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Culture and Sport


From publications such as James Joyces epic masterpiece Ulysses, Sean O' Casey's The Plough and the Stars and Juno and the Paycock in the 1920's to more modern works like Brian Friel's Philadelphia Here I Come, Irish literature has been recognised for its quality all over the world.
During the twentieth century writing in modern Irish has developed afresh with vigour. Among the most noteworthy writers are the novelist Máirtín Ó Cadhain and the poets Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Cathal Ó Searcaigh, all three of whom have won international recognition

Recently, poet Seamus Heaney has received the Nobel Prize for literature the fourth Irish writer to receive the honour in the 20th century. Other Irish writers recently recognised for their achievements include John Banville, short listed for the Booker Prize for Book of Evidence in 1989 and Roddy Doyle, who won the Booker Prize for his novel Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha.

Music and Dance

The native music of medieval Ireland was transmitted orally from generation to generation. The harp (cláirseach), and the small harp (cruit), were the main musical instruments. Today, traditional Irish music is played on the harp, the bodhrán, the uilleann pipes, the fiddle and the accordion.

No original records of the old bardic music survive, but the works of Turlough O'Carolan, harpist, composer and poet, have been preserved, and from the end of the eighteenth century onwards extensive and valuable collections of native Irish music have been made and published. Thanks to the efforts of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (literally, 'the fellowship of Irish musicians') and others, the regard for Irish music, both in Ireland and in many countries overseas, is higher than it ever was. The work of Seán Ó Riada in the 1960s and of the Chieftains in later decades did much to rejuvenate traditional music and introduce this genre to a wide appreciative public. At present Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann have 400 branches in Ireland and throughout the world, practising and teaching Irish music. Their archive of traditional music contains 4,000 hours of listening. Comhaltas may be accessed at their website

The fusions of traditional Irish music with rock, world music and popular music have also earned considerable acclaim.

Dances include jigs, reels, hornpipes and sets. In recent years there has been a great demand for shows such as Riverdance throughout the world.

Rock music and 'country' music are two main forms of popular music in Ireland today. Country music enjoys a huge following and home grown artists such as Daniel O'Donnell have has success both at home and abroad.

Irish rock and pop acts such as U2, Boyzone, The Corrs and Westlife have also gained international acclaim.

The Irish popular music scene is recognised as being one of the most vibrant in Europe, with services such as Music Base in place to assist the development of new acts entering a multi-million pound industry.


The first public screenings of film in Ireland were held in Dublin by the Lumière brothers in 1896, while the following year the first filmed Irish subjects were shown by a Professor Joly.

The first cinema in Ireland was the Volta on Mary Street in Dublin, which opened in 1909 under the short-lived management of James Joyce.

Apart from indigenous productions, Ireland has always had history of being used as a backdrop for international films, often by distinguished film makers. Examples include Ryans Daughter (1970), Braveheart (1994) and Saving Private Ryan (1997).

With the establishment of the Irish Film Board in 1981 and its re-establishment in 1993, native film production was given a platform to develop and grow. Today Irish cinema enjoys a higher international profile than ever before, with the work of Irish directors achieving commercial and critical success. Notable Irish productions of recent years include: My Left Foot (Jim Sheridan, 1989), The Field (Jim Sheridan, 1990), Michael Collins (Neil Jordan, 1996) and The General (John Boorman, 1998).


Folklore and legend has always been an essential part of Irish culture, with the emphasis being on story telling, an oral tradition. In Gaelic and Norman-Gaelic Ireland, the poet or 'file' was the guardian of knowledge, and as such, enjoyed high status in society.

The folk-tales and legends of Irish culture have been handed down through generations of such guardians and the telling of such tales to the community was a great social tradition.


Ireland's mark on the world of sport has been disproportionate to the size of the country. Irish soccer teams have won European Championships at youth level and Irish players play for clubs all over Europe. Ireland has produced some of the best golfers, snooker players, cyclists, boxers and jockeys in the world and our athletes have triumphed at championship and Olympic level.

Gaelic Football and Hurling, as Ireland's native sports are the most popular. The major competitions in each sport are the All-Ireland Championships which are contested by teams from each of the 32 counties. The All-Ireland finals are played at Croke Park in Dublin, which is the headquarters of the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) in Ireland and is currently undergoing a major development programme.

Soccer is also very popular in Ireland and is governed by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI). However the senior domestic competition do not reflect the real strength of soccer as many talented players play in leagues abroad. Many of these same players, play for the national team which enjoys a large following.

Rugby Football has about 60,000 Irish participants at club and school level and competition exists in the form of schoolboy, club and provincial leagues and championships. The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) is the governing body for the sport and the Irish international team draws large crowds.

Athletics and particularly track and field athletics has a long tradition in Ireland, which has produced a long list of past World and Olympic Champions. The most popular events are running, over middle and long distances and on marathon, track and indoor cross-country courses. Current athletics stars include Catherina Mc Kiernan and Sonia O'Sullivan, both cross-country champions at European and World levels.

Equestrian: The Irish bloodstock industry is considered one of the finest in the world. Famous racehorses produced include Arkle, Dawn Run, Istabraq, Nijinsky and Saddlers Wells. Ireland has produced a string of leading riders in all disciplines including Michael Kinnane, Richard Dunwoody and Eddie Macken.

The sports of Snooker, golf, boxing and many other sports have seen Irish sportsmen and women compete and triumph at the highest level.

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