Irish Quotes & Quotations


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Enjoy these funny, famous and offbeat Irish quotes and quotations!

"The Irish seem to have more fire about them than the Scots."
- Actor Sean Connery

"The European Union spends most of its time either suing me, torturing me, criticizing me or condemning me for lowering the cost of air travel all over Europe."
- Michael O'Leary, CEO of budget airline Ryannair, who has also called the European Union an "evil empire" where "any hint of innovation is left at the door."

"Remember the Celtic Tiger? Well, she turned out to be a pussycat with a shamrock. Ireland was the hot country of the 2000s as youth from throughout the euro zone flocked there for jobs in finance, software development, restaurants, what have you...That was then. A property bubble burst badly, leaving Irish banks technically insolvent and the government deeply in debt — its ratio of deficit to GDP, at 14.3%, is higher than that of Greece...he Irish government pledges to cut more, but you can’t get blood from a blarney stone."
- Howard Gold, Marketwatch.com 9/27/2010

"The Irish do not want anyone to wish them well; they want everyone to wish their enemies ill."
- Harold Nicolson

"I think there's a bit of the devil in everybody. There's a bit of a priest in everybody, too, but I enjoyed playing the devil more. He was more fun."
- Actor Gabriel Byrne

"There is a courageous wisdom; there is also a false reptile prudence, the result, not of caution, but of fear."
- Edmund Burke

"Though the pen is mightier than the sword, the sword speaks louder and stronger at any given moment."
- Leonard Wibberley, Irish author of comic novel "The Mouse That Roared"

"I had that stubborn streak, the Irish in me I guess."
- Gregory Peck

"When I get a very generous introduction like that, I explain that I'm emotionally moved, but on the other hand I'm Irish and the Irish are very emotionally moved. My mother is Irish and she cries during beer commercials."
- Former U.S. General Barry McCaffrey

"A Kerry footballer with an inferiority complex is one who thinks he's just as good as everybody else."
- Author John B. Keane

"Ireland is a peculiar society in the sense that it was a nineteenth century society up to about 1970 and then it almost bypassed the twentieth century."
- Author John McGahern

"The immigrant's heart marches to the beat of two quite different drums, one from the old homeland and the other from the new. The immigrant has to bridge these two worlds, living comfortably in the new and bringing the best of his or her ancient identity and heritage to bear on life in an adopted homeland."
- Irish President McAleese

"Whether it be a matter of personal relations within a marriage or political initiatives within a peace process, there is no sure-fire do-it-yourself kit."
- Seamus Heaney

"I think the Irish woman was freed from slavery by bingo. They can go out now, dressed up, with their handbags and have a drink and play bingo. And they deserve it."
- Author John B. Keane

"Making peace, I have found, is much harder than making war."
- Gerry Adams

"Hugging trees has a calming effect on me. I'm talking about enormous trees that will be there when we are all dead and gone. I've hugged trees in every part of this little island."
- Gerry Adams

"A drunkard is a dead man, and all dead men are drunk."
- Yeats

"He was a fiddler, and consequently a rogue."
- Jonathan Swift

"Dublin was turning into Disneyland with super-pubs, a Purgatory open till five in the morning."
- Joseph O'Connor, "Two Little Clouds"

"Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity."
- Sean O'Casey

"Travelling - I was all my life at it. I'd still rather be travelling around. I'm always thinking of it. It was a better and a nicer time on the road - more freedom along the roads. We'd be selling tinware, saucepans, cans - country people knew us well at those times and were very nice."
- Former Irish Traveller (or "Tinker") Nan McDonagh

"Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher."
- Flannery O'Connor

"I spent 90% of my money on women and drink. The rest I wasted."
- Soccer superstar George Best

"It's easy to love humanity when you're this far away from it."
- Actor Daniel Day Lewis (who has lived in Ireland at various times), quoted while looking down from the mountains of Luggala, County Wicklow in The New York Times

"No person knows better than you do that the domination of England is the sole and blighting curse of this country. It is the incubus that sits on our energies, stops the pulsation of the nation’s heart and leaves to Ireland not gay vitality but horrid the convulsions of a troubled dream."- Daniel O'Connell (1775-1847), in an 1831 letter to Bishop Doyle.

"We have always found the Irish a bit odd. They refuse to be English."
- Winston Churchill

"He was a one-off, a unique figure of medieval power, intrigue and complexity, surrounded by mystery and money, and protected by populism and cleverness and the well-timed one-liner."
- Maire Goeghegan-Quinn, former Irish cabinet member, speaking of three-time Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey, who died June 13, 2006

"You know, I have a theory about Charlie Haughey. If you give him enough rope, he'll hang you."
- BBC Ireland reporter Leo Enright.

"He is the best, the most skillful, the most devious and the most cunning."
- Charles Haughey's description of his successor as Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern.

"I have a thing for red-haired Irish boys, as we know."
- Actress Sandra Bullock

"My favorite optimist was an American who jumped off the Empire State Building, and as he passed the 42nd floor, the window washers heard him say, 'So Far, so good.'"
- John McGahern, Leitrim author who wrote "The Barracks" and five other novels

"The sword of famine is less sparing than the bayonet of the soldier."
- Thomas F. Meagher (read more about Thomas Meagher, a hero in both the Irish and American armies, here)

"All the world's a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed."
- Sean O'Casey

"Could he not find in his heart the generosity to acknowledge that there is a small nation that stood alone not for one year or two, but for several hundred years against aggression; that endured spoliations, famines, massacres in endless succession; that was clubbed many times into insensibility, but that each time on returning [to] consciousness took up the fight anew; a small nation that could never be got to accept defeat and has never surrendered her soul?”
- Eamon De Valera, on Victory Day in Europe, May 8, 1945, responding in a radio speech to criticism by Winston Churchill of Ireland’s neutrality in World War II, a speech in which De Valera also thanked Churchill for not invading Ireland.


"It was a bold man who ate the first oyster."
- Jonathan Swift

"Though I soon became typecast in Hollywood as a gangster and hoodlum, I was originally a dancer, an Irish hoofer, trained in vaudeville tap dance. I always leapt at the opportunity to dance in films later on."
- James Cagney

"If you could drink dreams like the Irish streams
Then the world would be high as the mountain of morn
In the Pool they told us the story
How the English divided the land..."

- John Lennon, "The Luck of the Irish" (song)

"In some of these institutions the buildings were designedly rendered gloomy by the windows being obscured, so that the inmates were severed from the outside world almost as effectively as if they were in prison."
- From a report on Ireland's Magdalen Asylums published in 1907 by a humanitarian group from London

"Well, it takes all kinds of men to build a railroad."
"No sir, just us Irish."

- Railroad barons in "Dodge City," Warner Bros., 1939

"I saw a fleet of fishing boats...I flew down almost touching the craft and yelled at them, asking if I was on the right road to Ireland. They just stared. Maybe they didn't hear me. Maybe I didn't hear them. Or maybe they thought I was just a crazy fool."
- Charles Lindbergh

"A doctor's reputation is made by the number of eminent men who die under his care."
- George Bernard Shaw

"Neither Christ nor Buddha nor Socrates wrote a book, for to do so is to exchange life for a logical process."
- William Butler Yeats

"Beware of the man whose God is in the skies."
- George Bernard Shaw

"I am a drinker with a writing problem."
- Brendan Behan

"I only drink on two occasions - When I am thirsty and when I'm not thirsty."
- Brendan Behan

"Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them."
- Flannery O'Connor

"Ireland, sir, for good or evil, is like no other place under heaven, and no man can touch its sod or breathe its air without becoming better or worse."
- George Bernard Shaw

"You know it's summer in Ireland when the rain gets warmer."
- Hal Roach

"Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither."
- C. S. Lewis

"There is, for whatever reason, an international tendency to be well-disposed towards Ireland - a tendency that elevates us beyond our actual standing on the world stage."
- Ivana Bacik, Irish barrister and Labour Party candidate

"As I walked back to the car, I chatted with an Englishman, who confirmed that, indeed, sheep are dropping into the oceans around Ireland at a regular rate"
- Margeret Lynn McLean, noting the general lack of fences along cliff edges on Irish farms, "Insights on Ireland"

"Anyone under 35 feels like they are going through a meat grinder...It's almost as if the economy is eating its young."
- Eddie Hobbs, host of the popular Irish TV show "Rip-Off Republic"

"This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever."
- Sigmund Freud (speaking about the Irish)

"He comes from a brainy Cork Family."
- First line of a British police dossier on Michael Collins, discovered by Collins himself during a raid on Dublin Castle

"For the good are always the merry,
Save for an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle,
And the merry love to dance"

- W.B. Yeats, "The Fiddler of Dooney"

"I used to go missing quite alot...Miss Canada, Miss United Kingdom, Miss World."
- George Best

"This day is a happy one for America. In some places Americans get a little too happy."
- President George Bush, greeting Bertie Ahern at the White House on St. Patrick's Day 2004

"When I realized what I had turned out to be was a lousy, two-bit pool hustler and a drunk, I wasn't depressed at all. I was glad to have a profession."
- Irish Pool Player Danny McGoorty

"Every absurdity has a champion to defend it."
- Oliver Goldsmith

"In Manhasset you were either Yankees or Mets, rich or poor, sober or drunk...You were 'Gaelic' or 'garlic," as one schoolmate told me, and I couldn't admit, to him or myself, that I had both Irish and Italian ancestors."
- J. R. Moehringer, "The Tender Bar"

"Today I come back to you as a descendant of people who were buried here in pauper's graves."
- President Ronald Reagan, on a visit to Ballyporeen in 1984

"The Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scotts as a joke, but the Scotts haven't seen the joke yet."
- Oliver Herford

"Even if the ball was wrapped in bacon, Lassie couldn't find it."
- Heard from an Irish caddie, after a particularly bad shot.

"Those who drink to forget, please pay in advance."
- Sign at the Hibernian Bar, Cork City.

"He was the chaplain's clerk, a slender Irishman with prematurely gray hair, melancholy eyes. His voice was the glory of the prison's choir."
- Truman Capote, "In Cold Blood."

"I'm an Irish Catholic and I have a long iceberg of guilt."
- Edna O'Brien

"The worst threat to Irish farmers is not foot and mouth disease, but a postal strike."
- Popular saying in rural Ireland, referring to Irish farmers' heavy dependence on government subsidy checks to survive.

"As a writer, I write to see. If I knew how it would end, I wouldn't write. It's a process of discovery."
- Author John McGahern

"The most important thing to remember about drunks is that drunks are far more intelligent than non-drunks. They spend a lot of time talking in pubs, unlike workaholics who concentrate on their careers and ambitions, who never develop their higher spiritual values, who never explore the insides of their head like a drunk does."
- Shane MacGowen, lead singer/songwriter for The Pogues.

"I started with rock n' roll and...then you start to take it apart like a child with a toy and you see there's blues and there's country...Then you go back from country into American music...and you end up in Scotland and Ireland eventually."
- Elvis Costello

"The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad. For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad."
- G.K. Chesterton

"Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the idea that life is serious."
- Brendan Gill

"I tell you this - early this morning I signed my death warrant."
- Michael Collins, after signing a treaty on December 6, 1921 with England creating the Irish Free State as a dominion within the British Commonwealth. He was later assassinated by partisans unhappy with the deal.

"A wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart."
- Jonathan Swift

"I was raised in an Irish-American home in Detroit where assimilation was the uppermost priority. The price of assimilation and respectability was amnesia. Although my great-grandparents were victims of the Great Hunger of the 1840's, even though I was named Thomas Emmet Hayden IV after the radical Irish nationalist exile Thomas Emmet, my inheritance was to be disinherited. My parents knew nothing of this past, or nothing worth passing on."
- Tom Hayden

"If (my grandfather) hadn't left, I'd be working over here at the Albatross Company."
- JFK, during a 1963 visit to Ireland.

"Ireland, thou friend of my country in my country's most friendless days, much injured, much enduring land, accept this poor tribute from one who esteems thy worth, and mourns thy desolation."
- George Washington, speaking of Ireland's support for America during the revolution.

"When anyone asks me about the Irish character, I say look at the trees. Maimed, stark and misshapen, but ferociously tenacious."
- Edna O'Brien

"A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drowned...for he will go out on a day he shouldn't. But we do be afraid of the sea, and we only be drownded now and again."
- John Millington Synge, in his book "The Aran Islands," 1907

"I had to have some balls to be Irish Catholic in South London. Most of that time I spent fighting."
- Pierce Brosnan

"I'm Irish. I think about death all the time."
- Jack Nicholson

"My father was totally Irish, and so I went to Ireland once. I found it to be very much like New York, for it was a beautiful country, and both the women and men were good-looking."
- James Cagney

"Rain is also very difficult to film, particularly in Ireland because it's quite fine, so fine that the Irish don't even acknowledge that it exists."
- Alan Parker, director of "The Commitments"

"Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement."
- C. S. Lewis

"I'll tell you what you can expect from an Irishman named Wellington whose father was a bookmaker. You can expect that anything he says or writes may be repeated aloud in your own home in front of your children. You can believe he was taught to love and respect all mankind, but to fear no man."
- The late Wellington Mara, owner of the New York Giants, in reponse to a critical story by a sportswriter.

"As an intending Trappist, he would have to turn his back on pleasure but that would not be so easy because he knew of practically nothing which could be called pleasure."
- Flan O'Brien, "The Dalkey Archive"

"It is a curious contradiction, not very often remembered in England, that for many generations the private soldiers of the British Army were largely Irish."
- Cecil Woodham-Smith

"The point of poetry is to be acutely discomforting, to prod and provoke, to poke us in the eye, to punch us in the nose, to knock us off our feet, to take our breath away."
- Northern Irish poet Paul Muldoon

"I have never seen a West Cork farmer with an umbrella, except at a funeral. His father or grandfather, who went to the creamery with an ass and cart, insulated himself against the vagaries of the heavens with a thick woolen overcoat and slightly greasy flat cap. Little rain permeated the oxter or the headgear. Beneath the outer layer, which could weigh a hundredweight when well soaked, the man remained dry and warm."
- Damien Engright, "A Place Near Heaven - A Year in West Cork"

"There is no language like the Irish for soothing and quieting."
- John Millington Synge

"It's not that the Irish are cynical. It's simply that they have a wonderful lack of respect for everything and everybody."
- Brendan Behan

"How would you know a Cork footballer? He's the one who thinks that oral sex is just talking about it."
- Author John B. Keane

"The isles of Aran are fameous for the numerous multitude of Saints there living of old and interred..."
- Roderick O'Flaherty, 1684

"When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, 'Yes, but is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don't believe?"
- Quentin Crisp

“Take care to get what you like or you will be forced to like what you get.”
- George Bernard Shaw

"There can be no tradition without innovation."
- Earle Hitchner, Irish music journalist

"What was it that made Maggie leave Ireland, forsake her siblings and parents and flee to New York in the 1800s, we never knew. We yearned to know, because she was the first in a long line of leavers, the matriarch of a clan of men and women who made mysterious and dramatic exits. But her reason for leaving must have been too awful, too painful, because Maggie was said to be a born storyteller, and that story was the one she would never tell."
- J.R. Moehringer, "The Tender Bar"

"Cheetah bit me whenever he could. The [Tarzan movie] apes were all homosexuals, eager to wrap their paws around Johnny Weismuller's thighs. They were jealous of me, and I loathed them."
- Maureen O'Sullivan, who played "Jane" opposite Johnny Weissmuller in "Tarzan The Ape Man" and five other "Tarzan" movies in the 1930's. She was born in Boyle, County Roscommon

"I'm not one of those James Joyce intellectuals who can stand back and look at the whole edifice... It was a slow process for me to just crawl out of it, like a snake leaving his skin behind."
- Frank McCourt

"How blessed are some people, whose lives have no fears, no dreads, to whom sleep is a blessing that comes nightly, and brings nothing but sweet dreams."
- Bram Stoker, from "Dracula"

"We are not going to apologize for any small role we may have played in helping to remove a dictator who made his people suffer for 20 years, carried out horrific acts and didn't care about democracy. He is gone now, and thank God for that."
- Bertie Ahern, in May of 2003, discussing the US military's use of Shannon Airport as a stopover point for operations in Iraq.

"We were always dead against the war."
- Bertie Ahern, in December of 2003, discussing the war in Iraq


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