Irish Connections Around the World

St Patrick’s Day is one of the most popular festivals worldwide, and to many people, has come to represent Irish culture and identity. Today there are over 70 million people worldwide who claim Irish heritage.

The Irish have certainly made an impact on the world over the centuries. Here we take a look at the Irish influence in some of our favourite destinations.

Washington, USA

The White House, located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., was designed by an Irish-born architect called James Hoban from Kilkenny, who won the competition to design the building in 1792. Many historians believe that Hoban modelled the White House on Leinster House in Dublin, the Irish Dail.

Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife

Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands with the city of Puerto de la Cruz in the northern part of the island. In 1771, Nicola Blanco, an Irish businessman, became the city’s first mayor.

Madrid, Spain

O’Donnell Station is on Line 6 of the Madrid Metro. The station is named after O’Donnell street, which in turn is named after the 19th-century Spanish politician Leopoldo O’Donnell, who was a descendant of the O’Donnell’s who left Ireland after the Battle of the Boyne (1690).

Zurich, Switzerland

The writer James Joyce is buried in Zurich. In 1941 the self-exiled Joyce, who had left Ireland in 1902 because of political turmoil, died after undergoing ulcer surgery in Switzerland and was buried in the Fluntern Cemetery. Though Joyce’s wife Nora tried to move her husband’s body to Ireland after the burial, the Irish government denied the request. Joyce’s body resides in a grave alongside his wife and son, watched over by a small statue of the poet.

Santiago, Chile

Bernardo O’Higgins was a Chilean independence leader who freed Chile from Spanish rule in the Chilean War of Independence. His father, Ambrose O’Higgins, was born in Ballynary, County Sligo. The main street in the Chilean capital Santiago is Avenida Libertador General Bernardo O’Higgins is named after him.

Sofia, Bulgaria

Pierce Charles de Lacy O’Mahony was a politician and philanthropist, born in Dublin in 1850. In 1903 he and his wife Alice travelled to Sofia, Bulgaria, to undertake relief work among refugee orphans who had fled to Bulgaria to escape massacres occurring in Turkey. On 30 March 1904 he opened St Patrick’s orphanage, which continued functioning until closure during the war in 1915. He supervised and paid its costs, while also bringing at least four orphans to Ireland where he paid for their education. A street in the Bulgarian capital Sofia is named Pierce O’Mahony Street in his honour.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

John Coghlan was an engineer born in County Kerry, Ireland. He spent thirty years in Argentina (1857–1887), during which he was in charge of several public works. He was also involved in the Argentine railway system. A year after his death in 1890, the Argentine railway authorities gave his name to one of their railway stations in Buenos Aires.

Cognac, France

Located in the Cognac region of France, the Hennessy cognac distillery was founded by Irishman Richard Hennessy in 1765. Born in Co. Cork, Richard left Ireland at 19, enrolled in the Clare regiment and fought for King Louis XV at the battle of Fontenoy. Hennessy was first imported to America 30 years later in 1794. The exportation to America signalled the birth of the cognac as an international that is celebrated to this day. The Prince of Wales, later King George IV of Great Britain, being a great connoisseur of cognac, asked Hennessy in 1817 to create a “very superior old pale cognac” – and the Hennessy V.S.O.P was created. The initials V.S.O.P – Very Superior Old Pale – have been used since then as a standard for the entire cognac industry.

Newfoundland, Canada

During the 2016 census in Canada, Irish ethnicity retained its spot as the 4th largest ethnic group with 4,627,000 Canadians with full or partial Irish descent. It is estimated that about 80% of Newfoundlanders have Irish ancestry on at least one side of their family tree due to mass emigration from the counties Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford, Kerry and Cork. The family names, the predominant Roman Catholic religion, the prevalence of Irish music – even the accents of the people – are so reminiscent of rural Ireland that Irish author Tim Pat Coogan has described Newfoundland as “the most Irish place in the world outside Ireland”.