White Irish

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White Irish
Counties of the UK Irish.svg
Distribution by regional area
Total population
White Irish
(Excluding Northern Ireland)[1][2]
Regions with significant populations
 United Kingdom
England England517,001 (1.0%) (2011)[1]
Scotland Scotland54,090 (1.0%) (2011)[2]
Wales Wales14,086 (0.5%) (2011)[1]
Northern Ireland (including all White people reporting at least Irish or Irish with one of more additional national identities)520,586 (28.7%) (2011)[3][4]
British English · Hiberno-English · Irish
Scottish Gaelic · Scots · Ulster Scots · Shelta}
Predominantly Christianity (mainly Roman Catholic, some Anglican and Presbyterian);[1] Non-religious and others

White Irish is an ethnicity classification used in the 2011 United Kingdom Census. In the 2011 census, the White Irish population was 585,177 or 1% of Great Britain's total population.

This total does not include the White Irish population estimate for Northern Ireland, where only the term 'White' is used in ethnic classification and such White British people and White Irish are amalgamated. National identity is listed separately in NI, where 28.7% of those who identified as White classified themselves as Irish only or Irish with one or more additional categories (e.g. Irish and Northern Irish at 1.1%), making up a significant portion of the population.[3][1][2][5]


Census classifications[edit]

For the 2011 census, in England and Wales the ethnicity self-classification section included the category of White Irish as the second option, after White British.[6][7] Where Scotland differs in the White British category, by breaking down the option into two different categories (White Scottish and Other White British); the Scottish census maintains the same naming convention, listing White Irish as the third option in the ethnic group section.[8] In Northern Ireland, the White Irish classification did not appear, the only choice being 'White'.[9]

National Identity is listed separately in Northern Ireland, with those who identified themselves as White in the 2011 census choosing one or more options. 'White' and 'Irish' made up 455,161 (25.1 percent) out of a total population of 1,810,863 (of all ethnic backgrounds). When including those who listed themselves as 'White', and 'Irish' or 'Irish' plus one, or more, other National Identity; there were 520,586 persons (28.7 percent). These additional White multi-identity groupings included combinations such as "White: Irish and Northern Irish" at 19,044 (1.1 percent), "White: British and Irish" at 11,684 (0.6 percent), and "White: British, Irish and Northern Irish" at 18,249 (1.0 percent).[3]

Local government[edit]

Outside of national censuses, local governments, councils and NHS districts use the category of White Irish for statistical purposes. For example, Devon County Council has published a diversity guide which defines White Irish people as a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) category.[10] NHS Bradford District also defines White Irish as an ethnic minority group.[11] Kirklees Council uses the abbreviation 'Ethnicity Code' WIRI for White Irish persons.[12]


Population and distribution[edit]

Population pyramid of the White Irish in 2021 (in England and Wales)

Between 2001 and 2011, the White Irish population decreased by 18 percent.[13] Along with the White British population, the group was one of only two ethnic groups to decrease in number in the ten-year period.[14]

As of the 2011 census, in England and Wales,[15] London has by far the highest White Irish population in numbers and by regional proportion, numbering 175,974 inhabitants. The second highest county is the West Midlands with a White Irish population of 39,183, followed by Greater Manchester (34,499) - all other counties are below 20,000 inhabitants.[15]

The district with the highest local White Irish population is the London Borough of Brent (4.0%). Five of the remaining districts above 3.0% are all London boroughs, namely Islington, Hammersmith and Fulham, Camden, Ealing and Harrow; the only one outside London is the unitary authority of Luton (3.0%).[15] By total population, the district with the highest White Irish population is the city of Birmingham, where 22,021 residents identified themselves as being White Irish. The second highest district was London Borough of Brent (12,320), followed by the city of Manchester (11,843) and the London Borough of Ealing (10,428).[15]

Below are the total populations by region.

UK Region White Irish population Percentage of local population
Greater London 175,974 2.2%
East of England 55,573 1.0%
West Midlands 55,216 1.0%
South East England 73,571 0.9%
North West England 64,930 0.9%
East Midlands 28,676 0.6%
South West England 28,616 0.5%
Yorkshire and the Humber 26,410 0.5%
Wales 14,086 0.5%
North East England 8,035 0.3%


In England, about 81 percent of those born in the Republic of Ireland, at the time of the 2011 census, identified as White Irish. Contrastingly, of those born in Northern Ireland, and living in England, 14 percent considered themselves White Irish. There were around 174,000 English-born people in the White Irish population of England. These individuals may be three of four generations removed from their ancestors who migrated from Ireland.[16]


In 2020 research, the White Irish ethnic group showed the largest Progress 8 benchmark performance gap between those eligible for free school meals and those not.[17]


Statistically and nominally, White Irish are more likely to be Christian than other white Britons. According to the 2011 UK Census, White Irish are 80% Christian in England and Wales, mostly Catholic with some Anglican or other Christian. The percentage of White Irish who are Christians is lower in Scotland, at around 78%, mainly Catholic with some Presbyterian, especially Church of Scotland, and other Christian.[18][19] In Northern Ireland, however, White Irish is counted simply as White, so the exact number of Christians there who are White Irish is truly unknown.

Percentages and numbers

Religion England and Wales[18] Scotland[19]
Gold Christian Cross no Red.svg Christianity 80.14% (425,612) 77.61% (41,981)
No religion 11.07% (58,798) 16.07% (8,690)
Star of David.svg Judaism 0.21% (1,134) 0.04% (20)
Star and Crescent.svg Islam 0.36% (1,914) 0.11% (61)
Dharma Wheel.svg Buddhism 0.29% (1,516) 0.23% (124)
Om.svg Hinduism 0.05% (275) 0.02% (13)
Khanda.svg Sikhism 0.03% (152) 0.01% (7)
Not Stated 7.46% (39,631) 5.53% (2,989)
Other religions 0.39% (2,055) 0.38% (205)
Total 100% (531,087) 100% (54,090)

Social and health issues[edit]


A 2009 study published in Ethnicity & Health demonstrated that the grouping self-reported higher rates of poor general health than the White British populace. This was found to be particularly the case in Northern Ireland, for those who had designated themselves as White, and with an "Irish" national identity.[20] In 2020, a UCL study based in NHS England data, showed that the White Irish group was around 50 percent less at risk of death from COVID-19 than other black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups. This was significantly lower than the White British group, which were 12 percent lower than the average risk for BAME communities.[21]


In 2015 research, University of Southampton fellow Dr Rosalind Willis explored the social fragility of the White Irish ethnicity, particularly in England where distinctions between White British and White Irish are, at times, openly denied.[22]

Police discrimination[edit]

In a 1995 study, sociologist Jock Young found that of 1000 randomly selected residents of Finsbury Park when were asked if they had been stopped by the police over the past year, the White Irish population was disproportionately large with 14.3%, in contrast to 12.8% of Afro-Caribbean and 5.8% of White British people. The researchers found the Police tactic of 'lurking and larking', whereby constables would wait outside Irish pubs and clubs to make arrests to be to blame for the high statistics, which was labelled a form of 'institutional racism'.[23][24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e 2011 Census: Ethnic group, local authorities in England and Wales, Accessed 13 June 2014
  2. ^ a b c Table 2 - Ethnic groups, Scotland, 2001 and 2011 Scotland's Censuses published 30 September 2013, Accessed 13 June 2014.
  3. ^ a b c "2011 Census - Key Statistics for Northern Ireland". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. 11 January 2017.
  4. ^ "Table DC2206NI: National identity (classification 1) by ethnic group". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  5. ^ National Identity (Classification 1) by Ethnic Group DC2206NI (administrative geographies), Accessed 13 June 2014
  6. ^ 2011-2001 Census questionnaire comparability, Office for National Statistics, Accessed 28 December 2012
  7. ^ Census 2011 Wales Household Questionnaire 2011, Accessed 28 December 2012
  8. ^ Scotland's Census 2011 Household Questionnaire 2011 Archived 19 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Accessed 28 December 2012
  9. ^ NISRA 2011 census Questionnaire, Accessed 28 December 2012
  10. ^ "Diversity Guide – Race/Ethnicity". Devon County Council.
  11. ^ "RaceEvidence of health inequalities affecting black and minority ethnic people" (PDF). Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Similar patterns emerge from a question regarding Emergency Departments. For example, other than White Irish patients, all ethnic minority patientswere less likely to give a positive response to the question "Overall, did you feel you were treated with respect and dignity while you were in the Emergency Department?".
  12. ^ "Ethnicity Codes" (PDF). Kirklees Council.
  13. ^ Stephen Jivraj (December 2012). "How has ethnic diversity grown 1991-2001-2011?". Dynamics of Diversity: Evidence From The 2011 Census (PDF). Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity: Joseph Rowntree Foundation. p. 1. The White British population, measured separately for the first time in 2001, declined by 1% between 2001 and 2011, whereas the White Irish population decreased by 18%.
  14. ^ "Ethnicity". Oxford City Council. Ethnic diversity increased between 2001 and 2011. The number of people from all ethnic groups increased, with the exception of people in the White British and White Irish ethnic groups.
  15. ^ a b c d National Identity (Classification 1) by Ethnic Group DC2206NI (administrative geographies), Accessed 13 June 2020
  16. ^ Sinead O'Carroll (8 November 2014). "The Irish in England: How they view their ethnicity and nationality". TheJournal.ie.
  17. ^ "Child poverty and education outcomes by ethnicity". Office for National Statistics. February 2020. The White Irish ethnic group had the biggest gap between the average Progress 8 scores of FSM-eligible pupils (negative 0.51) and those not eligible (0.23).
  18. ^ a b "DC2201EW - Ethnic group and religion" (Spreadsheet). ONS. 15 September 2015. Size: 21 Kb.
  19. ^ a b Scotland's Census 2011. "Table DC2201SC - Ethnic group by religion" (Spreadsheet). National Records of Scotland. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  20. ^ Marie Clucas (December 2009). "The Irish health disadvantage in England: contribution of structure and identity components of Irish ethnicity". Ethnicity & Health. Taylor & Francis. p. 553-73. Results: When compared to the white British reference population, the self-reported 'white Irish' population overall, the Irish born in Northern Ireland, and UK-born Irish, show a significantly increased risk of both self-reported poor general health and limiting long-term illness.
  21. ^ Colin Gleeson (7 May 2020). "White Irish in England half as likely to die from Covid-19 than minorities". Irish Times.
  22. ^ Rosalind Willis (September 2016). "The fragility of "white Irish" as a minority ethnic identity in England". Ethnic and Racial Studies. Taylor & Francis. p. 1681-1699. Through the use of fieldnotes and interview extracts, I discuss how I became aware that my ethnic identity was not always recognized by participants, and in some cases the distinction between white Irish and white British was denied.
  23. ^ Young, Jock (1995). Policing the Streets (PDF). London: Islington Council. pp. 1–2, 38. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  24. ^ Walter, Bronwen (18 June 1999). "Criminal justice and policing experience". The Irish Community in Britain - diversity, disadvantage and discrimination. Cambridge: Anglia Polytechnic University. Archived from the original on 17 March 2021. Retrieved 17 March 2021.