South Asian people in Ireland

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Irish people of South Asian origin
Total population
60,000 - 100,000
About 1.5% of the Irish population (2011 census).[1] Other sources estimate from 1% to 3%.
Regions with significant populations
Ballyhaunis, Galway, Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Athlone including respective suburban areas
Hindustani (Hindi/Urdu), Punjabi, Bengali, Other Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages.
Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, others
Related ethnic groups
British Asians

South Asian people in Ireland are residents or citizens of Ireland who are of South Asian background or ancestry. There has been an important and well-established community of people of South Asian descent in Ireland for many decades. Non-Chinese Asian people (the category which mainly includes South Asian people) were reported to be the fastest growing ethnic group in Ireland in the 2011 census.[2]

There is great variation in how much the South Asian people are integrated into Irish society. Many people of South Asian descent are well-integrated and embrace the culture of Ireland. Many children of South Asian descent are born in Ireland or have come to Ireland at a very young age, and therefore learn the Irish language in schools (which is compulsory to children who have been living in the country before the age of 7). There are South Asian people who are up to 2nd and 3rd generation Irish-born. However, many South Asian people still maintain their ancestral customs and languages, and therefore many religious festivals (such as Diwali) are well-known and accepted within Ireland.[3]

As the Irish government does not collect detailed data on ethnicity in Ireland, population estimates vary, and non-Chinese Asian people are generally grouped in one category rather than groups based on people from individual South Asian countries.[1] Estimates say that people of South Asian ethnicity make up around 1 to 3% of Ireland's population. The Irish-India Council estimates that there are approximately 91,520 Indian-born people in Ireland.[4]


Some of the first South Asians to settle in Ireland came as doctors in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Ireland has long had a shortage of doctors and nurses, partially due to the emigration of native doctors,[5] and therefore hires many foreign medical staff.[6] Most of the foreign medical staff come from India and Pakistan.[6][7] This is probably due to the large numbers of medical graduates in those countries who are attracted to Ireland by its use of the English language, living standards, salaries, opportunities and new lives in Europe and the Western world.

While South Asian doctors continue to come to Ireland, over the recent years (especially during the Celtic Tiger, a period of major economic boom in Ireland), a significant number of other non-medical South Asians have come to live in Ireland, seeking labour, opportunities, better standards of living and money to support their families at home. These people may be skilled, semi-skilled or unskilled and have varying knowledge of the English language. Thousands of South Asians work in construction, business, industry, pharmaceuticals, e-commerce, management and education in Ireland. There are hundreds of Indian restaurants and Kebab shops that are entirely South Asian-owned and run in nearly all of Ireland's major urban centres.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest within students from South Asian countries or South Asian background to undertake third level education in Ireland. Some of these students decide to stay on and work in Ireland after they graduate. Many of Ireland's major third level institutions, most notably Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin City University, Dublin Institute of Technology, National University of Ireland, Galway and National College of Ireland have a substantial number of students of South Asian descent. The Irish government wants to double the number of overseas students in Irish universities by 2015, and has shortlisted India as one of the key areas for bringing in foreign students.[8]

Many of the South Asian people that come to Ireland do not come directly from their South Asian countries and instead from other countries such as South Africa, the United Kingdom or the United States.[citation needed]


These figures are based on the 2011 census figures. As the Irish government does not take detailed statistics based on race and ethnicity, these figures may not be exactly accurate and should therefore only be taken as an indicator.

Population in major Irish cities and towns[edit]

City or town County Approximate Asian population[9]
Dublin (and suburbs) Dublin 33,225
Cork City and suburbs Cork 3,240
Limerick City (and suburbs) Limerick 1,734
Galway City (and suburbs) Galway 1,590
Ballyhaunis Mayo 478
Waterford City (and suburbs) Waterford 846
Letterkenny Donegal 600
Sligo (and suburbs) Sligo 590
Athlone Westmeath and Roscommon 525
Kilkenny City Kilkenny 506


This table gives a brief indication of the religions followed by the people of South Asian descent in Ireland. These were the figures from the 2011 census. There are numerous Islamic centres and mosques and many Hindu temples in Ireland, although as with most Irish the most-confessed faith by South Asians is Catholicism.

Religion Approximate Asian followers[10]
Roman Catholic 24,250
Islam 19,451
Hinduism 8,279
Orthodox Christianity 1,660
Church of Ireland and Church of England 669
Other Christian religions 846
Sikhism 1,200
No religion 3,010
Atheist or Agnostic 52


South Asians are diverse in their cultures and speak different languages as well. Many South Asian people are well-integrated into Irish society and embrace the culture of Ireland. However, the presence of South Asian people in Ireland has noticeably affected many aspects of Irish life. Festivals such as Diwali and Eid al-Fitr are celebrated every year in Ireland by South Asian people and native Irish people alike. There are many different organisations in Ireland that promote South Asian events in Ireland.

Every year, there is a large Diwali celebration in Dublin, with fireworks demonstrations, performances from well-known Indian musicians, traditional dancing from different parts of India, art, children's activities and a wide range of Indian cuisine and merchandising stalls selling traditional jewellery, clothing, Henna, etc. The use of fireworks are generally restricted in Ireland, but the government makes an exception due to the importance of the festival to the Hindu people. There are also such gatherings during the festival of Holi. The Ireland India Council, a voluntary council made to serve the needs and business relations of the Indian people in Ireland, organises many events and gatherings on a regular basis.[11]

Some South Asians have also been influenced by parts of Irish culture. For example, every year in Ireland many South Asian people participate in the annual St Patrick's Day parades throughout the country. The Sligo parade is one example that has regular participation from the local Riverstown Cricket Club, mainly represented by people of Pakistani origin.[12] In Dublin, Indian people are known to have regular involvement. Also, there is a huge interest in Indian cuisine within Ireland. There are many Indian restaurants in Ireland, some are even being set up run by native Irish people.[citation needed]

South Asians have also influenced sport in Ireland. There are numerous cricket clubs throughout the country that are run by South Asians or have large South Asian involvement and participation. One example is Riverstown Cricket Club in Sligo. This club also promotes cultural events such as parties for Eid-ul-Fittr.[13]

Contemporary and social issues[edit]

There have been very few cases of problems experienced by the South Asian people in Ireland, and in general the South Asian people live happily alongside the native Irish population.[citation needed] However, a few known cases are noted here.

After the September 11 attacks, there was an increase of attacks against Sikhs, in response many Irish Sikhs decided to remove their turbans and cut their hair as they were being mistaken for being Muslim.[14]

The most prominent case is the death of Savita Halappanavar, a woman of Indian origin from Galway, who died aged 27 after being refused an abortion. She was reportedly refused abortion because of the fact that Ireland is "a Catholic country".[15] This led to protests outside the Irish embassies in New Delhi,[16] London,[17] Berlin[18][19] and Brussels,[20] as well as protests from local communities in Ireland. The Indian Minister for External Affairs, Salman Khurshid, summoned the Indian ambassador to Ireland, Debashish Chakravarti, to India for deliberations over the issue.[21]

Notable Irish people of South Asian origin[edit]


  1. ^ a b Template:Cite .web
  2. ^ Hyland, Paul (19 October 2012). "Non-Chinese Asians are the fastest growing ethnic group in Ireland – CSO". Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  3. ^ "Dublin Celebrates Diwali 2012". November 2012. Archived from the original on 2 July 2013. Retrieved 2 May 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  4. ^ "INDIAN COMMUNITY IN IRELAND". Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  5. ^ Duncan, Pamela (3 July 2012). "Nearly half of medical students will leave Ireland". Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  6. ^ a b Ó Cionnaith, Fiachra (22 September 2011). "Over €80k spent on housing foreign doctors". Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  7. ^ Cullen, Paul (16 February 2012). "Nearly €2m spent on recruiting doctors in India and Pakistan". Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  8. ^ Donnelly, Katherine (10 December 2012). "Universities relying on fees from foreign students to fill funding gap". Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  9. ^ "Population Usually Resident and Present in their Usual Residence by Ethnic or Cultural Background, Towns by Size". October 2011. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  10. ^ "Population Usually Resident and Present in the State (Number) by Ethnic or Cultural Background, Sex, Religion". October 2011. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  11. ^ "About the Ireland India Council". Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  12. ^ "RTCC Participation in St. Patrick's Day 2012". 17 March 2012. Archived from the original on 13 January 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  13. ^ "RTCC Participation in St. Patrick's Day 2012". Archived from the original on 13 January 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  14. ^ Grennan, Sinead (28 October 2001). "Irish Sikhs abandon traditional turbans". Retrieved 11 February 2013.
  15. ^ McKittrick, David (14 November 2012). "'This is a Catholic country': Woman dies of septicaemia after being refused an abortion in Irish hospital". Retrieved 11 February 2013.
  16. ^ "Police forced to guard Irish embassy in New Delhi over angry protests". 19 November 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  17. ^ "Woman dies after abortion request 'refused' at Galway hospital". BBC News. 14 November 2012.
  18. ^ "Up to 70 people also protested outside the Irish embassy in Berlin tonight". The Irish Times. 21 November 2012. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
  19. ^ "Vigil for Savita and Protest at Ireland's Abortion ban, Irish Embassy, Berlin". Midi Grrrl. 21 November 2012. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
  20. ^ "Last night in Brussels". 22 November 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
  21. ^ "Savita death case: MEA summons Irish envoy after row over abortion, Updated". IBN Live. CNN-IBN, IBN Live. 16 November 2012.