A history of Ireland in 100 great quotes

From ‘Dress suitably, and buy a revolver’ and 'A terrible beauty' to 'We all partied'

1. "Richard Burke, I dismiss you."
Pirate Queen Gráinne Mhaol, divorcing her husband, 1567

2. "It was a bizarre happening, an unprecedented situation, a grotesque situation, an almost unbelievable mischance."
Charlie Haughey, summer of 1982. Conor Cruise O'Brien then coined the term "Gubu" to describe Haughey and his government

3. "Put em under pressure" 
Jack Charlton, 1990

4. “Young people of Ireland, I love you.”

Pope John Paul II, 1979


5. "As Drummer would say: I picked it out of my arse."
Anglo Irish Bank senior manager John Bowe referring to then-ceo David Drumm, and how the figure of €7bn to bail out the bank was reached, 2008

6. "Give us your f*cking money"
This quote is interesting because it never actually happened. What Bob Geldof actually said during an impassioned plea for the public about how to donate to Live Aid in 1985 was "f*ck the address, let's get the phone numbers"

7. "Fight the real enemy."
Sinead O'Connor rips up a photograph of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live, 1992

8. “I feel more and more the time wasted that is not spent in Ireland.”

Lady Gregory

9. "Dress suitably in short skirts and strong boots, leave your jewels and gold wands in the bank, and buy a revolver."
Countess Markiewicz, October 1915

10. "I recognise no partition. I recognise it as no crime to be in my own country. I would be ashamed of my own name and my murdered husband's name if I did… Long live the Republic!"
Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, 193

11. "Seanabhean is ea mise anois go bhfuil cos léi insan uaigh is an chos eile ar a bruach." / "I am an old woman now with one foot in the grave and the other on its edge."
Peig Sayer's opening gambit, 1936

12. "What have you done for Ireland? How have you answered the Call? Are you pleased with the part you're playing in the job that demands us all? Have you changed the tweed for the khaki to serve with rank and file, as your comrades are gladly serving, or isn't it worth your while?"
An extract from a first World War recruitment poster from 1915.

13. "We serve neither King nor Kaiser, but Ireland."
The banner on Liberty Hall during the first World War, 1914

14. “In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.”

Opening line of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, 1916

15. "From my earliest youth I have regarded the connection between Ireland and Great Britain as the curse of the Irish nation, and felt convinced, that while it lasted this country would never be free or happy."
Wolfe Tone, 1798

16. "G'way, ye wife-swapping sodomites"
Una Bean Mhic Mhathuna challenging pro-divorce campaigners during the 1995 referendum

17. “And that feels oppressive”

The repeated line during Panti Bliss’s Noble Call speech at the Abbey Theatre in 2014

18. "When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood."  
Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes was a modern day Peig, 1996

19. "I am persuaded that this is a righteous judgement of God on these barbarous wretches, who have imbrued their hands with so much innocent blood; and that it will tend to prevent the effusion of blood for the future, which are satisfactory grounds for such actions which cannot otherwise but work remorse and regret."
Oliver Cromwell in the aftermath of the Drogheda massacre, 1649

20. “No man has a right to fix the boundary of the march of a nation; no man has a right to say to his country – thus far shalt thou go and no further.”

Charles Stewart Parnell, 1885 

21. "To thee, foremost champion, I will give my ringed brooch. From this day till Sunday, shall thy respite be! Warrior, mighty, famous, All the earth's fair treasures shall to thee be given; Everything be thine!"
Medb, in a part of the epic Táin Bó Cúailnge detailing the fight between Ferdiad and Cúchulainn. This part of the tale was perhaps written around the 11th century.

22. "The vote, I thought, means nothing to women, we should be armed."
 Edna O'Brien writing in Girls in their Married Bliss, 1964

23. "I was elected by the women of Ireland, who instead of rocking the cradle, rocked the system."
Mary Robinson, 1990

24. "There is no disagreement that can't be solved with a good cup of tea, in the face."
The Nualas, 1990s

25. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Samuel Beckett, subsequently reimagined as the philosophy of Silicon Valley, 1954

26. "I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered."
George Best, reported in 2002

27. "When you are lying drunk at the airport you're Irish. When you win an Oscar you're British."
Brenda Fricker

28. "Pull like a dog."
Paul O'Donovan, Irish Olympic rower, 2016

29. “We all partied”

Brian Lenihan on Prime Time on RTÉ in 2010, discussing the government’s role in the banking crisis

30. "Sexual abuse was endemic in boys institutions…"
Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse in 216 childcare institutions run by the Catholic Church in Ireland between 1930 and 1990, and supposedly inspected by the Department of Education

31. "'That was excellently observed', say I, when I read a passage in an author, where his opinion agrees with mine. When we differ, there I pronounce him to be mistaken."
Jonathan Swift, pre-empting Twitter, 1700s

32. "I think being a woman is like being Irish... Everyone says you're important and nice, but you take second place all the time."
Novelist Iris Murdoch on the disposition of both Irishness and female

33. “They haven’t gone away you know.”

Gerry Adams speaking about the IRA at a rally in Belfast in 1995

34. "They breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin."
Ian Paisley on Catholics, in 1969

35. "A ghastly, spectral army, before the great God we'll stand, And arraign ye as our murderers, the spoilers of our land."
Jane 'Speranza' Wilde, The Famine Year, 1847

36. "People do not change, they are merely revealed."
Novelist Anne Enright, The Gathering, 2007

37. "A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals to discovery."
James Joyce, 1922

38. "We are the family values campaign."
YesEquality co-director Grainne Healy, 2015

39. “Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.”

Patrick Pearse, 1915

40. "It's a terrible shock… Being married for 25 years, and finding out your husband's a pr*ck."
The Snapper, 1993

41. "We were born into an unjust system. We are not prepared to grow old in it." 
 Bernadette Devlin, 1969

42. “Between my finger and my thumb. The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.”

Seamus Heaney, 1966

43. "My name is Barack Obama, of the Moneygall Obamas, and I've come home to find the apostrophe we lost somewhere along the way."
Barack Obama, 2011

44. "The majority of the members of the Irish parliament are professional politicians, in the sense that otherwise they would not be given jobs minding mice at crossroads."
Flann O'Brien

45. “I like this clinking glass.”

Queen Elizabeth II enjoying the informality of a toast at Dublin Castle, 2011

46. "To Arthur!"
A toast to Arthur Guinness that went from a marketing campaign to a drinking game, 2009

47. "Comely maidens dancing at the crossroads"
Another quote that didn't happen. In his "comely maidens" speech Eamon De Valera actually said "the contest of athletic youths and the laughter of happy maidens", and made no mention of dancing at the crossroads, 1943.

48. “We must ask nothing of artists but to be of their own time.”

Furniture designer and architect Eileen Grey

49. "We are a vibrant first-world country, but we have a humbling third-world memory."
Mary McAleese, 1997

50. "Had you fought like a man, you need not have been hang'd like a dog."
 Anne Bonny, the Irish pirate's alleged last words to her lover, John "Calico Jack" Rackham, upon his capture, 1720.

51. "To the house of William, my son, hie all the wealth of Kilkennie towne!"
The alleged incantation of Dame Alice Kyteler, Ireland's first convicted witch. Arrested in 1324, she escaped from jail

52. "Our battle is nothing to what their battle is."
Dunnes Stores anti-apartheid striker Karen Gearon, 1985

53. "Don't shoot me in the face"
The alleged last words of Veronica Guerin, according to Julian Clohessy who alleged he was told by the man accused of killing her, 1996

54. “My generation can’t afford houses. My generation can’t afford to have children. My generation are either leaving the country or jumping in rivers. That’s my generation, man.”

Blindly Boatclub, The Rubberbandits, 2016

55. "I know for certain, that before I was humbled I was a like a stone lying in deep mire,"
The Confession of St Patrick, 400s

56. "If it was raining soup the Irish would go out with forks."
Brendan Behan

57. "Let them through! Let them through!"
Demonstrators meeting the "contraceptive train" at Connolly Station, 1971

58. “You can stick your World Cup up your b*llocks.”

Roy Keane, 2002

59. "Amongst them was a woman carrying in her arms the corpse of a fine child, and making the most distressing appeal to the passengers for aid to enable her to purchase a coffin and bury her dear little baby."
James Mahoney's eye witness account of the Famine, 1847

60. "It took four hundred policemen to take four women"
 Rosie Hackett who barricaded Liberty Hall in 1917

61. “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

The quintessential Oscar Wilde quote from Lady Windemere's Fan, 1892"

62. "Generosity is the source of all richness. We should work to banish greed and offer what we have and what we are to those hundreds of thousands of people who are displaced."
Sister Stanislaus Kennedy on the refugee crisis in 2016

63. "The path to peace is never easy. They have chosen hope over hate, the promise of the future over the poison of the past."
 Former US president Bill Clinton on the Good Friday agreement, 1998

64. "What Ireland shares with many societies around the world is a dangerous reality: once a group of people is isolated as being in some way inferior, the general population becomes less concerned with how they are treated, even in the face of evidence of cruelty and abuse."
Journalist Mary Raftery, 1999

65. “Everyone argues, then we do what I say.”

Bono on how U2 operates, 1987

66. "My lover's got humour, she's the giggle at a funeral."
Hozier, the opening lines from Take Me To Church, 2013

67. "Cast a cold Eye On Life, on Death, Horseman pass by!"
W B Yeats's epitaph, 1939

68. "On Good Friday Brian was killed, Defending the hostaged Irish."
13th century poem about Brian Boru's death

69. “Girl dies giving birth in a field. My goodness me. And that happened in Co Longford, apparently. Nothing terribly exciting there.”

Gay Byrne reading the Sunday Tribune headline on the Late Late Show, 1984

70. "There are no makeovers in my books. The ugly duckling does not become a beautiful swan. She becomes a confident duck able to take charge of her own life and problems."
Author Maeve Binchy

71. "Germany calling! Germany calling!"
Galway man William Joyce ("Lord Haw Haw") who broadcast an English language radio show from Nazi Germany in 1939

72. "My comrades and I believe we have struck the first successful blow for freedom, and so sure as we are going out this morning so sure will freedom come as a direct result of our action...In this belief, we die happy."
Tom Clarke before his execution for his part in the Easter Rising, 1916

73. “An eeriness, a darkness that had just come over the place” 

Omagh bombing (1998) survivor Marion Radford

74. "Women never have got full credit for their bravery. They sacrifice everything to life."
Poet and novelist Patrick Kavanagh, 1948

75. "Planxties"
A word the harpist Turlough O'Carolan invented for his compositions, late 1600s/early 1700s

76. "The human heart, at whatever age, opens only to the heart that opens in return."
Author Maria Edgeworth, late 1700s/early 1800s

77. "Well, I don't know if I can repeat what I've just done this week."
 Swimmer Michelle Smith after winning three gold medals and a bronze medal at the Atlanta Olympics, 1996

78. "Small hairs rising on the back of every Irishman's neck."
Terry Wogan after Riverdance was performed during the 1994 Eurovision interval

79. “Okay, one last time. These are small, but the ones out there are far away. Small. Far away. Ah, forget it.”

Father Ted, 1996

80. "I feel I made a contribution. I must try to refrain from making a kind of idol of myself."  
Economist and public servant TK Whitaker, 2014

81. "Eleven women every day leave Ireland seeking an abortion abroad. We ask for the land over the water. Home over trial. Choice over none."
Sarah Maria Griffin, We Face This Land, 2016

82. “When you have sweated, toiled, had mad dreams, hopeless nightmares, you find yourself in London’s streets, cold and dank in the night air. Think – what have I got for Ireland?”

Michael Collins, 1922

83. "All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful, The Lord God made them all."
Dublin woman and hymn writer Cecil Frances Alexander, 1848

84. "He always sang while he was steering, and nobody ever discovered what the song was."
Sir Ernest Shackleton on explorer Tom Crean, 1914-1917

85. “Our revenge will be the laughter of our children.”

Republican Bobby Sands

86. "The day has at length arrived when the royal assent is to be given to the Catholic Bill – that Emancipation for which I have so long struggled is at length achieved."
Daniel O'Connell writing to his wife Mary, 1829

87. "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living."
Irish-born Mary "Mother" Jones who went on to become a leading American union activist, 1800s

88. "I'd love to do a political memoir, but a lot of people will have to be dead first."
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, 1997

89. “I will find you and I will kill you.”

Liam Neeson in Taken, 2008

90. "These experiences have left terrible lasting effects on our lives, and this dull ache and pain is something I will have to live with and carry with me to the grave."
Magdalene laundry survivor Elizabeth Coppin, 2013

91. “I fight like me Da as well.”

Girlband B*witched, 1998

92. "It is men, only men, from the first to the last that we have to do with. To please a man I did wrong at first, then I was flung about from man to man. Men police lay hands on us. By men we are examined, handled, doctored. In the hospital it is a man again who makes prayer and reads the Bible for us. We are had up before magistrates who are men, and we never get out of the hands of men until we die."
Extract from an interview with a prostitute by Josephine Butler, 1869

93. “In actual fact, the reason it’s on the rise is because probably the boom times are getting even more boomer.”

Then taoiseach Bertie Ahern on the rising rate of inflation, 2006

94. "Fate is not an eagle, it creeps like a rat."
Novelist Elizabeth Bowen, 1935

95. "I went to the Laffoy Commission and you had seven barristers there questioning me and telling me I was telling lies when I told them I got raped of a Saturday, got an unmerciful beating after it, and he then came along the following morning and put Holy Communion in my mouth."
Child abuse survivor Michael O'Brien on Questions and Answers, RTÉ, 2009

96. “See yiz in Coppers.”

Dublin footballer Bryan Cullen to the crowds in Croke Park after winning the 2011 All-Ireland Football final

97. "That's the Irish people all over – they treat a serious thing as a joke and a joke as a serious thing."
Dramatist Sean O'Casey, 1923

98. "Yes, it is a rich language, lieutenant, full of the mythologies of fantasy and hope and self-deception – a syntax opulent with tomorrows. It is our response to mud cabins and a diet of potatoes."
Brian Friel, Translations, 1980

99. "I am oppressed as a woman, and I'm also oppressed as an Irish person. Everyone in this country is oppressed and yet we can only end our oppression as women if we end the oppression of our nation as a whole."
Republican Mairead Farrell, 1980s

100. “All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born.”

WB Yeats, 1916

This article was edited on March 13th, 2017.