 1994 revealed that when asked to state their national identity, over 79% of Northern Ireland Protestants replied "British" or "Ulster" with 3% or less replying "Irish", while over 60% of Northern Ireland Catholics replied "Irish" with 13% or less replying "British" or "Ulster". A survey in 1999 showed that 72% of Northern Ireland Protestants considered themselves "British" and 2% "Irish", with 68% of Northern Ireland Catholics considering themselves "Irish" and 9% "British". The survey also revealed that 78% of Protestants and 48% of all respondents felt "Strongly British", while 77% of Catholics and 35% of all respondents felt "Strongly Irish". 51% of Protestants and 33% of all respondents felt "Not at all Irish", while 62% of Catholics and 28% of all respondents felt "Not at all British".

It is thought that the majority of the Irish population is descended from the initial settlers who arrived after the end of the last Ice Age, as can be seen in the high presence of the genetic marker known as R1b among the Irish. The genetic marker R1b averages at 90% amongst Irish Y-Chromosomes, Welsh Y-Chromosomes and amongst the Y-Chromosomes of the Basques of Northern Spain and South-Western France. Haplotype R1b averages 78% in the British Isles, 73% in Spain, 64% in Belgium, 55% in France and 40% in Germany.

For the global genetic make-up of the Irish and other peoples, see also: and


It is common for some Irish surnames to be anglicised, meaning that they were changed to sound more Hiberno-English. This usually occurred with Irish immigrants arriving in the United States during the 19th century and the early 20th century, and and when British settlers arrived in Ireland.

It is also very common for people of Gaelic origin to have surnames beginning with " Ó" or " Mc" (less frequently "Mac" and occasionally shortened to just "Ma" at the beginning of the name). "O" was originally Ó which in turn came from Ua (originally hUa), which means " grandson", or " descendant" of a named person. For example, the descendants of High King of Ireland Brian Boru were known as the Ua Brian ( O'Brien) clan. The prefix is often incorrectly written as O', using an English apostrophe instead of the Irish fada mark.

"Mac" or "Mc" means "son of"; many names also begin with this. There is no basis in fact for the claim that Mac is Scottish and Mc is Irish: Mc is simply an abbreviation of Mac. However, while both Mac and O' prefixes are Gaelic in origin, Mc is more common in Ulster and O' is far less common in Scotland than it is in Ireland. Some common surnames that begin with Ó are: Ó Reilly, Ó Neill, Ó Brien, Ó Connor, Ó Hickey, Ó Leary, Ó Shaughnessy, Ó Donnell, Ó Dowd, Ó Toole, Ó Meara, Ó Malley, Ó Hara, and Ó Bradaigh,Ó Sheanacháin . Some names that begin with Mac are: MacDermott, MacCarthy, MacDonough, MacDonnell, MacQuillan, MacGuinness, MacLaughlin, MacGuire, MacMahon and MacCormack.

"Fitz" is a version of the French word fils, used by the Normans, meaning son, which is the equivalent to the Scandinavian way to name a person. (It must be remembered that the Normans, although coming at that time from present day England, were descendents of Vikings who settled in Normandy and had thoroughly adopted French ways and language.)

A few names that begin with Fitz are: FitzGerald, FitzSimmons, FitzGibbons, Fitzpatrick and FitzHenry, most of whom descend from the inital Norman settlers. Exceptions occur in a small number of Irish families of Gaelic origin who came to use a Norman form of their original surname - witness Mac Giolla Phádraig becoming FitzPatrick - while some assimilated so well that the Gaelic name was dropped in favour of a new, Hiberno-Norman form. Cases in this category include Mac Gilla Mo-Cholomoc of Dublin becoming FitzDermot (after Dermot or Diarmaid Mac Gilla Mo-Cholomoc).

Other Norman families derived their name from places or people in Ireland. This was the case of the family of Athy (see Tribes of Galway) who took their surname, de Athy, from the town of that name in Leinster. More common, however, was that the Normans became 'Hiberniores Hibernis ipsis' and in this process the Fitzmaurices became Mac Muiris, the Fitzsimons became Mac Síomóin and Mac an Ridire, Fitzgerald became Mac Gearailt, Bermingham became Mac Fheorais, Nangle became Mac Coisdeala, Staunton became Mac an Mhíleadha, and so forth.

In the late 12th century and 13th century Norman, Welsh, English, Flemish and Breton peoples arrived in Ireland at the request of Diarmait Mac Murchada, King of Leinster, and took over parts of the island. During the next three hundred years, they intermarried with ruling Irish clans, adopted Irish culture and the Irish language and as the English put it "became more Irish than the Irish themselves". Another common Irish surname of Norman Irish origin is the 'de' habitational prefix, meaning 'of the' and originally signifying prestige and land ownership. Many Irish surnames share this: de Búrca (Burke), de Brún, de Barra, de Stac, de Tiúit, de Faoite(White), de Paor (Power), and so forth.

It should be emphasised, especially with Gaelic surnames, there may be two or more unrelated families bearing the same or similar surnames. For example, there were at least nine separate Ó Ceallaigh septs, all unrelated. The Mac Lochlainn, Ó Mael Sechlainn, Ó Mael Sechnaill, Ó Conchobair Mac Loughlin and Mac Diarmata Mac Loughlin families, all distinct, are now all subsumed together as MacLoughlin. The full surname usually indicated which family was in question, something that has being diminished with the loss of prefixes such as Ó and Mac. In addition, in Classical Irish when a Mac surname was followed by a name which began with a vowel, the Mac became Mag. This explains why one will still see the older spelling of Mac Aonghusa (McGuinness) as Mag Aonghusa, Mac Uidhir (Maguire) as Mag Uidhir, and so forth.

Furthermore, different branches of a family with the same surname sometimes used distinguishing epithets, which sometimes became surnames in their own right. Hence the chief of the clan Ó Cearnaigh (Kearney) was referred to as An tSionnach (Fox), which his descendants use to this day.

Similar surnames are often found in Scotland for many reasons, such as the use of a common language and mass Irish immigration to Scotland in the late 19th and early to mid-20th centuries. Also Scottish surnames are noticeable in some Catholics in Ireland due to intermarriage and pre-Reformation immigration.

Personal names (forenames)

Personal names in modern Ireland are derived from traditional Irish names, anglicised Irish names, British names and, more recently, popular American names.

The recent years have seen a major decline in most Irish names for babies being born in the Republic of Ireland. While in the past names such as Patrick (a name of Roman origin), Séamus (the Irish form of James) and others were almost ubiquitous in any family, today they are among the rarer names for children and the same goes for most other Irish names, although there are a few notable exceptions. Conor remains very popular, having topped the Most Popular new names for babies list many years running. The name Jack, which is an Irish diminutive of John, James and Jacob, has grown in popularity. Seán, also derived from the Hebrew root John, remains one of the most popular Irish names. Male names from across the Atlantic Ocean have seen a surge in popularity from the mid 1990s, names such as Taylor being a good example of this. There are many other Anglicised Irish names which remain popular, such as Ryan, Neil and others remaining on the Names List. Biblical names also form a large composition, such as Matthew, Philip and Paul.

Aside from Seán other male names from the Norman-Irish tradition include Gearóid (Gerard), Piaras (Pearse), Éamonn and Liam and indeed the very use of the name Pádraig (Patrick) is a Norman tradition. Prior to the Normans the Gaeil, out of reverence to Saint Patrick, named their children Giolla Phádraig, the servant of Patrick. Piaras is an interesting example of how both Norman and English traditions collided. Piaras is from the Norman-French Piers which itself is derived from the Latin, Petrus. Piaras was a common name in late medieval and early modern Ireland. However, with the expansion of British rule the English name Peter, which shares the same Latin root, began to replace it. Today, the Irish version (Peadar) of the English name (Peter), tends to be more common than the Irish version (Piaras) of the older Norman name (Piers). Thus, families with Norman surnames where Piaras has been a traditional name have broken the link to their historic tradition. An exception to this would be in the Gaeltachtaí where, for example, Piaras would still be very common, especially in the Corca Dhuibhne area of County Kerry due to the legacy of Piaras Feiritéar, where Piaras remains a very common name in the Feiritéar family. The maintenance of such traditions in personal names outside the Gaeltachtaí would generally be a sign of more educated parents. In an analogous way to Piaras, Irish families of patrilineal Gaelic descent sometimes use the Irish version (Séarlas) of the English name, Charles, rather than the name with a much longer vintage in their families, Cathal. Where Cathal is used it is often wrongly termed "the Irish for Charles" in a similar way to which the ancient Irish personal name, Áine, is wrongly said to be an Irish version of the English word, Anne. Rather, both Cathal and Áine are two very ancient Irish names with no etymological link whatsoever to the above English names.

For females, the traditional Irish names are far more popular, although their spellings are not always uniform. Names such as Mary, Ann, and Eileen which were hugely common in the past have now declined, although there was always much more variety in female names than in male. Today Aoife, Aisling, Ciara, Sinéad, and Orla are more popular as traditional Irish names, while foreign names such as Ella, Emma, Lisa, Rachel and Isabelle have seen a rise in popularity. Some older names have maintained their popularity, such as Sarah, Kate, Catherine and Louise. Female names from the Norman-Irish tradition are widespread and among the most traditional of Irish personal names. In a similar way to the name Pádraig (Patrick), in the pre-Norman tradition Máire did not exist but rather Maol Muire, devotee of the virgin Mary, was the normal Irish usage. Other common Irish female names of Norman origin (with their anglicised form) are Caitríona (Catherine), Síle (Sheila), Caitlín (Kathleen), Cáit (Kate), Gearóidín (Geraldine), Sinéad (Jane, Janet etc) and Siobhán (Susan, June etc). English names such as Victoria, Elizabeth, and Rebecca, while never hugely popular have also seen a decline in popularity, while some Irish names such as Bridget, Una and Maureen have dropped off the list altogether.

There can be major differentiations between regions. A personal name can still often indicate where a person, more precisely a man, is from. This is accounted for chiefly in the sainthood cults which have been traditional throughout the island. For instance, Fionnbharr is more common in Cork, Finnian in Meath and Donegal, Fionán in Kerry, and so forth, where these particular saints are institutionalised in local tradition. Seaghan remains the Ulster Irish spelling of Seán, though Séan, with the fada over the E, is also common. Páidí is more common in the Kerry Gaeltacht than elsewhere, and so forth. As in the Feiritéar family above, the first name can also often indicate a family tradition as well as place.

See List of Irish given names

Recent history

In Northern Ireland about 53.1% of the population are Protestant (21.1% Presbyterian, 15.5% Church of Ireland, 3.6% Methodist, 6.1% Other Christian) whilst a large minority are Roman Catholic at approximately 43.8%, as of 2001.

After Ireland became subdued by England in 1603 the English – under James I of England (reigned 1603 – 1625), Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell (term 1653 – 1658), William III of England (reigned 1689 – 1702) and their successors – began the settling of Protestant English, and later Scottish colonists into Ireland, where they settled most heavily in the northern province of Ulster. However, they did not intermarry heavily or integrate with the native Irish like the Normans did centuries earlier.

Tens of thousands of native Irish were displaced during the 17th century Plantations of Ireland from parts of Ulster, and were replaced by English and Scottish planters. Only in the major part of Ulster did the plantations prove long-lived; the other three provinces ( Connaught, Leinster, and Munster) remained heavily Catholic, and eventually, the Protestant populations of those three provinces would decrease drastically as a result of the political developments in the early 20th century in Ireland.

It is predominately religion, history and political differences ( Irish nationalism versus British unionism) that divide the two communities, as many of the Scotch-Irish settlers are in part of Celtic origin themselves and therefore related to their Irish Catholic neighbours.

Conversely, many Irish people would have at least some English or Scottish ( gallowglass families from the Highlands) ancestry.

In 1921, with the formation of the Irish Free State, six counties in the northeast remained in the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland.

"Ulster-Irish" surnames tend to differ based on which community families originate from. Ulster Protestants tend to have either English or Scottish surnames while Roman Catholics tend to have Irish surnames, although this is not always the case. There are many Catholics in Northern Ireland with surnames such as Emerson, Whitson, Livingstone, Hardy, Tennyson, MacDonald (however this surname is also common with Highland Roman Catholics in Scotland), Dunbar, Groves, Legge, Scott, Gray, Page, Stewart, Rowntree, Henderson, et al; almost certainly due to intermarriage. A report commissioned by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs states that:

The government of the Republic of Ireland notes that prejudice against the Irish is still found in some parts of the United Kingdom.

The post-1945 Irish population has therefore been caught between these two images. On the one hand their migrant experience and cultural difference has been denied because they are a ‘white’, ‘British Isles’ population group. On the other anti-Irish stereotypes persist in British society and have been fuelled by anti-IRA fears over the last thirty years.

Such prejudice is sometimes expressed in the form of Irish jokes.

Irish diaspora

The Irish diaspora consists of Irish emigrants and their descendants in countries such as the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa and nations of the Caribbean. The diaspora contains over 80 million people; it is believed that roughly one third of the Presidents of the United States of America had at least some Irish descent, while Charles Carroll of Carrollton (whose Irish born grandfather Daniel had left Britain to escape Catholic persecution) was the sole Catholic signatory of the American Declaration of Independence.

There are also large Irish communities in some mainland European countries, notably in France and Germany, as well as Brazil and other South American countries. The classic image of an Irish immigrant is led occasionally by racist and anti- Catholic stereotypes. Irish Americans number around 40 million. They are the second largest self-reported ethnic group in the United States, after German Americans. Large numbers of Irish people emigrated to Latin America in the 18th and 19th centuries. Their descendants include Che Guevara, Vicente Fox and Bernardo O'Higgins. One important Irish group in Latin American history are the "Patricios", or Saint Patrick's Battalion, a group of European Catholic immigrants, mostly Irish, who left the American side during the Mexican-American War and joined the Mexican Army. Although many of them were caught and executed by the American government, some escaped and remained in Mexico. The battalion are commemorated in Mexico on Saint Patricks's day and on September 12, the anniversary of the first executions.

Notable Irish people (selection)


  • Pierce Brosnan - James Bond actor
  • Kenneth Branagh - actor and director
  • Gabriel Byrne
  • Daniel Day-Lewis
  • Roma Downey
  • Colin Farrell
  • Michael Gambon
  • Brendan Gleeson
  • Richard Harris
  • Colm Meaney
  • Patrick McGoohan - actor and creator of The Prisoner
  • Cillian Murphy
  • Liam Neeson
  • Jim Norton
  • Maureen O'Hara
  • Maureen O'Sullivan
  • Peter O'Toole - Honorary Oscar-winning actor
  • Jonathan Rhys-Meyers
  • Stuart Townsend
  • Ciaran Hinds
  • Brenda Fricker


  • Adomnán of Iona - 627/ 628- 704
  • Dicuil - fl. 775?
  • Marianus Scotus - 1028- 1082/ 1083
  • Seathrún Céitinn/ Geoffrey Keating - died 1643
  • John de Courcy Ireland - 1911- 2006 maritime historian
  • James Hardiman - 1782- 1855
  • Gerard Anthony Hayes-McCoy - 1911- 1975
  • Dermot MacDermot - 1906- 1989
  • Edward McLysaght - 1887– 1986
  • Dubhaltach MacFhirbhisigh - fl. 1643- 1671
  • Gilla Isa Mor mac Donnchadh MacFhirbhisigh - fl. 1390– 1418
  • Eoin MacNeill - 1867- 1945
  • Michael O'Clery - c. 1590- 1643
  • Eugene O'Curry - 1796- 1862
  • John O'Donovan - 1806- 1861
  • Daibhidh Ó Duibhgheannáin - fl. 1651- 1696
  • Peregrine O'Duignan - fl. 1627- 1636
  • Ruaidhri O Flaithbheartaigh - 1629- 1716/ 1718
  • T. F. O'Rahilly - 1883- 1953
  • Whitley Stokes - 1830- 1909

Kings and chieftains

  • Áed Dub mac Suibni - died c. 588
  • Áedán mac Gabráin - King of Dál Riata c. 574 - c. 609
  • Brian Boru - King of Munster and High King of Ireland, killed 1014
  • Congal Cáech - last Ulaid King of Tara, died 637
  • Diarmait mac Cerbaill - last pagan Irish High King, died 561
  • Diarmait mac Mail na mBo - King of Leinster, d. 1072
  • Domnall mac Áedo - King of the Cenél Conaill and High King died 642
  • Domnall Midi - first Clann Cholmáin King of Mide, c. 715– 763
  • Echmarcach mac Ragnaill - King of Dublin, ruler of the Irish Sea, died after 1061
  • Feidlimid mac Cremthanin - monk and King of Cashel, 820- 846
  • Flann Sinna mac Maíl Sechnaill - died 916
  • Maelruanaidh Mor mac Tadg - founder of the kingdom of Moylurg, fl. 956
  • Niall of the Nine Hostages - ancestor of many Irish dynasties; died c. 450/ 455
  • Olaf III Guthfrithson - King of Dublin, died 941
  • Silken Thomas - 1513- 1537
  • Tuathal Maelgarb - first known Uí Néill King of Tara, d. 544?/ 549?
  • Ulick na gCeann Burke, 1st Earl of Clanricarde - died 1544
  • Ulick Burke, 1st Marquess of Clanricarde - 1604- 1657
  • Donagh MacCarthy, Viscount Muskerry - Irish Confederate, d. 1665
  • Dermot MacMurrough King of Leinster - died 1171
  • Art mac Art MacMurrough-Kavanagh - 1357- 1417
  • Hugh O'Donnell, 2nd Earl of Tyrconnell - 1606- 1642
  • Grace O'Malley - chief of the Clan Ó Malley and pirate, c. 1530-c. 1603
  • Cormac mac Art O Melaghlain - King of Mide 1205- 1239
  • Hugh O'Neill, c. 1540- 1616 - last de facto King of Tir Eoghain
  • Phelim O'Neill - instigator of the Irish Rebellion of 1641; died 1652
  • Conchobar Maenmaige Ua Conchobhair - last King of independent Connacht, died 1189

Literature & the arts

James Joyce.
James Joyce.
  • Francis Bacon - painter
  • John Banville - novelist; winner of the 2005 booker prize
  • Samuel Beckett - playwright and novelist; Nobel prize laureate for literature
  • Brendan Behan - dramatist
  • Louis le Brocquy - painter
  • Patrick Brontë - author & father of the Brontë sisters
  • Eoin Colfer - author of the well-known Artemis Fowl series
  • Samuel Ferguson - poet and antiquarian
  • Cedric Gibbons - renowned Hollywood art director, and founder of the Oscars
  • Oliver Goldsmith - author and playwright
  • Augusta, Lady Gregory - playwright, co-founder of Abbey Theatre
Augusta, Lady Gregory
Augusta, Lady Gregory
  • Seamus Heaney - poet; 1995 Nobel Prize laureate for literature
  • Nuala Holloway - painter
  • James Joyce - author of Ulysses
  • Patrick Kavanagh - poet and author
  • Paul Kane - artist
  • C.S. Lewis - author
  • James Clarence Mangan - poet
  • David Marcus - author and literary advocate
  • Violet Florence Martin - author
  • Tom Murphy - playwright
  • Flann O'Brien - author
  • Dáibhí Ó Bruadair - Bardic poet
  • Sean O'Casey - dramatist & political activist
  • Máirtín Ó Direáin - poet
  • Liam O'Flaherty - author
  • Séamus Ó Grianna -Poet and author
  • George Bernard Shaw - dramatist; Nobel Prize laureate for literature
  • James Simmons - Poet and author
  • Bram Stoker - author of Dracula
  • Jonathan Swift - satirist & author of Gulliver's Travels
  • John Millington Synge - playwright
  • Ninette de Valois - ballerina & founder of the Royal Ballet
  • Oscar Wilde - playwight, poet & wit
  • Jack Butler Yeats - artist
  • John Butler Yeats - artist
  • William Butler Yeats - poet and dramatist; Nobel Prize laureate for literature


  • John Barry - "Father of the American Navy"
  • Garret Barry, General of Irish Confederates in Munster, d. 1647
  • James Butler - stateman and soldier
  • Roger Casement - revolutionary
  • William Coffey - war hero
  • Tim Collins - former CO 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment
  • Sir Eyre Coote - former Commander-in-Chief, British forces, India
  • Blair "Paddy" Mayne - founding member of the SAS
  • Duke of Wellington - solider and statesman
  • Ambrose O'Higgins - Baron of Ballynary, Marquis of Osorno, Governor of Chile and Viceroy of Peru.
  • William Brown - Founder of the Argentinian Navy.
  • Thomas Francis Meagher - one of the founders of the 1848 Young Irelander Rebellion and American Civil War Union general.
  • Juan MacKenna - Creator of the Corps of Military Engineers of the Chilean Army
  • Michael Collins - Commander-in-Chief of the Irish Free State forces in 1922 before being killed in action.


  • Altan - traditional band
  • Aslan (rock band)
  • B*Witched - all-girl pop band
  • Máire Ní Bhraonáin - singer
  • Bell X1 - soft rock
  • Boyzone - boy band
  • Edward Bunting - first collector of traditional music, 1773 - 1843
  • Patrick Clancy - musician; member of the Clancy Brothers
  • The Chieftains - traditional
  • Clannad - traditional/pop/new-age band
  • Finghin Collins - pianist
  • Thomas Connellan - composer
  • The Corrs - traditional/pop band
  • Mary Coughlan - traditional singer
  • Nadine Coyle - singer
  • The Cranberries - Irish band
  • Elizabeth Cronin - traditional singer,1879 - 1956
  • Shaun Davey - composer
  • Chris de Burgh, singer
  • Val Doonican - singer
  • John Lennon - singer/peace activist
  • Paul McCartney - singer/animal rights activist
  • Dropkick Murphys - South Boston-based, Irish punk band.
  • Eithne ní Bhraonáin (Enya) - singer/songwriter
  • Julie Feeney - composer
  • John Field - pianist, composer and inventor of the nocturne
  • Tommy Fleming - singer
  • Rory Gallagher - guitarist
  • Flogging Molly - Los Angeles-based, Irish band.
  • Bob Geldof - Singer and political activist
  • Catherine Hayes - Opera Singer
  • Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh - musician/singer
  • David Holmes - musician, D.J. and composer
  • Brian Kennedy - Eurovision contestant
  • Luke Kelly - singer and political activist
  • Johnny Logan - Eurovision winner
  • Phil Lynott - singer/songwriter and bass-guitarist
  • Linda Martin - Eurovision winner
  • Mickey MacConnell - Singer, Songwriter
  • Shane MacGowan - singer/songwriter and co-founded of The Pogues
  • John McCormack - singer/ tenor
  • Gary Moore - guitarist and rock/blues musician
  • Van Morrison - singer/songwriter
  • Paddy Moloney - composer and founder of The Chieftains
  • Christy Moore - singer/songwriter
  • My Bloody Valentine - rock band
  • Ed O'Brien - guitarist
  • Turlough O'Carolan - harpist and composer
  • Maura O'Connell - singer
  • Sinéad O'Connor - singer
  • Daniel O'Donnell - country singer
  • Liam O'Flynn - Uilleann piper
  • Francis O'Neill - Traditional flautist, music collector and publisher in Chicago, 1848 - 1936
  • Seán Ó Riada - composer, 1931 -1971
Statue of Phillip Lynnot, Grafton Street, Dublin
Statue of Phillip Lynnot, Grafton Street, Dublin
  • Carmel Quinn - Singer
  • Damien Rice - singer/songwriter
  • Charles Villiers Stanford, composer
  • Thin Lizzy - rock band
  • Snow Patrol - indie rock band
  • U2 - rock band
  • Andy Irvine

Philosophy & religion

  • George Berkeley - idealist philosopher
  • Saint Brigid of Ireland
  • Saint Columba - missionary
  • Edmund Burke - conservative political philosopher and statesman
  • John Clyn - monk and chronicler
  • Thomas Croke - Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, early patron of Gaelic Athletic Association
  • Johannes Scotus Eriugena - philosopher
  • Saint Malachy - church reformer and prophet
  • Saint Patrick - patron saint
  • Saint Oliver Plunkett - Archbishop of Armagh, last Catholic martyr to die in England
  • Archbishop James Ussher - Irish primate & scholar


  • Mary McAleese - President of Ireland
  • Bertie Ahern - Taoiseach
  • Gerry Adams - Irish Republican politician and abstentionist, Westminster MP; president of Sinn Féin
  • Noel Browne - Politician
  • John Bruton - former Taoiseach
  • Ray Burke - Politician
  • Charles Carroll of Carrollton - sole Catholic signatory of the American Declaration of Independence
  • Michael Collins - Revolutionary, first president of the Irish Free State
  • Patrick Collins - former mayor of Boston
  • William T. Cosgrave - Second president of the Irish Free State
  • John F. Kennedy- President of the United States
  • Robert F. Kennedy - Former US Attorney General and Presidential candidate.
  • Thomas F. Gilroy - former mayor of New York City
  • William R. Grace - first Roman Catholic mayor of New York City
  • Charles Haughey - former Taoiseach
  • John Hume - former leader of the SDLP and co-laureate of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize
  • Hugh O'Brien - first Irish mayor of Boston
  • Daniel O'Connell - barrister and Irish emancipator
  • William O'Dwyer - former mayor of New York City
  • Brian Mulroney - Prime Minister of Canada 1984- 1993
  • Tip O'Neill - Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
  • Ian Paisley - British MP; leader of the DUP
  • Charles Stewart Parnell - leader of Irish Parliamentary Party
  • Albert Reynolds - former Taoiseach
  • Mary Robinson - seventh Irish president, United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Bobby Sands - 1981 Irish Hunger Strike participant, Westminster MP
  • David Trimble - former leader of the UUP and co-laureate of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize
  • Éamon de Valera - First Taoiseach and former Irish President


  • Augustine Eriugena, fl. 655 - early Irish scientist.
  • Thomas Andrews - shipbuilder of the Titanic.
  • Robert Boyle - Natural philosopher, discoverer of Boyle's Law.
  • Patrick Browne - Doctor Botanist of Jamaica.
  • William Rowan Hamilton - mathematician & scientist, inventor of quaternions.
  • Lord Kelvin - mathematical physicist & Engineer.
  • Frank Pantridge - inventor of the portable defibrillator.
  • Ernest Walton - physicist & 1951 Nobel Prize winner for the first nuclear transmutation.
  • Nicholas Callan - priest at St. Patricks College, Maynooth, inventor of the induction coil.
  • Francis Beaufort - inventor of the Beaufort scale of wind intensity 1774-1857.
  • John Tyndall - physicist who discovered the Tyndall effect.
  • John Philip Holland - inventor of the modern submarine 1841 -1914.
  • George Johnstone Stoney - scientist who coined the word electron.
  • Kathleen Lonsdale - discovered the structure of benzene.


  • Francis Barrett - boxer
  • George Best - footballer
  • DJ Carey - hurler
  • Darren Clarke - golfer
  • Steve Collins - boxer
  • Johnny Giles - footballer
  • Shay Given - footballer
  • Padraig Harrington - golfer
  • Alex Higgins - former World Snooker champion
  • Eddie Irvine - Formula One driver
  • Denis Irwin - footballer
  • Eddie Jordan - Formula One racing driver and team owner
  • Robbie Keane - footballer
  • Roy Keane - footballer
  • Barry McGuigan - boxer
  • Brian O'Driscoll - rugby union
  • Pat Spillane - Gaelic footballer
  • Sonia O'Sullivan - long-distance runner
  • Michelle Smith - swimmer
  • Dennis Taylor - former World Snooker champion
  • Dave Finlay - Pro-Wrestler


  • Marcus Daly - Copper King of Butte, Montana
  • Joseph McGrath - Co-Founder Irish Sweepstakes
  • Tony Ryan - entrepreneur
  • Thomas McLoughlin - Initiator Shannon Hydroelectric Scheme
  • William Mulvany - pioneer of German Coal Industry, 1806 - 1885
  • Michael O'Leary, CEO of Ryanair airlines
  • Tony O'Reilly - entrepreneur

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