Famous Irish People

Charles Stewart Parnell

(27 June 1946 – 6 October 1891)

Charles Stewart Parnell was an Irish landlord, nationalist political leader, land reform agitator, and the founder and leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. Parnell led the Irish Parliamentary Party as Member of Parliament through the period of Parliamentary nationalism in Ireland between 1875 and his death in 1891. He was described as one of the three or four greatest men of the 19th century. The Irish Parliamentary Party split during 1890, following revelations of Parnell’s private life intruding into his political career. He has nevertheless been revered by subsequent Irish parliamentary republicans and nationalists.  The hung parliament of 1885 saw him hold the balance of power between William Gladstone‘s Liberal Party and Lord Salisbury‘s Conservative Party. His power was one factor in Gladstone’s adoption of Home Rule as the central tenet of the Liberal Party. His reputation peaked from 1889 to 1890, when letters published in The Times linking him to the Phoenix Park killings of 1882 were shown to have been forged by Richard Pigott. However, the Irish Parliamentary Party split in 1890 after the revelation of Parnell’s long adulterous love affair, causing many British Liberals (many of them nonconformists) to refuse to work with him, and strong opposition from Catholic bishops. He headed a small minority faction until his death in 1891. Parnell is celebrated as the best organiser of a political party up to that time, and one of the most formidable figures in parliamentary history. Many believe that Home Rule could have been achieved without bloodshed, if he had not been brought down by personal circumstances. You can find the Parnell Monument at the north end of O’Connell Street.

Daniel O’Connell

(6 August 1775 – 15 May 1847)

Often referred to as The Liberator or The Emancipator, was an Irish political leader in the first half of the 19th century.Throughout his career he used peaceful means to achieve greater freedoms for Catholics living in Ireland in the mid-1800s. He campaigned for Catholic Emancipation—including the right for Catholics to sit in the Westminster Parliament, denied for over 100 years—and repeal of the Act of Union which combined Great Britain and Ireland. The granting of Catholic Emancipation gave Catholics in Ireland a greater sense of freedom than they had before. From 1829 onwards, there was a huge increase in the number of Catholic churches built in Ireland. The following image shows Daniel O’Connell attending the consecration of a Catholic church. A consecration is a special ceremony in the Catholic church to make a church building sacred.

After the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922, Sackville Street, Dublin’s principal thoroughfare, was renamed in his honour. His statue stands at one end of the street, the figure of Charles Stewart Parnell at the other.

Oscar Wilde

(16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900)

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish writer and poet. After writing several works in the 1880s, he became one of London’s most famous playwrights in the early 1890s. As a dramatist, many of Wilde’s plays were well received including his satirical comedies Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892), A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), his most famous play.  Today he is best known for his epigrams, his novel The Portrait of Dorian Gray, his plays but also the circumstances of his imprisonment and his early death. The novel is a cautionary tale about a beautiful young man, Dorian Gray, who wishes (and receives his wish) that his portrait ages while he remains youthful and lives a life of sin and pleasure. Thanks to his eloquence, his flamboyant wardrobe and his biting spirit, Oscar Wilde became one of the most famous personalities of his time. Around the time, when Wilde was enjoying literary success, Wilde commenced an affair with a young man named Lord Alfred Douglas. On February 18, 1895, Douglas’s father, the Marquis of Queensberry, who had gotten wind of the affair, left a calling card at Wilde’s home addressed to “Oscar Wilde: Posing Somdomite,” a misspelling of sodomite. Although Wilde’s homosexuality was something of an open secret, he was so outraged by Queensberry’s note that he sued him for libel. The decision ruined his life. After two more trials he was convicted and sentenced to two years’ hard labour, the maximum penalty for homosexuality, and was jailed from 1895 to 1897. He wrote his last work in France, The Ballad of the Reading Jail (1898), a long poem describing the difficult pace of life in prison. 

Throughout his entire life, Wilde remained deeply committed to the principles of aestheticism, principles that he expounded through his lectures and demonstrated through his works as well as anyone of his era. “All art is at once surface and symbol,” Wilde wrote in the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray. “Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors. Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex and vital.” The Oscar Wilde Memorial Sculpture is a collection of three statues in Merrion Square in Dublin, Ireland, commemorating the famous Irish poet. The sculptures were unveiled in 1997 and were designed and made by Danny Osborne.

Arthur Guinness

(September 24 1725 – 23 January 1803)

An Irish brewer and the founder of the Guinness brewery business and family. He was also an entrepreneur, visionary and philanthropist. At 27, in 1752, Guinness’s godfather Arthur Price, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Cashel, bequeathed him £100 in his will. Guinness invested the money and in 1755 had a brewery at Leixlip, 17 km from Dublin. In 1759, Guinness went to the city and set up his own business. He took a 9,000 year lease on the 4-acre (16,000 m2) brewery at St. James’s Gate from the descendants of Sir Mark Rainsford for an annual rent of £45. To further honour Arthur Guinness’s legacy, in 2009 Guinness & Co. established the Arthur Guinness Fund (AGF). An internal fund set up by the Company, its aim is to enable and empower individuals with skills and opportunities to deliver a measured benefit to their communities. Guinness has donated more than €7 million to the Fund since its inception. Guinness is one of a handful of Irish people commemorated twice on stamps, in 1959 and 2009. In October 2013 a statue of him was erected in his birthplace Celbridge.

  Learn more about the Guinness Storehouse

In 2014 a series of pathways were created beside places from his early life by Kildare County Council, known collectively as “Arthur’s Way”. Guinness’s florid signature is still copied on every label of bottled Guinness. You can visit the Guinness Storehouse to learn more about Arthur Guinness and his brand.

James Joyce

(2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941)

James was an Irish novelist, short story writer, poet, teacher, and literary critic. He contributed to the modernist avant-garde movement and is regarded as one of the most influential and important writers of the 20th century. Joyce is best known for Ulysses (1922), a landmark work in which the episodes of Homer‘s Odyssey are paralleled in a variety of literary styles, most famously stream of consciousness. Other well-known works are the short-story collection Dubliners (1914), and the novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Finnegans Wake (1939). His other writings include three books of poetry, a play, his published letters and occasional journalism. Joyce was born in Dublin into a middle-class family. A brilliant student, he briefly attended the Christian Brothers-run O’Connell School before excelling at the Jesuit schools Clongowes and Belvedere, despite the chaotic family life imposed by his father’s unpredictable finances. He went on to attend University College Dublin.

In 1904, in his early twenties, Joyce emigrated to continental Europe with his partner (and later wife) Nora Barnacle. They lived in Trieste, Paris, and Zürich. Although most of his adult life was spent abroad, Joyce’s fictional universe centres on Dublin and is populated largely by characters who closely resemble family members, enemies and friends from his time there. Ulysses in particular is set with precision in the streets and alleyways of the city. Shortly after the publication of Ulysses, he elucidated this preoccupation somewhat, saying, “For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In particular it contains the universal.”

Mary Robinson

(21 May 1944 – Present )

Mary Therese Winifred Robinson (Irish: Máire Bean Mhic Róibín; née Bourke ) is an Irish Independent politician who served as the seventh President of Ireland from December 1990 to September 1997, becoming the first woman to hold this office. She also served as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002 and a Senator for the University of Dublin from 1969 to 1989. She first rose to prominence as an academic, barrister and campaigner. She defeated Fianna Fáil’s Brian Lenihan and Fine Gael’s Austin Currie in the 1990 presidential election, becoming the first Independent candidate nominated by the Labour Party, the Workers’ Party and Independent Senators. She was the first elected President in the office’s history not to have had the support of Fianna Fáil. 

She is widely regarded as a transformative figure for Ireland, and for the Irish presidency, revitalising and liberalising a previously conservative, low-profile political office. She resigned the presidency two months ahead of the end of her term of office to take up her post in the United Nations. During her UN tenure she visited Tibet (1998), the first High Commissioner to do so; she criticised Ireland’s immigrant policy; and criticised the use of capital punishment in the United States. She extended her intended single four-year term by a year to preside over the World Conference against Racism 2001 in Durban, South Africa. Under continuing pressure from the United States, Robinson resigned her post in September 2002.

 

Rosanna “Rosie” Hackett

(25 July 1893 – 4 May 1976 )

Rosie Hackett was born in Dublin in 1893. An ardent trade unionist, in 1911 she co-founded the IWWU with Delia Larkin. She worked in Jacob’s Biscuit Factory and on 1 September 1913, when two of the female workers in Jacob’s were dismissed from their jobs for refusing to remove their union badges, Rosie, along with over 300 female workers in Jacob’s, refused to remove their badges in sympathy with their colleagues. They were also fired. In all 310 women were ‘Locked Out’ of Jacob’s. During the Lockout Rosie helped run the soup kitchen in Liberty Hall. Failing to get her job back after the Lockout ended, she found work as a clerk in the IWWU shop set up by Delia Larkin to help those women who could not regain employment. Rosie also sold items in the shop and trained as a printer on the printing press used by Liberty Hall. This work brought her into close contact with James Connolly and as a result she became involved with the ICA, taking part in route marches with the other women at night and helping to make first aid kits and knapsacks for the men. She also assisted Dr Kathleen Lynn in her surgery in Liberty Hall. During the Rising she fought in St Stephen’s Green and the College of Surgeons. After the surrender she was arrested and taken to Kilmainham Gaol and when she was released she returned to the ruined Liberty Hall and helped reorganise the ICA. She joined the Fairview Branch of Cumann na mBan in 1919, helping to train the women in first aid, but left the organisation in 1920. Committed to the rights of the working classes, she helped to re-organise the IWWU. 

Rosie Hackett Bridge is the newest addition to the family of bridges crossing the River Liffey. Construction began in February 2012 and the bridge opened on the 20th of May 2014. Named after the trade union activist, who was involved in the 1913 Lockout, and later the 1916 Rising, it is the only bridge in the city centre named after a woman.

The Corrs

(1990 – 2006, 2015 – Present )

They are an Irish band that combine pop rock with traditional Irish themes within their music. The group consists of the Corr siblings, Andrea (lead vocals, tin whistle, ukulele), Sharon (violin, keyboards, vocals), Caroline (drums, percussion, piano, bodhrán, vocals) and Jim (guitar, piano, keyboards, vocals). They are from Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland. The Corrs have released seven studio albums and numerous singles, which have reached Platinum in many countries, and have sold 40 million albums worldwide. 

Irish music through the decades

The Corrs have performed at numerous charity concerts, such as The Prince’s Trust event in 2004 and Live 8 alongside Bono of U2 in 2005.The same year, they were awarded honorary MBEs for their contributions to music and charity. The band was inactive for almost 10 years because Jim and Caroline were raising families, while Andrea and Sharon were pursuing solo careers and raising families of their own. According to Sharon, it was uncertain if and when The Corrs would reunite. Rumours of a reunion sparked in early 2015 and in a radio interview with Chris Evans in June 2015, Andrea confirmed that The Corrs were working on a new album and would play the BBC Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park festival.  Their sixth studio album, White Light, was released on 27 November 2015, and was accompanied by a European tour. After two years, their seventh studio album, Jupiter Calling, was released on 10 November 2017.

Hozier

(17 March, 1990 – Present )

Andrew John Hozier-Byrne is known professionally as Hozier. He is an Irish musician, singer, and songwriter from County Wicklow. He had his international breakthrough after releasing his debut single in 2013 “Take Me to Church“, which has been certified multi-platinum in several countries, including the US, the UK, and Canada. Its lyrics use religious terminology to describe a romantic relationship, and he wrote and recorded the song in the attic of his parents’ home in Bray, Co Wicklow. Upon release, its music video went viral as it follows a relationship between two men and subsequent violent homophobic backlash. His debut studio album, released in 2014, topped the charts in Ireland and scored top ten positions on global charts. It has been certified 6× platinum in Ireland and multi-platinum in several countries. He then embarked on an American and a European tour to support the album.

                      Top up and coming Irish artists

In September 2018, Hozier released an EP, titled Nina Cried Power, featuring the title track as a single. He released his second album, Wasteland, Baby!, in March 2019. It debuted atop the US Billboard 200 and was followed by a tour to promote it.

U2

(1976 – Present )

Ireland’s most famous band – rockers Bono, the Edge,  Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr – were formed way back in 1976 while attending Dublin’s Mount Temple Comprehensive School. The group consists of Bono (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), the Edge (lead guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals), Adam Clayton (bass guitar), and Larry Mullen Jr. (drums and percussion). Initially rooted in post-punk, U2’s musical style has evolved throughout their career, yet has maintained an anthemic quality built on Bono’s expressive vocals and the Edge’s effects-based guitar textures. Their lyrics, often embellished with spiritual imagery, focus on personal and sociopolitical themes. Popular for their live performances, the group have staged several ambitious and elaborate tours over their career. U2 are the only group in music history to have No 1 albums four decades in a row: The 1980s, ’90s, ’00s, and ’10s. The band have released 14 studio albums and are one of the world’s best-selling music artists, having sold an estimated 150–170 million records worldwide. They have won 22 Grammy Awards, more than any other band.

Irish Music 

Like so many other Irish artists, U2 have veered into the political landscape. One of their most overtly political songs, ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’, describes the horror felt by an observer of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, mainly focusing on the 1972 Bloody Sunday incident in Co Derry where British troops shot and killed unarmed civil rights protesters.

Other popular songs by the group include ‘With Or Without You,’ ‘One,’ ‘Beautiful Day,’ ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,’ and ‘Pride (In The Name Of Love).’

 

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