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41 Most Famous Irish People of All Time

41 Most Famous Irish People of All Time

From celebrated inventors and well-known actors to singers, scientists and scholars, there’s some very famous Irish people.

However, while many, like singers from the more famous Irish bands, tend to be known by many, others, like Ireland’s renowned inventors, tend to only be celebrated in certain circles.

In the article below, you’ll find a mix of famous people from Ireland – several of whom may surprise you. Enjoy!

The most famous Irish people of all time

famous people from Ireland

Now, although you’ll find a load of famous people from Ireland below, it’s in no particular order.

The reason for this is that it’s impossible to measure who are the most famous people from Ireland in any accurate way.

1. Maureen O’Hara

Maureen O'Hara

Maureen O’Hara was born on August 17th, 1920, in Dublin, Ireland, was a celebrated actress known for her fiery red hair and distinctive screen presence.

O’Hara’s breakout role came opposite Charles Laughton in “Jamaica Inn” (1939), and her collaboration with director John Ford led to memorable performances in films like “How Green Was My Valley” (1941) and “The Quiet Man” (1952).

Particularly, her on-screen partnership with John Wayne in multiple films cemented her status as a Hollywood icon.

Awarded an honorary Oscar in 2014 for her contribution to the film industry, O’Hara’s enduring performances remain a cornerstone of classic cinema.

2. Ernest Shackleton

Ernest Shackleton is another of the most famous people from Ireland. He was born on February 15th, 1874, in County Kildare and was a renowned polar explorer known for his heroic expeditions to the Antarctic.

He is particularly remembered for his leadership of the Endurance expedition (1914-1917), where he and his crew survived their ship being crushed by ice. They subsequently managed an epic 800-mile open boat journey to safety.

Despite never reaching the geographic South Pole, Shackleton’s incredible resilience and leadership under extreme adversity have made him a legendary figure in the annals of exploration. 

3. Bono


Bono (AKA Paul David Hewson) entered the world on May 10th, 1960 and was born in Dublin. He is an iconic singer-songwriter and philanthropist, best known as the lead vocalist of the rock band U2.

Bono’s powerful lyrics and distinctive vocals helped U2 achieve global fame with some of the more famous Irish songs, like “With or Without You” and “Beautiful Day.”

The band has won a whopping 22 Grammy Awards, making them one of the most awarded groups in history.

Beyond music, Bono is renowned for his activism, particularly in advocating for African debt relief and against AIDS, work that earned him a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize and an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II.

Related read: 16 remarkable things that Ireland is famous for across the world

4. Enya

Enya was born on May 17th, 1961, in Gweedore, County Donegal.

Known for her distinctive fusion of Irish folk, classical elements, and ambient synthesizer sounds, Enya achieved international stardom with hits like “Orinoco Flow” and “Only Time.”

Her album “A Day Without Rain” became the top-selling new age album of the 2000s in the US.

She’s a four-time Grammy winner in the Best New Age Album category, further highlighting her significant impact on the genre.

Enya’s ethereal music and unique soundscapes have captivated audiences worldwide making her one of the more famous people from Ireland.

5. Sinéad O’Connor

Sinéad O’Connor

The mighty Sinéad O’Connor was born on December 8th, 1966, in Dublin and she is an internationally recognised singer-songwriter.

Her haunting and emotional rendition of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” catapulted her to global stardom, earning her a reputation for compelling and soulful performances.

O’Connor’s unique voice and raw expressiveness, coupled with her controversial public persona, have made her a distinctive figure in the music industry.

Through her emotive music and passionate advocacy for various causes, O’Connor continues to leave a profound imprint on the cultural landscape.

6. Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Another of the most famous Irish people is astrophysicist Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell. Burnell was born on July 15th, 1943, in the town of Lurgan in Northern Ireland.

She gained considerable recognition for her momentous discovery of pulsars, fast-rotating neutron stars that significantly altered our understanding of the universe.

Her ground-breaking work initially overlooked, Bell Burnell’s relentless dedication and resilience paved the way for later recognition, culminating in numerous accolades and an indisputable status as a luminary in her field.

Her inspirational journey continues to motivate aspiring female scientists worldwide.

7. Maeve Binchy  

Maeve Binchy was born on May 28th, 1940, in Dalkey in Dublin. She was an acclaimed novelist and playwright renowned for her evocative portrayals of Irish life.

Her captivating storytelling, primarily focusing on interpersonal relationships and the dynamics of small Irish towns, resonated with a global audience, selling over 40 million copies worldwide.

Novels such as “Circle of Friends” and “Tara Road” stand as enduring testimonies to her keen understanding of human nature.

Her engaging narratives and relatable characters have solidified Binchy’s legacy as one of Ireland’s most cherished authors, continuing to touch readers long after her passing in 2012.

8. Sir Charles Parsons

Sir Charles Parsons, a groundbreaking engineer, was born on June 13th, 1854, in London and was later raised in Ireland.

He is arguably best known for inventing the compound steam turbine,. Parsons’ invention revolutionised marine transport and electrical power generation.

His steam turbine made high-speed transatlantic travel possible and dramatically increased the efficiency of power generation, making electricity more accessible and affordable. D

espite the technological advancements since Parsons’ time, the principles of his steam turbine remain central to power generation today.

9. Phil Lynott

Phil Lynott

Phil Lynott was born on August 20th, 1949, in West Bromwich in England and was raised in Dublin.

Lynott was a musician and songwriter and he is best-known as the lead vocalist of the rock band Thin Lizzy.

Lynott’s charismatic stage presence and distinctive lyrical style brought the band international success.

Songs like “The Boys Are Back in Town” and “Jailbreak” showcase Lynott’s ability to fuse hard rock with lyrical storytelling.

10. Francis Bacon

Another of the more famous Irish people is Francis Bacon who was born on October 28th, 1909, in Dublin.

Beacon was an influential painter that was renowned for his visceral, emotionally charged, and often out-there imagery.

His unique style left a deep mark on the art world. His triptychs, particularly his series on the Crucifixion and the screaming Popes, have become iconic symbols of the angst and existential dread of the 20th century.

Though often controversial, Bacon’s work continues to be highly sought after, and his impact on contemporary art remains profound.

11. Graham Norton

Graham Norton

Graham Norton is arguably one of the most famous Irish people to hit our screens. Despite being frequently associated with West Cork, he was born on April 4th, 1963, in Clondalkin in Dublin.

His charm and quick wit have made him a fixture on British and Irish television and his talk show attracts the biggest names in music and film.

Beyond his TV work, Norton has also made significant contributions to radio and literature, further showcasing his versatile talent.

12. Anne Bonny

Anne Bonny, reputedly born around 1700 in County Cork, was a notorious pirate. Known for her fiery temper and fearsome reputation, she defied the gender norms of her era to join Calico Jack Rackham’s pirate crew.

Her adventures, filled with plunder and combat, have captivated the public imagination, making her a fascinating figure in the annals of piracy.

Although her ultimate fate remains a mystery, stories of her audacity and rebellious spirit continue to inspire books, films, and Irish folklore.

13. James Joyce

James Joyce

James Joyce is arguably one of the most famous Irish people when it comes to notable writers and he was born on February 2nd, 1882, in Dublin.

His revolutionary narrative techniques and profound exploration of human consciousness made a considerable impact on world literature.

His novel “Ulysses,” with its stream-of-consciousness technique and intricate structure mirroring Homer’s Odyssey, stands as a towering monument of modernist literature.

14. Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson was born in the town of Ballina in County Mayo. She is a lawyer, politician, and human rights advocate.

However, she is arguably most famous for being the first female President of Ireland (1990 to 1997).

Robinson is widely recognised for her work in advancing human rights, particularly in advocating for gender equality and combating climate change.

Robinson later served as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

15. Saoirse Ronan

Saoirse Ronan

Another of the most famous Irish people in recent years is Saoirse Ronan. She was born in New York City to Irish parents and is an accomplished actress, featuring in many international and Irish films.

She rose to fame for her roles in the likes of “Atonement”, “Lady Bird” and the very popular “Brooklyn,” and 

Ronan’s ability to portray complex characters have earned her numerous accolades, including several Academy Award nominations. And, as it happens, the name ‘Saoirse’ is one of several Irish girls names we get constant emails about each year.

16. Rosie Hackett

Rosie Hackett was a trade unionist and social activist who born in Dublin in 1892. She played a pivotal role in the 1913 Dublin Lockout, fighting for workers’ rights and fair conditions.

Hackett co-founded the Irish Women Workers’ Union and was a key figure in the suffrage movement.

Her contributions to Irish labor history and her dedication to social justice have solidified her place as an iconic figure.

17. Dolores O’Riordan

Dolores O'Riordan

Dolores O’Riordan, born in Ballybricken, County Limerick, was the lead singer of the rock band The Cranberries and is another of the most famous people from Ireland.

Her unique vocal style and powerful songwriting contributed to the band’s immense success. Hits like “Zombie” and “Linger” propelled them to international stardom.

O’Riordan’s musical legacy, combined with her distinctive voice, continues to inspire fans worldwide.

She passed away on January 15th, 2018, in Mayfair in London.

18. Becky Lynch

If you’re not familiar with WWE, you’ll probably question why Rebecca Quin is in a guide to the most famous Irish people, but she is a very notable figure in the mammoth professional wrestling promotion.

Rebecca Quin, better known as Becky Lynch, was born on January 30th, 1987, in Limerick and she is a renowned professional wrestler.

Lynch has had a sizable impact on wrestling world – so much so that she’s said to be one of the highest paid wrestlers on the WWE roster in recent years.

Her charisma, determination, and athletic prowess have made her a beloved figure among fans and a role model for aspiring female athletes.

19. Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde, born on October 16th, 1854, in Dublin, is one of the most famous people from Ireland to have ever picked up a pen.

Wilde was a writer and poet, known for his wit and flamboyant style. His works, including plays like “The Importance of Being Earnest” and his novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” are celebrated for their satirical commentary on Victorian society.

Despite facing persecution for his homosexuality, Wilde’s legacy as a literary genius and a symbol of the fight for LGBTQ+ rights endures.

20. Kathleen Lynn

Kathleen Lynn, born on January 28th, 1874, in County Mayo is another of the most famous Irish people in the medical space.

She was a physician, suffragette, and social activist. Co-founder of St. Ultan’s Children’s Hospital in Dublin, Lynn devoted her life to improving healthcare conditions for the underprivileged.

Moreover, as a committed nationalist, she was involved in the Irish Women’s Suffrage movement and the 1916 Easter Rising, underscoring her status as a multifaceted trailblazer.

21. Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker

Abraham ‘Bram’ Stoker, born on November 8th, 1847, in Dublin, was a novelist whose lasting fame rests on his Gothic horror novel, “Dracula.”

Published in 1897, the book introduced the character Count Dracula and established many conventions of subsequent vampire fantasy (not to be confused with the story of the Irish vampire).

The novel, laden with eerie atmosphere and suspense, remains a staple in the horror genre, influencing generations of writers and filmmakers, proving Stoker’s lasting impact on literature and popular culture.

22. Edna O’Brien

Edna O'Brien

Edna O’Brien, born on December 15th, 1930, in Tuamgraney, County Clare, is an influential Irish novelist renowned for her exploration of women’s experiences, most notably in her groundbreaking trilogy, “The Country Girls.”

This trilogy, once banned in Ireland due to its candid discussion of female sexuality and social issues, has firmly established her as an essential voice in Irish literature.

O’Brien’s ability to convey profound human emotions through exquisite prose has won her numerous accolades and a global readership, making her one of the famous Irish people alive.

23. Katie Taylor

One of the most famous people from Ireland to have entered the ring, Katie Taylor was born July 2nd, 1986, in Bray in County Wicklow, is an internationally recognised professional boxer.

She’s famed for her immense contributions to women’s boxing, boasting numerous world and Olympic titles, including a coveted gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

Taylor’s relentless determination and impressive skill set have propelled her to the pinnacle of her sport, shattering ceilings and inspiring the next generation of female boxers.

24. Pierce Brosnan

Pierce Brosnan

Pierce Brosnan, born in County Meath is an actor and film producer. He gained worldwide fame for portraying James Bond in films like “GoldenEye” and “Die Another Day.”

Brosnan’s suave demeanor and charismatic portrayal of the iconic spy earned him a place in cinematic history.

Aside from his role as 007, Brosnan has appeared in many other successful movies and have been involved in producing films through his production company, Irish DreamTime.

25. Gabriel Byrne

Gabriel Byrne

Gabriel Byrne, born in Dublin, is a renowned actor, producer, and director. He achieved international recognition for his roles in films such as “The Usual Suspects” and “Miller’s Crossing.”

Byrne’s talent and versatility have earned him critical acclaim, including several award nominations.

In addition to his successful film career, he has made significant contributions to the world of television, starring in the critically acclaimed series “In Treatment.”

Beyond his acting prowess, Byrne has been an advocate for mental health awareness and has spoken openly about his own experiences.

His dedication to his craft, combined with his commitment to raising awareness about mental health, has solidified his status as one of the most famous Irish people in the acting scene.

26. Sinéad Burke

Sinéad Burke, born in Dublin, Ireland, is a disability rights activist, educator, and writer. She advocates for inclusivity and representation in the fashion industry and society as a whole.

She has spoken at international conferences and appeared on many influential platforms to address issues related to disability rights.

Burke’s notable achievements include founding the “Tall Tales” podcast, where she engages in insightful conversations about inclusivity and diversity.

She has been recognised globally for her advocacy work, breaking barriers, and challenging societal norms, ultimately working towards a more inclusive world.

27. Veronica Guerin

Veronica Guerin

Veronica Guerin, born in Dublin, Ireland, was an investigative journalist. She fearlessly exposed the criminal activities of organised crime syndicates operating in Ireland.

Her relentless pursuit of truth and justice made her a prominent figure in Irish journalism. Guerin’s notable achievements include her investigative reporting on Dublin’s drug trade, which resulted in threats against her life.

Tragically, Guerin was assassinated in 1996. She has since become a symbol of courage in the fight against organised crime.

Her unwavering dedication to uncovering the truth and her ultimate sacrifice sparked a national conversation on crime and led to significant reforms in Ireland’s criminal justice system.

28. Richard Harris

Richard Harris, born in Limerick, Ireland, was an accomplished actor and singer. He gained fame for his powerful performances in films such as “This Sporting Life” and “Camelot.”

Harris was twice nominated for an Academy Award and won numerous accolades throughout his career. He also portrayed the beloved character Albus Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter movies.

Beyond his acting career, Harris was known for his distinctive baritone voice and released several successful music albums.

His talent, versatility, and captivating stage presence made him a prominent figure in both the film and music industries.

29. Peig Sayers

Peig Sayers

Peig Sayers was born in Dunquin, County Kerry in 1873. She was a traditional Irish storyteller and author and she became famous for her book “Peig,” which documents her life on the remote Blasket Islands.

Her vivid storytelling and depiction of the island’s hardships made her an iconic figure in Irish literature.

Through her memoir, Peig Sayers preserved the oral Irish traditions, offering a valuable insight into the culture and history of the Blasket Islands.

Her work has been widely studied and celebrated for its contribution to Irish literary heritage.

30. Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift, born on November 30th, 1667, in Dublin, Ireland, was a leading figure in literature.

An ordained clergyman, Swift served as the Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. However, he is best known for his cutting satirical writing, particularly “Gulliver’s Travels” (1726) and “A Modest Proposal” (1729).

Swift’s satirical prose, combining wit and indignation, made him one of the most influential authors in the English language, and his works continue to resonate with readers today.

31. W B Yeats


W.B. Yeats is another of the most famous people from Ireland. He was born on June 13th, 1865, in Sandymount, Dublin.

Yeats was an eminent poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature.

A driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival, Yeats’ influential works include “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” and “Easter, 1916”.

His mastery of symbolism and evocative poetic imagery earned him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923, making him the first Irish laureate.

32. Bob Geldof

Bob Geldof, born on October 5th, 1951, in Dún Laoghaire, Dublin, and is a prominent musician, philanthropist, and political activist.

He first rose to fame as the lead singer of the Irish rock band The Boomtown Rats, which had hits such as “I Don’t Like Mondays”.

However, he is perhaps best known for co-writing and organising the charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and the subsequent Live Aid concerts in 1985, which raised funds for famine relief in Ethiopia.

Geldof’s humanitarian efforts have earned him numerous accolades, including an honorary knighthood from the UK and a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. 

33. Evanna Lynch

Evanna Lynch

Evanna Lynch is another of the famous people from Ireland in this guide that achieved Harry Potter fame.

She was born on August 16th, 1991, in Termonfeckin, Louth, and is a widely known actress and activist.

Lynch is best known for her portrayal of Luna Lovegood in the “Harry Potter” film series.

In addition to acting, she’s an active advocate for animal rights and co-hosts the podcast “The ChickPeeps.”

34. Michael Fassbender

Michael Fassbender was born on April 2nd, 1977, in Germany. His dad is German father and his mam is Irish.

Fassbender’s breakthrough role came in the form of the epic historical drama “300” (2007), but he garnered international acclaim portraying Bobby Sands in “Hunger” (2008).

His portrayal of tech visionary Steve Jobs in “Steve Jobs” (2015) and a slave owner in “12 Years a Slave” (2013) earned him Academy Award nominations.

Notably, he has also played Magneto in the “X-Men” series, adding to his diverse range of memorable characters.

35. Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor is one of the most famous people from Ireland to emerge in the last decade. He was born on July 14th, 1988, in Dublin, and is a professional mixed martial artist.

His explosive style and often controversial persona saw him gain considerable fame and fortune in the UFC.

Beyond the UFC, McGregor stepped into the boxing ring for a mega-event against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2017.

His athletic accomplishments, combined with his larger-than-life personality, have solidified McGregor as a transformative figure in global combat sports.

36. Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis was born on April 29th, 1957, in London, England and is one of the most famous Irish people to hit the big screen.

Renowned for his method acting, he has knocked out some mighty flicks, including “My Left Foot” (1989), “There Will Be Blood” (2007), and “Lincoln” (2012), each of which earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor.

This extraordinary achievement makes him the only male actor to have won three Best Actor Oscars. Day-Lewis, who holds both British and Irish citizenship, announced his retirement from acting in 2017.

37. Sonia O’Sullivan

Sonia O’Sullivan

Sonia O’Sullivan, born on November 28th, 1969, in Cobh, County Cork, is an iconic long-distance runner. She is celebrated for her remarkable athletic prowess, particularly in the 5000 meters event.

O’Sullivan brought home the gold at the 1995 World Championships and the 1998 European Championships. Later, in 2000, she took home silver in the 5000 meters at the Summer Olympics in Sydney. 

Recognised for her consistent performance and passion for athletics, O’Sullivan’s contributions have elevated Ireland’s status in the realm of international sports.

38. Niall Horan

One of the most famous Irish people amongst younger generations is Niall Horan from One Direction fame. He was born on September 13th, 1993, in Mullingar.

He first catapulted to global stardom as a member of the boy band, One Direction, formed on the reality TV show, “The X Factor,” in 2010.

Notable for hits like “What Makes You Beautiful” and “Story of My Life,” One Direction became one of the best-selling music acts of all time.

After the band’s hiatus, Horan launched a successful solo career with albums “Flicker” (2017) and “Heartbreak Weather” (2020), cementing his status as a prominent figure in contemporary pop music.

39. Brendan Gleeson

Brendan Gleeson

Brendan Gleeson is one of the most famous people from Ireland when it comes to the big screen. He was born on March 29th, 1955, in Dublin, and is a versatile actor known for his dynamic roles across both film and television.

He achieved international recognition through his portrayal of the enigmatic hitman, Ken, in “In Bruges” (2008), earning him a Golden Globe nomination.

However, his most notable role may be that of Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody in the globally popular “Harry Potter” film series.

From historical dramas like “Braveheart” (1995) to TV series like “Mr. Mercedes” (2017-2019), Gleeson’s nuanced performances continue to capture audiences worldwide.

40. Carmel Snow

Carmel Snow is one of the most famous Irish people when it comes to fashion. She was born on August 15th, 1887 in Dalkey, Dublin, and was a pioneering figure in fashion journalism.

She is best remembered as the editor-in-chief of the US edition of Harper’s Bazaar from 1934 to 1958.

Under Snow’s leadership, Harper’s Bazaar became a celebrated platform for groundbreaking photography, creativity, and design, significantly influencing global fashion trends.

Notably, she discovered and mentored fashion icons like Diana Vreeland and Richard Avedon. Her forward-thinking continues to leave an considerable mark on the world of fashion.

41. Colin Farrell

Colin Farrell

Colin Farrell was born on May 31th, 1976, in Dublin and he is one of the more famous Irish actors.

He shot to international fame thanks to his performance in the 2002 film “Minority Report” alongside Tom Cruise.

His portrayal of hitman Ray in the critically acclaimed movie “In Bruges” (2008) won him a Golden Globe Award.

He further showcased his versatility in acting through films like “The Lobster” (2015), earning him another Golden Globe nomination.

What famous Irish people have we missed?

famous people from ireland

I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally left out some famous Irish people from the guide above.

If you have a place that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments below and I’ll check it out!

FAQs about famous people from Ireland

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Who are some famous Irish sportspeople?’ to ‘Who are Ireland’s most notable actors?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

Who is the most famous Irish person?

This will vary massively depending on who you ask. You could argue that the likes of Bono, Enya and Niall Horan are some of the most famous Irish people alive.

Who are some famous people from Ireland?

Bono (singer from U2), Mary Robinson (former Irish president), Niall Horan (from One Direction fame), Katie Taylor (celebrated boxer) and Colin Farrell (actor) are som very famous people from Ireland.

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