Plastic Paddy

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Plastic Paddy is a slang expression for the cultural appropriation evidenced by unconvincing or obviously non-native Irishness.[1][2] The phrase has been used as a positive reinforcement and as a derogatory term in various situations, particularly in London but also within Ireland itself. The term has sometimes been applied to people who may misappropriate or misrepresent stereotypical aspects of Irish customs.[3] In this sense, the plastic Paddy may know little of actual Irish culture, but nevertheless assert an Irish identity.[4] In other contexts, the term has been applied to members of the Irish diaspora who have distanced themselves from perceived stereotypes and, in the 1980s, the phrase was used to describe Irish people who had emigrated to England and were seeking assimilation into English culture.[5][6][7]


The name Paddy is a diminutive form of the Irish name Patrick (Pádraic, Pádraig, Páraic) and, depending on context, can be used either as an affectionate or a pejorative reference to an Irishman.

The term "plastic Paddy" came into use in the 1980s when it was frequently employed as a term of abuse by recently arrived middle-class Irish migrants to London.[7][8] Hickman states: it 'became a means of distancing themselves from established Irish communities.' And the use was a part of the process by which the second-generation Irish are positioned as inauthentic within the two identities, of Englishness and Irishness.[8][9]

Ironically, both English hostility when faced with the spectre of Irish identities, and Irish denials of authenticity of those same identities, utilises the pejorative term 'plastic paddy' to stereotype and undermine processes 'of becoming' of Irish identities of second-generation Irish people. The message from each is that second-generation Irish are 'really English' and many of the second-generation resist this.[8]

People who were not born in Ireland and/or did not grow up in Ireland, but nonetheless possess Irish citizenship (either through descent, marriage, or residence) are sometimes labelled "plastic Paddies" by members of Irish communities.[10]

The term can have a different connotation depending on where it is used.


Within Ireland, "plastic Paddy" may refer to someone who misrepresents the Irish culture by enacting ethnic stereotypes that portray an inaccurate, outdated and offensive image of Ireland and Irish culture. This is often seen in non-Irish citizens who have a romantic or noble savage image of "the Irish Race" and those who enact stereotypes to appeal to tourists.[11][12][13] This naming is a critical reaction to, and defiance of, the demeaning, inaccurate depictions of the Irish at celebrations that originated in the Irish diaspora, as well as the commercialisation and distortion of St. Patrick's Day.[14]

The Killarney Active Retirement Association displayed a banner promising to "Chase the plastic Paddy out of Ireland" in the Kerry 2005 St Patrick's Day celebrations,[15] and Irish journalists have used the term to characterise Irish bars in the diaspora as inauthentic and with the "minimum of plastic paddy trimmings."[16]

"Plastic Paddy" has also be used as a derogatory term for Irish people who show more allegiance to English culture than Irish culture, such as those who support English football teams.[17] First generation Irish-English model Erin O'Connor was called a "plastic Paddy" in Ireland due to her parents' choice of forename and non-Irish birth despite them both being Irish citizens.[18]

United Kingdom[edit]

Broadcaster Dermot O'Leary, born and raised in England to Irish parents, has described his upbringing as "classic plastic Paddy"

Mary J. Hickman writes that "plastic Paddy" was a term used to "deny and denigrate the second-generation Irish in Britain" in the 1980s, and was "frequently articulated by the new middle-class Irish immigrants in Britain, for whom it was a means of distancing themselves from established Irish communities."[7] According to Bronwen Walter, Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies at Anglia Ruskin University, the adoption of a hyphenated identity has been "much more problematic" for second-generation Irish people in Britain. Walter claims that the majority of these people have "frequently denied the authenticity of their Irish identity" by referring to themselves as "plastic Paddies", while the English people around them regard them as "assimilated and simply English".[6]

The term has been used to taunt non-Irish born players who choose to play for the Republic of Ireland national football team,[19] fans of Irish teams who are members of supporters clubs outside Ireland,[20] and other Irish individuals living in Britain.[21] A study by the University of Strathclyde and Nil by Mouth found the term was used abusively on Celtic and Rangers supporters' Internet forums in reference to Celtic supporters and the wider Catholic community in Scotland.[22] In August 2009, an English man from Birmingham received a suspended sentence after making derogatory comments to a police officer who was of Irish origin. The prosecutor said the man had made racist remarks about the officer, including accusations that the officer was a "plastic Paddy".[23]

In Peter Stanford's book Why I Am Still a Catholic: Essays in Faith and Perseverance, the broadcaster Dermot O'Leary (who was born and raised in England to Irish parents) describes his upbringing as "classic plastic Paddy", mentioning that his cousins in Ireland would tease him for "being English" but would defend him if other Irish people tried to do the same.[24] Brendan O'Neill uses the term in Spiked to refer to "second-generation wannabe" Irishmen,[25] and writes that some of those guilty of "plastic Paddyism" (or, in his words, "Dermot-itis") are Bill Clinton, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Shane MacGowan.[25]

United States[edit]

Plastic Paddy is typically used in a derogatory fashion towards those who identify as Irish Americans or who celebrate "Irishness" on Saint Patrick's Day, accusing them of having little actual connection to Irish culture.[26][27] For example, British mixed martial arts fighter Dan Hardy has called American fighter Marcus Davis a "plastic Paddy" due to Marcus' enthusiasm for his Irish ancestry.[28]

Alex Massie, a Scottish journalist, wrote in National Review:

When I was a student in Dublin we scoffed at the American celebration of St. Patrick, finding something preposterous in the green beer, the search for any connection, no matter how tenuous, to Ireland, the misty sentiment of it all that seemed so at odds with the Ireland we knew and actually lived in. Who were these people dressed as Leprechauns and why were they dressed that way? This Hibernian Brigadoon was a sham, a mockery, a Shamrockery of real Ireland and a remarkable exhibition of plastic paddyness. But at least it was confined to the Irish abroad and those foreigners desperate to find some trace of green in their blood.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Time for Irish to stop calling Irish Americans Plastic Paddies". 25 March 2021.
  2. ^ "Irish American tired of being mocked and called a "Plastic Paddy" in Ireland?". 11 April 2017.
  3. ^ Michael Hugh Walker. "Americans - especially Macklemore - take note: real Irish people aren't impressed by your St Patrick's Day craic | Voices". The Independent. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  4. ^ John Nagle (2004). "Is 'Everybody Irish on St. Paddy's'? Ambivalence and Conflict on St. Patrick's – A Research Report into People's Attitudes into St. Patrick's Day 2004" (Report). Institute of Irish Studies, Queen's University Belfast.
  5. ^ Arrowsmith, Aidan (1 April 2000). "Plastic Paddy: Negotiating Identity in Second-generation 'Irish-English' Writing". Irish Studies Review. Routledge. 8 (1): 35–43. doi:10.1080/09670880050005093. S2CID 145693196.
  6. ^ a b Bronwen Walter, 2005, "Irish Diaspora" in Immigration and asylum: from 1900 to the present, Volume 3 edited by Matthew J. Gibney, Randall Hansen. ISBN 1-57607-796-9
  7. ^ a b c Mary J. Hickman. 2002. "'Locating' the Irish Diaspora", Irish Journal of Sociology 11(2):8-26.
  8. ^ a b c Marc Scully. (2009). 'Plastic and Proud'?: Discourse of Authenticity among the second generation Irish in England. Open University p126-127. Marc Scully. (2009). 'Plastic and Proud'?: Discourse of Authenticity among the second generation Irish in England. Open University.
  9. ^ Hickman, M.J. et al., (2005). The Limitations of Whiteness and the Boundaries of Englishness. Ethnicities, 5 160–182. Cited in Marc Scully. (2009). 'Plastic and Proud'?: Discourse of Authenticity among the second generation Irish in England. Open University.
  10. ^ Fallon, Steve (2002). Home with Alice: A Journey in Gaelic Ireland. Melbourne: Lonely Planet. pp. 30–32.
  11. ^ Hegarty, Shane (3 March 2007). 'Slang and the art of Oirishness', The Irish Times
  12. ^ O'Brien, Jason (10 September 2008). "Oops, now it's Signor Tripattoni". Irish Independent.
  13. ^ "Heard the one about the drunk, horny leprechaun?". Irish Independent. 17 March 2009.
  14. ^ The Wearing of the green by Mike Cronin and Daryl Adair. p240
  15. ^ "Thousands salute the wearing of the green, white and orange". Irish Independent. 18 March 2005.
  16. ^ "Where To Stay, What To Do And Where To Eat". Irish Independent. 20 September 2003.
  17. ^ "Growth. . . Bridge. . . Queen. . . Families. . . GAA". Irish Independent. 28 May 2010.
  18. ^ Byrne, Andrea (14 September 2008). "Erin plots a pathway to the stars". Irish Independent.
  19. ^ Teenager under fire (26 November 2006) Times (UK)
  20. ^ McCullough, Ian. "Back of the Net". The Irish Post. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2007.
  21. ^ "A proud celebration of our new Irish identity Archived 29 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine" in The Irish Post (Wednesday, 10 May 2006)
  22. ^ O'Loan, Sara; Poulter, Alan; McMenemy, David (2005). The Extent of Sectarianism Online Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Glasgow, University of Strathclyde. pp. 108–9
  23. ^ McCarthy, Ross (11 August 2009). 'Birmingham man given suspended sentence for racist remarks', Birmingham Mail
  24. ^ "More than a Plastic Paddy" in Why I Am Still a Catholic: Essays in Faith and Perseverance
  25. ^ a b We're all Irish now Archived 28 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine from Spiked online magazine
  26. ^ Alex Massie (17 March 2006). "Erin Go ARGH! The case against St. Patrick's Day. (And, no, I'm not British.)". National Review.
  27. ^ Michelle Byrne. "Are you a plastic Paddy?". Archived from the original on 5 June 2011.
  28. ^ Davies, Gareth A (10 June 2009). "Dan Hardy's UFC clash with Marcus Davis set to produce fireworks". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 14 June 2009. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  29. ^ Massie, Alex (17 March 2006). "Erin Go ARGH! – The case against St. Patrick's Day. (And, no, I'm not British.)". National Review Online. Retrieved 7 January 2007.


  • Arrowsmith, Aidan (2004). "Plastic Paddies vs. Master Racers: "Soccer" and Irish Identity". The International Journal of Cultural Studies. Staffordshire Univ, England. 7 (4): 460–79. doi:10.1177/1367877904047864. ISSN 1367-8779. S2CID 145331200.
  • "To Fly By Those Nets: Violence and Identity in Tom Murphy's A Whistle in the Dark". Irish University Review. 34 (2 Autumn/Winter 2004): 315–31. 2004. ISSN 0021-1427.
  • "Fantasy Ireland: The Figure of the Returnee in Irish Culture". Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writing (Special Edition: Postcolonial Ireland). 3 (1): 101–14. 2003. ISSN 1474-4600.
  • Bery, A.; P. Murray (2000). 'Inside/Out: Literature, Cultural Identity and Irish Migration to England' in Comparing Postcolonial Literatures: Dislocations. London: Macmillan. pp. 59–69. ISBN 0-333-72339-2.
  • Arrowsmith, Aidan (1999). "M/otherlands: literature, gender, diasporic identity". In S. Brewster; V. Crossman; F. Becket; D. Alderson (eds.). Ireland in Proximity: History, Gender, Space. London: Routledge. pp. 129–44. doi:10.4324/9780203005613. ISBN 0-415-18958-6.
  • Chambers, Lilian; Jordan, Eamonn (2006). 'Genuinely Inauthentic: Martin McDonagh's Second Generation Irishness', in The Theatre of Martin McDonagh: A World of Savage Stories. Dublin: Carysfort Press. pp. 236–45. ISBN 1-904505-19-8. Archived from the original on 17 January 2007. Retrieved 7 January 2007.
  • Graham, Colin; Malley, Willy (August 1999). "Debating Diasporic Identity: Nostalgia, (Post) Nationalism, "Critical Traditionalism"". Irish Studies Review (Special Edition: 'Irish Studies and Postcolonial Theory'). 7 (2): 173–82.

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