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Over the past two decades Irish pubs have proliferated around the planet. Now there are warnings their growth is being halted. How did the Gaelic-themed drinking establishment take over the world?

Stroll through the centre of almost any international city where the sale of alcohol is permitted and sooner or later you'll find one. There will be horseshoes on the walls, the Pogues on the jukebox and road signs pointing you towards Dublin and Donegal.

Above the front door, the name could be O'Rourke's or Donnelly's or the Temple Bar. The windows are likely to be stained glass and the Guinness is invariably chilled. Outdoors might be Lagos or Lima but, in the heads of the clientele, this is Connemara in 1953 and each of them is Brendan Behan.

To aficionados the Irish theme bar is the imagining of a cosier, simpler era, or at least a guaranteed place on foreign soil that serves pints and shows the rugby. To critics it is a cliche, a byword for tweeness, ersatz authenticity and mass-manufactured faux-heritage.

Either way, it has undoubtedly proved a hugely popular template, not to mention a reliably successful business model.

Since the early 1990s its signifiers - the retro Guinness Is Good For You posters, the sepia-tinted photographs of Joyce and Wilde, the exhortations to enjoy the "craic" - have found their way into an estimated 7,000 establishments around the planet.

Hence the existence of O'Reilly's in Bangkok, Thailand; O'Malley's in Shanghai, China; Finnegan's in Baku, Azerbaijan; and the somewhat less conventionally-titled Grand Khaan Irish Pub in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.

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