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'Ireland sober is Ireland stiff' - and 29 other great quotes about Ireland and the Irish


Fr Ted School of Politics: The deftly evasive philosophy which was painstakingly drummed into the pickled brain of Father Jack

Fr Ted School of Politics: The deftly evasive philosophy which was painstakingly drummed into the pickled brain of Father Jack



Her own woman: Edna O’Brien in London in 1971, the year before Night was published. Photo: John Minihan.

Her own woman: Edna O’Brien in London in 1971, the year before Night was published. Photo: John Minihan.

Dara O Briain

Dara O Briain

James Joyce

James Joyce

WB Yeats

WB Yeats

National Portrait Gallery London

Tommy Tiernan

Tommy Tiernan

Peter O'Toole in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. Photo: Popperfoto

Peter O'Toole in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. Photo: Popperfoto

Author Colm Toibin

Author Colm Toibin

Sinead O'Connor at Vicar Street last night. Photo: El Keegan

Sinead O'Connor at Vicar Street last night. Photo: El Keegan


Fr Ted School of Politics: The deftly evasive philosophy which was painstakingly drummed into the pickled brain of Father Jack

Some of the best quotes by, and about, Irish people...

'When anyone asks me about the Irish character, I say look at the trees. Maimed, stark and misshapen, but ferociously tenacious.”

EDNA O'BRIEN, author of The Country Girls, was born in 1930 at Tuamgraney, County Clare.


'There are three states of legality in Irish law. There is all this stuff here under "That's grand"; then it moves into "Ah, now, don't push it"; and finally to "Right! You're taking the p-ss." And that's where the police sweep in.'

Comedian and TV presenter DARA O'BRIAIN was born in 1972, in Bray, County Wicklow.


'I am Irish by race but the English have condemned me to talk the language of Shakespeare.'

OSCAR WILDE (1854-1900), born Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde in Dublin, was a poet, playwright and novelist.


'Ireland sober is Ireland stiff.'

JAMES JOYCE, born James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (1882-1941) in Dublin, was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century and is best known for Ulysses (1922).


'Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.'

Poet WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS (1865-1939) was born in Sandymount, County Dublin.


'Irish women are always carrying water on their heads, and always carrying their husbands home from pubs. Such things are the greatest posture-builders in the world.'

Actor PETER O'TOOLE (1932-2013).


'An Irish sat nav has a yearly update and the immortal phrases "Straight on, you can't miss it" and "Jaysis, I told you that already". Though really you'd probably just get all the directions in one go at the start.'

Irish comedian TOMMY TIERNAN, seen above with his 1998 Perrier Comedy Award, was born in Carndonagh, County Donegal in 1969.


'I think being a woman is like being Irish . . . Everyone says you're important and nice, but you take second place all the time.'

JEAN IRIS MURDOCH, author of Under the Net, was born in Phibsborough, Dublin, in 1919 and died in 1999.


'Many people die of thirst but the Irish are born with one.'

Comedian and writer SPIKE MILLIGAN (1918-2002), who took Irish citizenship (his father was Irish) after the British government declared him stateless.


'I was the worst barman who ever lived. My pints of Guinness were unholy.'

COLM TOIBIN was born in County Wexford in 1955. He is a novelist, essayist, playwright and poet.


Father Ted: 'It's not as if everyone's going to go off and join some mad religious cult just because we go off for a picnic for a couple of hours.'

Father Dougal: 'God, Ted, I heard about those cults. Everyone dressing in black and saying our Lord's gonna come back and judge us all!'

Father Ted: 'No... No, Dougal, that's us. That's Catholicism.'

The controversial TV comedy FATHER TED, about Irish priests, was set on the fictional Craggy Island, off Ireland's west coast, and the show starred Dermot Morgan as the Father Ted Crilly, alongside Father Dougal McGuire (Ardal O'Hanlon, top left) and Father Jack Hackett (Frank Kelly, bottom) and their housekeeper Mrs Doyle (Pauline McLynn).


'We have a tradition of passing our history orally and singing a lot of it and writing songs about it and there's kind of a calling in Irish voices when they're singing in their Irish accent.'

SINEAD O'CONNOR, Irish singer born in Glenageary, County Dublin, in 1966, had a global hit with Nothing Compares 2 U.


'Everybody needs a break,

Climb a mountain or jump in a lake.

Sean Doherty goes to the Rose of Tralee,

Oliver J Flanagan goes swimming in the Holy Sea.

But I like the music and the open air,

So every Summer I go to Clare.

Coz Woodstock, Knock nor the Feast of Cana,

Can hold a match to Lisdoonvarna.'

Celebrated Irish singer and songwriter CHRISTY MOORE's famous song about the annual music festival at Lisdoonvarna. Moore was born in Newbridge, County Kildare, in 1945.


'When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood . . . nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying schoolmasters; the English and the terrible things they did to us for 800 long years.'

FRANCIS 'FRANK' McCOURT (1930-2009) was an Irish-American teacher and writer, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his memoir Angela's Ashes. He died in New York.


'This [The Irish] is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever.'

SIGMUND FREUD (1856-1939), the founding father of psychoanalysis.


'I'm Irish. I think about death all the time.'

New Jersey-born actor JACK NICHOLSON (born in 1937 and seen here in About Schmidt) always identified himself as Irish because of his mother's family background.


'It's not that the Irish are cynical. It's rather that they have a wonderful lack of respect for everything and everybody.'

Writer BRENDAN BEHAN (1923-1964) was born in Dublin. He wrote the book Borstal Boy.


'I always call myself an Irish writer. I’m one of the few Irish writers who actually likes the phrase. Since I am an Irishman, I feel I belong to the Irish tradition. I don’t really feel that being Irish is the important thing. What is important is to take Irish provincialism – which is what I happen to know about because it’s what I come from – and to make it universal.'

WILLIAM TREVOR, a master of the modern short story, was born in Mitchelstown, County Cork, in 1928.


'The men are gods here in Ireland, I honestly do believe.'

The character Judith Hearn in Belfast-born BRIAN MOORE'S 1956 novel, later reprinted as The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne and made into a Bafta-winning film starring Maggie Smith and Bob Hoskins.


'Irish males are a piece of work, are they not?'

U2 singer BONO, interviewed by legendary Late Late Show presenter Gay Byrne.


'Dublin University contains the cream of Ireland: Rich and thick.'

Playwright and novelist SAMUEL BECKETT (1906-1989) was born in Dublin.


'It's a big con job. We have sold the myth of Dublin as a sexy place incredibly well; because it is a dreary little dump most of the time.'

RODDY DOYLE, Irish author of The Commitments.


'I was elected by the women of Ireland, who instead of rocking the cradle, rocked the system.'

MARY ROBINSON on being elected Ireland's first woman president in 1990. She is seen here in 1996 with US President Bill Clinton reviewing the troops at Fort Myer.


'Irish Americans are no more Irish than Black Americans are Africans.'

Controversial musician BOB GELDOF, who was born in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin, in 1951.


'The boys of the NYPD choir,

Were singing Galway Bay,

And the bells are ringing out

For Christmas day.'

Shane McGowan and the POGUES with their iconic tale of the American-Irish experience, Fairytale of New York


'The heart of an Irishman is nothing but his imagination.'

Playwright GEORGE BERNARD SHAW (1856-1950) was born in Dublin. He moved to London when he was 20 and later said: 'Put an Irishman on the spit and you can always get another Irishman to turn him.' He helped found the London School of Economics.


'When you do a gig in Ireland everybody in the room already thinks they're funny, so you've got to prove to them that you're funnier.'

Comedian JASON BYRNE, who was born in 1972 in Ballinteer, Dublin.


'I'm Irish, so I'm used to odd stews. I can take it. Just throw a lot of carrots and onions in there and I'll call it dinner.'

Actor LIAM NEESON, who was born in Ballymena, County Antrim, in 1952, won Best Actor at the 1996 Venice Film Festival for his role as Michael Collins, the revolutionary who died in the Irish Civil War.


'I was very proud to be made an honorary Irishman.'

Football manager JACK CHARLTON, who won a World Cup medal as an England player and was later a successful World Cup manager of the Republic of Ireland football team in 1990.


'Oh, Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling,

From glen to glen, and down the mountain side.'

The song Danny Boy (which was actually composed by an English lawyer called Frederic Weatherly in 1910 but written to a melody called The Londonderry Air) is a song played frequently at funerals, including those of John F Kennedy and Elvis Presley. The melody is believed to have been penned by the blind Irish harpist Rory Dall O'Cahan in the late 16th or early 17th Century.