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Irish people (Irish: Muintir na hÉireann or Na hÉireannaigh) are
a nation and ethnic group native to the island of Ireland, who share a
common Irish ancestry, identity and culture.
Ireland has been
inhabited for about 12,500 years according to archaeological studies
(see Prehistoric Ireland). For most of Ireland's recorded history, the
Irish have been primarily a
Gaelic people (see Gaelic Ireland).
Anglo-Normans conquered parts of
Ireland in the 12th century, while
England's 16th/17th-century (re)conquest and colonisation of Ireland
brought a large number of English and Lowland Scots people to parts of
the island, especially the north. Today,
Ireland is made up of the
Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland (an independent state) and the smaller Northern
Ireland (a part of the United Kingdom). The people of Northern Ireland
hold various national identities including British, Irish, Northern
Irish or some combination thereof.
The Irish have their own customs, language, music, dance, sports,
cuisine and mythology. Although Irish (Gaelic/Gaeilge) was their main
language in the past, today most
Irish people speak English as their
first language. Historically, the Irish nation was made up of kin
groups or clans, and the Irish also had their own religion, law code
and style of dress.
There have been many notable
Irish people throughout history. After
Ireland's conversion to Christianity, Irish missionaries and scholars
exerted great influence on Western Europe, and the Irish came to be
seen as a nation of "saints and scholars". The 6th-century Irish monk
Columbanus is regarded as one of the "fathers of
Europe", followed by saints Cillian and Fergal. The scientist
Robert Boyle is considered the "father of chemistry", and Robert
Mallet one of the "fathers of seismology". Famous Irish writers
include Oscar Wilde, W. B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw,
Bram Stoker, James Joyce,
C.S. Lewis and Seamus Heaney. Notable Irish
explorers include Brendan the Navigator, Sir Robert McClure, Sir
Sir Ernest Shackleton
Sir Ernest Shackleton and Tom Crean. By some
accounts, the first European child born in North America had Irish
descent on both sides. Many presidents of the
United States have
had some Irish ancestry.
The population of
Ireland is about 6.3 million, but it is estimated
that 50 to 80 million people around the world have Irish forebears,
Irish diaspora one of the biggest of any nation.
Historically, emigration from
Ireland has been the result of conflict,
famine and economic issues. People of Irish descent are found mainly
in English-speaking countries, especially the United Kingdom, the
Canada and Australia. There are also significant
numbers in Argentina,
Mexico and New Zealand. The
United States has
the most people of Irish descent, while in
Australia those of Irish
descent are a higher percentage of the population than in any other
country outside Ireland. Many
Icelanders have Irish and Scottish
1 Origins and antecedents
1.1 Prehistoric and legendary ancestors
1.3 Black Irish
2.1 Early expansion and the coming of Christianity
2.2 Migration and invasion in the Middle Ages
2.4 Late Medieval and Tudor Ireland
2.6 Enlightenment Ireland
2.7 19th century
2.7.1 The Great Famine / An Górta Mór
2.8 20th century
3 Recent history
3.1 Religions in Ireland
3.2 Irish identity
4 Irish diaspora
7 External links
Origins and antecedents
Prehistoric and legendary ancestors
Main articles: Prehistoric
Ireland and Early history of Ireland
Carrowmore tomb, c. 3000 BC
During the past 10,000 years of inhabitation,
Ireland has witnessed
some different peoples arrive on its shores. The ancient peoples of
Ireland—such as the creators of the
Céide Fields and
Newgrange—are almost unknown. Neither their languages nor terms they
used to describe themselves have survived. As late as the middle
centuries of the 1st millennium the inhabitants of
Ireland did not
appear to have a collective name for themselves.
Ireland itself was known by a number of different names, including
Ériu by the islanders, Iouerne and Hiverne to the
Hibernia to the Romans.
Scotland takes its name from Scota, who in Irish mythology, Scottish
mythology, and pseudohistory, is the name given to two different
mythological daughters of two different Egyptian Pharaohs to whom the
Gaels traced their ancestry, allegedly explaining the name Scoti,
applied by the Romans to Irish raiders, and later to the Irish
Caledonia which became known as Scotland. Other
Latin names for people from
Ireland in Classic and Mediaeval sources
Attacotti and Gael. This last word, derived from the Welsh
gwyddel "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
The terms Irish and
Ireland are probably derived from the goddess
Ériu. 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. In the
cases of the Conmaicne, Delbhna, and perhaps Érainn, it can be
demonstrated that the tribe took their name from their chief deity, or
in the case of the Ciannachta, Eóganachta, and possibly the Soghain,
a deified ancestor. This practice is paralleled by the Anglo-Saxon
dynasties' claims of descent from Woden, via his sons Wecta, Baeldaeg,
Casere and Wihtlaeg.
The Greek mythographer
Euhemerus originated the concept of Euhemerism,
which treats mythological accounts as a reflection of actual
historical events shaped by retelling and traditional mores. In the
12th century, Icelandic bard and historian
Snorri Sturluson proposed
that the Norse gods were originally historical war leaders and kings,
who later became cult figures, eventually set into society as gods.
This view is in agreement with Irish historians such T. F. O'Rahilly
and Francis John Byrne; the early chapters of their respective books,
Early Irish history and mythology (reprinted 2004) and Irish Kings and
High-Kings (3rd revised edition, 2001), deal in depth with the origins
and status of many Irish ancestral deities.
One legend states that the Irish were descended from one Míl
Espáine, whose sons supposedly conquered
Ireland around 1000 BC or
later. The character is almost certainly a mere personification of
a supposed migration by a group or groups from Iberia to Ireland. It
is from this that the Irish were, as late as the 1800s, popularly
known as "Milesian". Medieval Irish historians, over the course of
several centuries, created the genealogical dogma that all Irish were
descendants of Míl, ignoring the fact that their own works
demonstrated inhabitants in
Ireland prior to his supposed arrival.
This doctrine was adapted between the 10th and 12th centuries, as
demonstrated in the works of
Eochaidh Ua Floinn (936–1004); Flann
Mainistrech (died 25 November 1056); Tanaide (died c. 1075) and Gilla
Cómáin mac Gilla Samthainde (fl. 1072). Many of their compositions
were incorporated into the compendium Lebor Gabála Érenn.
This tradition was enhanced and embedded in the tradition by
successive historians such as
Dubsúilech Ó Maolconaire (died 1270);
Seán Mór Ó Dubhagáin (d.1372); Giolla Íosa Mór Mac Fir Bhisigh
Pilip Ballach Ó Duibhgeannáin (fl. 1579–1590)
Mac Aodhagáin (alive 1640). The first Irish historian who
questioned the reliability of such accounts was Dubhaltach Mac
Fhirbhisigh (murdered 1671).
See also: Genetic history of Europe, Y-DNA haplogroups in populations
of Europe, and Genetic history of the British Isles
Genetic research shows a strong similarity between the Y chromosome
haplotypes of Irish men with Gaelic surnames and males from the area
Spain and Portugal, especially Galicia, Asturias, and Cantabria
(and perhaps former Basque country). The incidence of the R1b
haplogroup is 70% or more in Celtic regions –
Cumbria and Cornwall
in England, the Celtic Northern region in Portugal (Douro Litoral,
Minho and Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro), northern
Galicia, Asturias, León,
Cantabria and Basque Country), western
France (Béarn, Gascony, Guyenne, Saintonge, Angoumois, Aunis, Poitou,
Anjou and the Celtic Brittany), and Celtic Countries –
Scotland in Britain. R1b's incidence declines gradually with
distance from these areas but it is still common across the central
areas of Europe. R1b is the most frequent haplogroup in Germany and in
the Low Countries, and is common in southern
Scandinavia and in
northern and central Italy. This led to writers, such as Stephen
Oppenheimer and Bryan Sykes, to conclude that the majority of Irish
people primarily descend from an "Iberian refugium" population
bottleneck dating back to the last ice age.
However, this haplogroup is now believed by some to have originated
over 12,000 years more recently than previously thought. It thus
follows that Irish and many other R1b subclades will be considerably
younger than the maximum age of 18,000 years. The previous estimates,
based on inaccurate dating methods (30,000+ years BP), made R1b and
its subclades seem to be more useful indicators of the paleolithic era
populations of western Europe than they actually are. According to
recent 2009 studies by Bramanti et al. and Malmström et al. on
mtDNA, related western European populations appear to be
largely from the neolithic and not paleolithic era, as previously
thought. There was discontinuity between mesolithic central Europe and
modern European populations mainly due to an extremely high frequency
of haplogroup U (particularly U5) types in mesolithic central European
The existence of an especially strong genetic association between the
Irish and the Basques, one even closer than the relationship between
other west Europeans, was first challenged in 2005, and in 2007
scientists began looking at the possibility of a more recent
Mesolithic- or even Neolithic-era entrance of R1b into Europe. A
new study published in 2010 by Balaresque et al. implies either a
Mesolithic- or Neolithic- (not Paleolithic) era entrance of R1b into
Europe. However, all these genetic studies are in agreement that
the Irish and Basque (along with the Welsh) share the highest
percentage of R1b populations. A recent whole genome analysis of 1
neolithic and 3
Bronze Age skeletal remains in
Ireland suggested that
the original farming population was mostly similar to present day
Sardinians and the 3
Bronze Age remains had a Steppe component to
their genetics showing links with Eastern Europe. Most modern Irish
share more DNA with the 3
Bronze Age men from Rathlin than the earlier
Ballynahatty neolithic woman.
A recent genetic study done on the Irish show that they have two main
ancestry sources a French component (mostly northwestern French) and
West Norwegian from the
Viking era. 
"Black Irish" redirects here. For
Irish people of black African
descent, see Black people in Ireland.
Black Irish is an ambiguous term sometimes used (mainly outside
Ireland) as a reference to a dark-haired phenotype appearing in people
of Irish origin. However, dark hair in people of Irish descent is
common, although darker skin complexions appear less frequently.
One popular speculation suggests the Black Irish are descendants of
survivors of the Spanish Armada, despite research discrediting such
claims. In Bob Quinn's documentary series Atlantean, he explores
an alternative 'Iberian' hypothesis, proposing the existence of an
ancient sea-trading route skirting the Atlantic coast from North
Africa and the
Iberian Peninsula to regions such as Connemara. While
preferring the term "The Atlantean Irish", Quinn's reference to
certain phenotypical characteristics (within elements of the Irish
populace and diaspora) as possible evidence of a previous
Hibernian-Iberian (and possibly Berber) admixture mirrors common
descriptions of the Black Irish.
The term has also come to be used to refer to the African-Irish
descendants of those who live on
Barbados and Montserrat, a number
of whom have Irish surnames, still retain part of their Irish accents
and sing bilingual songs.
Early expansion and the coming of Christianity
See also: Early history of Ireland
Finnian of Clonard
Finnian of Clonard imparting his blessing to the "Twelve Apostles of
One Roman historian records that the
Irish people were divided into
"sixteen different nations" or tribes. Traditional histories
assert that the Romans never attempted to conquer Ireland, although it
may have been considered. The Irish were not, however, cut off
from Europe; they frequently raided the Roman territories, and
also maintained trade links.
Among the most famous people of ancient Irish history are the High
Kings of Ireland, such as
Cormac mac Airt and Niall of the Nine
Hostages, and the semi-legendary Fianna. The 20th-century writer
Seumas MacManus wrote that even if the
Fianna and the Fenian Cycle
were purely fictional, it would still be representative of the
character of the Irish people:
...such beautiful fictions of such beautiful ideals, by themselves
presume and prove beautiful-souled people, capable of appreciating
The introduction of
Christianity to the
Irish people during the 5th
century brought a radical change to the Irish people's foreign
relations. The only military raid abroad recorded after that
century is a presumed invasion of Wales, which according to a Welsh
manuscript may have taken place around the 7th century. In the
words of Seumas MacManus:
If we compare the history of
Ireland in the 6th century, after
Christianity was received, with that of the 4th century, before the
coming of Christianity, the wonderful change and contrast is probably
more striking than any other such change in any other nation known to
Following the conversion of the Irish to Christianity, Irish secular
laws and social institutions remained in place.
Migration and invasion in the Middle Ages
See also: Early Medieval
Ireland 800–1166 and Norman invasion of
The approximate area of the
Dál Riata (shaded)
The 'traditional' view is that, in the 4th or 5th century, Gaelic
language and culture was brought to
Scotland by settlers from Ireland,
who founded the Gaelic kingdom of
Dál Riata on Scotland's west
coast. This is based mostly on medieval writings from the 9th
and 10th centuries. The archaeologist
Ewan Campbell argues against
this view, saying that there is no archeological or placename evidence
for a migration or a takeover by a small group of elites. He states
that "the Irish migration hypothesis seems to be a classic case of
long-held historical beliefs influencing not only the interpretation
of documentary sources themselves, but the subsequent invasion
paradigm being accepted uncritically in the related disciplines of
archaeology and linguistics."
Dál Riata and the territory of the
Picts merged to form the Kingdom of Alba, and Gaelic
language and culture became dominant there. The country came to be
called Scotland, after the Roman name for the Gaels: Scoti. The Isle
of Man and the
Manx people also came under massive Gaelic influence in
Irish missionaries such as Saint
Pictish Scotland. The Irishmen of this time were also "aware of the
cultural unity of Europe", and it was the 6th-century Irish monk
Columbanus who is regarded as "one of the fathers of Europe".
Another Irish saint, Aidan of Lindisfarne, has been proposed as a
possible patron saint of the United Kingdom, while Saints Kilian
and Vergilius became the patron saints of
Würzburg in Germany and
Salzburg in Austria, respectively. Irish missionaries founded
monasteries outside Ireland, such as Iona Abbey, the Abbey of St Gall
in Switzerland, and
Bobbio Abbey in Italy.
Common to both the monastic and the secular bardic schools were Irish
and Latin. With Latin, the early Irish scholars "show almost a like
familiarity that they do with their own Gaelic". There is evidence
Hebrew and Greek were studied, the latter probably being
taught at Iona.
"The knowledge of Greek", says Professor Sandys in his History of
Classical Scholarship, "which had almost vanished in the west was so
widely dispersed in the schools of
Ireland that if anyone knew Greek
it was assumed he must have come from that country."'
Since the time of Charlemagne, Irish scholars had a considerable
presence in the Frankish court, where they were renowned for their
learning. The most significant Irish intellectual of the early
monastic period was the 9th century Johannes Scotus Eriugena, an
outstanding philosopher in terms of originality. He was the
earliest of the founders of scholasticism, the dominant school of
medieval philosophy. He had considerable familiarity with the
Greek language, and translated many works into Latin, affording access
Cappadocian Fathers and the Greek theological tradition,
previously almost unknown in the
The influx of
Viking raiders and traders in the 9th and 10th centuries
resulted in the founding of many of Ireland's most important towns,
including Cork, Dublin, Limerick, and
Waterford (earlier Gaelic
settlements on these sites did not approach the urban nature of the
subsequent Norse trading ports). The
Vikings left little impact on
Ireland other than towns and certain words added to the Irish
language, but many Irish taken as slaves inter-married with the
Scandinavians, hence forming a close link with the Icelandic people.
In the Icelandic Laxdœla saga, for example, "even slaves are
highborn, descended from the kings of Ireland." The first name of
Njáll Þorgeirsson, the chief protagonist of Njáls saga, is a
variation of the
Irish name Neil. According to Eirik the Red's Saga,
the first European couple to have a child born in North America was
descended from the
Viking Queen of Dublin, Aud the Deep-minded, and a
Gaelic slave brought to Iceland.
Gaels in a painting from the 16th century
The arrival of the
Anglo-Normans brought also the Welsh, Flemish,
Anglo-Saxons, and Bretons. Most of these were assimilated into Irish
culture and polity by the 15th century, with the exception of some of
the walled towns and the Pale areas. The
Late Middle Ages
Late Middle Ages also saw
the settlement of Scottish gallowglass families of mixed Gaelic-Norse
-Pict descent, mainly in the north; due to similarities of language
and culture they too were assimilated.
Main article: Irish name
Further information: Celtic onomastics
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The Irish were among the first people in Europe to use surnames as we
know them today. It is very common for people of Gaelic origin to
have the English versions of their surnames beginning with 'Ó' or
'Mac' (Over time however many have been shortened to 'O' or Mc). 'O'
comes from the Gaelic Ó which in turn came from Ua, which means
"grandson", or "descendant" of a named person. Mac is the Gaeilge for
Names that begin with "O'" include Ó Bánion (O'Banion), Ó Briain
(O'Brien), Ó Cheallaigh (O'Kelly), Ó Conchobhair (O'Connor,
O'Conor), Ó Chonaill (O'Connell), O'Coiligh (Cox), Ó Cuilinn
(Cullen), Ó Domhnaill (O'Donnell), Ó Máille (O'Malley), Ó
Mathghamhna (O'Mahony), Ó Néill (O'Neill), Ó Sé (O'Shea), Ó
Súilleabháin (O'Sullivan), and Ó Tuathail (O'Toole).
Names that begin with Mac or Mc include Mac Cárthaigh (MacCarthy),
Mac Diarmada (MacDermott), Mac Domhnaill (MacDonnell), and Mac
Mathghamhna (MacMahon) Mag Uidhir (Maguire). Mac is commonly
anglicised Mc. However, "Mac" and "Mc" are not mutually exclusive, so,
for example, both "MacCarthy" and "McCarthy" are used. While both
"Mac" and "Ó'" prefixes are Gaelic in origin, "Mac" is more common in
Scotland and in
Ulster than in the rest of Ireland; furthermore, "Ó"
is far less common in
Scotland than it is in Ireland. The proper
surname for a woman in Irish uses the feminine prefix nic (meaning
daughter) in place of mac. Thus a boy may be called Mac Domhnaill
whereas his sister would be called Nic Dhomhnaill or Ní Dhomhnaill
– the insertion of 'h' follows the female prefix in the case of most
consonants (bar H, L, N, R, & T).
A son has the same surname as his father. A female's surname replaces
Ó with Ní (reduced from Iníon Uí – "daughter of the grandson
of") and Mac with Nic (reduced from Iníon Mhic – "daughter of the
son of"); in both cases the following name undergoes lenition.
However, if the second part of the surname begins with the letter C or
G, it is not lenited after Nic. Thus the daughter of
a man named Ó Maolagáin has the surname Ní Mhaolagáin and the
daughter of a man named Mac Gearailt has the surname Nic Gearailt.
When anglicised, the name can remain O' or Mac, regardless of gender.
There are a number of Irish surnames derived from Norse personal
names, including Mac Suibhne (Sweeney) from Swein and McAuliffe from
"Olaf". The name Cotter, local to County Cork, derives from the Norse
personal name Ottir. The name Reynolds is an Anglicization of the
Gaelic Mac Raghnaill, itself originating from the Norse names Randal
or Reginald. Though these names were of
Viking derivation some of the
families who bear them appear to have had Gaelic origins.
"Fitz" is an old Norman French variant of the Old French word fils
(variant spellings filz, fiuz, fiz, etc.), used by the Normans,
meaning son. The
Normans themselves were descendants of Vikings, who
had settled in
Normandy and thoroughly adopted the
French language and
culture. With the exception of the Gaelic-Irish Fitzpatrick (Mac
Giolla Phádraig) surname, all names that begin with Fitz –
FitzGerald (Mac Gearailt),
Fitzsimons (Mac Síomóin/Mac an
Ridire) and FitzHenry (Mac Anraí) – are descended from the initial
Norman settlers. A small number of Irish families of Gaelic origin
came to use a Norman form of their original surname—so that Mac
Giolla Phádraig became Fitzpatrick—while some assimilated so well
that the Gaelic name was dropped in favor of a new, Hiberno-Norman
form. Another common Irish surname of Norman Irish origin is the 'de'
habitational prefix, meaning 'of' and originally signifying prestige
and land ownership. Examples include de Búrca (Burke), de Brún, de
Barra (Barry), de Stac (Stack), de Tiúit, de Faoite (White), de
Londras (Landers), de Paor (Power). The Irish surname "Walsh" (in
Gaelic Breathnach) was routinely given to settlers of Welsh origin,
who had come during and after the Norman invasion. The Joyce and
Griffin/Griffith (Gruffydd) families are also of Welsh origin.
The Mac Lochlainn, Ó Maol Seachlainn, Ó Maol Seachnaill, Ó
Conchobhair, Mac Loughlin and Mac Diarmada families, all distinct, are
now all subsumed together as MacLoughlin. The full surname usually
indicated which family was in question, something that has been
diminished with the loss of prefixes such as Ó and Mac. 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 Sionnach (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 migration to
the late 19th and early to mid-20th centuries.
Late Medieval and Tudor Ireland
See also: Gaelic
Ireland and Lordship of Ireland
Gaelic Irish soldiers in the Low Countries, from a drawing of 1521 by
Irish people of the
Late Middle Ages
Late Middle Ages were active as traders on the
European continent. They were distinguished from the English (who
only used their own language or French) in that they only used Latin
abroad—a language "spoken by all educated people throughout
Gaeldom". According to the writer Seumas MacManus, the explorer
Christopher Columbus visited
Ireland to gather information about the
lands to the west, a number of Irish names are recorded on
Columbus' crew roster preserved in the archives of
Madrid and it was
an Irishman named Patrick
Maguire who was the first to set foot in the
Americas in 1492; however, according to Morison and Miss
Gould[clarification needed], who made a detailed study of the crew
list of 1492, no Irish or English sailors were involved in the
An English report of 1515 states that the
Irish people were divided
into over sixty Gaelic lordships and thirty
The English term for these lordships was "nation" or "country".
The Irish term "oireacht" referred to both the territory and the
people ruled by the lord. Literally, it meant an "assembly", where
the Brehons would hold their courts upon hills to arbitrate the
matters of the lordship. Indeed, the Tudor lawyer John Davies
Irish people with respect to their laws:
There is no people under the sun that doth love equal and indifferent
(impartial) justice better than the Irish, or will rest better
satisfied with the execution thereof, although it be against
themselves, as they may have the protection and benefit of the law
upon which just cause they do desire it.
Another English commentator records that the assemblies were attended
by "all the scum of the country"—the labouring population as well as
the landowners. While the distinction between "free" and "unfree"
elements of the
Irish people was unreal in legal terms, it was a
social and economic reality. Social mobility was usually
downwards, due to social and economic pressures. The ruling clan's
"expansion from the top downwards" was constantly displacing commoners
and forcing them into the margins of society.
As a clan-based society, genealogy was all important.
justly styled a "
Nation of Annalists"'. The various branches of
Irish learning—including law, poetry, history and genealogy, and
medicine—were associated with hereditary learned families. The
poetic families included the Uí Dhálaigh (Daly) and the
MacGrath. Irish physicians, such as the O'Briens in
Munster or the
MacCailim Mor in the Western Isles, were renowned in the courts of
England, Spain, Portugal and the Low Countries. Learning was not
exclusive to the hereditary learned families, however; one such
example is Cathal Mac Manus, the 15th century diocesan priest who
wrote the Annals of Ulster. Other learned families included the
Mic Aodhagáin and Clann Fhir Bhisigh. It was this latter family
which produced Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh, the 17th century
genealogist and compiler of the Leabhar na nGenealach. (see also Irish
See also: Plantations of
Ireland and Ulster-Scots
Anglo-Irish scientist and father of chemistry, whose
family obtained land in the plantations
Ireland was subdued by England, the English—under James I of
England (r. 1603–1625), the
Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell
William III of England
William III of England (r. 1689–1702) and their
British successors—began the settling of Protestant Scottish and
English colonists into Ireland, where they settled most heavily in the
northern province of Ulster. 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
Many Gaelic Irish were displaced during the 17th century plantations.
Only in the major part of
Ulster did the plantations of mostly
Scottish prove long-lived; the other three provinces (Connacht,
Leinster, and Munster) remained heavily Gaelic Irish. Eventually, the
Anglo-Irish and Protestant populations of those three provinces
decreased drastically as a result of the political developments in the
early 20th century in Ireland, as well as the Catholic Church's Ne
Temere decree for mixed marriages, which obliged the non-Catholic
partner to have the children raised as Catholics.
See also: United Irishmen, Nicholas Callan, and Protestant Ascendancy
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (February
There have been notable Irish scientists. The
Robert Boyle (1627–1691) is considered the father of chemistry for
his book The Sceptical Chymist, written in 1661. Boyle was an
atomist, and is best known for Boyle's Law. The hydrographer Rear
Francis Beaufort (1774–1857), an Irish naval officer of
Huguenot descent, was the creator of the
Beaufort scale for indicating
George Boole (1815–1864), the mathematician who invented
Boolean algebra, spent the latter part of his life in Cork. The 19th
century physicist George Stoney introduced the idea and the name of
the electron. He was the uncle of another notable physicist, George
Jonathan Swift, one of the foremost prose satirists in the English
The Irish bardic system, along with the Gaelic culture and learned
classes, were upset by the plantations, and went into decline. Among
the last of the true bardic poets were Brian
Mac Giolla Phádraig (c.
Dáibhí Ó Bruadair (1625–1698). The Irish poets
of the late 17th and 18th centuries moved toward more modern dialects.
Among the most prominent of this period were Séamas Dall Mac Cuarta,
Peadar Ó Doirnín, Art Mac Cumhaigh, Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna,
and Seán Clárach Mac Domhnaill. Irish Catholics continued to receive
an education in secret "hedgeschools", in spite of the Penal laws.
A knowledge of
Latin was common among the poor Irish mountaineers in
the 17th century, who spoke it on special occasions, while cattle were
bought and sold in Greek in the mountain market-places of Kerry.
For a comparatively small population of about 6 million people,
Ireland made an enormous contribution to literature. Irish literature
encompasses the Irish and English languages. Notable Irish writers,
playwrights and poets include Jonathan Swift, Laurence Sterne, Oscar
Wilde, Oliver Goldsmith, James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel
Beckett, Bram Stoker, W.B Yeats, Séamus Heaney and Brendan Behan.
Main article: Anti-Irish racism
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (March
The Great Famine / An Górta Mór
Main article: Great Irish Famine
Known as An Górta Mór (The great hunger) in Gaeilge, millions of
Irish people died and emigrated during Ireland's largest famine. The
famine lasted from 1845 - 1849, it was worst during 1847 which was
known as Black '47. The famine occurred due to the extremely
impoverished Irish population's staple food the potato being infected
with Blight. This meant the crop failed and turned black. Starving
people who tried to eat them would only vomit it back up soon
afterwards. Soup kitchens were set up but made little difference. The
English government produced little aid. Sending raw corn known as
'Peel's Brimstone' to Ireland. It was known by this name after the
British PM at the time and the fact that native Irish weren't aware on
how to cook corn. This led to little or no improvement. The British
government set up workhouses which were disease ridden (with cholera,
TB and others) but they also failed as little food was available and
many died on arrival as they were overworked. Some English political
figures at the time saw the famine as a purge from God to exterminate
the majority of the native Irish population.
Irish people emigrated to escape the famine journeying predominantly
to the east coast of the US especially
Boston and New York, Liverpool
in England, Australia,
Canada and New Zealand. Many records show the
majority of emigrants to
Australia were in fact prisoners sent to
assist in the construction of English colonies there. A substantial
proportion of these committed crimes in hopes of being extradited to
Australia. Favouring it to the persecution and hardships they endured
in their homeland. Emigrants travelled on 'Coffin Ships' they were
called this as there were high mortality rates on board. Many died of
disease or starved. Conditions on board were abysmal - tickets were
expensive so stowaways were common, little food stuff was given to
passengers who were simply viewed as cargo in the eyes of the ship
workers. Famous coffin ships include the
Jeanie Johnston and the
There are many statues and memorials in Dublin, New York and other
cities in memory of the famine. The fields of Athenry is a famous song
about the great famine and is often sung at national team sporting
events in memory and homage to those affected by the famine.
The Great famine is one of the biggest events in Irish history and is
ingrained in the identity on the nation to this day. It was a major in
factor in Irish Nationalism and Ireland's fight for Independence
during subsequent rebellions. As many
Irish people felt a stronger
need to regain Independence from English rule.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (February
See also: Partition of Ireland, Irish Free State, Northern Ireland,
and Republic of Ireland
Irish War of Independence
Irish War of Independence (1919–1921) the Anglo-Irish
Treaty was signed which led to the formation of the semi-independent
Irish Free State
Irish Free State (now the independent Republic of Ireland) which
consisted of 26 counties in the south and Donegal in the North-West.
The remaining six counties in the northeast remained in the United
Kingdom as Northern Ireland. It is predominately religion, historical,
and political differences that divide the two communities of
(nationalism and unionism). Four polls taken between 1989 and 1994
revealed that when asked to state their national identity, over 79% of
Northern Irish Protestants replied "British" or "Ulster" with 3% or
less replying "Irish", while over 60% of Northern Irish Catholics
replied "Irish" with 13% or less replying "British" or "Ulster". A
survey in 1999 showed that 72% of Northern Irish Protestants
considered themselves "British" and 2% "Irish", with 68% of Northern
Irish 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".[citation
Demographics of the Republic of Ireland
Demographics of the Republic of Ireland and Demography of
Religions in Ireland
In the Republic of Ireland, as of 2011, 3,861,335 people or about
84.16% of the population are Roman Catholic. In Northern Ireland
about 41.6% of the population are Protestant (19.1% Presbyterian,
13.7% Church of Ireland, 3.0% Methodist, 5.8% Other Christian) whilst
approximately 40.8% are Catholic as of 2011.
International Eucharistic Congress
International Eucharistic Congress was held in
1932, that year being the supposed 1,500th anniversary of Saint
Ireland was then home to 3,171,697 Catholics, about
a third of whom attended the Congress. It was noted in Time
Magazine that the Congress' special theme would be "the Faith of the
Irish." The massive crowds were repeated at Pope John Paul II's
Mass in Phoenix Park in 1979. The idea of faith has affected the
question of Irish identity even in relatively recent times, apparently
more so for Catholics and Irish-Americans. Today the majority of Irish
people in the
Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland identify as Catholic, although
church attendance have significantly dropped in recent decades. In
Northern Ireland, where almost 50% of the population is Protestant,
there has also been a decline in attendances.
What defines an Irishman? His faith, his place of birth? What of the
Irish-Americans? Are they Irish? Who is more Irish, a Catholic
Irishman such as
James Joyce who is trying to escape from his
Catholicism and from his Irishness, or a Protestant Irishman like
Oscar Wilde who is eventually becoming Catholic? Who is more Irish...
someone like C.S. Lewis, an
Ulster Protestant, who is walking towards
it, even though he never ultimately crosses the threshold?
This has been a matter of concern over the last century for the
followers of nationalist ideologists such as DP Moran.
Thomas Davis, a prominent Protestant Irish nationalist who founded the
Ireland movement, identified the Irish as a Celtic nation.
He estimated that ethnically, 5/6ths of the nation were either of
Gaelic Irish-origin, descended from returned Scottish
much of the
Ulster Scots) and some Celtic Welsh (such as his own
ancestors and those carrying surnames such as Walsh and
Griffiths). As part of this he was a staunch supporter of the
Irish language as the "national language". In regards to the
Germanic minority in
Ireland (of Norman and
Anglo-Saxon origin) he
believed that they could be assimilated into Irishness if they had a
"willingness to be part of the Irish Nation."
Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland and the
United Kingdom joined the European
Community in 1973, and Irish citizens became additionally Citizens of
European Union with the
Maastricht Treaty signed in 1992. This
brought a further question for the future of Irish identity; whether
Ireland was "closer to
Boston than to Berlin:"
History and geography have placed
Ireland in a very special location
between America and Europe... As
Irish people our relationships with
United States and the
European Union are complex. Geographically
we are closer to
Berlin than Boston. Spiritually we are probably a lot
Boston than Berlin. – Mary Harney, Tánaiste, 2000
Main article: Irish diaspora
See also: Irish American, Irish Argentine, Irish Chilean, Irish
Australian, Irish Brazilian, Irish Canadian, Irish Mexicans, Irish
people in Jamaica, Irish community in Britain, Scots-Irish American,
The neutrality of this section is disputed. Relevant discussion may be
found on the talk page. Please do not remove this message until
conditions to do so are met. (July 2015) (Learn how and when to remove
this template message)
General The 1st Duke of Tetuan, Grandee of
Spain and President of the
Council of Ministers of Spain
Irish diaspora consists of Irish emigrants and their descendants
in countries such as the United States, Great Britain, Canada,
Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and nations of the Caribbean
Jamaica and Barbados. These countries all have large
minorities of Irish descent, who in addition form the core of the
Catholic Church in those countries.
Many famous and influential figures have claimed Irish ancestry such
as Che Guvara, Walt Disney, Barack Obama, JFK,
Muhammad Ali and
Maréchal The 1st Duke of Magenta, the second President of the Third
Irish people were also transported to the island of Montserrat,
to work as indentured servants, exiled prisoners or slaves. Unlike
African chattel slaves, the majority of Irish labourers who were sent
Montserrat did so by personal choice although they were tricked
into doing so by the promise of payment and land of which they did not
receive. Some were exiled by the English
Oliver Cromwell due to
the large Irish population and their attempted rebellion on 17 March
1768. To this day, the Island celebrates
St. Patrick's Day
St. Patrick's Day as a public
holiday to commemorate the event. People of Irish descent also
feature strongly in
Latin America, especially in
important minorities in Brazil, Chile, and Mexico. In 1995, President
Mary Robinson reached out to the "70 million people worldwide who
can claim Irish descent." Today the diaspora is believed to
contain an estimated 80 million people.
Maréchal The 1st Duke of Magenta, military commander and, later,
President of the French Republic
There are also large Irish communities in some mainland European
countries, notably in Spain,
France and Germany. Between 1585 and
1818, over half a million Irish departed
Ireland to serve in the wars
on the Continent, in a constant emigration romantically styled the
"Flight of the Wild Geese" and, before that, in the 'Flight of the
Earls', just before the Plantation of Ulster. In the early years
of the English Civil War, a French traveller remarked that the Irish
"are better soldiers abroad than at home". Later, Irish brigades
Spain fought in the Wars of the Spanish and Austrian
Succession and the Napoleonic Wars. In the words of Field Marshal
The 1st Duke of Wellington, the Irish-born 'Iron Duke', a notable
representative of the Irish military diaspora, "
Ireland was an
inexhaustible nursery for the finest soldiers".
The British Legion were units that fought under Simón Bolívar
Spain for the independence of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador,
and Peru. Venezuelans called them the
Albion Legion. They were
composed of over seven thousand volunteers, mainly Napoleonic War
Great Britain and Ireland. Volunteers in the British
Legion were motivated by a combination of both genuine political and
mercenary motives. The most famous cause of emigration was the
Great Famine of the late 1840s. A million are thought to have
Liverpool as a result of the famine. For both the
Ireland and those in the resulting diaspora, the famine
entered folk memory and became a rallying point for various
John Carroll, first Roman Catholic bishop and archbishop in the United
People of Irish descent are the second largest self-reported ethnic
group in the United States, after German Americans. Nine of the
signatories of the
American Declaration of Independence
American Declaration of Independence were of Irish
origin. Among them was the sole Catholic signatory, Charles
Carroll of Carrollton, whose family were the descendants of Ely
O'Carroll, an Irish prince who had suffered under Cromwell. At
least twenty-five presidents of the
United States have some Irish
ancestral origins, including George Washington. Since
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy took office in 1961, every American President (with
the exception of Gerald Ford and Donald Trump) has had some Irish
blood. An Irish-American, James Hoban, was the designer of
the White House. Commodore John Barry, who was born in County Wexford,
was the father of the
United States Navy.
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy visiting the John Barry Memorial in Wexford, Ireland
In the mid-19th century, large numbers of Irish immigrants were
Irish regiments of the
United States Army at the time
of the Mexican-American War. The vast majority of the 4,811 Irish-born
soldiers served in the U.S. Army, but some defected to the Mexican
Army, primarily to escape mistreatment by Anglo-Protestant officers
and the strong anti-Catholic discrimination in America. These
were the San Patricios, or Saint Patrick's Battalion—a group of
Irish led by Galway-born John O'Riley, with some German, Scottish and
American Catholics. They fought until their surrender at the
decisive Battle of Churubusco, and were executed outside
by the American government on 13 September 1847. The battalion is
Mexico each year on 12 September.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, 300,000 free emigrants and 45,000
Ireland to settle in Australia. Today, Australians
of Irish descent are one of the largest self-reported ethnic groups in
Australia, after English and Australian. In the 2006 Census, 1,803,741
residents identified themselves as having Irish ancestry either alone
or in combination with another ancestry. However this figure does
not include Australians with an Irish background who chose to nominate
themselves as 'Australian' or other ancestries. The Australian embassy
Dublin states that up to 30 percent of the population claim some
degree of Irish ancestry.
It is believed that as many as 30,000
Irish people emigrated to
Argentina between the 1830s and the 1890s. This was encouraged by
the clergy, as they considered a Catholic country, Argentina,
preferable to a Protestant United States. This flow of emigrants
dropped sharply when assisted passage to
Australia was introduced at
which point the Argentine government responded with their own scheme
and wrote to Irish bishops, seeking their support. However, there was
little or no planning for the arrival of a large number of immigrants,
no housing, no food. Many died, others made their way to the
United States and other destinations, some returned to Ireland, a few
remained and prospered.
Thomas Croke Archbishop of Cashel, said: "I
most solemnly conjure my poorer countrymen, as they value their
happiness hereafter, never to set foot on the Argentine Republic
however tempted to do so they may be by offers of a passage or an
assurance of comfortable homes." Some famous Argentines of Irish
descent include Che Guevara, former president Edelmiro Julián
Farrell, and admiral William Brown. There are people of Irish descent
all over South America, such as the Chilean liberator Bernardo
O'Higgins and the Peruvian photographer Mario Testino. Although some
Irish retained their surnames intact, others were assimilated into the
Spanish vernacular. The last name O'Brien, for example, became
People of Irish descent are also one of the largest self-reported
ethnic groups in Canada, after English, French and Scottish Canadians.
As of 2006,
Irish Canadians number around 4,354,155.
Ethnic groups in Europe
List of Americans of Irish descent
List of expatriate Irish populations
List of Ireland-related topics
List of Irish people
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