Saint Patrick's Day: 15 famous people you never knew were Irish


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The Independent Online

It’s that time of year again, when many randomly claim to be Irish in a bid to find some excuse to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day.

Of course, they could just join in anyway – it’s not like you have to have a deep and entrenched Chinese cultural heritage to raise a glass for the Year of the Rat, for example.

But Paddy’s Day is different, particularly for famous types in the USA who, no matter how tenuous the family link, still attempt to align themselves with the celebrated nationality of choice.

For musicians, being of mixed cultural heritage is often touted as something of a USP. It’s what sets them apart from every other artist chucking out mediocre pop collaborations with Pharrell Williams or Calvin Harris (let’s face it, they have the monopoly on musical monotony right now).

“I’m an eighth Native American, two sixths Japanese, Zulu, German and part Nepalese Buddhist monk, but you know, I’m actually Irish, thanks to my sixth cousin thrice removed married in on my maternal side,” they’d probably say. Before mentioning an Italian grandmother and hence their insatiable appetite for ravioli. Or something.


For American politicians, claiming to be part of the great Irish diaspora has entirely different motivations. For them, it’s a chance to associate themselves with the hard-working, family-orientated immigrants of the 1800s, who defied the odds when they settled in the States – a true, all-American success story of the underdog made champions through blood, sweat and sheer determination.

It’s also a chance to appeal to the 35.5million Americans – that’s 11.6 per cent of the population – who claim to have at least partial Irish ancestry. That’s five times as many Irish people in the USA claiming to be Irish than there is in Ireland.

According to American census data in 2013, they are most concentrated in the North East, particularly in the metros of Boston, where they make up 20 per cent of the population. New York State, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New England are also heavy on the Irish side – and all are particularly influential States to canvas come election time.

So, who are these recognizable household names who, before St Patrick’s Day, you had no idea were Irish? Click through the gallery above to find out.

We guarantee almost all of them will surprise you.