30 Million Americans Identify as “Irish Descent” – Happy St. Patrick’s Day

by Niall McCarthy, Mar 17, 2021

For the second year running, Ireland is experiencing a highly abnormal Saint Patrick’s Day with shuttered pubs and deserted streets replacing the marching bands, bagpipers and revelers. Usually, 13 million pints of Guinness are consumed across the world in honor of Ireland’s national day (enough to fill two and a half Olympic swimming pools) but the ongoing pandemic is going to ensure any festivities are subdued.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Working on four of the James Bond movies, I often was fortunate to spend time with “Q,” then played by Desmond Llewelyn. Many actors ask for special perks when traveling, but the only request from Desmond was to ask me to make sure there was cold Guinness in the fridge. Some of the hotels began to jokingly refer to me as “The Guinness Lady,” whenever I called to prep for the arrival of the Bond teams.

According to Sr. Editor, Cirina Catania, Desmond Llewelyn, “Q” in many of the James Bond films, was a lover of Guinness.

Even though Saint Patrick’s Day is a major event in Ireland, it is also huge in the United States where a large Irish diaspora celebrates the holiday in style. U.S. Saint Patrick’s Day traditions even tend to go a step further than the Emerald Isle with Chicago dying its river green in an impressive display. The first ever parade on Saint Patrick’s Day was actually held in the U.S. and it occurred in New York City all the way back on March 17, 1762.

The connection between the U.S. and Ireland has remained strong for years and Congress designated March as Irish-American Heritage Month in 1991. Traditionally, the Irish taoiseach (prime minister) flies to Washington D.C. every year on March 17 to present the U.S. president with a bowl of shamrock. This year’s ceremony will be a virtual affair between Micheál Martin and Joe Biden.

Given the strength of those links, how many U.S. citizens can actually claim Irish ancestry? According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, some 30.4 million Americans claimed Irish ancestry in 2019, 9.2 percent of the population. German ancestry is ahead, however, with 40.4 million U.S. citizens claiming ancestral links with Europe’s economic powerhouse. A further 7.2 million Americans have historical familial ties witn England.

Niall McCarthy

Niall McCarthyData Journalist niall.mccarthy@statista.com