Rihanna is Irish? Really? 10 years ago

Rihanna is Irish? Really?

By Robert Carry

It’s a well-known fact that if a person achieves global fame in the world of art, entertainment, politics or sport then there is a very good chance that they have some remote link to our glorious, wet rock in the North Atlantic.


If any sort of a link can be established, regardless of how remote, then we own that individual and can rightfully expect them to publically attribute their greatness to the Irish blood in their veins, appear on the Late, Late Show and ultimately lead the St Patrick’s Day parade down O’Connell Street.

Not many people know this, but Rihanna, the stunning Barbadian songstress with the dubious haircut, is as Irish as laughing at Germany beating England in the World Cup.

The story of Rihanna’s connection to Ireland starts 400 years ago with the Cromwellian invasion of Ireland. In the years that followed the conquest hundreds of thousands of the defeated Irish were captured as slaves by the English. They were gathered into holding pens in Cork and Waterford before being put onto African-style slave ships. About one-fifth died during the journey, but a far nastier fate awaited the survivors – an appearance at the slave market.

The women and female children, mostly nuns, the wives and daughters of soldiers who had fought against Cromwell and members of the Catholic gentry, were stripped and publically checked for virginity. Those deemed suitable for breeding were sold to studs or brothels. The men meanwhile were a source of labour – plantation owners bought them up, branded them with their initials and set them to work in the fields. Historians reckon as many as 50,000 Irish were sent to Barbados alone.

Rihanna doing her thing back in 2005:

While most didn’t live long, remnants of the ‘Red Leg’ community survive on the island and today number around 400. Many of the Irish descendants inter-married with the Barbadians of African slave decent and the product of one such union is Ronald Fenty – father of Robyn Rihanna Fenty.


Ronald, who worked as a warehouse supervisor, was married to Monica Fenty – a Guyana native of Afro-Guyanese lineage. Rihanna was the first of their three children, born in February 1988, with two brothers following afterwards. One of them is called Rorrey.

Rihanna’s Red Leg roots proved an issue for her during her youth. In an article for Allure magazine, the singer revealed how she was bullied in school and called ‘white’ when growing up.

A more serious problem however, was the fact that her father Ronald developed a crack habit. His addiction deeply affected her childhood and ultimately caused the end of her parents' rocky marriage when the star was 14.

Ronald’s liking for crack is not unusual among the surviving Barbadian-Irish population. The impoverished group suffers serious social problems and health issues.

The Irish Government has attempted to forge links with the blighted community through the Irish Abroad Unit and officials have flown out to meet with representatives of the group. Plans are afoot to set up projects as part of the emigrant support fund.


Rihanna however, is unlikely to benefit from the initiative. She shot to stardom after a chance meeting with New York record producer Evan Rogers who was holidaying on the island. He helped her put together some demos which caught the attention of Jay Z, he offered her a contract, she signed to Def Jam Records, her debut single Pon de Replay was released and the rest as they say is history.