This paper examines the experiences and motivations of 'new speakers' of Irish in the United States. 'New speakers' of Irish refer to those whose first language is not Irish but who use the language regularly and fluently. Based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out among Irish speakers in five locations across the United States, the paper begins by describing the language backgrounds of participants. It goes on to analyse their use of Irish and their motivations for learning it and considers the links between practice and ideology. Although Irish heritage and culture are often strong motivating factors for Americans to learn Irish, not all learners are Irish American and only some advance to a level of competence high enough to adopt Irish as family or home language and/or attempt to influence the language ideologies of others. High and active competence is linked to deep personal dedication and is achieved despite significant obstacles facing those who wish to become new speakers of Irish in the United States. This research is part of a broader European project about the practices and ideologies of 'new speakers' from a range of languages.