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Fighting Irish

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Send a volley cheer on high, shake down the thunder from the sky.

"Then Maggie O'Connor took up the job, 'Biddy' says she 'you're wrong, I'm sure'
Biddy gave her a belt in the gob and left her sprawling on the floor
Then the war did soon engage, t'was woman to woman and man to man
Shillelagh law was all the rage and a row and a ruction soon began"
Tim Finnegan's Wake, traditional Irish ballad

Ireland, the land of ire.

The Irish, or at least Oirish, counterpart to the Violent Glaswegian (when there's even any difference at all). Characters who are Irish or are of Irish descent are often portrayed as being fond of physical confrontation; even in a work where violence is typical, Irish characters will be especially eager for it. Being intoxicated and/or in a bar will often accentuate these tendencies.

This can be played many ways. A good-natured Boisterous Bruiser who favors his fists is typical of many recent examples; boxing has a long history in Ireland and among Irish-Americans, and in recent years, Irish boxers have had success at the Olympic Games. Negative portrayals are more common the farther back you go. There are also pirates which include Anne Bonny and Grace O'Malley. More thuggish examples will often carry a shillelagh, a traditional knobby cudgel that has become a symbol of Irish culture as well as its violence. Even darker examples might be remorseless Blood Knights, tyrannical bullies, or terrorist psychopaths. If a Fighting Irishman is or was in the Irish Republican Army expect him to have at least a bit of the Mad Bomber thrown in.


This may very slowly be becoming a Discredited Trope; while in the eighteenth century both the French and Spanish armies fielded expatriate "Irish Brigades," and nineteenth century Irish soldiers did indeed make up a disproportionate number of soldiers in the British and American armies (and are still allowed to join the British Army) times have moved on even if the stereotype hasn't. Ironically, Ireland is one of very few countries to become independent in the 20th century to have never been in an international war. During World War II it remained neutral and turned down a 1949 offer to join NATO. In fact, the Irish military has a good reputation as peacekeepers.note  The island also has a low rate of violent crime by international standards; nevertheless, do Beware the Nice Ones.


Mosty overlaps with Fiery Redhead, since Irish people are known to have red hair.


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    Trope Namer 
  • The Trope Namers are the University of Notre Dame's varsity sports teams and their belligerent Leprechaun mascot, who in turn got the name from Father William Corby, who was twice as President of the University of Notre Dame and served with the "The Fighting Sixty-Ninth" 69th New York Infantry Regiment, an Irish regiment during the American Civil War.

  • Irish girl Clover in the comic Blue Monday is easily the most violent person in the entire comic.
  • Steve Rogers, better known as Captain America, was born to poor Irish immigrants.
  • Matt Murdock, a.k.a. Daredevil is the biggest example of this trope in comics. The son of an Irish-American boxer, "Battlin' Jack" Murdock, Matt Murdock prowls the rooftops of Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood as Daredevil. He's an expert martial artist and boxer, and generally not someone you'd want to face in a fight. Matt is also portrayed as being devoutly Roman Catholic, another famous Irish cultural trait.
  • Hellblazer: His native Liverpool being at least as Irish as Boston in places, John Constantine probably counts, although he isn't really much of a scrapper, preferring to let cockney Chas or Violent Glaswegian Header handle that sort of thing. His girlfriend Kit has some boisterous friends, but they're more boozers than bruisers.
  • In Once & Future, Bridgette moved from Ireland to Britain when she was 15 and slayed vampires across the country until she ran out of vampires. Once Duncan gets into the family business, he soon finds that he has a knack for it even though he doesn't want to have a knack for it.
  • The ex-IRA terrorists of Sin City are a much darker example.

    Fan Works 

  • Even though Liam Neeson rarely plays hot-headed hooligans (except when parodying Oireland stereotypes — see his cameos on Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons), he virtually always plays a badass of some stripe. Famous Neeson characters include Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace, Bryan Mills in Taken, and Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia. He also played Good Cop/Bad Cop in The LEGO Movie, in which he alternated between a cheerful Officer O'Hara-type (Good Cop) and a ruthless sadist who's closer to this trope (Bad Cop).
  • The Boondock Saints: The MacManus brothers get into a Bar Brawl with some Russian mobsters and decide to become Vigilante Men after an epiphany when the morning after said brawl resulted in the mobsters coming into the brothers' apartment to off the brothers, and then it goes towards the rest of the organized crime in Boston.
  • Irish-American director John Ford loved this trope, usually playing it in the lovable Boisterous Bruiser variation and frequently involving alcohol.
    • In The Quiet Man, everyone is itching for a fight between Thornton and Danaher, and when it finally comes, they all want to join in.
    • In Fort Apache you have three, with only the sober Sergeant-Major O'Rourke an aversion.
    • In She Wore a Yellow Ribbon they get into fights with fellow rankers from another immigrant group, German-Americans.
    • In Young Cassidy (one of Ford's last films, finished by Jack Cardiff after Ford left the production due to illness), a riot breaks out at a performance of Sean O'Casey (aka "Jack Cassidy") play The Plough and the Stars. Cassidy waits in the lobby while inside the theater people are Produce Pelting his cast. He is met in the lobby by two drunk Irishmen who come in from the street specifically looking for a fight. When he accuses them of "creating a disturbance", one of them grins and says "Maybe just addin' to it." Cassidy then punches both of them out.
  • Inverted in Back to the Future Part III: Seamus McFly keeps counseling his future great-great-grandson Marty about staying out of fights and keeping his cool, although this is probably because his own brother Martin was very much the embodiment of this trope. This didn't end well.
    Seamus: Martin used to let men provoke him into fighting. He was concerned people would think him a coward if he refused. That's how he got a bowie knife shoved through his belly in a saloon in Virginia City.
  • In Braveheart, Wallace's most eagerly violent soldier is Stephen, an Irishman who joined the campaign not for the sake of freedom, but for the chance to kill Englishmen. He's also insane, or deeply religious with a sick sense of humor.
  • Crops up in Gone Baby Gone, where a man at the bar in Dorchester where Patrick goes to investigate gets belligerent and refers to him as having an "ass like a Skippy Jar." Amusingly enough, this was a Throw It In! and the man was an actual resident of the area, and Ben Affleck, the director, explains on the commentary that they were actually nervous about whether the residents would take direction or get belligerent for real.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger: Dum Dum Dugan appears to be an Irishman who'll "always fight" as long as you pick up the tab.
  • Far and Away: Lower-class Irish are shown to be rowdy, with a love of wrestling and fighting. The local Irish-American boss is introduced bare-knuckle boxing for fun, and Joseph Donnelly, the male lead, is a young, hot-headed Irish immigrant who brawls his brothers and ends up fighting for money. This is all contrasted with the upper-class Irish, who behave like typical European gentry.
  • Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa: Man with a gun in the radio station? Not a problem. But as Alan says "He's Irish!"
  • The Deserter: Kaleb explains why to General Miles why he selected every member of his team, and what they're specific skills are. When Miles asks why he chose O'Toole, Kaleb simply responds "He's Irish".
  • A downplayed example in Sherlock Holmes (2009): The music playing during Sherlock's boxing match is a traditional Irish song performed by Irish folk band The Dubliners.
  • Inverted in Seven Psychopaths. The cast is comprised mainly of murderous Americans, and the protagonist is an Irish immigrant and an Actual Pacifist.
  • The main villain of A Field in England is an Irish alchemist who uses physical violence to get a group of deserters from the English Civil War to do what he tells them.
    Friend: It's no surprise to me that the devil's an Irishman, though I thought he might be taller.

  • Mulvaney, the Irishman among Rudyard Kipling's Soldiers Three (along with Yorkshireman Learoyd and Cockney Ortheris) is certainly a fighter to be reckoned with.
  • The title character of Kim, real name: Kimball O'Hara, is the son of a soldier in a fictional Irish regiment, the Mavericks. They also appear in the novel and appear to have a reputation in tune with this trope, although it really only comes to the fore in one brief scene.
  • In P. G. Wodehouse's Psmith, Journalist, the main characters climb onto a rooftop in New York City to fend off some gangsters. A crowd of Irishmen instantly gathers on the opposite roof to watch the show.
  • Randle McMurphy from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, whose string of convictions include a number of assaults.
  • The Raven Cycle's Ronan Lynch, as well as his older brother Declan and father Niall Lynch, all have rough, combative streaks, raised to love sad ballads and bare-knuckle fighting. At one point, Ronan observes that the only person who could beat up a Lynch brother is another Lynch brother.
  • In Michael Flynn's The January Dancer, a planet that modeled itself after Oireland has this in the package.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: Before he became a vampire, Angel was Liam, a hedonistic Irish man with a love women, alcohol and fighting. He caught Darla's eye when he fought off several men while drunk during a bar brawl.
  • Burn Notice: Ex-IRA fighter Fiona Glenanne is quick to recommend that any problem be solved by charging in with guns and bombs blazing, especially when it involves children being endangered. Her suggestions usually get shot down in favor of something less conspicuous, but when the firepower's needed Fi is always ready to provide.
    Michael: Do you have some explosives?
    Fiona: I'm going to pretend you didn't ask that.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus "Bookshop Sketch": 101 Ways to Start a Fight by "an Irish gentleman whose name eludes me."
  • Danny Reagan in Blue Bloods. Not so much a Blood Knight as a rather brutal Cowboy Cop.
    • The whole Reagan clan is definitely a Badass Family, and the adults all seem to be tough fighters. Lampshaded by Great-Grandpa Reagan who responds to one of the kids wondering about what would happen if an intruder broke into the house by saying "Are you kiddin'? He'll take one look around this table and run the otha' way!"
  • In 30 Rock, Jack Donaghy ends up in a fistfight with members of his dysfunctional family in the appropriately titled episode "The Fighting Irish".
  • The Colbert Report: Stephen has invoked his Irish heritage several times in connection with his generally aggressive demeanor:
    • At the end of his first interview with Chris Mathews, who is also Irish-American, Stephen challenged him to a wrestling match and lost.
    • Stephen has stated on multiple occasions that, if he had a Time Machine, he would challenge Oliver Cromwell to a bare-knuckle fistfight on the banks of the River Shannon because "he drove [his] people west of [the river] to farm on rocks and gravel!"
  • In Paul Haggis's critically acclaimed and violent EZ Streets, all of the principal characters are Irish-American.
  • Saturday Night Live: Patrick Fitzwilliam and William Fitzpatrick,note  hosts of "Top O' the Mornin'", regularly punched walls.
  • In Law & Order, Logan, an Irish cop has the worst temper of almost any of the detectives, and he ends up punching a city councilman and getting reassigned, leaving the main series.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Shore Leave", Kirk's old Academy classmate Finnegan (or rather a simulacrum of him on the planet the Enterprise visited in the episode) fits this trope as he gives Kirk a hard time taunting him into a fight.
  • Chief O'Brien from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine may be a Nice Guy, but he's also a war hero with a bit of a temper and he's not afraid to throw a punch to protect his friends. He and his BFF Julian Bashir also enjoy holosuite programs of historical battles like the Alamo and the Battle of Britain.
  • Sons of Anarchy has several examples, but Jax Teller bare-knuckle fighting in Belfast is particularly memorable.
  • American Gods (2017): Mad Sweeney, the very Irish leprechaun, wastes little time before challenging Shadow to a fight. Turns out Sweeney was hired by Wednesday to make sure Shadow could fight if it was necessary - and possibly catharsis for Sweeney feeling guilty about his hand in Laura's death.
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • Matt Murdock is Irish-American, and fights violent crime in Hell's Kitchen.
    • Foggy Nelson is established in season 3 to be Irish-American as well, and is capable of throwing down when he has to, like using a baseball bat to beat up a few thugs threatening Karen, or trying to punch Dex when he shows up at the Bulletin to kill Jasper Evans.
  • The Last Kingdom gives us a 9th-century example: Finan, Lord Uhtred's Irish right hand, is a good-spirited (and deeply Catholic) Blood Knight who, in his own words, "loves a fight as much as the next idiot."

  • The ballad "Finnegan's Wake." A fight at a wake leads to the whiskey spilling over the corpse. Being Irish, he immediately rises from the dead to get at the whiskey and joins the fray.
  • The Garryowen is a song all about drinking and fighting, and fighting and...drinking. And fighting.note 
  • The Dropkick Murphys have several songs with this theme, including "Take 'Em Down" "Going Out In Style" and "Cruel", which contains this line:
    I was young and I thought I knew everything
    It's so hard to change a fool's mind
    When you're stubborn by nature and quick to the draw
    And you're full of inherited pride
  • The chorus of "The Irish Drinking Song" by Buck-O-Nine (commonly misattributed to the Dropkick Murphys or Flogging Molly) consists of "We drink and drink and drink and drink and drink and drink and fight" over and over again.
  • The protagonist of "Clancy Lowered the Boom."
    Now Clancy was a peaceful man
    If you know what I mean,
    The cops picked up the pieces
    After Clancy left the scene,
    He never looked for trouble
    That's a fact you can assume,
    But never-the-less when trouble would press
    Clancy lowered the boom!
  • Ireland's National Anthem "Amhrán na bhFiann"/"A Soldier's Song". Now, to be fair, a lot of national anthems are partially or entirely about how incredibly good the country in question is at war. Ireland's is still in the "entirely" category, being about how much Irish people fight and that's it.
    In valley green, on towering crag
    Our fathers fought before us
    And conquered 'neath the same old flag
    That's proudly floating o'er us
    We're children of a fighting race
    That never yet has known disgrace
    And as we march, the foe to face
    We'll chant a soldier's song
  • Horslips, in The Book of Invasions, take the primal myth of how the Irish came to Ireland and set it to music. The key song ''The Power And The Glory", with its Ominous Pipe Organ theme, has the lines
    not so much teachers as fighters, and what we teach is how to fight!
  • The Horslips, in their retelling of Irish primal legend The Tain, assert that the one thing which will persist past the end of all other things is the Irish tendency to violence and bloodshed. note 
    You can hear me shout,
    Two heads are better than one, a hundred heads are so much better than none!
  • The Tain is a retelling of the great primal war between the kingdoms of Ireland; the song from which the above lines are taken is called Dearg Dhu, celebrating the deeds of the great fighting warrior and hero Cu Chullain.
  • "The Foggy Dew" is an old Irish ballad chronicling and celebrating the Easter Rising of 1916, and actively encouraging soldiers to fight for the cause of Ireland rather than that of Great Britian, during World War I.
    And back through the glen, I rode again
    And my heart with grief was sore.
    For I parted then, with valiant men,
    Whom I will never see no more.
    But to and fro in my dreams I go,
    And I'll kneel and pray for you,
    For slavery fled, o glorious dead
    When you fell in the Foggy Dew.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • WWE:
    • Finlay, who "loves to fight", embodied the fun-loving Boisterous Bruiser side of this trope, even as he knocked people out with his shillelagh.
    • "The Celtic Warrior" Sheamus represented the more villainous side, as he is willing to inflict serious injuries through underhanded means. After his Heel–Face Turn, he's stopped using sneaky tactics and trying to cause permanent injuries, but he can still project serious menace when he wants.
    • Fergal Devitt now known as "Finn Balor" is a more downplayed example. He doesn't seem to be particularly belligerent, and his Irish descent accentuates his fighting instead of being the reason for it.
    • WWE Diva Becky Lynch, the "Lass Kicker", and first Smackdown Women's Champion, hails from Dublin, Ireland.
  • Irish Whip Wrestling, surprisingly, boasts alumni that include more than a few proud fighting men, and women, and maybe a bear. Though it also boasted its fair share of fighting anti-Irish.
  • "The Fighting Irish" is the Red Baron of Rhia O'Reilley, who's gotten chants of "Finlay's Daughter" at nCw Femme Fatales.

    Standup Comedy 
  • This bit from George Carlin:
    I notice at Jewish weddings they break glass. You ever been to an Irish wedding? Glasses, bottles, mirrors, tables, chairs, arms, legs, the band instruments, and the groom's neck. We don't fuck around. Mazel tov!
    • Carlin would also muse that only an ethnic group that was simultaneously so proud and so naive as the Irish could support the concept of "The fighting Irish". As he put it, "How long do you think a name like 'The Bargaining Jews' or 'The Murdering Italians' would have lasted?"
  • Denis Leary once jokingly wrote a newspaper column about how his Irish friends and relatives intended to celebrate St. Patrick's Day: by getting drunk and beating the shit out of each other. The Irish Anti-Defamation League issued a press release threatening a lawsuit for perpetuating the stereotype, but nothing more ever came of it. The reason why, according to Leary, was "They realized that all I would have to do is call NBC and request footage from any St. Patrick's Day parade since the invention of the television camera, and there would be scores of my Irish brethren, drunkenly beating the shit out of each other."

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Fianna from Werewolf: The Apocalypse often danced in this territory as an embodiment of Oirish tropes. This is what happens when you take Fionn Maccumhail's warrior band and make them all werewolves.
  • Gaunt's Ghosts are an Imperial Guard regiment from Warhammer 40000 with a background theme of the Irish Wild Geese [[Scotireland mixed with]] the '45 - their planet is destroyed/taken by the enemy, and all they have left is war.

  • In The Matchmaker, the widow Mrs. Molloy claims that one of the things she misses about her late husband was the blazing rows they used to have, which never failed to brighten her spirits when she was feeling down.
  • In “A Couple of Blaggards”, the brothers Mc Court claim that no real Irish wake is complete without a brawl, even citing one where the distraught widow cried “They didn’t love him, nobody fought!”

    Video Games 
  • Aran Ryan in the Punch-Out!! series, with the added bonus of being an utter lunatic willing to cheat.
  • Commandos: Jack "The Butcher" O'Hara is a prime example, being the resident Blood Knight and One-Man Army.
  • In Bioshock Infinite, most of the Vox Populi militants who aren't black are Irish, and they are indeed quite violent.
  • Given his condition by the time you meet him, Father Gascoigne fits this trope pretty well in Bloodborne.
  • Grand Theft Auto IV: Patrick McReary is a Hot-Blooded heir to an Irish Mob family. He later shows up in Grand Theft Auto V, where he's one of the best gunmen you can recruit for heists.
  • In Fallout 4, the companion Cait is a Fiery Redhead with a Scot Ireland accent who is inexplicably in 200-years-post-apocalyptic Boston long after intercontinental travel is largely impossible (though given that it's set in Boston, the inexplicable part might be that she's the only character with that accent). She's a successful prize cage fighter who is sadly starting to succumb to Psycho addiction. Helping her get clean without killing herself is her personal quest.
  • In The Saboteur, hot-headed and hot-tempered Sean Devlin (complete with hilarious Oireland accent) becomes a member of the resistance in Nazi-occupied France and solves all his problems with violence.
  • River City Ransom: Underground as the red-haired and freckled Mike, who likes to fight very dirty and his standard stance even is putting up his fists an old-school Irish boxer.
  • Dawn of War: In Retribution, the ork Freeboota Kaptin Bluddflagg combines the orks' usual Cockney accent with Talk Like a Pirate and the occasional trace of Irish (he pronounces his own name as Bloudflagg, for starters).
  • Aiden Pearce from Watch_Dogs was born in Belfast and was no stranger to violent situations, which extends into his work as a vigilante.
  • Caleb "The Deathslinger" Quinn from Dead by Daylight was an Old West Bounty Hunter born to Irish immigrants who had a Hair-Trigger Temper. Now he is a bloodthristy Serial Killer who collects "bounties" for a God of Evil.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Fate/stay night, the various mythological heroes usually have their own reasons for jumping into the Holy Grail War. Naturally, Cu Chulainn, Ireland's Child of Light, is in it for a good fight.
    • The prequel novel Fate/Zero features another Irish Lancer, Diarmuid of the Love Spot, a hero from the Fenian Cycle of Irish mythology, who carves up legions of demonic terrors and fights Berserker hand-to-hand. Unlike Cu Chulainn, he's not in it for a fight, however, and while he likes fighting as much as any other Servant he's not unusually fond of it.
    • Fate/Grand Order has made it into something of a Running Gag that Celtic Servants (especially those from the Ulster Cycle) are insatiable Blood Knights with a flippant attitude towards violence and death (up to and including their own), that no one else can quite seem to get their heads around. After encountering Cu Chulainn's teacher, Scathach, the protagonist goes as far as to declare that Celts are crazy by default.

  • Roark "Rocky" Rickaby and his cousin Calvin "Freckles" McMurray from the webcomic Lackadaisy both show shades of this. Ethnically, they are at the very least Irish-American, with Rocky possessing a slight brogue that is mostly seen when making use of various Irish idioms and phrases in his speech. In terms of fighting spirit, Rocky is never one to turn down a challenge and is a bit...fond of using fire at times while Freckles is more reserved and least until you hand him a gun.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • In one of the St. Patrick's Day episodes, Springfield's Protestant and Catholic Irish populations remember how much they hate each other when they aren't allowed to drink. Cue orgy of violence.
    • Another St. Patrick's Day episode, "Homer vs. The Eighteenth Amendment" where Bart inadvertently touches off a riot:
    Kent Brockman: Drunkenness, fighting, destruction of property: are these really the qualities we associate with the Irish?
    Principal Skinner: Yes, Seamus, 90 minutes of watching a man drink in a bathtub. Well, I think we should try the Springfield Speaker's Bureau. [leans out window] Seamus, uh, we won't need you to speak anymore.
    Seamus: What?! [looks at Willie] Oh, this is your doing, Willie. I'll turn your groin to pudding!
    Willie: Oh, you speak like a poet, but you punch like one, too!
    [Seamus and Willie start fighting]
    • In the episode, The Day The Violence Died, Bart and Milhouse watch an old Itchy and Scratchy cartoon from The Silent Age of Animation, titled "Manhattan Madness." The cartoon features a segment in which "Itchy runs afoul of an Irishman." Despite the narration and Milhouse's reaction, the Irishman is a subversion, greeting Itchy with a friendly handshake and not even putting up any kind of fight when Itchy starts maiming him, not that this stops Itchy from killing the Irishman anyway.
    Milhouse: Look out, Itchy. He's Irish!
  • Family Guy:
    • Drunken violence is portrayed as a standard evening's entertainment when Peter travels to Ireland to find his real father.
    • Parodied when Chris compares the gas induced by his mother's vegetables to an Irish Bar Brawl in his intestines; the Brussels sprout and broccoli argue with Irish accents and fight in front of a crowd of onlookers.
  • King of the Hill: Peggy rallies the school cheerleaders to beat up a version of the opposing team's Irish mascot by stereotyping as much as possible. Afterward, the act is treated as a hate crime.

Alternative Title(s): Fighting Irishman, Fighting Irishwoman


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