Many controversial Irish figures have emerged throughout Ireland’s history and caused shockwaves for both good and bad reasons.
Ireland has always been a country that has been responsible for providing the world with important figures and characters.
Whether these Irish people have had an entirely positive contribution to society may be up for debate. Still, one thing that isn’t is that they are as memorable as they are controversial.
This article will list who we believe to be the top five most controversial Irish figures of all time.
5. Sinéad O’Connor – a character who isn’t scared to speak their mind
No one can deny that Sinéad O’Connor has a beautiful singing voice and is highly talented. However, the singer has attracted controversy throughout her career.
The most infamous example of a controversial act by Sinead was her appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1992, where she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II. She called it a protest against child sexual abuse perpetrated by the Catholic Church.
At the time, O’Connor was widely mocked and vilified for her actions. Still, given the revelations that have come out since about the cover-up of abuse by the Catholic Church, people now tend to look back more favourably on her protest.
4. Eamon de Valera – a founding father of the Irish state
As a founding father of the Irish state and an integral figure in the Irish Civil War, Eamon de Valera has always proved a divisive figure in Ireland.
To his fans, he was a solid Irish republican who embodied the heart and soul of mid-20th century Catholic Ireland. To his critics, he betrayed his former brothers in arms. They would say he helped give away a lot of Ireland’s hard-fought-for freedom to the hands of the Catholic Church.
Whatever your opinion of him is, there is no denying that he played a prominent role in Ireland’s history.
3. Bono – unlikeable or just Irish begrudgery?
While Bono is undoubtedly one of the most successful and famous Irish musicians ever, many Irish people will claim to have disdain for the man.
While some people might chalk up this disdain as simple Irish begrudgery, others will cite one controversy in particular. This was when Ireland changed the law regarding tax exemption for artists in 2006.
Bono and U2 were very quick to move their taxation affairs to the Netherlands to escape having to pay any tax and contribute to the country that they came from.
2. John Delaney – a fall from grace
When John Delaney was elected treasurer of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) in 2001, he quickly rose to prominence thanks to how capably he performed during the Saipan disaster with the national soccer team in 2002.
His increase in popularity led him to be elected CEO of the FAI, where he had a very eventful reign. Supporters of John Delaney would point to the fact that he helped to professionalise the FAI and increased its staff from 40 to 200.
However, his critics will point to his downfall when he resigned after revelations of a €100,000 ‘bridging loan’ that was given to him by the organisation came to light amongst many more examples of extravagant spending.
1. Conor McGregor – a controversial sportsman
In first place on our list of who we believe are the most controversial Irish figures of all time is Conor McGregor, who has become a household name in recent years thanks to his rise in the world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).
Whilst he became famous thanks to his talent in the Octagon and at self-promotion, he also became infamous for many controversies that he has been involved in.
These include attacking an older man in a pub, speeding offences in Ireland, breaking a man’s phone and throwing chairs and objects at a competitor’s bus. He has certainly lived up to his nickname “The Notorious” for a number of good and bad reasons.
That concludes our article on what we believe to be the top five most controversial Irish figures of all time. Are there others that you think deserved a place on our list because of their antics?
Other notable mentions
Diarmuid Mac Murrough: After losing his throne as King of Leinster, Mac Murrough decided to invite the English to Ireland to help him recover his throne.
However, the English had other ideas and decided to conquer the country themselves. Ever since, Irish people reviled Mac Murrough.
Brian Cowen: Brian Cowen is undoubtedly one of the most controversial Taoiseachs of all time. His tenure was hampered by the fact that it took place during a recession and a period of severe austerity.
Plus, he certainly didn’t help himself when he appeared on RTE’s early morning radio show and appeared to be in a state of intoxication.
Bertie Ahern: Bertie Ahern resigned as Taoiseach in 2008 amidst the wake of the revelations made in the Mahon Tribunal. It was found that Ahern had received money from developers and disbelieved his explanations.
FAQs about controversial Irish figures
Who is the most famous Irish person of all time?
We believe, thanks to his global stardom and the fact that he is such a household name, whether you like or dislike him, that Bono is the most famous Irish person of all time.
Who is the most hated Irish figure of all time?
We believe Diarmuid Mac Murrough remains the most hated Irish figure of all time. This is due to the role he played in England conquering Ireland.
Who is the most loved Irish person at the moment?
We believe that Michael D Higgins is the most loved Irish person at the moment. You will be hard-pressed to find an Irish person who doesn’t have something positive to say about him.