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Celebs you may not have known have Irish roots

A glance at the calendar might tell you that summer has arrived – but really, you don’t need a calendar to know that much. Peeking outside the window, listening out for tell-tale noises, or even sniffing the air is enough to confirm it; the sights, sounds and smells all point towards the changing of the seasons.

For such a small country, Ireland has produced some pretty big names and you might be surprised at just how many famous people have Irish roots. 

From US presidents to Hollywood stars, the Irish have certainly made their mark on the world.

23 US Presidents

Irish heritage is almost a pre-requisite to becoming president in America so there must be something in the Irish psyche that suits the role. From Joe Biden to Barack Obama to JFK, 23 presidents can claim Irish heritage and the rest are, no doubt, scrambling to find a connection. Antrim people seem particularly presidential, with 8 former presidents having Antrim ancestors.

John F. Kennedy

JFK is perhaps one of the most famously Irish presidents, and also, one of the most Irish, with all 4 of his great-grandparents being from Ireland – Limerick, Wexford, Cork, Clare and Fermanagh.

President Barack Obama is photographed during a presidential portrait sitting for an official photo in the Oval Office, Dec. 6, 2012.  (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Barack Obama

Obama’s great-great grandfather, Falmouth Kearney, can be traced back to merchant families who traded with the West Indies and settled in 18th century Limerick. The family worked as wig-makers and later shoe makers in Co. Offaly before he emigrated to Ohio in the 1850s to claim an inheritance.

Little did he know then that his great-great grandson would go on to become President one day (or that he would have a filling station named after him back in Moneygall).

Natural Star Quality

Maybe it’s our outgoing nature or our natural performance skills that give Irish people the edge when it comes to acting, but we’ve certainly produced our fair share of stars.

Tom Cruise – Searched Far and Away for his Irish roots

We all know that Tom Cruise is Hollywood royalty but he’s also Irish royalty. He recently traced his Irish ancestry back to medieval knights and Irish high kings who held land in North County Dublin. He is believed to be related to one of Strongbow’s knights, who can be traced back to 1176.


Robert De Niro – An Irishman at heart

Did you know that Robert De Niro is actually more Irish than Italian? In fact 3 out of 4 of his grandparents have Irish ancestry. He is particularly proud of his Irish roots and as a teenager in the 60s he hiked all around Ireland in search of living relatives. He didn’t find any but he was blown away by the kindness of the people he met on his travels. His search continues.

Rihanna – What’s my name? Fenty

Rihanna may be from Barbados but she’s really a Cork girl at heart. It turns out her dad is a descendant of the Irish who were transported to Barbados after the Cromwellian Conquest. Rihanna’s surname “Fenty” is quite likely to be a derivative of the Cork name “Fenton”. She seems well prepared for our wet climate, if her hit song “Umbrella” is anything to go by.


Celebs with a soft spot for Ireland

As well as the long list of celebrities who can legitimately claim to be Irish, there are many more who deserve an honourable mention.

Actor Matt Damon and his wife Luciana Bozán Barroso attend the world premiere for "The Martian” on day two of the Toronto International Film Festival at the Roy Thomson Hall Friday, Sept. 11, 2015 in Toronto. NASA scientists and engineers served as technical consultants on the film. The movie portrays a realistic view of the climate and topography of Mars, based on NASA data, and some of the challenges NASA faces as we prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet in the 2030s. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Matt Damon – An Honorary Irishman

Matt Damon was in Ireland filming The Last Duel when lockdown hit and he found himself confined to 1.2Km of the Dalkey mansion he was renting. Once the word got out, Dalkey residents weren’t complaining. It certainly made lockdown more interesting when there was a chance of bumping into a Hollywood A-Lister every time you left the house.

Fully embracing Dalkey life, he took jogs up Killiney Hill, grabbed Sunday brunch at the Corner Note Café, popped into Finegan’s pub for a pint and even joined in the Dalkey Literary Festival. He also enjoyed popping down to the beach for a dip and the moment he really captured the nation’s heart was when they realised that he was carrying his togs around in a SuperValu plastic bag. It’s the little things!

Matt Damon loved Dalkey almost as much as Dalkey loved him and is looking forward to a return visit.

Julia Roberts – The Runaway Bride

In a case of life imitating art (or inspiring it) Julia Roberts famously ran away to Ireland with Kiefer Sutherland’s best friend, Jason Patric, 3 days before their wedding.

Originally intending to stay in the Shelbourne Hotel, she was offered a more discreet and low key location by chauffeur, Mick Devine, who brought her to his own home in Palmerstown to escape the media frenzy. The two became firm friends and Devine became somewhat of a father figure to the Hollywood star, later going on to walk her down the aisle.

She has returned to Ireland many times since with her husband Danny Moder and their kids and has been spotted holidaying in Dublin, Wicklow and Mayo.


Ronnie Wood – Got no Satisfaction, but he liked it

Rolling Stone, Ronnie Wood, is a frequent visitor to Ireland, where the band worked on their Grammy award-winning album “Voodoo Lounge” at his Kildare home in 1993. He’s also a regular at the Punchestown Races, where he raced his own horse, Sandymount Duke, in 2015.

He’s often spotted in the local town of Naas, where, legend has it, he was once thrown out of Fletcher’s pub for singing by an unappreciative landlord. This tale has become a bit of a local urban legend and has many versions, each more elaborate than the last, as each teller adds their own twist to it. It hasn’t put him off anyway, as he’s still a familiar face.

She has returned to Ireland many times since with her husband Danny Moder and their kids and has been spotted holidaying in Dublin, Wicklow and Mayo.

What do celebs like so much about Ireland?

If you like being the centre of attention or being singled out for special treatment, Ireland’s probably not the place for you. Irish people are not easily impressed and even if they are, they certainly wouldn’t want you to know they are, so often celebrities find that they can walk down the street in relative peace.

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