"We used to grow priests in Ireland. We used to grow them from bits of people that we didn't like. But we over-planted. We had an epidemic. We were flooded with them. So, we tried to engage the rest of the world in a priest-for-potato swap."
— Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan
Irish Catholic priests or nuns, basically, turn up in a lot of places. It's like Ireland exports them.
This was indeed once very common
back in The Fifties
and earlier when Ireland essentially did
export clergy. In part this was due to the tradition of Irish priests and nuns going overseas both as students and missionaries and in part simply due to the very high emigration rate in Ireland (12.7 people per 1000 in 1950). It also runs with the stereotype, within Britain and the US, that Irish Catholics are particularly devout.
Having said that, this is definitely not the case today; changing demographics and the growth of secularism mean that these days, Ireland does not even train enough priests for her own
needs, and has to import from Poland and Africa. Thus, unless the priest or nun is very elderly or is in a period piece
, he or she is not too likely to be Irish. An exception is the United States, where even if priests who actually came from Ireland are fairly rare, Irish-descended clergy dominate the church hierarchy; there's a very good chance that any given American Catholic archbishop or Cardinal (both in fiction and reality) is Irish—it's something of a bit of a joke within the American Church that all the American Cardinals seem to trace at least part of their ancestry from the Emerald Isle.note
However, the same is not
true of the parishioners; religious surveys
done within the last ten years show that Irish Americans are one of the most secularized ethnic communities in America.note
In addition, having been born and raised in America, Irish priests are unlikely to have an Irish accent despite what you find on TV.
Nevertheless, stock characters die hard, and even if doesn't make much sense any more, Irish priests abroad are not quite a Dead Horse Trope
See also Christianity Is Catholic
and Bad Habits
In terms of rank, the authority tropes
arguably equal are Badass Preacher
, Corrupt Corporate Executive
, Preacher Man
, Pedophile Priest
, Schoolteachers Sexy Priest
, Sinister Minister
and The Vicar
. For the next step down, see Student Council President
. For the next step up, see Dean Bitterman
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Live Action TV
- Caitlin O'Shaughnessy, in Airwolf, one pretended to be an Irish nun.
- Harry O'Rourke, Vatican investigator in the JAG episodes "Miracles" and "Salvation".
- Nick impersonates one in an episode of Forever Knight. He gets to hear Schanke's confession.
- Father Liam Riley from the Paris episodes of Highlander: The Raven.
- Father Mulcahy of Mash is of Irish heritage.
- Patrick Fitzpatrick of Veronica Mars. Also most likely a Corrupt Priest and a member of Irish Mafia.
- Sons of Anarchy featured a prominent Belfast priest who was one of the top leaders of the Real IRA.
- Ballykissangel lampshades this since it's (initially) about an English priest assigned to a parish in Ireland.
- Had a crossover episode with The Vicar of Dibley. Geraldine expects the priest visiting Dibley to be a stuffy old man, but is pleasantly surprised to see he's young, attractive, and down to earth. Similar to Geraldine who doesn't fit the description of a typical Vicar.
- One appeared in the Pedophile Priest episode of Law & Order: SVU
- One episode of Sharpe has an Irish priest in Spain, who turns out to be something of a Badass.
- Father Ted is about three Priests (a drunkard, an idiot, and the title character) on an Irish island. This trope is invoked not so much Once an Episode as Once A Minute.
- In one episode, a nun gushes to a black priest about what wonderful work he must be doing among those poor Africans, and ask how the missions there are doing. The priest replies in a thick Irish accent: "Sure, I wouldn't know, I'm from Donegal."
- Though he's not a priest, Nate Ford from Leverage is Boston Irish and attended a seminary in his teenage years intending to become a priest. Him portraying clergy is a common occurance to the team's cons. We also meet one of his friends who is an Irish Priest.
- On iCarly, Sam Puckett is obsessed with meeting Father McGurthy, the world's fattest priest, combining both this trope and the show's perchance for Punny Names.
- Tommy Tiernan has a bit on this.
We used to grow priests in Ireland. We used to grow them from bits of people that we didn't like. But we over-planted. We had an epidemic. We were flooded with them. So, we tried to engage the rest of the world in a priest-for-potato swap. And we were conned by the Africans. Bastards! Took all our priests, not a potato between them. Pagan spudless fuckers! Our priests went over to Africa, and what happened? What do you think happened? They melted! And now we've run out of priests in Ireland. There's none left. And irony of ironies, what's happening? Missionaries! From Africa!
- Father Daniel Wales from BioShock 2, despite his last name.
- Gabriel Knight poses as one to get information out of an older woman in his first game.
- A Rubber Chicken Films sketch  features a classic Irish priest.
- Girl Genius recently introduced Brother Ulm, a monk in the Corbettites, a monastic order devoted to operating a politically neutral free-to-all rail liner service throughout Europa. He serves as the conductor aboard the Wyrm of Limerick
- It seems that at least half of Springfield's Catholic clergy in The Simpsons is Irish.
- The train conductor in Girl Genius is one