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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Irish Diaspora
Irish British

1st row: Aidan of LindisfarneColumbaCharlotte BrontëArthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of WellingtonKate Bush
2nd row: Lewis CarrollPeter O'TooleAlfred HitchcockSean ConneryWayne Rooney
3rd row: Edmund BurkeJohn LennonAnthony HopkinsNoel GallagherPete Doherty

Total population
869,093 Irish-born[1]
(1.4% of the British population)
6,000,000 with at least 25% Irish ancestry[1]
(10% of the British population)
14,000,000 with less than 25% Irish ancestry[2]
(24% of the British population)
Regions with significant populations
Throughout Great Britain, especially London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow.

English · Irish · Shelta

Related ethnic groups

Irish people · Overseas Irish

Irish people in Great Britain are members of the Irish diaspora who reside in Great Britain, the largest island and principal territory of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Irish have a long history in Great Britain, owing to the close proximity of the islands of Ireland and Great Britain, and the various political entities that have ruled them. Ireland was a feudal Lordship of the Kings of England between 1171 and 1541; a Kingdom in personal union with the Kingdom of England and Kingdom of Great Britain between 1542 and 1801; and politically united with Great Britain as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland between 1801 and 1922. Today, Ireland is divided between the independent Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland, which remains part of the UK.

Today, millions of residents of Great Britain are either from the island of Ireland or have Irish ancestry. It's estimated that as many as six million people living in Great Britain have an Irish grandparent.[3] The Irish-born population in Britain is the world's third largest overseas community of any country-of-birth group behind Mexican Americans and Turks in Germany.[4]



Irish people have been the largest minority group in Britain for centuries, regularly migrating across the Irish Sea. From the earliest recorded history to the present, there has been a continuous movement of people between the islands of Ireland and Great Britain due to their proximity. This tide has ebbed and flowed in response to politics, economics and social conditions of both places.

The most significant exodus followed the worst of a series of potato crop failures in the 1840s - the Great Famine. It is estimated that more than one million people died, and almost the same again emigrated. A further wave of emigration to England also took place between the 1930s and 1960s by Irish escaping poor economic conditions following the establishment of the Irish Free State. This was furthered by the severe labour shortage in Britain during the mid-twentieth century, which depended largely on Irish immigrants to work in the areas of construction and domestic labour. The extent of the Irish contribution to Britain's construction industry in the 20th century may be gauged from Sir William MacAlpine's 1998 assertion that the contribution of the Irish to the success of his industry had been 'immeasurable'. Ireland's population fell from more than 8 million to just 6.5 million from 1841-51. A century later it had dropped to 4.3 million. By the late 19th century, emigration was heaviest from Ireland's most rural southern and western counties. Cork, Kerry, Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Tipperary and Limerick alone provided nearly half of Ireland's emigrants. Some of this movement was temporary, made up of seasonal harvest labourers working in Britain and returning home for winter and spring. By the mid-1930s, Great Britain was the choice of many who had to leave Ireland. Britain's wartime economy (1939-45) and post-war boom attracted many Irish people to expanding towns such as London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Luton.

According to the UK 2001 Census, white Irish-born residents make up 1.2% of those living in England and Wales.[5] In 1997, the Irish Government in its White Paper on Foreign Policy claimed that there were around two million Irish citizens living in Britain, the majority of them British-born.[citation needed]


The terms 'British Irish' and 'Irish Briton' are not normally used for Britons of Irish ancestry; it is most often applied to politically and culturally pro-British Unionists in both the Republic and Northern Ireland. It is more common for people of Irish descent within Great Britain to describe themselves as "English/Scottish/Welsh of Irish heritage" or "English/Scottish/Welsh Irish", than British.[citation needed] The term 'London Irish' relates to people born in London of Irish descent[6] . London has Great Britain's biggest Irish population and the Irish community in London has been traditionally based in the (affectionately known) 'County Kilburn' area of North West London. With urban gentrification and higher housing costs, the vast majority of London's working-class Irish-Catholic community have moved further out from Kilburn to Cricklewood. The Camden Town area of London, as well as Shepherds Bush were also known for their large Irish communities.

Irish in Britain


Irish in England

In 2001, there were 674,786 people in England (1.4 per cent of the population) who had been born in Ireland. This is the greatest concentration of Irish-born—as distinct from persons of Irish ancestry—abroad anywhere in the world and was equivalent to 12.1% of the population of the island of Ireland (5.6 million) in 2001.

Sports teams with links to the Irish community also exist in England, although this is not as marked as in Scotland. In football, Everton, Arsenal and Aston Villa have a tradition of representing the Irish communities in their area. For example, Arsenal has featured ethnically Irish players such as Terry Neill, Pat Rice, Niall Quinn, David O'Leary and Graham Barrett. Aston Villa has featured many Irish players such as Steve Staunton, Paul McGrath, Richard Dunne and current manager Martin O'Neill. Aston Villa have a large Irish following in the West Midlands which has the highest proportion of Irish people in the UK. Everton F.C. were originally known as Liverpool's Irish Catholic team and have notably produced Wayne Rooney who is of Irish descent; however, that is no longer the case as both Liverpool F.C. and Everton today no longer carry signs of sectarian identity. With the managership of Sir Matt Busby, Manchester United also emerged as a club with a considerable Irish following both in Great Britain and in Ireland itself as well as having notable Irish stars like George Best, Norman Whiteside, Mal Donaghy, Dennis Irwin, Roy Keane, and recently John O Shea. In Rugby league, Dewsbury Celtic represented the large Irish community in Dewsbury, and St Helens RLFC represent communities in Merseyside. The rugby union club London Irish represents the community in London. There is also a GAA Londáin (London in Irish) team representing the GAA clubs in London, that plays in the Connacht province (in Gaelic football) and Ulster (in hurling); see London GAA.

Liverpool traditionally is known as having the strongest Irish heritage of any British city. The Irish have played a major role in Liverpool's population and social fabric for a good part of the city's eight-hundred year history. Most Liverpudlians are of at least partial Irish ancestry. The Irish influence is heard in the local Liverpool dialect, often called Scouse, and seen in the faces and names of the populace. At least three of Liverpool's most famous citizens, the Beatles, had some Irish ancestry. George Harrison was of maternal Irish-Catholic derivation. Bandmate Paul McCartney had one Northern Irish grandfather and an Irish great-grandfather. John Lennon's paternal great-grandparents were protestants from Northern Ireland.

Birmingham has a large Irish community, with the UK's largest St Patrick Day's Parade (third largest Worldwide) and a thriving Irish Quarter. Irish people have always moved to Birmingham for work especially for the construction, factory and industrial work which the city had to offer. Many Irish people moved to Birmingham to build canals, roads and railways in the past. It is estimated a large percentage of people from Birmingham have Irish ancestry. St Chad's Cathedral is one of only two of the minor Basilicas in the UK. It is very important as the first Cathloic Church built in Britain after the English Reformation it was designed by the world famous architect Pugin. The West Midlands has the highest concentration of Irish people in the UK. [2]

Liverpool's near neighbour, Manchester, also has strong Irish connections. It has been estimated that around 35% of Manchester's population has some Irish ancestry. As in Liverpool, city residents of Irish heritage have been influential in the music industry. All four members of The Smiths had Irish roots, as do the Gallagher brothers of the band Oasis. [3] Manchester's Irish Festival, including a St Patrick's Day parade, is one of Europe's largest.

Irish in Scotland

There are long standing migration links between Scotland and the province of Ulster, including between County Donegal, County Antrim, County Down and the west of Scotland. Considering the Dal Riada kingdoms and the Irishisation of Scotland in the early Middle Ages, it is difficult to determine how many Scots have genetic ancestry from Ireland historically or how many were Picts who adopted Irish lifestyles, although the general consensus is that both happened as Pictish culture vanished by the 11th century. In 2001, around 55,000 people in Scotland (1.1 per cent of the Scottish population) had been born in Ireland, while people of Irish (either Protestant or Catholic) heritage make up 20% of the Scottish population. Scotland has a greater number of persons born in Northern Ireland (0.66 per cent) than in the Republic of Ireland (0.43%). Despite having lower than average numbers of Irish people resident the Lanarkshire town of Coatbridge are more than 50% catholic.[7] The town is populated by the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th generation children of Irish immigrants. In 2006 more than 28% of adults in Coatbridge had surnames with Irish origins.[8] Coatbridge holds the largest St. Patrick's Day Festival in Scotland.

Famous Scots of Irish-Catholic ancestry include actors Sean Connery and Robbie Coltrane; comedian Billy Connolly, singer Susan Boyle and author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Support for particular football teams often reflects Catholic or Protestant heritage. Celtic F.C. are overwhelmingly supported by people from a Catholic background. Hibernian F.C. and Dundee United F.C. were formed as clubs representing Irish Catholics, however there is little vestige of these founding values today. Teams such as Dundee F.C., Heart of Midlothian F.C. and Lanarkshire teams such as Motherwell FC and Airdrie United are perceived by some as Protestant clubs, with Rangers F.C being the overwhelmingly Protestant supported club in Scotland.

Today a very small minority of the Irish Catholic community in Scotland take part in Irish republican marches (mainly in Strathclyde) though these marches do not have exclusively Catholics in attendance with many Protestants and others of various faiths or none involved, and the Orange Order has a large membership in Scotland, predominantly in Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire. As well as Scotland's own parades, many Scottish bands parade in Northern Ireland on or around July 12.

Irish in Wales

Starting in the 4th century CE, Irish raiders settled Wales extensively, their impact being so great that many Gaelic words were introduced into the Welsh language.[9] Many Irish emigrants came to Wales as a result of the famine of 1845-52. They were often very poor, and seen as carrying "famine fever" (typhus), but over time they acquired a notable presence—in the thousands, particularly in the Welsh coal mining towns in and around Swansea and Newport. In 2001 there were 20,569 people in Wales (0.7% of the population) who had been born in Ireland[citation needed].

Probably one of the most famous Welsh nationals of Irish-Catholic ancestry is screen actress Catherine Zeta-Jones.

2001 Census

The 2001 UK census was the first which allowed British citizens to express an Irish ethnicity. In all previous British censuses, figures for the Irish community were based on Irish birthplace.

In 2001, the percentage claiming Irish ethnicity in England and Wales were 1.2%, while the figure for Scotland was 0.98%. These figures indicate that the great majority of Britons of Irish descent don't regard themselves as having an Irish ethnicity. The Irish have been the largest source of immigrants to Britain for over 200 years and as many as 6,000,000 Britons currently have at least one Irish grandparent (including nearly everybody living in Northern Ireland, of course)[3]. Perhaps one in four Britons may claim some degree of Irish ancestry although there's no reliable hard data on the question.[2]

The distributions across the country were:

  • Urban areas:

3.07% of Londoners were Irish (of 7,172,036 inhabitants), 4.65% of Luton, 4.15% of Southampton, 3.77% of Manchester, 1.2% of Liverpool, 3.46% of Coventry, 3.22% of Birmingham, 2.89% of Watford, 2.8% of Trafford, 2.28% of Corby, 2.19% of Hertsmere, 2.07% of Solihull, 2% of Warwick, 1.98% of Glasgow, 1.64% of West Dunbartonshire and 1.44% of Edinburgh.[citation needed]

  • Regions:

1.39% of the West Midlands, 0.85% of the East Midlands 1.15% of North West England, 0.35% of North East England, 1.14% of East of England, 0.66% in Yorkshire and the Humber, 1.03% of South East England, 0.66% in South West England, and 0.61% in Wales.[citation needed]

Places with significant Irish population

See also mainland UK list: Lists of U.K. locations with large Irish populations

There are many people in Great Britain with Irish ancestry and they are found mainly in the following towns and cities:

Culture and influence

Saint Patrick's Day is widely celebrated throughout Great Britain, owing to many British people's ancestral links with Ireland as well as the general popularity of the event. The biggest celebrations take part in London and Birmingham where over 400,000 people in each city attend the parades. Liverpool and Manchester also have big St Patrick's day parties.

Contributions to literature and the arts

Notable Britons with Irish ancestry


See also


  1. ^ The article "More Britons applying for Irish passports" states that 6 million Britons have either an Irish grandfather or grandmother and are thus able to apply for Irish citizenship. [4].

Further reading

  • Belchem, John (2007). Irish, Catholic and Scouse: The History of the Liverpool-Irish, 1800-1939. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. 

External links


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