Cryptosporidium is an important cause of diarrhoeal disease worldwide and, as several recent waterborne outbreaks have shown, poses a significant threat to public health in Ireland. We identified the Cryptosporidium spp. in 199 positive human stool samples by PCR–RFLP of the 18S rRNA and COWP gene loci. Subspecies were identified in 104 samples by sequence analysis of the 60 kDa glycoprotein (gp60) gene fragment. Overall C. parvum was identified in 80%, and C. hominis in 20% of cases. No other Cryptosporidium spp. were detected. C. parvum was by far the most common species in the rural, more sparsely populated west of Ireland and exhibited a pronounced spring peak coincident with a peak in the national cryptosporidiosis incidence rate. Our data indicated a trend towards higher proportions of C. hominis in older age groups. Ninety-nine per cent of all subtyped C. parvum isolates belonged to allele family IIa, of which allele IIaA18G3R1 was by far the most common (63%). According to a recent study by Thompson and colleagues [Parasitology Research (2007), 100, 619–624] this allele is also the most common in Irish cattle. Subtyping of the C. hominis isolates indicated that they belonged to a geographically widely distributed allele (IbA10G2) known to have caused several water- and foodborne outbreaks around the world. The predominance of C. parvum, its geographic and seasonal distribution and the IIaA18G3R1 subtype underlines the importance of zoonotic Cryptosporidium transmission in Ireland.