13 Of The Greatest And Most Famous Irish Punk Bands

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

There’s nothing quite like a lively mix of traditional Irish folk music and aggressive punk rock. Since the early 1980s, if not before, musicians all over the world have been combining Celtic vibes with punk attitudes.

Surprisingly, Irish punk bands hardly ever come from Ireland, it seems. Instead, they hail from Australia, the US, Hungary, and everywhere in between.

Mixing bagpipes, banjos, fiddles, and electric guitars, the Celtic sounds of these bands are worth discovering. So join us as we get to know 13 of the most famous Irish punk bands. Let’s dive in.

1. The Pogues

We’ll start our list with the Pogues. Many consider this group to be the original Irish punk band. Formed in 1982 in Kings Cross, London, they enjoyed several hits and a cult following that stretched from the 1980s to today. 

“Fairytale of New York” is one of their most recognizable songs. This modern-day Christmas carol reached the top spot on the Irish charts and the #2 spot on the British charts when it came out in 1987. Today, it’s still a holiday favorite, especially in the UK.

The Pogues broke up in 1996 and returned in 2001, only to split up permanently in 2014. And in 2022, bass guitarist Darryl Hunt passed away. However, the band’s blend of rebellious punk and Irish folk music still enchants listeners and is often a gateway to more modern Celtic punk music.

2. Dropkick Murphys

When it comes to Irish punk bands that top the charts, the Dropkick Murphys is one of the most iconic. Even if you’ve never heard of the band, you’ve probably listened to a few of their songs. Their single “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” went Platinum after being featured in The Departed, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon.

After that success in 2006, the Dropkick Murphys saw several more successful releases, including their 2011 album Going Out of Style, which hit the #6 spot on Billboard‘s top 100. 

The band, from Quincy, Massachusetts, blends Celtic sounds with American punk rock and actively tours. They released their latest studio album, This Machine Still Kills Fascists, in 2022.

3. Flogging Molly

The band Flogging Molly started out In Los Angeles, in 1997, thanks to Dublin-born Dave King. This seven-piece group seamlessly combines traditional Irish sounds with a punk rock attitude. Flogging Molly says they take inspiration from other Celtic punk stars like the Dropkick Murphys and hard-hitting rock, such as the Clash.

Along with Mr. King, the band features Bridget Regan, Dennis Casey, Nathen Maxwell, Matt Hensley, Mike Alonso, and Spencer Swain. Of the seven members, only King and Regan have been in the lineup since the beginning, when they played every Monday night at the famed Molly Malone’s pub in LA. 

Flogging Molly’s first studio record, Swagger, came out in 2000. You can hear its most famous ballad, “The Worst Day Since Yesterday,” in the background of the hit movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Since then, Flogging Molly has released six more records, all of which build on their tenacious sound.

4. The Young Wolfe Tones

Though many think the Pogues were the first Irish punk band, the Young Wolfe Tones were around well before them. This band was started by four neighboring kids in Dublin, Ireland, back in 1963. 

Named for the leader of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, the group excels at Celtic sounds, though much of it is more traditional than the Irish punk we hear today. 

Still, their message remains irreverent and politically charged, just like the best of today’s Celtic punk. Perhaps that’s why, in 2020, their rendition of “Come Out Ye Black ‘n’ Tans” claimed the top spot on the iTunes charts in the UK and Ireland. 

5. The Young Dubliners

Hailing from Santa Monica, California, the Young Dubliners formed in 1988 during the peak of Irish punk.

You might know them for the song “Rocky Road to Dublin,” which maintained a #2 spot on the Billboard world charts for 115 weeks when it came out in 2006. Other notable songs include “Foggy Dew” and “Follow Me Up to Carlow.” 

The Young Dubliners have also played on Jimmy Kimmel Live! twice, in 2009 and in 2011.

The group actively tours and, in 2002, performed at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

6. The Real McKenzies

From Vancouver, British Columbia, we have the Real McKenzies, a Canadian Celtic punk band known for their kilt-twisting hits. This band is often cited as one of the founders of the Irish punk movement, though they didn’t form until 1992.

Still, their compelling mix of bagpipes, guitars, and drums has placed them on stage with major stars like Metallica, NOFX, and the Misfits.

With rebellious hits like “Chip” in 2008 and “The Tempest” in 2012, the Real McKenzies continue to find fans among those who love the sound of Irish punk.

7. Rum Rebellion

A more recent addition to the Irish punk scene, the Rum Rebellion formed in 2005 in Portland, Oregon.

With a unique blend of punk, maritime, and Celtic sounds, the Rum Rebellion gives an energetic voice to the Oi! attitude. They play jigs, reels, and sea shanties with a harder edge, thanks to the addition of electric guitar and heavy-hitting drums.

The Rum Rebellion has four studio albums and embarked on numerous tours throughout the US, amounting to more than 1,000 shows. You might have caught them at Punk Invasion 2K17 in Santa Ana, California, or the Day of Chaos Fest in Denver, Colorado.

8. Smokey Bastards

The Smokey Bastards call themselves the UK’s answer to the Dropkick Murphys, and their sound was arguably similar initially. However, as the band matured, they began incorporating varied folk sounds from around the world. Their unusual interpretation of the iconic sea shanty “South Australia” features a didgeridoo! 

This Irish punk/punk-folk band started in 2007 and self-released their first album, Propping Up the Floor, in 2009. The underground success of the album led them to sign with BomberMusic for future records, including Tales from the Wasteland and Back to the Drawing Room.

9. Fiddler’s Green

Celebrating over 30 years together, Fiddler’s Green started in 1990 in Germany and gained notoriety quickly in the festival world thanks to their unique blend of Irish folk music, ska, and reggae sounds.

Their spunky bar music is well-loved throughout Germany and the UK. They’ve played over 2,000 concerts and have recorded 14 studio records.

One of their later album, Winners and Boozers (2019), made it to the #7 spot on the German charts, proving that even after 30 years, this Irish punk band knows how to please their loyal fans.

10. The Mahones

Canadian-based Irish punk band the Mahones had a fitting start. Their founder, Dublin-born Finny McConnell, launched the band with an impromptu performance at a St. Patrick’s Day party in 1990. A very positive response to the St. Paddy’s Day show led him to formally start the Mahones.

Since their founding, the band has recorded 13 studio albums and featured their music in multiple films. For example, you can hear their song “100 Bucks” in the background of 1998’s Dog Park and “Paint the Town Red 2010” was in the movie The Fighter.

11. The Go Set

Five-piece band the Go Set hails from Australia. Started in 2003 by founders James Keenan and Mark Moran, the group frequently embarks on tours. Their take on Irish punk mixes the traditional wail of the bagpipes with modern drums and guitars, giving new energy to the Irish folk sound.

They dropped their debut album, Sing a Song of Revolution, two years after their formation, and since then, the band has recorded six more studio albums.

The Go Set featured a revolving cast of musicians, sometimes offering a tin whistle and other times a mandolin to go along with the more standard pipes and guitars.

12. Paddy And The Rats

Offering a unique mix of Romanian and Irish folk music, we have our next group Paddy and the Rats. The band hails from Hungary and has seamlessly combined Irish punk with polka, creating a sound unlike any other.

The band formed in 2008 with members Paddy O’Reilly, Vince Murphy, and Joey Mackay. That same year, they released their first album, Itz Only Pub ‘n Roll, But I Like It.

Commercial success came with their second album, Rats on Board, in 2009, and on iTunes, they became the most-downloaded Hungarian band of the year. Since then, they’ve dropped four more studio albums and toured numerous countries.

13. The Black Tartan Clan

Combining banjo, bagpipes, and electric guitar, the Black Tartan Clan offers an exciting take on Irish punk. Originally, the band came from Belgium, where they produced their first studio album, Boots, Kilts, ‘n Pipes, in 2008.

Inspired by the Real McKensies and Dropkick Murphys, they produced several more studio albums through the years. However, their focus was mainly on touring Europe and establishing themselves as live performers with a solid fanbase.

Though the band officially split up in 2017, they reunited in 2022, in their new home country of Spain.

Summing Up Our List Of Famous Celtic Punk Bands

Given the list above, it’s easy to see that Irish punk resonates worldwide. With an aggressive attitude, traditional instruments, and cheeky lyrics, these bands create energetic music tinged with passionate emotion. 

If you want a taste of Irish punk, listen to a few of the bands above. You’ll soon understand why they have found fans around the world, and who knows? Maybe you’ll be one too!

Photo of author

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.