West Briton
West Brit, an abbreviation of West British, is a pejorative term for an Irish person, usually from South Dublin, who is perceived by his or her countrymen as being too anglophilic in matters of culture or politics.


The term originates from 19th century Ireland and has evolved over the years. Nationalist leader Daniel O'Connell
Daniel O'Connell
Daniel O'Connell Daniel O'Connell Daniel O'Connell (6 August 1775 – 15 May 1847; often referred to as The Liberator, or The Emancipator, was an Irish political leader in the first half of the 19th century...

 used it in the British House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

 in 1832:
"The people of Ireland are ready to become a portion of the Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

, provided they be made so in reality and not in name alone; they are ready to become a kind of West Briton if made so in benefits and justice; but if not, we are Irishmen again."

"West Brit" came to prominence in the land struggle
Irish National Land League
The Irish Land League was an Irish political organization of the late 19th century which sought to help poor tenant farmers. Its primary aim was to abolish landlordism in Ireland and enable tenant farmers to own the land they worked on...

 of the 1880s. D. P. Moran
D. P. Moran
David Patrick Moran , better known as simply D. P. Moran, was an Irish journalist, activist and cultural-political theorist, known as the principle advocate of a specifically Gaelic Catholic Irish nationalism during the early 20th century...

, who founded The Leader in 1900, used the term frequently to describe those who he did not consider sufficiently Irish. It was synonymous with those he described as "Sourfaces", who mourned the death of the Queen Victoria
Victoria of the United Kingdom
Victoria was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India....

. It included virtually all Church of Ireland
Church of Ireland
The Church of Ireland is an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion. The church operates in all parts of Ireland and is the second largest religious body on the island after the Roman Catholic Church...

 Protestants and those Catholics who did not measure up to his definition of "Irish Irelanders".

In the early years of the Irish Free State
Irish Free State
The Irish Free State was the state established as a Dominion on 6 December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by the British government and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand...

, the term was used to indicate those who had a friendly attitude towards the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and to be afraid to cut ties with what had become a foreign country. The term was applied mainly to Roman Catholics, as Protestants were expected to be naturally unionist
Unionism in Ireland
Unionism in Ireland is an ideology that favours the continuation of some form of political union between the islands of Ireland and Great Britain...

 (although this was not automatic, since there were, and are, also Anglo-Irish
Anglo-Irish was a term used primarily in the 19th and early 20th centuries to identify a privileged social class in Ireland, whose members were the descendants and successors of the Protestant Ascendancy, mostly belonging to the Church of Ireland, which was the established church of Ireland until...

 Protestants favouring Irish republicanism
Irish Republicanism
Irish republicanism is an ideology based on the belief that all of Ireland should be an independent republic.In 1801, under the Act of Union, the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland merged to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

 (see Protestant Irish nationalism).

Contemporary usage

"West Brit" is today used by Irish people to criticise a variety of perceived faults:
  • A pejorative term for someone from Dublin.
  • Taking a view of Irish history which highlights perceived positive aspects of British influence in Ireland, or criticizing Irish nationalist rebellions
  • Cultural cringe
    Cultural cringe
    Cultural cringe, in cultural studies and social anthropology, is an internalized inferiority complex which causes people in a country to dismiss their own culture as inferior to the cultures of other countries...

    : following British popular culture, while appearing embarrassed by or disdainful of aspects of Irish culture, such as the Irish language
    Irish language
    Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

    , Gaelic games
    Gaelic games
    Gaelic games are sports played in Ireland under the auspices of the Gaelic Athletic Association. The two main games are Gaelic football and hurling...

     or Irish traditional music
    Folk music of Ireland
    The folk music of Ireland is the generic term for music that has been created in various genres in Ireland.-History:...

  • Opposition or indifference to a United Ireland
    United Ireland
    A united Ireland is the term used to refer to the idea of a sovereign state which covers all of the thirty-two traditional counties of Ireland. The island of Ireland includes the territory of two independent sovereign states: the Republic of Ireland, which covers 26 counties of the island, and the...

     (see Partitionism
    In Ireland, partitionism refers to views on Irish politics, culture, geography or history that treat Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as distinct. Partitionists may emphasise the perceived differences between the two jurisdictions and the people who live within them...

    ) or to Irish republicanism
  • Support (or alleged support) for neo-Unionism
  • Irish presidential election, 2011: During his campaign Sinn Féin
    Sinn Féin
    Sinn Féin is a left wing, Irish republican political party in Ireland. The name is Irish for "ourselves" or "we ourselves", although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone". Originating in the Sinn Féin organisation founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith, it took its current form in 1970...

     candidate Martin McGuinness
    Martin McGuinness
    James Martin Pacelli McGuinness is an Irish Sinn Féin politician and the current deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. McGuinness was also the Sinn Féin candidate for the Irish presidential election, 2011. He was born in Derry, Northern Ireland....

     criticised what he called "West Brit" elements of the media who he said were out to undermine his attempt to win the election. He later backtracked and said it was an "off-the-cuff remark" but did not define for the electorate what he had meant by "West Brit".

Similar terms

Castle Catholic was applied more specifically by Republicans to middle-class Catholics assimilated into the pro-British establishment, after Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle off Dame Street, Dublin, Ireland, was until 1922 the fortified seat of British rule in Ireland, and is now a major Irish government complex. Most of it dates from the 18th century, though a castle has stood on the site since the days of King John, the first Lord of Ireland...

, the centre of the British administration. Sometimes the exaggerated pronunciation spelling
Pronunciation spelling
A pronunciation spelling of a word is a spelling different from the standard spelling, used to emphasize a particular pronunciation of the word. The spelling uses the regular spelling rules of the language. Most are nonce coinages, but some have become standardised, e.g...

 Cawtholic was used to suggest an accent imitative of British Received Pronunciation
Received Pronunciation
Received Pronunciation , also called the Queen's English, Oxford English or BBC English, is the accent of Standard English in England, with a relationship to regional accents similar to the relationship in other European languages between their standard varieties and their regional forms...

. This was applied particularly to wealthier residents of south Dublin City who lived in expensive Georgian
Georgian era
The Georgian era is a period of British history which takes its name from, and is normally defined as spanning the reigns of, the first four Hanoverian kings of Great Britain : George I, George II, George III and George IV...

 era residences.

The old-fashioned word shoneen (from Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

: seoinín, diminutive of Seán, literally "Little John") was applied to someone who affected the habits of the Protestant Ascendancy
Protestant Ascendancy
The Protestant Ascendancy, usually known in Ireland simply as the Ascendancy, is a phrase used when referring to the political, economic, and social domination of Ireland by a minority of great landowners, Protestant clergy, and professionals, all members of the Established Church during the 17th...

. P. W. Joyce's English As We Speak It In Ireland defines it as "a gentleman in a small way: a would-be gentleman who puts on superior airs."


The term is sometimes contrasted with Little Irelander, a derogatory term for an Irish person who is seen as excessively nationalistic, Anglophobic and xenophobic, sometimes also practicing a strongly conservative form of Roman Catholicism. This term was popularised by Sean O'Faolain.
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