Stepping Out of Stereotypes of Ireland


Ireland means the world to me and I am passionate about the place but I have a serious problem with stereotypical images of the country and her people.

Oh there’s all the stuff about:

  • Paddy the Irishman
  • Irish Mammies
  • Ireland and potatoes
  • Drunken Irish
  • Traffic jams in Ireland involving a few sheep on the road
  • Leprechauns
  • The ‘begorra’ Irish accent
  • The Island of Saints and Scholars
  • The ‘gift of the gab’
  • The laid back ‘ah sure it’ll be alright on the night’ attitude of Irish people

I could go on and on about the stereotypes but let me just say that Ireland is full of diversity in terms of her people: their attitudes, personalities, backgrounds, social histories, aspirations, interests …..

Ireland has her shadowlands, like every other country, but she also has magnificence in all sorts of ways.

I suspect my sensitivity about the stereotypes is partly due to the facts that: firstly, my parents were of mixed religious marriage (thus giving me insight into different versions of our history and tradition);  secondly, having lived in lots of different parts of Ireland; and thirdly, being a Sociologist by profession.

The complexity and diversity within Ireland  is something that I love and cherish. I guess the only stereotype that is pretty much true is about the forty shades of green in the country.

Newtown 9
Newtown Wood, Tramore, Co. Waterford

When I chose Stepping Out as my theme words for 2015, I knew that I would have to include this very traditional Irish song fairly early on. I can’t but smile as I listen to it again as sums up so much of the stereotypes that are belted out and which still make the feet tap!





Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.

49 thoughts on “Stepping Out of Stereotypes of Ireland”

  1. Actually Jean, i haven’t heard any of those stereotpes of the Irish here in Canada.You get indivuduals of that type in every society, but they are in the minority. Basically fom here, the Irish are seen as hard working, smart workers, strong work ethic, srong history, a country with a good and reliable infrastructure. We studied various cultures in B-school for investment opportunities and ireland came out on top. it is seen as a safe place to invest capital with good returns because of good productivity. It is a good mix of agricultural and industrial with a well educated citizenry. Communications systems are solid and dependable and Ireland is seen as a good place for a call center on the continent. It is wired for internet commerce and many citizens ar on-line.

    Anyway, it is known as being green and wet with a hard working populace.

  2. The 40 shades of green is not a bad stereotype to have 🙂 I understand some of your indignation, being a northerner – we, of course, have our own stereotypes – though perhaps not as many as Ireland does.

  3. Whoops and I posted a pic today about an Irish traffic jam involving cows. To be fair though in our neck of the woods most of the traffic jams involve cows, sheep or tractors.

  4. It seems there are stereotypes for every place and people. I must admit I do love the traditional Irish music 🙂

  5. Personally I’m jealous that you get to enjoy the beauty of Ireland. I live in a state in the United States that resembles much of the Ireland I was fortunate to visit many years ago (except for the ocean). You are blessed to live in the land of my ancestors.

    1. Hi Sue, oh I know I’m lucky 🍀 as anything to live in Ireland. Wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world. You’re State sounds great but I can’t manage without the ocean. That has caused all sorts of issues down the years!

  6. I understand where you are coming from… being a Canadian with Irish ancestry, my mother and her siblings saw/ heard much of this. Some of these are very special and unique to the country and should be acknowledged as such. I think all cultures have their “stereotypes”, which we need to put into perspective…My sons and I visited Ireland in 2002, after my husband passed and we have never felt so welcome and treated so well.. it was a great trip, with us not wanting to go back to Canada. The Irish has a ” beautiful, outgoing charm” about them, that can’t be matched many places in the world. They are warm, beautiful people… 🙂

  7. You’ll have a cup of tea.Won’t you,you will you will awe go on. .. 😉 seriously all those things annoy me too. There is so much to celebrate the emerald isle. xxxx

  8. I so get you. I lived in Australia in my early 20s and I freaked out at their ‘top of the morning’ ridicule of me.
    However I also discovered that they believed it was okay to serve one teeny potatoe for dinner, I married a man who lives by ‘yerrah it’ll be grand’ and I missed at least four trains from Tralee to Dublin due to sheep. i also became aware, while living in Australia, that not everyone tells as many stories as I do!
    Yet knowing all that I still shouted to myself on reading your post, ‘Yes I so agree with you!’.

  9. To be sure you’d expect me to pipe up on this, wouldn’t you Jean? My much-travelled brother claims that there is truth underlying ALL national stereotypes.
    Almost without fail the Irish people are welcoming to visitors. They’re not afraid of hard work. Many do binge drink to excess – no occasion can be celebrated without a drink. Clannish, with a fierce loyalty to village, town and county. Cute in business. Politicians serve themselves not the people. Gift of the gab certainly. Success still tends to be begrudged. If that all sounds too negative I’d live there again in a heartbeat.
    Not so many sheep, nobody says begorra, the dancing at the crossroads has finished.

    Love The High Kings – taking Irish folk music on from where The Chieftains and The Dubliners left off 🙂

  10. Begorra, I knew this would draw a response from you, Roy.
    Glad to know you’d be back in a heartbeat. We’ll have a twirl at the crossroads where Co. Waterford joins hands with Co. Cork!

  11. In my years of nursing, I found the Irish hard working and in possession of the best of bedside manners! Yes, some of them drank like fish when off duty, but few of them signed in sick the next day, unlike the Brits.
    So many brilliant writers and artists have heralded from Ireland and still do.
    Also my very best friend, who I’ve known for over 30 years, comes from the West coast of Ireland.
    But I have to tell you that when I was 19, I had a crush on an Irishman who told the most corny, stereotyping jokes about the English, which I found very funny as it seemed fair vengeance for all of those Paddy jokes I’d heard in British pubs!

          1. Nothing, unfortunately. He belonged to an astronomy society in Yorkshire and I belonged to one in Sussex, which meant that I eventually had to go home and he wasn’t into writing letters (no computers then!) so that was it D:

  12. Very much enjoyed this post ~ my Irish ancestory is something I am proud of, and these stereotypes are funny ~ and even something I am very proud of as well… You definitely have a good take on the culture with parents who were of mixed religion ~ never knew much of the history until when I was young I read Leon Uris’ Trinity which was incredible.

    1. Hi Dalo, thanks for writing. It’s interesting that you”re proud of the stereotypes!

      Yes, the history of Ireland is extremely complex and having parents of mixed religion was a major eye opener, especially at a time when such marriages were very rare.

  13. You have got me thinking Jean – I am very fond of Ireland, its people and its places. I am particularly fond of Dublin, Cork and Galway and the great thing is, unlike many European cities, I can understand exactly what everyone is saying 🙂 … which means I don’t have to trudge the streets sightseeing, I can go to the cinema and theatre. And then there is your music – wonderful. My Dad always reckoned we had Irish blood – all because of the surname ‘Down’ – loads of Downes and Downs but not many of us in the singular 🙂 I will stop rambling now 😀

    1. Hi Robin, great to hear from you. I’m fascinated that you can understand most of the Irish accents. I have serious problems with some ~ which will remain unmentioned!

      Yes, I know lots of Downes but none in the singular. Must keep my eyes and ears open for one.

  14. Even acknowledging its diversity, I like the stereotypes too, Jean. Many of them convey cultural charm as well as historical relevance — some with fun twists. I will always cherish the stories that my grandparents told, whether they were true accounts or embellished with some green blarney.

      1. Funny the difference between what I heard and learned from my relatively demure grandmother and the classic Hibernian storyteller that was her husband, my grandfather. She tended to stick to her core roots and deeply embedded family tales and he, I never knew what was truth, lore, and/or a grand mix. I loved it all and miss them both.

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