An RTÉ Culture Photo Essay

25 people defining
Irish Culture right now

We are a nation renowned for its vibrant cultural tapestry throughout the ages, but who are the movers and shakers who define Irish culture in 2018?

We are a nation renowned for its vibrant cultural tapestry throughout the ages, but who are the movers and shakers who define Irish culture in 2018?

Below, we take a look at some of the people who have had an eminently positive impact on the arts – in all its forms – in recent times, and who are propelling Ireland onwards as a cultural force, on both the national and international stages.

Emmet Kirwan

Following the success of his short films Just Saying and Heartbreak, Kirwan's stock has risen to an all-time high after Dublin Oldschool - adapted from the hit play he wrote in 2015 - recently wowed Irish cinema-goers. He also makes a hell of a lot of sense when it comes to modern Irish society.

Louise O'Neill

The Cork-born author nailed the YA (Young Adult) genre with her novels Only Ever Yours and Asking for It - books with important social messages at their core. Forays into adult fiction (Almost Love) and her re-telling of The Little Mermaid, The Surface Breaks – have proved equally essential reading.

Lisa McGee

A sitcom based during the Troubles and following a quirky crew of teenage girls could have gone horribly awry, but not in Lisa McGee's hands. The Derry Girls creator, whose previous work includes the likes of RTE's Raw and Channel 4's London Irish, continues to go from strength to strength.

John Gerrard

Best known for his virtual simulations exploring the stark contrasts between nature and man-made objects, such as his work Western Flag, the Dubliner's use of 3D real-time graphics in his work is both thought-provoking and outrageously innovative.

Saoirse Ronan

Our biggest acting export in a generation, Ronan has not only excelled in the likes of Lady Bird (picking up her third Oscar nomination in the process), but she's also been a walking advertisement for Ireland, charming the pants off various US talk show hosts. Her skill and range is remarkable, given the fact that she's still only 24. She's only going to get better.

Domhnall Gleeson

Is it too soon to call the Gleeson family an 'acting dynasty'? If that's the case, Domhnall may turn out to be the jewel in its crown. A glance at the 35-year-old's seriously impressive CV sees him tackling roles in comedy, drama, rom-coms, action movies, thrillers and more. Also: he was seriously cool as General Hux in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Sally Rooney

Author of the most un-put-downable Irish novel of 2017, Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney brilliantly captured life for two twentysomething Dubliners, marking herself as a serious talent in the process. Her second novel, Normal People, set for publication in September, has already been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize.

Oona Doherty

To call the Belfast-born Oona Doherty's work in the field of dance and choreography 'trailblazing' is understating the case. Her performances in productions including Hard to Be Soft: A Belfast Prayer and Enda Walsh's Arlington have rightly marked her out as a colossal talent on the contemporary dance scene.

Blindboy Boatclub

Who would have thought that a man with a plastic bag wrapped around his face, would become the voice of a generation of young Irish men? Rubberbandits' Blindboy's podcast – often funny, occasionally sobering, but always essential - has a way of cutting through the bulls**t and getting to the heart of the matter.

Rejjie Snow

Rejjie Snow is gearing up to be Ireland's first bona fide hip-hop star. Still only 25, the Dublin native (aka Alex Anyaegbunam) was invited on tour with Madonna in 2015, with just one EP under his belt. His debut studio album Dear Annie, released earlier this year, heralded a new star in the increasingly exciting Irish hip-hop firmament.

Mary Nally

If you haven't been to Drop Everything yet, no doubt you'll have heard it whispered about in reverential tones. The festival, Nally's brainchild, has become a must-visit for those seeking their cultural fix with a side of distinctiveness.

Jill & Gill

Illustrator Jill Deering and printmaker Gillian Henderson have become a force to be reckoned with in the world of design since launching two years ago. As Jill & Gill, the Dublin-based pair's brand has set trends and is fast becoming one of the most recognisable and in-demand studios in Ireland.

Aoife McArdle

Her feature debut Kissing Candice is currently impressing at the box office, but Aoife McArdle's distinctive style has been garnering attention for years. The Omagh director has music videos for the likes of U2 and James Vincent McMorrow on her impressive CV, as well as adverts for global brands like Audi, Under Armour and Samsung.

Fatti Burke

The Waterford illustrator's work is unique and instantly recognisable, with strong themes of home, animals and food woven into its vibrant, brightly-coloured fabric. You'll probably have seen it in the bestselling children's books Irelandopedia, Historopedia and Focloiropedia.

Barry Keoghan

The 25-year-old Dubliner has a natural screen presence that most of his peers spend a lifetime trying to hone, as he proved in The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Dunkirk. Having just been cast in the lead role of comic book adaptation Y: The Last Man, he's going places. Fast.

Doireann Ní Ghríofa

Galway-born poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa is known for her outstanding work in both the Irish and English languages, most notably in 2015's 'Clasp' and 2017's 'Oighear' – but her renown extends far beyond these shores. Her writing has been published in literary journals around the world.

Aisling Bea

The Kildare native has been captaining a team on 8 Out of 10 Cats since 2016, as well as landing acting roles in everything from The Fall to E4's Gap Year. Her forthcoming Netflix special, due to air later this year, should establish her as a comedic force to be reckoned with.

Nora Twomey

As co-founder of Cartoon Saloon, Twomey's film The Breadwinner earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature, shining an international spotlight on the flourishing Irish animation scene in the process. Not bad for someone who dropped out of school without a Leaving Cert, is it?

Stefanie Preissner

It's tough to capture the reality of life for a post-Celtic Tiger generation without resorting to cynicism, but Preissner's Can't Cope, Won't Cope did just that, throwing a few belly laughs in for good measure. The Munich-born, Cork-raised writer also published her first book, Why Can't Everything Just Stay the Same? last year.

Jesse Jones

Having represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale in 2017 with Tremble Tremble, multi-disciplinarian artist Jesse Jones has continued to impress. Using performance, film installation and sculpture, the Dubliner has exhibited her work to international acclaim.

Ruth Negga

Major roles in Loving and AMC's Preacher have proven just what an exceptional talent Ruth really is. The Ethiopian-Irish actress's next project will be taking the titular role in The Gate Theatre's production of Hamlet - is there nothing she can't do?

Emer McLysaght & Sarah Breen

It began as a joke between friends; last year, Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling was one of the best-selling novels on Irish shelves. A story told with tenderness, warmth and laugh-out-loud moments, the story of stereotypical country gal Aisling as she navigated heartbreak, family illness and life in the Big Smoke won admirers AND a film deal.

Tara Erraught

Having once worked as an usherette at Dublin's National Concert Hall, Dundalk-born soprano Erraught has sung at prestigious venues and festivals the world over, from Glyndebourne to the Met; it's safe to say that she's one of Ireland's bona fide opera stars.

Sharon Horgan

Catastrophe may have been the project that catapulted Sharon Horgan to her rightful place at the vanguard of 'Irish people doing great things in the world', but as far back as 2008's Pulling, Horgan's star quality was confirmed; now, with series for HBO (Divorce) and BBC (Motherland), and another series of Catastrophe imminent, she continues to shine

Donal Ryan

In just a few short years, Donal Ryan has cemented his place in the pantheon of literary greats. The Tipperary native's 2012 debut The Spinning Heart was an emotional sucker-punch that encapsulated contemporary Irish society with a brutal candidness, and his subsequent novels have been equally affecting.