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17 Bizarre but True Facts About Ireland

Mon, Mar 14, 2011

Featured, Fun

St. Partick’s Day is this Thursday.  In its honor, I’ve compiled a list of 17 random-but-completely-true facts about all things Irish.  So sit back, grab a pint, and get ready, because you just might learn something new. 

1.  The national symbol of Ireland isn’t the shamrock.  It’s the Celtic harp.  That makes Ireland only country in the world with a musical instrument for a national symbol. 

2.  The Irish flag was designed to reflect the country’s political situation.  Created in 1848, the orange stripe represents Irish Protestants, green is for Irish Catholics and white is for the hope that peace might eventually be reached between them.  Also, the Irish flag is nearly identical to Côte d’Ivoire’s flag. The only differences are the flags’ length (Ireland’s flag is slightly longer) and the location of the green and orange stripes are reversed. 

3.  Ireland has created some of the most recognizable objects we know.  The RMS Titanic was built in Belfast.  The White House was designed by Irish architect James Hoban after he won a competition sponsored by President George Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson in 1792.  And the Oscar statuette handed out at the Academy Awards was designed by Cedric Gibbons, who was born in Dublin in 1893.  For the record, Gibbons won 11 Oscars himself after moving to Hollywood and becoming an art director and set designer for MGM.  

None of Ireland's contributions ended well

4.  Both Aer Lingus and Ryanair are headquartered in Ireland.  The national flag-carrier, Aer Lingus, is a phonetic rendering of the Irish phrase Aer-Loingeas, which means “air fleet.”  As far as I know, Ryanair doesn’t officially stand for anything, but the name has basically become synonymous with “crap.” 

5.   Shannon became the world’s first duty-free airport in 1947.  And we’ve been buying tax-free liquor and perfume ever since. 

6.  The longest one-word name in Ireland is Sruffaunoughterluggatoora, which is a stream in Galway County.  The longest one-word town name is Newtownmountkennedy, which is a village in Wicklow County. 

7.  There are no postal or ZIP codes in Ireland outside of Dublin.  If you wanted to write a letter to someone in Ireland, you’d only need to know their city, street and the county their town is in. 

8.  Guinness beer is NOT vegetarian.  Everyone knows the home of Guinness beer is in Dublin.  Less people know that the brewery has a 9,000-year lease at a perpetual rate of 45 Irish pounds per year.  But practically nobody knows that Guinness beer is arguably NOT vegetarian.  It’s because the production process involves the use of isinglass made from fish as a method of settling out suspended matter in each batch.  The isinglass stays on the floor of the vat but it’s possible that tiny amounts might seep into the beer. 

9.  The “Guinness Book of World Records” was created by Guinness brewery employees. The book was a result of an argument over the identity of the fastest game bird in Europe.  

10.  The color that was originally associated with Saint Patrick wasn’t green, it was blue.  Also, it’s not customary in Ireland to wear green clothes on St. Patrick’s Day. Just a sprig of shamrock on your clothing is sufficient.  St. Patrick is said to have used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish. 

11.  The shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world takes place in Dripsey, Cork.  The parade route is between the village’s two pub, and lasts about 100 yards. 

12.  St. Patrick’s Day is a public holiday in exactly three places in the world: Ireland, the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Caribbean island of Montserrat.  Yeah, I don’t get it either. 

13.  Girl Power.  You thought England and the Spice Girls were responsible for the feminist girl power movement of the 1990s, but it was actually Ireland.  You see, the current president of Ireland is Mary McAleese, who’s serving her second term after having succeeded President Mary Robinson in 1997.  And that was the first time EVER,  in the history of the world, that a woman followed another woman as an elected head of state. 

Ginger Spice and Mary McAleese: Leading the way for women everywhere since 1995

14. There is no death penalty in Ireland.  The last execution took place in 1954 and the Irish Constitution says that the penalty can’t be reintroduced even in war or a state of emergency. 

15.  Ireland is a neutral state and is not a member of N.A.T.O. 

16.  The Irish Police force, Gardai, don’t carry firearms.  In recent years they have been outfitted with batons and pepper spray.  Which makes the Irish police force just slightly more effective than your average single woman in New York City. 

17.  An Irish birthday tradition was to hold the birthday child upside down and bump the head slightly on the floor. The bumps represent the age of the child and are supposed to bring them good luck.

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53 Responses to “17 Bizarre but True Facts About Ireland”

  1. Neil says:

    Hi,
    Enjoyed reading your list and if i can just add a couple of comments in reference to
    Item 12- Newfoundland was settled mainly by Irish and Scots -Irish and Montserrat had a huge Irish Slave population in the 17th century.Maybe a reason why they have a public holiday or it could be just an excuse to go on the “piss”.
    Item 16.The Garda don’t need weapons as they are usually huge and if you give them any grief they will beat the shite out of you.It is written into the constitution of 1932 that “An Garda Siochana” have to be unarmed.however all plain clothes divisions are armed with handguns and sub machine guns as a matter of course.
    One item not mentioned Ireland is the only country in the world bankrupted by it’s own bank’s and the bill given to the ordinary taxpayer
    Thanks
    Neil

  2. Jetpacker says:

    Ha, thanks Neil! Armed or not, those garda don’t seem like a friendly bunch. These are great additions!

  3. Alan says:

    The one about the birthday bumps is correctly untrue. It used to occur around 10 years ago however when it did it was not performed in the way you mentioned.

  4. Jetpacker says:

    Thanks Alan. I’m certainly eager to learn the proper head-bumping technique!

  5. Candice says:

    Had no idea Titantic was built in Belfast! Awesome.

    And yeah, St. Paddy’s Day here is pretty spectacular. I’ve got the day booked off to start drinkin’ the green beer at noon until black-out. Literally.

  6. Jetpacker says:

    Free healthcare, legit hockey fans, AND sweet St. Patty’s Day celebrations? You Candadians get all the luck.

  7. IrishDude says:

    Yeah the whole wearing green clothes and drinking green beer amuses the hell out of us in Ireland. We don’t do it here on St Patricks Day, because let’s face it, it looks pretty stupid, but everyone seems to think we do! And we NEVER call it St Patty’s Day either as seems to happen in some parts of the USA!

    The last time I ever saw birthday ‘bumps’ being administered it was with 4 people grabbing an arm and a leg each and lifting the person high in the air, before bumping them on the floor….repeated the same number of times as their age. Spinal damage may have been the reason for this fading into obscurity, but it’s not done now at all.

    Also, I agree, non-uniformed Gardaí are usually armed to the teeth.

    Good list all the same…funny.

  8. Jetpacker says:

    I love hearing the perspective from someone who knows about this stuff better than anyone, IrishDude! I think you’re right about the birthday bumps fading into obscurity due to the resulting bodily injury. A card would be a much safer, less-strenuous option. Sláinte!

  9. Alouise says:

    Cool list. I actually can see why Newfoundland and Labrador have St. Patrick’s day as an official holiday… they’ve got strong ties to Ireland there.

  10. Traci McClung says:

    Love the site!

  11. Suzy says:

    Funny facts. I’m in Galway at the moment and just went to the parade. I was actually shocked that all of the people wearing head to toe green along with the leprechaun hats and glasses were Irish. I thought they would be tourists, but I started listening for accents and they were all Irish.

  12. Kim Fletcher says:

    Just a correction – Belfast is NOT in Ireland. It is in NORTHERN Ireland which is a completely different country. Alot of people seem to think that Ireland and Northern Ireland are the same, but they’re not.

    How come this American had to correct this and none of you Irish did? Are you all to far into your St. Patrick’s beer?????? HAHAHAHAHAHA!

    P.S. I LOVE Belfast!

  13. Jetpacker says:

    @Suzy – In Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day? TOO FUN! I’ve been keeping up with your Ireland posts and cannot WAIT for the St. Patrick’s Day report!

    @Kim – Thanks for the heads up! I think we can get away with the mention on this list, since the Titanic was built there before the official partition of Ireland. But you’re right, most people think they’re still the same country today! And to that I say… most people are idiots.

  14. Jazz says:

    Or perhaps they feel that Ireland should be whole again.

  15. bibkel says:

    Found this as a post on FB and I love the facts I just learned. I am half Irish and half Cuban….I know more about Cuba than Ireland. For example, I didn’t know Northern Ireland was separate. I don’t even know what county my kin are from. My kids are more Irish than I, it’s time I start to learn, since I recently found out they have relatives there…..thanks for the great info!

  16. Jetpacker says:

    Thanks for the comment, bibkel! Ireland is such a fantastic country that’s rich with history. And now that your kids have relatives there, perhaps a visit is in order? Cheers!

  17. tim says:

    Another fact, Ireland collaborated with the Nazis in World War Two, hid Nazi war criminals and is chock full of Nazi sympathisers and holocaust deniers.

  18. Corkman says:

    @Tim – Tim, a “fact” by definition is something that is actual and is grounded by evidence. Your post is insulting, incorrect, and derogatory.

  19. Fnergg says:

    Ireland did NOT collaborate with the Nazis in WW2. Ireland was neutral but “was neutral in favour of the Allies” as one historian put it. For example, Allied airmen who crash-landed in Ireland were quietly sent across the border to UK controlled Northern Ireland. German airmen on the other hand were interned. As someone who lives in Ireland I can assure Tim that his “fact” about Ireland being “chock full of Nazi sympathisers and holocaust deniers” is mere fantasy.

  20. LOL, Ginger Spice…haven’t heard that name in quite some time. Brings me back to the mid 90′s almost instantly.

  21. Hah, enjoyed your list. I am curious how with time St. Patrick’s color changed from blue to green. Do you have any info on how and why that happened?

  22. Jetpacker says:

    Thanks for the great feedback!

    @Ireland Traveler: I’m not positive on what prompted the change, but I think it had to do with people just associating Ireland, the Emerald Isle, with the color green. Either that, or shamrocks. :)

  23. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyway, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

  24. Jetpacker says:

    Bummer. :( Sorry about that Steve. I hope the Internet chokes on your comment it ate.

  25. Samia says:

    Yay! Good to see you here again, my dear

  26. Chris says:

    Belfast isn’t in Ireland.

  27. David says:

    Belfast not in Ireland? Are some of you people ignorant beyond belief? Northern Ireland is not a country; it’s two-thirds of a province that is part of the UK because Ireland was partitioned nearly a hundred years ago but is an essential part of ireland and Irish history. Yes, Ireland — one island and one country, with one state and a part of a state. Whether it will ever be joined again, who knows? What matters most is that it stays peaceful.

  28. Andy says:

    I think people are over looking the fact that when the Titanic was built in 1912 Belfast WAS in Ireland, as Northern Ireland didn’t exist as a country yet. David is right, things get really complicated when people try to class N. Ireland as a country. The countries history is very complex, and it’s more obscured by people with passionate politic views about the subject. I live in Belfast, and the thought of me not living in Ireland is a silly one. On another note, there was stories of the IRA buying weapons from the Nazis to fight the British, but details are sketchy at best about this. Allied American forces in the 40′s crossed the boarder into the Irish Republic constantly and always by accident, which in a weird way is a overlooked international incident that a neutral country did hold allied forces. Also the bumps tradition does still occur on people’s birthdays but tends to happen more with children, like my niece last week :D Nice list, I learned a few extra things… which is always nice.

  29. Faye says:

    I live in Northern Ireland, and I can assure you that it is very much part of Ireland. It is interesting that a bunch of Americans think they know better, or that we who actually live here are somehow misinformed. :P

  30. Danny says:

    I’m from Dublin. I’m getting very pissed off reading a bunch of STUPID Americans asserting that Belfast is not part of Ireland. It most certainly IS a part of Ireland. Ireland has 32 counties. 6 of them just happen to be ruled by the British but I can ASSURE you, it is all the same country. There was a time when ALL 32 counties were ruled by the British. Was Ireland not Ireland then?

    I was mostly pissed off by the first IDIOT, Kim who then had the audacity to point out that it took an American to spot it. Not only that, the STUPID IDIOT WHO MADE THE LIST then agreed with her and told her that most people who think the opposite are “idiots”.

    American idiots who don’t know what they’re talking about, please, PISS OFF!

  31. Sara says:

    Okay, then, Danny…. tell us how you really feel. :)

  32. Alba/Eiren-Na-Crodha says:

    Well said Danny.

    I wish people would learn about IRISH History before commenting on it. TAL

    By the way another fact or 3 ;)
    1) St Patrick chased all the snakes out of Ireland…
    2) The Giants Causeway was built by Finn McCool to fight the Giant from Scotland Benandonner. When Finn realised how big the giant from Scotland was and that he was heading to Ireland, his wife Oonagh disguised him as a baby in a giant cradle. When Benandonner saw the ‘giant baby’ he ran away scared to meet its father and smashed the causeway as he ran……
    3) Ireland is Gods Country

    Cheers

    Alba/Eiren-Na-Crodha

  33. Jetpacker says:

    Sorry Danny. If you ever make it over this way, I owe ya a Guinness.

  34. I was familiar with some of the facts, but not all and the last one is really funny…. I am not sure it is a healthy idea to ‘slightly’ bump a 10 year old’s head against the floor – 10 times… :D

  35. Experience Ireland. Guaranteed, you’ll return home with memories that will last a lifetime.

  36. john says:

    Ireland lets peodofiles away with rape !

  37. colm says:

    your full of shit lad

  38. david says:

    Northern Ireland IS a seperate country. People who live in ireland think they know everything about it. We all live on the ISLAND of ireland but is split into ROI and NI. By some of you people’s logic people who live in Russia live in the same country as people who live in Poland and Ukraine and all other countries in mailand Europe.

  39. Aliyah says:

    These facts are not bizarre!!!

  40. CailinDeas says:

    I’m a proud Irish cailin. First of all,loved the post!! Secondly does it really matter about NI and ROI its all one island there are some in NI who consider themselves to be Irish, others English and the rest don’t care and just get on with life!!
    I never liked Guinness and you have given me another reason to hate it!!
    No one gives birthday bumps any-more but birthday beatings still happen occasionaly!! In schools on your b-day friends give you a thump for every year! Nothing serous the worst you get is a dead arm!
    But Alba Paddy didn’t get rid of the snakes there was never ant snakes in Ireland to begin with at least not after the Ice-Age!!
    What you said about the Giants Causeway is just a story to tell kids, one of my favourite myths along with the Banshee!

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  42. Scott says:

    Regarding #16 “Which makes the Irish police force just slightly more effective than your average single woman in New York City.”

    I dare you to go up to a couple Gardai in Dublin and say that. You will get a demonstration of how effective an Irish policeman can be with a baton. You think dealing with junkies in Mountjoy is an easy job? Think again, chump. Many of these guys are 6-foot-2 former-rugby players, and they’d think nothing of softening you up a bit before calling the paddy wagon.

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  46. sue says:

    This is all Shite
    And N I is a seperate country.

    I live here and it Is Vastly different to the vienian old south, that’s for sure.
    The south is dirtier and the men talk in falsetto.

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