When I was your age they would say we can become cops or criminals.
No, not slang for the cops
. Organized crime, Irish-style.
Like The Mafia
and The Mafiya
the Irish Mob is strongly linked with poor immigrant communities. Mostly this means America but they can also pop up in stories set in Britain as well as back home.
A distinction should be made between the Irish Mob and groups like the IRA and the INLA
. While there is some overlap in fiction (and reality), for the purposes of this trope the Mob are Irish organized criminals motivated primarily by profit rather than the Cause. In settings where both are present, this is a likely bone of contention between two groups that normally start out working together.
The Mob originated in the early 19th century and until the rise of the Italian
and Jewish gangs
in the 1880's and later was the dominating force in New York organized crime. During the Twenties the Mob was a major player and many of the first flush of gangster movies featured Irish gangsters - famously James Cagney made a career out of playing them, starting with The Public Enemy
(1931). Nevertheless the Irish Mob waned after these years, struggling under competition with the Italian gangs and their own leadership struggles. They also slowly became less necessary: the Irish communities in America and Great Britain gradually assimilated and no longer needed gangs to protect them from disgruntled locals (because they were
the disgruntled locals). Not that they ever went away - both in reality and in fiction the Mob has maintained a presence to this day, especially in South Boston
The Irish Mob is often depicted as more anarchic and 'casual
' than The Mafia
, preferring shabby pubs and
t-shirts to Italian restaurants and fedoras.
Boston is especially associated with The Irish Mob, but, as noted above they can turn up anywhere. Notably in recent years, it's become increasingly popular to set a work with The Irish Mob in Ireland itself.
See also: Southies
- While Batman: The Long Halloween mostly involves the Italian Mafia, a quartet of Irish gangsters—employed by Carmine Falcone—appear in one chapter.
- Garth Ennis' run on The Punisher MAX includes the "Kitchen Irish" arc, which deals with the last remnants of the Irish mob duking it out in the newly-gentrified Hell's Kitchen.
- Road to Perdition has its protagonist Michael O'Sullivan (who was renamed Michael Sullivan for the movie), and the Looney mob (renamed Rooney for the movie) led by John and Connor Looney.
- The Sicklefin Gang in Divided Rainbow... though they actually hail from 'The Emerald Isles,' which is the Equestrian analogue of Ireland.
- The Public Enemy and other Cagney films.
- The Big Bad in The Sting is an Irish Mob boss.
- Nearly all the criminals in The Departed. Jack Nicholson's character was partially based on real life Irish-American gangster James "Whitey" Bulger.
- The antagonists in A History of Violence are Irish mobsters.
- Millers Crossing features a war between Irish and Italian gangs.
- Johnny Dangerously is a comedic example.
- Death to Smoochy also uses them comedically.
- In this case, they are on the main character's side, helping to protect him from a corrupt charity.
- Veronica Guerin has a relatively rare film appearance by Irish mobsters actually operating in Ireland.
- The General and Ordinary Decent Criminal, are both about the exploits of real-life Irish gangster Martin Cahill.
- In Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Dylan's ex-with-a-vengeance is an Irish mobster.
- Gangs of New York features very early immigrant Irish street gangs that ultimately gave rise to the Irish Mob as we know it.
- Reservoir Dogs has Lawrence Tierney as Joe Cabot, an Irish Mob boss who organizes the Dogs.
- Road to Perdition, with the exception of a few of Al Capone's men in Chicago, involves Irish-Americans.
- Notably absent in The Boondock Saints and its sequel All Saints Day. Despite being set in Boston, only Russian and Italian gangs seem to exist. The McManus brothers seem to have ties with Irish Republicans, and buy from an IRA arms dealer, but no actual Irish gangsters are shown.
- The Town features the Irish mafia of Boston.
- Far And Away features an Irish gang in 1892 USA with Colm Meaney as the bare-knuckle boxing leader.
- The 1990 movie State Of Grace, which takes place in New York's Hell's Kitchen.
- The antagonists of Run are supposedly this, given their names (Halloran, Martins) and the Boston / Atlantic City setting.
- In The Godfather, the Corleone crime family is sometimes called 'the Irish Gang' because Vito's consigliere is the half-Irish half-German Tom Hagen. The Irish Mob proper is mentioned in passing as a group of 'mad dog Irish stick up artists' the Corleone's warred with during the Depression. They actually came within an inch of killing Vito, managing to shoot him (non-fatally obviously), which is better than Al Capone's gunmen managed.
- The Robert B. Parker character Sunny Randall married into an Irish Mob family, and even though she and Richie (the White Sheep of this particularly family) are divorced now several members of the family are still fond of her and offer to help out if she needs it.
- The Black Donnellys
- The second season of Heroes had Peter Petrelli link up with Irish mobsters in Cork.
- The 'Fighting Fitzpatricks' of Veronica Mars, an Irish crime family in Neptune who are involved in drug dealing and extortion, among other things.
- Showed up on Leverage in "The Beantown Bailout Job"...and apparently Nate had been a childhood friend of one of the mobsters. Nate's father Jimmy is revealed to have been a high-ranking member of the Irish mob in "The Bottle Job." In "The Three-Card Monte Job," we meet him.
- Hardison once pretends to be one to a mark: "Can you be scared, boyo?"
- An episode of Spooks featured an American-Irish mobster and IRA weapons dealer who helped MI-5 prevent a terrorist attack on a nuclear plant, because the fallout would hit Ireland as well.
- The Maguires of Shameless.
- In Oz, the Magnificent Bastard of the series, Ryan O'Reily, was the leader of an Irish street gang on the outside.
- Boardwalk Empire has the American-Irish politician-turned-gangster Nucky Thompson as its main character. Parts of the show depict the conflict between the local Irish gangs of Chicago and the Italian outfit led by Torrio and Al Capone. It also goes into the relationship between Irish Republicans and Irish-American gangsters with one of Nucky's lieutenants being a former IRA enforcer/bomber who decided to settle in America.
- Castle has an episode with an Irish gang ("the Westies"); the victim of the week is an enforcer for the gang who's been sent to try to stop drugs from being dealt in their neighborhood.
- Another episode reveals that Ryan had in the past worked undercover and infiltrated an Irish gang. He has to go back undercover to protect his former girlfriend who is informing on the gang to the FBI.
- In The Blue Butterfly, Castle casts Ryan as an Irish gangster in the PI's diary he's been reading. He derails the discussion of a case to try and get Ryan to mimic his character's accent.
- Figures prominently in The Chicago Code, a bit puzzlingly considering Chicago's reputation as a home of The Mafia since the days of Al Capone.
- An episode of The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. had Brisco go up against Irish mobsters from Brooklyn.
- The White Collar episode "The Dentist of Detroit" is mostly about an Italian mobster from Detroit, but the New York Irish mob plays a bit role in Neal's elaborate plan to arrest him.
- Copper takes place in 1864 and shows the Irish-dominated New York neighborhood of Five Points. The local Irish gangs are more powerful than the police and the Irish police officers run their own protection racket.
- Love/Hate is an example actually set in Ireland.
- Not surprisingly, Law & Order has had several episodes dealing with the Irish mob. Same for Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which had one where an Irish mobster ran a small town and was protecting a cop killer.
- "Black Shamrock", by The Mighty Regis.
- Packie, Derrick, and Gerry McReary, along with their associate, Michael Keane in Grand Theft Auto IV are gangsters from a family past its glory days. Their Black Sheep other brother Francis is deputy police commissioner, but just as dirty as, if not worse than, they are. Francis's last mission for Niko is to kill Derrick because he feels threatened by what Derrick knows about him. Derrick, in turn, tells Niko to kill Francis. Francis attempts to sweeten the deal by offering you up to $20000 and later, using his connections to clear your Wanted Meter on demand.
- The organized crime in Fallout 3's Megaton is led by Moriarty, who has a strong Oirish accent. If you hack his computer, you find out he is faking it because he thinks it will make him more likable. The Irish gang that is Reilly's Rangers, on the other hand, is not so much into crime.
- A subplot in Shadow Hearts: From the New World involves Roy MacManus, the local Irish gang boss, dealing with his unrequired crush on Al Capone's sister Edna and his efforts to take over Chicago and Las Vegas after Capone was sent to Alcatraz.
- Vito Scaletta has frequent run-ins with an Axe Crazy Irish gang in Mafia II.
- The Chicago South Club of Watch_Dogs, who rule Chicago's criminal network in the game's alternate history. The Club is descendant from the Real Life Prohibition-era North Side Gang, and was formed when George "Bugs" Moran, following the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, united Chicago's remaining Irish gangs into a single cohesive organization to match the threat presented by Al Capone and the Chicago Outfit, whom they eventually defeated and absorbed.
- Ultra Fast Pony turns Applejack and her extended family into mobsters with Irish accents. Apple farming is just a front for some other business ("The none of your damn business kinda business!") and they control all the trees in Ponyville. They also get into a war with a cow mob.
- In the second season of Archer, Irish mobsters were behind a scam that replaced actual cancer medication with placebos. The titular Axe Crazy spy proceeds to go on a "rampage!" to make them pay.
- "Whitey" Bulger is the most famous Irish gangster. He operated drug dealing and gun smuggling rackets out of Boston, and also spent 19 years as a U.S. government informant against rival Italian gangs before going into hiding for 16 years as one of America's 10 Most Wanted felons. They only caught up with him in 2011 and convicted him in August of 2013 for racketeering and 11 murders. (For an account of what life was like in Boston in the neighborhoods he dominated, see All Souls.)
- The Westies are a New York City-based Irish-American gang. Though they never exceeded more than twenty or so members, it is believed they are responsible for up to 60-100 murders between the 60's and 80's, largely as a murder-for-hire group for Italian Mobsters such as the Gambinos.
- The Clerkenwell crime syndicate (also known as the A-Team or the Adams Family) is/was a London based mob run by three Irish Catholic brothers (Terry, Tommy and Patrick Adams). At their peak in the 90's they were one of the most powerful criminal organisations in the UK, were linked with 25 murders and amassed a fortune estimated at £200 million.
- Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll was notorious back in the days of organized crime for his feud with Dutch Schultz. Although Coll and his Irish mob were the first rivals to make Schultz so much as flinch, they were mostly notorious for a botched drive-by that left the intended target unharmed but killed a 5 year old boy.
- The Dead Rabbits gang was one of America's first street gangs and was largely comprised of Irish immigrants who escaped to New York during the Potato Famine. Notably, they had a female leader for a while, known as Hellcat Maggie. A fictionalized version of Hellcat Maggie and the Dead Rabbits as a whole are featured in the movie Gangs of New York
- The Celtic Club in Cleveland is a bit more recent example, originally formed from young Irish-Americans by Danny Greene to serve as his personal muscle to protect his gambling dens. He then attempted to utterly destroy the Licavoli family and competed with them for control of the city during the 70s. The ensuing conflict resulted in Cleveland gaining the moniker "Bomb City, U.S.A" due to the popularity of the car bomb, and while the Italians killed off Danny Greene, he permanently crippled their influence in the city.
- In more recent times, this has become quite prominent in Ireland itself, particularly since the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin. Infamous Irish gangland criminals have included the likes of Martin "The General" Cahill, John Gilligan and "Fat" Freddie Thompson. Guerin's employers at the time of her death, The Sunday World, fill their issues heavily with gang related stories.
- This is also true of Northern Ireland; the IRA and the Ulster Defence Volunteers fell on hard times towards the end of The Troubles and resorted to protection rackets, heroin dealing and the odd bank job to keep the bills paid. After the end of major combat operations, many of them decided to carry on as usual and pocket the cash for themselves.
- The infamous Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, while now more of a mix between White Gang-Bangers and Those Wacky Nazis, originated as a gang of Irish-American bikers called The Bluebird Gang in the late 1950's and early 1960's before becoming the Aryan Brotherhood proper. These origins are reflected in their use of Shamrock tattoos to identify themselves.