As much as we hate to be stereotyped as a nation of drinkers, if there’s one thing the Irish people do well, it’s develop great pubs. So it should come as no surprise that Irish senator for the Global Irish, Billy Lawless, recently named the “Irish pub” as the country’s “unofficial embassies.”

“They have anchored communities, cashed checks for workers and acted as a place to find work or a place to stay for thousands of Irish men and women who left home,” he said.

Speaking at a conference in Dublin, the Irish senator, who has for many years called Chicago his home, stressed the importance of Irish pubs for our international brand, especially in terms of tourism, as most visitors still list an Irish pub among the things they wish to check off their to-do list during their time in Ireland.

“The Irish pub is by no small measure a source of great success, and an integral part of our social, cultural and economic life as a nation,” said Lawless, while attending the Irish Pubs Global Gathering in Dublin.

Although people travel to Ireland for a vast variety of reasons, a recent Lonely Planet study showed that a visit to an Irish pub was the third greatest attraction for tourists visiting Ireland. Listening to traditional music in a pub came fourth.

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Lawless, a former publican, is well versed on the enormous economic benefits of the lasting positive image of Irish pubs. He runs six restaurants and pubs in his new home city of Chicago and served as President of Vintners’ Federation of Ireland in the 1980s.

“Believe it or not, the Irish pub actually beats the national monuments and heritage sites in the ratings game,” he told the conference, his first public appearance since being named as the senator with responsibility for the global Irish.

“The Irish pub today has spawned a cottage industry that is worth billions.”

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The senator was backed up by Peter Nash of Tourism Ireland who argued that in the absence of sites such as the Eiffel Tower in France, it was the pub and the atmosphere that can be found there that had become a “fantastic icon for Ireland.”

“When we ask people why they choose to come to Ireland on holidays, a visit to the Irish pub in Ireland is a very important part of what they say inspired them to come to Ireland,” he said.

“The great thing about the Irish pub really is that it is in the landscape.”

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Nash also highlighted the importance of the more than 7,000 Irish pubs located outside of Ireland (almost equaling the 7,300 pubs in Ireland itself) where many people get their first taste of the Irish experience through our representation abroad.

“We see the Irish pub abroad as having an ambassadorial role for Ireland,” Nash continued, “and if people want to get a sampler of what a vacation in Ireland might be like, if they go to a good Irish pub abroad. . . they get a sense of what Ireland has to offer.”

What do you think makes an Irish pub so special? Would you agree that they are like Irish embassies abroad? Let us know in the comments section, below.