Irish people

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Irish people
Muintir na hÉireann
Patrick Pearse.png Cathal Brugha.png Image-File Sands Bobby 050581.jpg
Patrick Pearse Cathal Brugha Bobby Sands
Seán Mac Diarmada.png Oliver J. Flanagan.png Arthur Griffith.png
Seán Mac Diarmada Oliver J. Flanagan Arthur Griffith
Total population
Estimated 80,000,000 people who claim Irish ancestry[1]
Regions with significant populations
 United States 40,000,000+ [2]
United Kingdom Great Britain 14,000,000 [3]
 Australia 7,000,000 [4]
 Canada 4,354,155 [5]
 Argentina 1,000,000 [6]
 Mexico 600,000
Other Regions

Irish, Shelta, Hiberno-English


Catholic, Pagan, Atheist

Related ethnic groups

Highland Scots, Manx (see also Irish diaspora)

* Around 800,000 Irish born people reside in Britain, with around 14,000,000 people claiming Irish ancestry.[7]

The Irish people (Irish: Muintir na hÉireann, na hÉireannaigh, na Gaedhil) are an ethnic group whose homeland is Ireland, an island in northwestern Europe. They are the core element of the Gaelic people. Ireland has been populated for around 9,000 years (according to archaeological studies, see Prehistoric Ireland), with the Irish people's earliest ancestors recorded[8] have legends of being descended from groups such as the Nemedians, Fomorians, Fir Bolgs, Tuatha Dé Danann and the Milesians the last grouprepresenting the pure Gaelic ancestry, and still serving as a term for the Irish race today. The main groups that interacted with the Irish in the Middle Ages include the Highland Scots and the Vikings, with the Icelanders especially having some Irish descent.

The Anglo-Norman invasion of the High Middle Ages, the plantations created by them and the subsequent rule by the Anglo-Norman monarchy introduced the Normans and Flemish into Ireland, however they were never considered part of the Irish people and were known even in early modern times as "Old English". Later, the plantation of Lowland Scots on stolen landscape in Ulster led to the birth of the Ulster-Scots, who are not really seen as true Irish. Small numbers of Welsh, Picts, Bretons, Gauls and Anglo-Saxons are known in Ireland in tiny numbers from earlier times, but are not known to have left any clans.

There have been many notable Irish people throughout history. The 6th century Irish monk and missionary Columbanus is regarded as one of the "fathers of Europe",[9] followed by Kilian of Würzburg and Vergilius of Salzburg. The scientist Robert Boyle is considered the "father of chemistry". Famous Irish explorers include Brendan the Navigator, Ernest Shackleton, and Tom Crean. By some accounts, the first European child born in North America had Irish descent on both sides;[10] while an Irishman was also the first to set foot on American soil in Columbus' expedition of 1492.[11]

Until the end of the early modern period, the majority of educated Irish were proficient at both speaking and writing in Latin and Greek.[12] Notable Irish writers in the English language include Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift, James Joyce, Flann O'Brien, Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett, Patrick Kavanagh and Seamus Heaney. Some of the 20th century writers in the Irish language include Brian O'Nolan (aka Flann O'Brien), Máirtín Ó Cadhain, Pádraic Ó Conaire, Tomás Ó Criomhthain, Peig Sayers, Muiris Ó Súilleabháin and Máirtín Ó Direáin.

Large populations of people of Irish ethnicity live in many western countries, particularly in English-speaking countries. Historically, emigration has been caused by politics, famine and economic issues. An estimated 80 million people make up the Irish diaspora today, which includes Great Britain, Australia, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand, Mexico, France, Germany and Brazil. The largest number of people of Irish descent are said to live in the United States—but the number of this is highly conflated; some people on English American ancestry claim to be Irish American for reasons of constructing a more romantic identity, rather than scientific analysis of paternal Gaelic bloodlines.


  1. The island history,
  2. American FactFinder, United States Census Bureau. U.S. Census Bureau, 2007. Retrieved on 2010-05-30.
  3. "One in four Britons claim Irish roots". BBC News. 2001-03-16. Retrieved 2010-03-28. 
  5. Ethnocultural portrait of Canada. Statistics Canada (2006). Retrieved on 2008-07-04.
  6. An Irish Argentine in the Easter Rising
  7. Bowcott, Owen (2006-09-13). "More Britons applying for Irish passports | UK news |". The Guardian (London).,,1871753,00.html. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
  8. Boylan, Henry (1998). A Dictionary of Irish Biography, 3rd Edition. Dublin: Gill and MacMillan, xvi. ISBN 0-7171-2945-4. 
  9. Pope Calls Irish Monk a Father of Europe. Zenit (2007-07-11). Retrieved on 2007-07-15.
  10. Smiley, p 630
  11. MacManus, p 343-344
  12. MacManus, pp 215; 221–222; 461–462
Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.
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