The Six Best Irish Quotes and Statues in Dublin

Known as the island of saints and scholars with an infamous ‘gift of the gab’, it’s not surprising that we Irish have plenty to say for ourselves!

James Joyce statue in Dublin City
James Joyce statue in Dublin City

With that in mind, we’ve collected some of our favourite Irish quotes – from poets, playwrights, novelists – and even one very famous rocker! We also let you know where in Dublin you’ll find statues and tributes to these amazing Irish wordsmiths. Read on…

Oscar Wilde

We reckon it’s only fair to start with the undisputed king of quotes! Dublin-born writer and poet Wilde was known for his quick wit and astute social observations, and though it’s hard to pick just one, we reckon our favourite Oscar quote has to be this gem:

“It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious!”

Visit Oscar today in Merrion Square, where his statue reclines on a rock, facing out towards his former childhood home.

James Joyce

One of Ireland’s most famous sons, James Joyce penned – among many others – that great and renowned modernist tome, Ulysses. It’s in fact from that same work we take our favourite Joyce quote; a simple but profound nugget of inspiration:

“A man’s errors are his portals of discovery”.

Gaze upon the man himself (well, almost!) at the junction of O’Connell Street and North Earl Street on Dublin city’s northside.

Phil Lynott

Legendary Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott paved the way for many of the amazing Irish bands who’ve emerged on the scene since his untimely death in 1986. What’s more, the famous Dubliner had a cheeky sense of humour! Asked by a journalist what it felt like to be black and Irish, Phil quipped,

“Kinda like a pint of Guinness.”

Check out the bronze Phil statue on Harry Street (off Grafton Street). Erected in 2005, it stands outside one of the rocker’s favourite pubs, Bruxelles.

Brendan Behan

A quick-witted Dubliner with a twinkle in his eye, Brendan Behan was a poet, novelist and playwright known for his love of life, and fondness of a pint or two! Though he sadly died at the age of 41, he left many a clever quote in his wake - our favourite of which is a playful poke at his infamous brushes with the law:

“I have never seen a situation so dismal that a policeman couldn’t make it worse!”

Like Kavanagh, Behan sits near water – “by the banks of the Royal Canal” – on Upper Dorset Street. Folk and traditional music fans will recognise that line from the famous Dubliners song ‘The Auld Triangle’. In fact, the song is rumoured to have been written about Brendan – by none other than his brother, Dominic Behan!

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Patrick Kavanagh

Monaghan poet Patrick Kavanagh moved to Dublin at the age of 35, where he spent the rest of his days writing poetry, a newspaper column and various film reviews. Always drawn to nature, he was enchanted by the Grand Canal, which runs through the city centre. Our favourite line reflects this passion:

“Leafy-with-love banks and the green waters of the canal, pouring redemption for me.”

Fittingly, Kavanagh is commemorated by his beloved canal. Find his statue sitting in peaceful solitude on a bench on Mespil Road.

George Bernard Shaw

Playwright, novelist, ardent socialist (and general over-achiever!), GB Shaw is the only person ever to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize for Literature (1925) and an Oscar (in 1938, for his work on the film adaptation of his play, Pygmalion). A political activist, Shaw was concerned about the exploitation of the working-class, and his satirical body of work offers a wry look at Ireland’s complex class system. As such, our favourite quote from the great man is this:

“Do not waste your time on social questions. What is the matter with the poor is poverty; what is the matter with the rich is uselessness.”

Shaw is honoured in statue form outside the National Gallery of Ireland on Merrion Square. 

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