‘You can’t bottle an Irish pub’ - The heritage of rural Irish pubs 

“To go out and socialise, you need somewhere to go."
Ellen Kenny
Ellen Kenny

21.01 22 Jan 2024

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‘You can’t bottle an Irish pub...

‘You can’t bottle an Irish pub’ - The heritage of rural Irish pubs 

Ellen Kenny
Ellen Kenny

21.01 22 Jan 2024

Share this article

There’s a certain “magic” to Irish pubs that mean they can’t be replicated, according to one pub owner calling for UNESCO recognition. 

Irish Times Columnist Una Mullaley today reignited conversations about adding traditional Irish pubs to the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage. 

Newstalk reporter Henry McKean took a cultural pub crawl around some of these traditional pubs that are calling for recognition 


Rob Masterson has run the Man O’War Bar and Restaurant with his wife Erica for three years – although the pub was first established in 1595. 

“It’s a thriving business, thank God,” he told The Hard Shoulder. 

“But there are pubs really struggling at the moment and getting UNESCO recognition would be a fantastic help to the whole trade and industry.” 

Since 1995, nearly 2,000 Irish pubs have closed across the country. 

While Irish-themed pubs might be found in every corner of the world, Rob said the real magic can only be found on the Emerald Isle. 

“Only in Ireland will you find the real magic of an Irish pub,” he said. 

“We can bottle a lot of things - you can bottle atmosphere and move it. 

“But when it comes to a bit of magic, which I think that’s what the Irish pub has, it’s very hard to bottle that and transport that.”

'You can't beat the old Irish pubs'

In The Top Shop in Lusk, north county Dublin, Henry meets local customer Carol enjoying a pint of Carlsberg by a roaring fireplace. 

“You can’t beat the old pubs,” she said. 

“The craic is in the bar, the banter, the whole lot, it’s in the bar.” 

One man from Donegal said there is a dire need to protect the banter within these Irish bars. 

“To go out and socialise, you need somewhere to go,” he said. 

“Now, [people] have nowhere to go and nowhere to go out... just to play some cards with friends.” 

Fianna Fáil TD and Oireachtas Committee on Media, Tourism, Arts and Culture Chair Niamh Smyth told Newstalk pubs in rural Ireland are “a very important part of our tourist offering”. 

“They provide hospitality to tourists and are a tourist attraction in their own right,” she said. 

“That’s a cultural value that should be recognised and protected. 

“We ask the Department [to] conduct an audit of rural pubs across Ireland and potentially identifying candidates to be inscribed the UNESCO list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.” 

UNESCO is an agency of the United Nations that promotes international collaboration in education, science and culture. 

Ireland has been a UNESCO member since 1961 and several Irish sites and objects have been recognised. 

These include Brú na Bóinne in Newgrange and Sceilg Mhichíl - as well as uilleann piping, hurling and Irish harping. 

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