Greatest Irish man/woman?

George is gone. But, rather than crying into our boots, it seems an appropriate moment to take a straw poll on who is/was the greatest Irishman or woman. Give us two candidates each: living and of all time. We’ll run open comments for a week and then have a formal poll containing the top ten candidates. Here’s some (far from comprehensive) suggestions.

  • Scotsman

    Chaim Herzog and Brian from Big Brother.

    Both proven winners…

  • Henry94

    Roy Keane and Rory Gallagher

  • There,s not a lot to choose from. We’ve had our share of sportsmen, politicians, entertainers and b-list celebs that narrows the field. Its gotta be..Louis Walsh.

    Greatest ever is an altogether different problem dozens in the field of contenders… Charles Srewart Parnell.

  • Correction: Bottom line should read Charles Stewart Parnell.

  • mark

    John O’Shea and Sean MacBride.

  • Nathan

    Mary Robinson and Dr TK Whitaker

  • Henry94


    I think Dr. Whitaker is still with us.

  • TOT

    Dustin the turkey and Darby o Gill

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    Henry, ‘of all time’ surely can be living or dead?

  • I’d like to see the two great Irish explorers Ernest Shackleton and Tom Crean get a mention. Crean in particular tends to be forgotten or unheard of but his life was amazing. Check it out here.

  • Henry94

    Henry, ‘of all time’ surely can be living or dead?

    Yes but then you only need one nomination because the greatest of all time, if alive, is by definition the greatest living.

  • Dutch

    Phil Lynott – a man before his time who taught Irish people that they could be 21st century cool too.

  • smcgiff

    David Trimble
    Oscar Wilde

  • glensman

    DJ Carey
    Oliver Plunkett

  • Keith M

    Living : Des O’Malley
    RIP : Oscar Wilde

  • slug

    Lord Kelvin – made it into GCSE Physics.

  • slug

    Has Mary Robinson died by the way?

  • Ringo

    St Columba


    Sharon Ní Bheolain

  • Kelvin Doherty


    Never knew I was a Lord..!

    Zig and Zag

  • Yer Woman

    John Hume

    Oscar Wilde

    Dave Fanning!

  • Keith M

    slug : “Has Mary Robinson died by the way? ”

    Only her hair.

  • slug

    What made me ask was:

    Nathan: “Mary Robinson and Dr TK Whitaker”
    Henry: “I think Dr. Whitaker is still with us.”

  • Adrian

    OK, I doubt he really is the greatest ever, but somebody has to meantion Allan Brooke because without him we’d be conducting this discussion auf Deutsch

  • Greatest Irishman (living): Seamus Heany proven by winning a Nobel
    Greatest Irishwoman (living): my wife – the longest suffering but most tolerant woman on the globe

    Greatest Irishman (deceased): James Joyce, two of the top ten books ever.
    Greatest Irishwoman (deceased): Countess Markovitz, first woman elected in Ireland

  • Do I win if I say Mick Fealty?

  • Ling

    Zig and Zag

  • martin

    Owen Roe O’ Neill
    No one ever came closer to getting our freedom and indeed we were a virtually independent country between 1646 and 1649

    ‘Did they dare,did they dare,to slay Eoghan Roe O’Neill ?
    ‘Yes they slew with poison him they feared to meet with steel.’
    ‘May God wither up their hearts! May their blood cease to flow!
    May they walk in living death, who poisoned Eoghan Roe!

    ‘Though it break my heart to hear,say again the bitter words.’
    ‘From Derry,against Cromwell, he marched to neasure swords;
    But the weapon of the Saxon met him on his way,
    And he died at Cloch Uachtar,upon Saint Leonard’s day.

    Sagest in the council was he, kindest in the hall;
    Sure we never won a battle–’twas Eoghan won them all.
    Had he lived–had he lived–our dear country had been free;
    But he’s dead, but he’s dead, and ’tis slaves we’ll ever be.

    ‘O’Farrell and Clanricarde,Preston and Red Hugh,
    Audley and Mac Mahon—ye are valient wise and true;
    But–what, what are ye all to our leader who is gone?
    The Rudder of our ship was he , our castle’s corner stone!

    ‘We thought you would not die—we were sure you would not go,
    And leave us in our utmost need to Cromwell’s cruel blow–

    Sheep without a shepherd, when the snow shuts out the sky-
    Why did you leave us Eoghan ? Why did you die??

    Tyrone still loves you Eoghan—and had you lived you would have defeated Cromwell–just like Your less well able nephew Hugh Duff did at Clonmel-only you would have defeated him totally.

    Rest in peace great soldier

  • COMEDIAN – Owen O’Neil

    MUSIC – Christy Moore

    LITERATURE – Oscar Wilde

    POLITICS – When someone of note comes along I will forward their name.

  • 6countyprod

    Amy Carmichael, (northern) Ireland’s Mother Theresa.

  • mwk

    WR Hamilton without a doubt.

    As for living…errr….

    and is this a popular poll? As if no one else (in their delusion) realises the importance of Hamilton to the entire canon of modern science, do we get some no-hoper as the toppest-evah Oirish bod? (Though I will allow dear old Monsieur Melmoth to win if needs be.)

  • Dualta

    Gerry McIlanderson, Spinster of This Parish.

    Thank you for not smoking………..

  • Niall: Countess Markovitz, a distinct possibility. Not only the first woman elected in Ireland but the first woman elected anywhere in the western world.

  • Bono.

    Surprised nobody’s mentioned him so far.

    (by the way the captcha security question for me was “says32″…I thought this site was bipartisan!! 🙂 )

  • RedPaul

    Terry Wogan.

  • Mick Fealty

    Cyber: bad case of sucking up. Answer to the question is (probably) no!

  • Brian Boru

    There are so many to choose from. But a few stand out on top, namely:

    Michael Collins
    Eamon de Valera
    Hugh O’Neill
    Eoin Roe O’Neill
    Wolfe Tone
    Fr.Murphy (1798)
    Henry Joy McCracken
    Henry Monroe
    Charles Stewart Parnell
    Henry Grattan

  • bigwhitedove

    Greatest living Ray Houghton (Stuttgart)
    Greatest deceased Gráinne Uaile?Grace O Malley

  • I’ve changed my mind it’s not Mick Fealty it’s Arthur Guinness

  • Brian Boru

    Appalled that Dermot McMurrough is included on the list. He started this by inviting the English in to help him recover the throne of Leinster which the Irish High King had deposed him from for kidnapping the daughter of the King of Breifne (Cavan). Bah!

  • shamo

    George Bernard Shaw, our most prolific playwright (even more prolific than Shakespeare).
    Bobby Sands, IRA Volunteer and martyred political prisoner.

  • Mick Fealty


    You’re right. I count that as only the second scientist so far. There’s loads on the way out from Dublin airport – most of them from Northern Ireland.

  • Mick Fealty

    Right ahead of the field so far is Oscar Wilde. Two nominations each for Zig and Zag (alive or dead?) and Countess Markievicz. There are several for Owen Roe O’Neill, but some of them came in bundles of plenty.

    For the final reckoning, you can only nominate two. For simplicity’s sake I’ll take your first two. So give it some thought before you nominate.

    I note too there’s a tendency to favour the dead over the living. [Slugger readers living the past – Shocker!] Try to be strict with yourself and do both.

  • Brian Boru

    Right if we only choose 2, then I choose:

    Michael Collins
    Eoin Roe O’Neill

  • My two are John Hume and James Joyce.

    Although I do agree with the zig and zag. If you’ve ever seen the footage (not sure if its real or fake) of them throwing Bosco around screaming Bosco is a b*****ks which is allegedly why they were sacked from RTE you might agree its possibly the funniest piece of tv ever.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ahem (Brian), both of those are dead.

  • David, is that footage online, and do you have a link for it if so?

    PS my security code was value32!

  • I have never been able to find it online just through file sharing software sorry.

  • Brian Boru

    “Ahem (Brian), both of those are dead. ”

    Though that was allowed. Okay then. For the best 2 living ones I choose:

    A: John Hume for helping end the Troubles through starting the much-maligned Hume-Adams process.

    B: Me.

  • James Campbell

    Gerry Adams

    Charles Stewart Parnell

  • Katinka

    The Duke of Wellington, and
    St Columbkille (Columba).

  • Simon

    John Hume

    Gordon Wilson

  • CS Parnell

    I nominate John Hume agus mise

  • Declan

    There is only one truly great Irishman: Edmund Burke.

    “Applause is the spur of noble minds, the end and aim of weak ones”.

    “Circumstances give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing colour and discriminating effect. The circumstances are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind”.

    “It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare”.

    “Liberty must be limited in order to be possessed”.

  • prolefodder

    1. Oscar Wilde
    2. Sen. David Norris

  • bill

    Paul McGrath

    Ian Curtis

  • Pete Baker

    The wannabe Countess?? sheesh.. if being elected is the only criteria then there are several rogues who will be clamouring for attention.

    The Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley, is a much better option.

    And I’ll throw in the wild card of Robert Boyle, also known through physic textbooks for Boyle’s Law, and otherwise known as the Earl of Cork.

  • Biffo

    1. Cú Chulainn
    2. Val Doonican

  • Political: James Connolly and Bobby Sands

    Literature: Samuel Beckett and George Bernard Shaw

    Sport: Roy Keane and George Best

    and of course Bosco!! 😉

  • Pete Baker

    As I said.. “if being elected is the only criteria then there are several rogues who will be clamouring for attention”

    Who is/was the greatest Irishman or woman. Give us two candidates each: living and of all time.

  • foreign correspondent

    Bono and James Joyce

  • smcgiff

    No mention as yet of the Rev. Ian Paisley. 🙂

  • jimbo

    Paul Berry & Right Said Fred

  • Me 🙂

  • mary peters or c.s lewis

  • Crataegus

    Brian Boru

    probably the only Irish man to Unite Ireland and that was a brief and bloody affair.

  • Crataegus

    Brian Boru

    The only Irishman to unite Ireland and that was a brief and bloody affair

  • Mandrake

    Dead: Dr Barnardo

    Alive: Garth Ennis – comicbook writer.

    Some of you may notice that neither of these people made any effort to kill their fellow Irish-men or anyone else. The nmark of a great person I believe.

  • Oscar Wilde
    David Vance ( for comic value )

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Bob Geldof (first mention???) and Oscar Wilde.

  • Xaun

    Constance Markievicz and Theobald Wolfe Tone

  • The wannabe Countess?? sheesh.. if being elected is the only criteria then there are several rogues who will be clamouring for attention.

    Pete, if you think that’s all she achieved in life then I suggest you research or ask your history teacher for your money back.

    Don’t like the ‘woman’s issues’ because the Woman’s Colition took vote from your sdlp ?!?!

    She was born with a “silver spoon in her mouth”, but Constance Markievicz soon spit it out and went to work in the cause of Irish independence.

  • bigwhitedove

    Gerry Lvs C
    I used to take you halfway seriously,
    Bob LMAO,

    Ghris as a Gael from Armagh what about
    Stevie from Killeavey??

    2 soccer players, you should hang your head in shame!!

  • John

    Major Willie O’Dea

  • DCB

    Surely the greatest living Irishman is none other than Daniel O’Donnel

    You won’t see him getting pissed on Wogan

  • Paddy Mayne

    Mary Peters

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Gerry Lvs C
    I used to take you halfway seriously….

    No you didn’t.

    Bob LMAO…

    Come on BWD — Bob fed more of the world than any other Irishman + he got a number three hit by revealing what a crap Banana Republic the south was…an absolute saint if you ask me.

  • headmelter

    1. Father Ted

    2. Father Dougal

  • What about Father Jack????

    not forgetting Mrs Doyle!

  • Rationalist

    Jim McDonald out of Coronation Street, so he is. Dead on.

  • missfitz

    Greatest living: TK Whittaker. For his extraordinary contribution to the modernisation of Ireland, and his recognition of the “dark night of the soul”. Probably doesnt get the recognition he deserves.

    Greatest ever: Tough one, but would have to go with Countess Marcievicz. A woman who not only talked the talk but walked the walk.

  • Betty Boo

    Cahir Rua O’Dohertaigh

    My friend Anne

  • bigwhitedove

    Gerry Lvs C
    Oh yes I did, I totally disagree with your politics but took your comments seriously,
    Bob, I would take grave exception to, Irishman?? taking honours from the Brit Queen!!
    He would be in the same league as Terry Wogan,
    His motivation for Live Aid 1 is totally suspect
    His music with the BTR was superb far better than U2, so I suppose in terms of sheer musical genius he comes close

  • 1. Peter Canavan

    2. The person/team who created the recipe for Porterhose Plain Porter and Oyster stout!

  • 6countyprod

    I second smcgiff: Ian Paisley, greatest living Northern Irishman. Amy Carmichael, of all time

  • bootman

    James Connolly
    Patrick Pearse, founders of the Republic

  • smcgiff

    ‘founders of the Republic’

    I thought it was Yodas’ master, Masteria, who founded the republic a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away?

    ‘course, I could be wrong! 🙂

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ”Bob, I would take grave exception to, Irishman?? taking honours from the Brit Queen!!”

    Strange I would count being born in Dublin as being Irish but oh well….
    Why shouldn’t he take honours from the Brit Queen?
    Bono certainly doesn’t mind cosying up to the Brit establishment and I note that YOU are speaking the Brit Queen’s English……

  • bigwhitedove

    G Lvs C
    You are dead right Bob deserves it more than Bono, but that is no recommendation in my book,
    On being born in Dublin I seem to remeber the famous quote about a stable and a horse, but then again
    Go raibh maith agat don comhra maith, agus mas maith leat e a deanamh as gaeilge aris beidh me sasta

  • shalamar

    When we were kids we all went with Man U – ie George Best, or Spurs – ie Pat Jennings. I made the error of a lifetime and went with Spurs, but no regrets about Big Pat, the greatest living Irishman.

    And of all time; that would be Flann O’Brien in his multitudinous guises, thus giving me more bang for my buck…

  • Dandetinker

    Greatest living….my ma
    greatest ever…….my ancestor who cut off his hand, threw it on the beach and claimed Ireland five thousand years ago………

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    OK BWD I asked for that one — and since I can proudly say that I can’t speak a word of Irish and hopefully never will, your little diatribe above means absolutely zip to me, though I’ll hazard a guess that it roughly translates to ‘Rat Trap’ — what a classic but ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ rules Bob out of this poll forever….

  • thomas

    David Healey
    Jackie Fullerton

  • colinboyle

    Bobby Sands fro god almight sake. What other Irishman gave so much for so many ,and alas for so little!