There were 322 passengers in first class, 277 in second class, and 709 in the third class. Many of them were Irish as the ship stopped to pick up passengers in Cobh, before her maiden voyage. The Irish passengers were usually poorer than the others so most of them resided in the lower steerage deck of the ship. As we know, the Titanic sank on April 15th 1912, taking over 1500 lives with her. Most of those who died were trapped in steerage, where the access gates had been locked to insure that first class passengers could depart on the available life boats first. While only 3% of the women and none of the children from first class perished, 45% of the women and 70% of the children in steerage were lost. Further, 34% of the men in first class survived, but only 12% from steerage. In all, fully 75% of Titanic’s steerage passengers drowned and they were almost all Irish. LINK.
James Cameron's blockbuster movie, Titanic (1997), accurately shows that the night it sank the steerage gates were locked (until opened), and that the Irish people were dancing in reverie to a polka, which is one of the most popular traditional folk dances in Ireland, (this is the only clip I could find of it):
The Irish Rovers produced a song about this tragedy:
The recent book by Irish independent political correspondent Senan Molony, The Irish Aboard Titanic,tells for the first time the stories of tragedy, luck, self-sacrifice and heroism of the Irish who survived and died on that night to remember.
So what then about the "Luck of the Irish," given all they have gone through?
The luck of the Irish is a peculiar phrase that may have multiple meanings. There is little agreement on the origins of this idiom. Some suggest that the phrase could come from the legend of the 'Little People' of the land, or the Leprechauns. Finding or catching a Leprechaun (who would then give you gold) was a lucky event that could only take place in Ireland. Some suggest that it originally meant bad luck. Certainly, Irish history attests to this. The Irish have lived in a land that was taken from them, occupied by the British, the Vikings, and other conquerors. They’ve survived famines, war, starvation, and religious prejudice. Others suggest it means the Irish are inherently lucky, who seem to be able to land on their feet when bad circumstances occur. Still others trace the origin of the phrase to the United States during the exploration for gold in the west. There were a high number of Irish people who got lucky, and found their “pot o’ gold” in the gold fields of California, or were equally prosperous in silver mining. [The information on the luck of the Irish came from two sources: The Wise Geek, and Wiki Answers.]