Irish Culture

Core Concepts

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  • Modesty
  • Humour
  • Speechcraft
  • Informality
  • Creativity
  • Nationalism
  • Warmth
  • Mateship

The Republic of Ireland is a progressive Celtic nation that has distinguished itself from its Anglo-Saxon neighbours of Britain. It should not be confused with Northern Ireland as the Republic of Ireland is a sovereign state that is not a member of the United Kingdom.

Irish settlers have formed a considerable part of the Australian working class since they first began arriving in 1791. Partly due to the fact that a large number of Irish people have been in the country  since the inception of colonial-Australian culture, Ireland and Australia share many cultural characteristics. For example, both nations have a relaxed, informal sensibility. Social hierarchies are largely disfavoured and relationships are expected to be even-handed, based on a veneer of mateship and egalitarianism. The Irish tend to be somewhat more reserved than Australians, seeing modesty as a virtue. Boastful self-promotion and aggressive, boisterous behaviour is not tolerated. If the Irish wish to demonstrate their competence, they let their past performance and actions speak as evidence.

Nevertheless, the Irish love to talk. They pride themselves on their skilful use of language and a well-developed sense of humour known as ‘craic’. Language is not merely functional to the Irish, but an art form – speechcraft. Their humour is subtle, complex, self-deprecating and well-timed. In communication and storytelling, they show a notable tendency towards exaggeration and embellishment. Friendly back-and-forth ‘slagging’ matches (trading insults) are enjoyed as a way of building rapport between friends. This affinity for language also manifests as an enthusiasm for ideas, novelty and improvisation.

Pubs provide a communal place for a lot of Irish socialisation and camaraderie to bloom. Irish and Australian pub cultures are similar. In both countries, public bars serve as community hubs and – for tourists – a place to get to know the locals and culture. Ireland also maintains a tradition of ‘pub sessions’ in which performers come together and play traditional folk music of the British Isles while enjoying conversation, beer and pub food. These sessions are often informal, with anyone invited to join in and play. Pub culture in Ireland is indicative of the value of the arts in Irish culture – artists have always held esteem in Irish society.

Historically, artists in Ireland (particularly poets) formed their own caste and were invaluable in preserving the culture of the land. They wrote songs, poems, tales and kept accounts of history coloured by their experience. As a result, Irish heritage is rich, multifaceted and maintained in many written and oral forms. This diversity of culture informs the way in which the Irish appreciate the experience of others and express their own.

Modern Irish culture has also been influenced by the country's history of political conflict between various paramilitary groups and British state forces – known as ‘The Troubles’. This conflict was concerned with the ideological separation of unionist forces in Northern Ireland from the oppressed Irish Catholic/nationalist minority, and Northern Ireland’s status as part of the United Kingdom. The nature of this conflict is complex and often misunderstood; therefore, when speaking to the Irish, it is a topic best approached with care or avoided altogether.
Ireland
  • Population
    4,757,976
    [2016 census]
  • Languages
    English [official]
    Gaelic [official] (39.8%)
    [2016 census]
  • Religions
    Catholic Christianity (78.3%)
    No Religion (9.8%)
    Church of Ireland (2.7%)
    Other Christianity (2.6%)
    Islam (1.3%)
    Other (1.7%)
    [2016 census]
  • Ethnicities
    White Irish (82.2%)
    Other White (9.5%)
    Asian (2.1%)
    Black (1.3%)
    Other (1.5%)
    Irish Travellers (0.7%)
    Not Stated (2.6 %)
    [2016 census]
  • Cultural Dimensions
    Power Distance 28
    Individualism 70
    Masculinity 68
    Uncertainty Avoidance 35
    Long Term Orientation 24
    Indulgence 65
    What's this?
  • Australians with Irish Ancestry
    2,388,058 [2016 census]
Irish in Australia
  • Population
    74,888
    [2016 census]
    This figure refers to the number of Australian residents that were born in Ireland.
  • Average Age
    43
  • Gender
    Male (53.8%)
    Female (46.2%)
  • Religion
    Catholic Christianity (75.4%)
    No Religion (11.4%)
    Anglican Christianity (3.8%)
    Other (6.6%)
  • Ancestry
    Irish (89.9%)
    English (4.2%)
    Australian (1.5%)
    Other (3.3%)
  • Languages
    English (95.1%)
    Irish (2.3%)
    Gaelic (0.5%)
    Other (1.2%)
  • English Proficiency
    Well (83.6)%)
    Not Well (5.1%)
  • Diaspora
    New South Wales (32.6%)
    Victoria (21.7%)
    Western Australia (21.2%)
    Queensland (16.2%)
  • Arrival to Australia
    Prior to 2001 (58.4%)
    2001-2006 (10.5%)
    2007-2011 (27%)
Where do we get our statistics?
Country IE Flag