Irish people

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There is one thing that the people of Ireland know how to do and that is to survive. ~ Pierce Brosnan
I never touch a drop when I'm happy. But it's a well-known fact that Irishmen are never happy. —Richard Harris

The Irish are an ethnic group and nation native to the island of Ireland, who share a common 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). From the 9th century, small numbers of Vikings settled in Ireland, becoming the Norse-Gaels. Anglo-Normans conquered parts of Ireland in the 12th century, while England's 16th/17th-century conquest and colonisation of Ireland brought many English and Lowland Scots people to parts of the island, especially the north. Today, Ireland is made up of the 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.


  • What captivity has been to the Jews, exile has been to the Irish. For us, the romance of our native land begins only after we have left home; it is really only with other people that we become Irishmen.
  • Of course there is more to Ireland than water sports. There is also the Irish people, a warm and friendly lot who are constantly saying things like "Begorrah!" Alcohol will do this to people.
    • Dave Barry, Dave Barry's Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need (1991), New York: Fawcett Columbine, p. 142-144
  • Stony seaboard, far and foreign,
    Stony hills poured over space,
    Stony outcrop of the Burren,
    Stones in every fertile place,
    Little fields with boulders dotted,
    Grey-stone shoulders saffron-spotted,
    Stone-walled cabins thatched with reeds,
    Where a Stone Age people breeds
    The last of Europe's stone age race.
    • John Betjeman, "Ireland with Emily", in New Bats in Old Belfries (1945)
  • You know, the great waves of immigration that brought our ancestors to the United States in succeeding decades carried millions more Irishmen across the sea. Most of them arrived with little more than with hope in their hearts and strength of their dreams and beautiful memories of an emerald green isle, a home they would never fully leave behind. I've never met an Irishman in America who doesn't think he—hope he can see Ireland someday. You know, their sweet—or, excuse me, their sweat is soaked with the foundations of communities across the Nation. All across America. You can't go anywhere and not find it. By the way, Tip O'Neill, the former Speaker of the House, used to say that he'd have a—he'd have a reception for all the Irish in the Congress, the House and the Senate, and all those who wished they were Irish.And everybody showed up.
  • Only those without a drop of Celtic blood believe there’s any magic in the Irish.
    • Richard Bowes, If Angels Fight (2008), reprinted in Rich Horton (ed.), The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2009 (p. 461)
  • The ideal Ireland that we would have, the Ireland that we dreamed of, would be the home of a people who valued material wealth only as a basis for right living, of a people who, satisfied with frugal comfort, devoted their leisure to the things of the spirit – a land whose countryside would be bright with cosy homesteads, whose fields and villages would be joyous with the sounds of industry, with the romping of sturdy children, the contest of athletic youths and the laughter of happy maidens, whose firesides would be forums for the wisdom of serene old age. The home, in short, of a people living the life that God desires that men should live. With the tidings that make such an Ireland possible, St. Patrick came to our ancestors fifteen hundred years ago promising happiness here no less than happiness hereafter. It was the pursuit of such an Ireland that later made our country worthy to be called the island of saints and scholars. It was the idea of such an Ireland - happy, vigorous, spiritual - that fired the imagination of our poets; that made successive generations of patriotic men give their lives to win religious and political liberty; and that will urge men in our own and future generations to die, if need be, so that these liberties may be preserved.
  • I must say there is to me nothing more extraordinary than the determination of the Irish people to proclaim to the world that they are a conquered race. I have been always surprised that a people gifted with so much genius, so much sentiment, such winning qualities should be—I am sure they will pardon me saying it; my remark is an abstract and not a personal one—should be so deficient in self-respect. I deny that the Irish people are conquered as they are proud to tell us; I deny that they have any ground for that pride... I deny that the Irish are an ancient nation that have been conquered more than all ancient nations have been. I deny that the Irish have been conquered more than, or even as often, as the English. You never hear of an Englishman going about and boasting of his subjection. He boasts sometimes of having come over with William the Conqueror or rather of his ancestors having done so. The Irish have been conquered by the Normans and so have we, and in modern times I will not deny that Oliver Cromwell conquered Ireland, but it was after he had conquered England. William III could not have succeeded in conquering Ireland if he had not previously conquered England.
  • Charge of inferiority is an old dodge. It has been made available for oppression on many occasions...When England wants to set the heel of her power more firmly in the quivering heart of old Ireland, the Celts are an 'inferior race'... If he knows as much when he is sober as an Irishman knows when drunk, he knows enough to vote.
  • The Irish are not in a conspiracy to cheat the world by false representations of the merits of their countrymen. No, sir, the Irish are a fair people—they never speak well of one another.
  • [T]he hospitable and generous Irishman has almost no friendship for any race but his own. As laborer and politician he detests the Italian. Between him and the German American citizen there is great gulf fixed…but the most naturalized thing for the Americanized Irishman is to drive out all other foreigners, whatever may be their religious tenets.
  • The women of Ireland have been voting and fighting on all kinds of issues. There's no question but that there would be a literature coming out of their experiences.
    • 1993 interview anthologized in Conversations with Grace Paley edited by Gerhard Bach and Blaine Hall (1997)
  • German Bismarck said that the solution of the Irish question lay in having the Irish to swap countries with the Dutch. He added that the Dutch would make Ireland the most beautiful island in the world while the Irish would neglect to mend the dykes left to them by the Dutch and therefore would be drowned.
    • John Green Sims, Whither, World? (Privately published, 1938) p. 78.