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28 October 2014

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You are in: London > Faith > Communities > I - Z > Irish London

St Patrick's Day celebrations in London

St Patrick's Day celebrations in London

Irish London

Welcome to the Irish section of our site - here, you can read a brief history of the community in the capital and how London celeberates the Irish heritage.

The Irish community is one of the oldest, most cohesive ethnic communities in London. Today, Irish Londoners make up a diverse range of communities across London.

Did you know that

On March 17 2002 the city hosted the first-ever central London St Patrick's Day parade.
BBC London was the official broadcaster for the event which was a huge success.
It was one of Mayor Ken Livingstone's electoral pledges to make sure London celebrated its Irish community.

They occupy many positions in the workplace and society in general and although now the Irish are not as cohesive as other ethnic minorities, their contribution past and present to London's culture and economy has been enormous.

Parade history

In 2002 the first St Patrick's Day parade was so well attended it took the organisers and authorities by surprise. Over 50,000 people turned up and at one stage, the organisers had to stop people from entering Trafalgar Square where the parade finished.

For many Irish Londoners the parade represented the end of an era where Irish identity was often perceived as 'negative' in British culture. 

Patriotic Irishman

St Patrick's Day face painting

Pride in being Irish was and still is complicated because of the troubles in Northern Ireland. The peace process has not just transformed cities like Coleraine and Derry, it has also changed the face of mainland UK cities including Manchester and London.

Irish heritage

The 2001 UK census was the first that allowed British citizens to express an Irish ethnicity. It revealed that 3.07% of Londoners were Irish (7,172,036 inhabitants). The 2001 census should provide us with a more detailed figure of how many Irish Londoners there are living in the city. Historically, the main reason why Irish people crossed the Irish sea to the British mainland was to escape poverty and gain employment in the industrialised cities.

In London in the late eighteenth and nineteenth century the Irish were employed in their hundreds of thousands in key infrastructure projects which required vast manual labour - building the network of canals and railway lines that were the main arteries of an industrial city.

Irish dancing

Irish dancers hit the streets of London

Again in the postwar economic boom of the 1950s, Irish labour was required in key areas of the London economy. Construction and nursing were two professions that attracted a large number of Irish immigrants to London.

One thing is clear, because of economic developments in the Republic of Ireland the number of immigrant Irish has now dropped dramatically. However, for key professions such as construction, media, medicine and finance, London is still a draw for Irish people.

An Irish Londoner

An Irish Londoner


One of the biggest social problems the Irish community has at present is an ageing and vulnerable generation which came to London in the 1950s.

These immigrants were mainly men who worked in road and rail construction. The nature of the work meant that many of these men now have no pension and suffer greatly from ill-health.

Also their connections with Ireland have been broken meaning that many have no means of return or support from Ireland.

Anne Robinson

Anne Robinson, media personality

Irish migration to Britain has a long history due to the complex relationship between the islands of Ireland and Great Britain and the various political powers that have ruled them. Today, many people in Britain have some kind of Irish ancestry. It is estimated that 6 million Britons have either an Irish grandfather or grandmother.  Well known figures such as Anne Robinson, Ruth Kelly, George Harrison are of Irish descent.

Fergal Keane

Fergal Keane, well knonw Irish journalist

In stark contrast, younger Irish Londoners whether first, second or third generation are contributing and succeeding in the London economy.  Fergal Keane, Paddy Power, Brian Dowling and Kathy Prendergast, are just some of London's Irish community making things happen in the capital.

last updated: 11/09/2008 at 13:49
created: 11/08/2004

You are in: London > Faith > Communities > I - Z > Irish London

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