Welcome to our ultimate compilation of the best Irish songs that will transport you to the Emerald Isle and immerse you in the varied musician exports of Ireland.
From timeless ballads to classic folk songs of lively rock bands like U2 and The Dublin City Ramblers, these songs showcase Ireland’s unique combination of traditional music, storytelling, and raw passion.
Whether you’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, exploring your Celtic roots, or just want great Irish exports, this diverse selection of 31 of the greatest and most famous Irish songs of all time has something for everyone. Read on!
1. “Nothing Compares 2 U” By Sinéad O’Connor
Irish singer-songwriter Sinéad O’Connor‘s heart-wrenching rendition of “Nothing Compares 2 U” stands out as a classic in the annals of Irish music. Originally penned by Prince for his family side project, it was not until O’Connor took on the song and made it her own that it became an international hit in 1990.
The song was released as a single from the album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got and took the #1 spot on several charts worldwide, including the US, UK, Ireland, and Canada.
The impact of “Nothing Compares 2 U” is heightened by its iconic black-and-white music video showcasing Sinéad’s teary eyes and raw vulnerability. This unforgettable ballad remains a staple at ceremonies or gatherings honoring love and longing across generations.
2. “Whiskey In The Jar” By Thin Lizzy
Next up is the classic traditional Irish song called “Whiskey in the Jar.” Composed sometime in the 17th century, it was brought to life by the legendary rock band Thin Lizzy.
Their haunting rendition tells the story of a highwayman betrayed by his love. It is set amid the southern mountains of Ireland, specifically referencing counties Kerry and Cork, which gives listeners an authentic taste of Irish folk music.
Over the years, many versions have been made of this song by other Irish groups; however, Thin Lizzy’s release in 1973 is the only one to reach the top of Ireland’s Singles chart and peak at #6 in the UK.
3. “With Or Without You” By U2
Probably one of the most popular tracks by Irish rock band U2 is “With or Without You.” Released in 1987 as a lead single from their fifth studio album, The Joshua Tree, it topped charts in Ireland, US, and Canada.
The track opens with a simple yet instantly recognizable guitar riff by The Edge, which sets the atmospheric tone of the song. Bono’s distinct vocals then carry the message of love throughout the song.
Over the years, “With or Without You” has remained a staple in U2’s live performances, often eliciting a strong response from the crowd. The song has also been used in films and TV shows, like the popular sitcom Friends.
4. “No Matter What” By Boyzone
Irish boy band Boyzone had their greatest success in 1998 with the release of “No Matter What.” It landed at #1 on charts of eight countries, including Ireland and the UK, and sold over 3 million copies worldwide.
From their album Whistle Down the Wind, the song carries a powerful and emotional message of unconditional love and support, “no matter what.” It’s made even more poignant by the harmony of the members’ voices.
The song’s enduring appeal has been further enhanced by its inclusion in various media, such as films and television shows. Most popular is perhaps in the 1999 romantic film Notting Hill.
5. “The Boys Are Back In Town” By Thin Lizzy
One of the most iconic songs to come out of Ireland is Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town.” Released in 1976 as the B-side to “Jailbreak” or “Emerald,” it received daily airplay and eventually climbed to the top of the Irish Singles Chart.
During the 2012 Republican National Convention, “The Boys Are Back in Town” was used to present then-vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan during his stage appearance. However, this unauthorized use of the song generated considerable controversy.
Nevertheless, this hard rock classic has become synonymous with summertime anthems and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations alike.
6. “The Green Fields Of France” By The Fureys
“The Green Fields of France” is a poignant folk song originally written by Scottish singer-songwriter Eric Bogle. It gained widespread recognition and popularity when it was recorded by the Irish folk band The Fureys in 1979.
The song, also known as “No Man’s Land,” tells the story of William McBride, a young soldier who died during World War I. The lyrics reflect on the futility of war and pay tribute to those who lost their lives.
The Fureys’ version of the song quickly became a chart-topping hit in Ireland. Their rendition features gentle instrumentation and lead vocals that are both soulful and heartfelt.
7. “The Irish Rover” By The Pogues Ft. The Dubliners
Another beloved traditional Irish folk song that has been passed down through generations of musicians is “The Irish Rover.” The Pogues, in collaboration with The Dubliners, recorded one of the most popular renditions of this classic tune on their album The Very Best Of…
The song recounts the adventures of a mythical ship, the Irish Rover, as it sails the seas and encounters various misadventures. The lyrics are filled with colorful characters, humorous anecdotes, and vivid storytelling, capturing the essence of Irish folklore and seafaring tales.
Over the years, “The Irish Rover” has become a staple in The Pogues’ live performances, with its lively tempo and crowd-rousing qualities. The song has also been covered by various artists, like the musical group Irish Rovers.
8. “Beautiful Day” By U2
“Beautiful Day” is an uplifting rock anthem by U2, one of Ireland’s most famous musical exports. It was released as the lead single from their 2000 album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind.
It is a track that expresses a sense of hope, renewal, and gratitude for life’s simple pleasures. Backed by an uplifting tempo, “Beautiful Day” is certainly a piece that appeals to many people.
“Beautiful Day” also achieved commercial success; it topped the charts in several countries, including Ireland, the UK, and Canada.
In addition to being critically acclaimed, it also won U2 three Grammy Awards: Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year.
9. “Chasing Cars” By Snow Patrol
“Chasing Cars” by the Northern Irish-Scottish band Snow Patrol is a powerful love song that has struck a chord with audiences worldwide. It garnered significant acclaim and commercial success upon its release in 2006.
The track features on the band’s fourth studio album, Eyes Open, and topped singles charts in both the United Kingdom and Ireland, becoming one of the most played songs on UK radio in the 21st century.
Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” is an excellent example of Irish rock music that appeals to fans across genres. It has been used in many films, like Just Go with It, and TV series, like Grey’s Anatomy.
10. “Fairytale Of New York” By The Pogues
Next up is a beloved Christmas song called “Fairytale of New York.” It tells the story of Irish immigrants in New York City.
Written by Shane MacGowan and Jem Finer, The Pogues recorded and released it in 1987 as a duet with British singer Kirsty MacColl. The song was an instant success, taking the top spot on the Irish Singles Chart and #2 on the UK Singles.
Despite some controversy surrounding certain lyrics, “Fairytale of New York” remains an iconic example of Irish music. It’s a testament to how powerful storytelling can be when set to music.
11. “Galway Girl” By Mundy
Next up is the toe-tapping, folk-inspired song “Galway Girl.” Now Ed Sheeran fans might be disappointed to know we’re not talking about his song. This “Galway Girl” is by Irish singer Mundy.
Originally written by American singer Steve Earle in 2000, Mundy’s cover became a #1 hit in Ireland and was the most downloaded song of 2008. An Irish-language version is also available, called “Cailín na Gaillimhe.”
The song’s popularity has continued to grow over time, making it the eighth best-selling single in Irish chart history. Many other artists have also created covers, like The High Kings in 2013 and, most recently, Josh Abbott Band in 2023.
12. “Seven Drunken Nights” By The Dubliners
“Seven Drunken Nights” is a traditional Irish folk song that was popularized by The Dubliners in 1967. The song sings the tale of a naive drunk who gradually becomes aware of his wife’s infidelity over seven nights.
Despite being banned from RTE, a broadcasting station in Ireland, the song managed to rise to the top of the chart. Considered one of the best Irish drinking songs, it remains a firm favorite at pubs on St. Patrick’s Day celebrations around the world.
Its message about drinking culture may seem obvious, but it still resonates with many today, especially those who enjoy an occasional drink or two (or three).
13. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” By U2
We have yet another song by U2, which is not surprising since they are the greatest Irish band known to man. This time, it’s their “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” released in 1987.
The song explores the human quest to find The One. The journey goes over mountains and through fields, yet his love remains elusive.
From U2’s album The Joshua Tree, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” quickly became one of their greatest hits, reaching #1 on Ireland and US charts. In 1990, the Scottish band Chimes released their version, though not quite as successful.
14. “Swear It Again” By Westlife
One of the most beloved ballads in the Irish music scene is “Swear It Again” by the Irish pop group Westlife. Written by Steve Mac, it was released as a single from the band’s eponymous album in 1999.
This hit single immediately topped the charts in Ireland and the UK, staying in the latter chart for two weeks, and propelled the boy band to international success. Not only that, the song won a BMI Pop Award in 2001 and a Billboard Best Boyband Songs of All-time in 2018.
The popularity of “Swear It Again” is not surprising. With its theme of heartfelt love and devotion, the gentle ballad certainly knows how to connect with listeners.
15. “I Don’t Like Mondays” By Boomtown Rats
With a title that many can relate to, we have next The Boomtown Rats’ punk rock classic “I Don’t Like Mondays.” This song was written by Bob Geldof and released in 1979, topping charts in the UK, Ireland, and Australia.
It was inspired by the story of Brenda Ann Spencer, who opened fire on a school playground in San Diego in 1979. Spencer, who is said to hate Mondays, killed two adults and injured eight children before being arrested.
Despite its success, the song also sparked controversy due to its subject matter. Some found it inappropriate to write a song about such a sensitive topic as school shootings, while others praised the band’s boldness for tackling this issue head-on.
16. “Words” By Boyzone
From Boyzone’s 1996 album A Different Beat, we have “Words.” Originally by The Bee Gees, which was a smash hit when released in 1968, Boyzone’s version also topped the charts—in Ireland, the UK, and Scotland.
The song’s lyrics revolve around the power of words and its ability to express love and longing. It reminds the listeners of the importance of communication and understanding in romantic partnerships.
The song’s success further solidified Boyzone’s popularity and showcased their ability to deliver heartfelt ballads with mass appeal. It remains one of the band’s best songs and continues to be a fan favorite.
17. “Giants” By Dermot Kennedy
“Giants,” an upbeat and infectious tune by Irish singer-songwriter Dermot Kennedy, has been making waves in the music industry since its release in June 2020. The song was released as a single from his album Without Fear and as a 7″ vinyl.
Upon release, “Giants” was an immediate success, becoming Kennedy’s first to top the Irish Singles chart. Its lyrics, an encouragement for listeners to persevere, caught on, becoming an anthem of the time.
The song’s impact extends beyond its chart success, solidifying Kennedy’s position as a talented artist. For sure, we can expect great songs from this singer in the future.
18. “Take Me To Church” By Hozier
One of the most iconic Irish songs to come out in recent years is “Take Me to Church” by Hozier. Released in 2013 as his debut single, the song has a dark and moody tone that immediately captured people’s attention and shot Hozier to fame.
“Take Me to Church,” tells the story of a man who wants to break free from society’s judgmental opinions about sexuality and the double standards he sees within religious institutions regarding his romantic relationships.
It’s no wonder then that “Take Me to Church” has received numerous accolades over the years, including Top Rock Song from Billboard, Song of the Year from BBC Music, and a Song of the Year Grammy nod.
19. “Signal Fire” By Snow Patrol
Northern Ireland rock band Snow Patrol released “Signal Fire” as a single in 2007. The power pop song is currently part of the Marvel Universe soundtrack, featuring in the Spider-Man 3.
It was released in three formats: as a digital download, CD, and vinyl. The latter is uniquely shaped like a web to help in promotion.
Despite the popularity of the film it was featured in, “Signal Fire” received mixed reviews, some even giving it a scathing thought. Nevertheless, the song took the second spot on the Irish Singles Chart and #4 on UK Singles.
20. “Falling Slowly” By Glen Hansard
In collaboration with Icelandic singer-songwriter Markéta Irglová, Glen Hansard released the ballad “Falling Slowly” in 2007 for the romantic musical Once, in which both of them starred.
“Falling Slowly” perfectly captures the raw emotion and chemistry between the characters portrayed in the film. Their harmonious voices blend seamlessly, evoking a sense of love and vulnerability.
“Falling Slowly” gained significant recognition and success after winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2008. It has been covered by numerous artists, like Josh Groban and Kris Allen, over the years.
21. “Here Comes The Night” By Them
Next up is the classic Irish song “Here Comes the Night.” Originally by Bert Berns, the Northern Irish band Them released a cover of the song in 1965 and gave it new life.
The song’s driving rhythm, coupled with the powerful vocals of frontman Van Morrison, took it to the second spot on the UK Singles Chart. It incorporates elements of the British Invasion sound that was prominent during that era.
Over the years, the song has been covered by various artists, including David Bowie and Rod Stewart, further cementing its status as a classic rock staple. The enduring appeal of “Here Comes the Night” lies in its timeless sound and the way it captures the essence of youthful energy and anticipation.
22. “Orinoco Flow” By Enya
“Orinoco Flow” is a hit song released by the iconic Irish singer-songwriter Enya in 1988 on the album Watermark. It quickly became a chart-topping success throughout the UK and other countries.
The song takes the listener on a journey through imagery and poetic language, evoking a sense of exploration, adventure, and the beauty of nature. The title refers to the Orinoco River in South America, but the song’s lyrics are open to interpretation.
The popularity of “Orinoco Flow” has not faded over time; in fact, it has only grown. Featured in several movie soundtracks (e.g., Shrek Forever After and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and included in St. Patrick’s Day playlists around the world, its legacy continues to inspire.
23. “Zombie” By The Cranberries
Written by lead singer Dolores O’Riordan, “Zombie” by The Cranberries is a powerful and moving protest song about The Troubles in Ireland. The song was released in 1994 as part of the band’s second album, No Need to Argue.
The song was written with the intention of promoting peace between England and Ireland. The lyrics lament the violence and loss caused by the conflict, making it a poignant example of how art can be used to address important social issues.
Upon its release, “Zombie” achieved great commercial success, reaching high chart positions in multiple countries. It also garnered critical acclaim, receiving nominations for Best International Song and Best Contemporary Song from the Žebřík Music and Ivor Novello Awards, respectively.
24. “Breathless” By The Corrs
Up next is a delightful little ditty by The Corrs that’s sure to make your heart skip a beat. Released in 2000 as the lead single from their third studio album, In Blue, “Breathless” showcases the Irish family band’s signature blend of pop rock and Celtic influences.
The catchy and upbeat track became a major hit for The Corrs. It topped charts in several countries, including the UK Singles, and solidified their international success.
The song paints a vivid image of a romance so intoxicating it leaves one breathless. The positive vibe and melody propelled the song to become one of The Corrs’ most popular and recognizable tunes.
25. “Slow Hands” By Niall Horan
The Irish singer-songwriter Niall Horan rose to fame as a member of One Direction. After his start as a solo artist, he released two successful hits, and “Slow Hands” is one of them.
Release in 2017 from his debut album, Flicker, “Slow Hands” peaked at #3 on the Irish Singles chart but topped multiple Billboard charts, including Adult Top 40 and Mainstream Top 40.
“Slow Hands” displayed Horan’s ability to stand on his own as a solo artist, with a sound that was distinctively his own. It has that undeniable swagger that makes you want to turn up the volume and let loose to the beat.
26. “Out In The Fields” By Gary Moore & Phil Lynott
From funk pop and romantic ballads, we have next a heavy metal piece by Gary Moore and Phil Lynott called “Out in the Fields.” They released it in 1985 from the album Run for Cover.
“Out in the Fields” combines the fiery guitar skills of Moore, known for his soulful and blistering solos, with the distinctive vocals of Lynott, the frontman of the iconic band Thin Lizzy.
This combination helped shoot “Out in the Fields” to commercial success—#3 on Irish Singles and #5 on UK Singles Charts. The song has also been covered by many artists over the years, including metal bands Riot and Primal Fear.
27. “The Fields Of Athenry” By Paddy Reilly
Written by Pete St. John in 1979, “The Fields of Athenry” was brought to life by the Irish folk singer Paddy Reilly. The heart-wrenching ballad can transport you to the heart of Irish history.
“The Fields of Athenry,” tells a poignant tale set during the Great Famine of 19th-century Ireland. The song follows the story of a fictional character named Michael, who is unjustly sentenced to deportation to Australia for stealing food to feed his starving family.
Reilly’s powerful rendition of the song brings the story to life, capturing the pain, longing, and strength of the Irish people during that difficult period. Though his cover only peaked at #4, it stayed in that position for 72 weeks.
28. “The Ferryman” By The Dublin City Ramblers
Released in 1970, “The Ferryman” by The Dublin City Ramblers is a spirited folk song that encapsulates the very essence of Irish culture. With its lively storytelling, this track has found a special place in the hearts of Irish music enthusiasts and fans of folk traditions worldwide.
The jaunty piece weaves the tale of a ferryman’s daily life and the experiences of the people he encounters along the riverbanks, including a little bit of love.
“The Ferryman” is one of Ireland’s most iconic folk songs, written by Pete St. John as well. It has been covered by several other Irish artists and groups, but The Dublin City Ramblers’ version is the most popular, taking the #6 spot of the Irish Singles chart.
29. “Brown Eyed Girl” By Van Morrison
One of the most popular songs by Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison is “Brown Eyed Girl,” released in 1967, which reached #10 on Billboard Hot 100.
The opening chords instantly spark a sense of anticipation, and as Van Morrison’s velvety voice enters the scene, you can’t help but be captivated by his charm. The lyrics tell a tale of youthful love and adventure, perfectly painting the carefree spirit of the 1960s.
“Brown Eyed Girl” has remained a classic through the decades and continues to be loved by many due to its catchy melody and pop appeal. It is included among the hits listed in 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. It was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007.
30. “Molly Malone” By The Dubliners
Also known as “Cockles and Mussels,” “Molly Malone” is a traditional Irish ballad that tells the story of a woman who sells fish during the day and works as a courtesan at night. Many artists have released versions of this song; The Dubliners is one of them.
While the origins of the song are uncertain, it is widely believed to have originated in Scotland before becoming popular throughout Ireland, becoming its unofficial anthem.
The lyrics to “Molly Malone” reflect an important aspect of life for many women living in poverty-stricken areas during 17th-century Ireland, where prostitution was common among the lower classes.
31. “The Soldier’s Song” (Amhrán Na BhFiann)
Ending this list is none other than the national anthem of Ireland. A patriotic song, “The Soldier’s Song” (Amhrán na bhFiann), has been sung by generations of Irish people.
With music composed by Peadar Kearney and Patrick Heeney, this stirring anthem was originally written in 1909 by Kearney, a member of the Gaelic League.
The song’s lyrics celebrate the rich history and heritage of Ireland with powerful words that speak to the hearts of all who listen. Over the years, there have been many recordings of “The Soldier’s Song” in both English and Irish language.
Summing Up Our List Of The Best Irish Songs
From soulful ballads to upbeat mid-tempo numbers and metal rock, this list features an impressive range of tracks that evoke a sense of nostalgia and pride for Irish culture and heritage.
We hope that you have enjoyed it as much as we had fun creating this list for you. If we missed a song that deserves to be on here, let us know, and we’ll add it for you!