Irish diaspora

Irish diaspora
'Emigrants Leave Ireland', engraving by Henry Doyle (1827–1892), from Mary Frances Cusack's Illustrated History of Ireland, 1868
Night Train with Reaper by London Irish artist Brian Whelan from the book Myth of Return, 2007

The Irish diaspora (Irish: Diaspóra na nGael) consists of Irish emigrants and their descendants in countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil and states of the Caribbean and continental Europe. The diaspora, maximally interpreted, contains more than 80 million people, which is more than thirteen times the population of the island of Ireland itself, which had approximately 6.4 million in 2011 (comprising the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland).

After 1840, emigration had become a massive, relentless, and efficiently managed national enterprise.[1] Counting those who went to Britain, between 9 and 10 million Irish people emigrated after 1700. The total flow was more than the population at its historical peak in the 1830s of 8.5 million. From 1830 to 1914, almost 5 million went to the United States alone. In 1890 two of every five Irish-born people were living abroad. By the 21st century, an estimated 80 million people worldwide claim some Irish descent; among them are 41 million Americans who claim "Irish" as their primary ethnicity.[2]



The Bridge of Tears (Droichead na nDeor in Irish) in West Donegal, Ireland. Family and friends of emigrants would accompany them as far as the bridge before saying goodbye.

The term Irish diaspora is open to many interpretations. One, preferred by the government of Ireland, is defined in legal terms: the Irish diaspora are all persons of Irish nationality who habitually reside outside of the island of Ireland. This includes Irish citizens who have emigrated abroad and their children, who are Irish citizens by descent under Irish law. It also includes their grandchildren in cases where they were registered as Irish citizens in the Foreign Births Register held in every Irish diplomatic mission.[3] (Great-grandchildren and even more distant descendants of Irish immigrants may also register as Irish citizens, but only if the parent through whom they claim descent was registered as a citizen before the descendant in question was born.) Under this legal definition, the Irish diaspora is considerably smaller—some 3 million persons, of whom 1.2 million are Irish-born emigrants. This is still a large ratio for any country.[citation needed]

A plaque commemorating The Bridge of Tears, which reads, "Fad leis seo a thagadh cairde agus lucht gaoil an té a bhí ag imeacht chun na coigrithe. B'anseo an scaradh. Seo Droichead na nDeor" (Family and friends of the person leaving for foreign lands would come this far. Here was the separation. This is the Bridge of Tears).

However, the usage of Irish diaspora is generally not limited by citizenship status, thus leading to an estimated (and fluctuating) membership of up to 80 million persons—the second and more emotive definition. The Irish Government acknowledged this interpretation—although it did not acknowledge any legal obligations to persons in this larger diaspora—when Article 2 of the Constitution of Ireland was amended in 1998 to read "[f]urthermore, the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage."

The right to register as an Irish citizen terminates at the third generation (except as noted above). This contrasts with citizenship law in Italy, Israel, Japan and other countries which make no legal reference to cherishing special affinities with their diasporas[citation needed] but which nonetheless permit legal avenues through which members of the diaspora can register as citizens.


The Great Famine of Ireland during the 1840s saw a significant number of people flee from the island to all over the world. Robert E. Kennedy explains however that this common argument of the mass emigration of Ireland being a "flight from famine" is not entirely correct. Emigration had not only been starting at the beginning of the 19th century, but with this theory it would mean that once conditions were better emigration would have slowed down. After the famine was over the four following years produced more immigrants than during the four years of the blight. Kennedy argues that the famine was considered the final straw to convince people to move and that there were several other factors in the decision making.

Irish people were facing discrimination in the United Kingdom based on their religion, increasing rents and evictions. Evictions only increased after the repeal of the British Corn Laws in 1846 and the new Encumbered Estates Act being passed in 1849 as well as the removal of existing civil rights. There had been agrarian terrorism against landlords which these new laws were to help crush. Any hope for change was squashed with the death of the political leader championing for Ireland, Daniel O’Connell in 1847 and the failed rising of the Young Irelanders in 1848. It was increasingly easier to emigrate to America straight from Ireland and with the 1848 discovery of gold in California there was an alluring factor to leave.[4]



10% of the British population has one Irish grandparent[5] The article "More Britons applying for Irish passports" states that 6 million Britons have either an Irish grandfather or grandmother and are thus able to apply for Irish citizenship.[5] and approximately a quarter claimed some Irish ancestry in one survey (although the report's authors noted that many people were probably "exaggerating").[6] The Irish have traditionally been involved in the building trade and transport particularly as dockers, following an influx of Irish workers, or navvies, who built the canal, road and rail networks in the 19th century. This is largely due to the flow of emigrants from Ireland during The Great Famine of 1845–1850. Many Irish servicemen, particularly sailors, would settle in Britain; during the 18th and 19th century a third of the Army and Royal Navy were Irish, The Irish still represent the largest contigent of foreign volunteers to the British military, with more Irishmen serving in British uniforms than Irish ones.[citation needed] Since the 1950s and 1960s in particular, the Irish have become assimilated into the British population. Emigration continued into the next century; over half a million Irish went to Britain in World War II to work in industry and serve in the British armed forces. In the post-war reconstruction era, the numbers of immigrants began to increase, many settling in the larger cities and towns of Britain. According to the 2001 census, around 850,000 people in Britain were born in Ireland and much of the working class has some Irish heritage.[7]

London once more holds an official public St Patrick's Day celebration, which although having been cancelled in the 1970s because of Irish Republican violence, is now a national celebration, with over 60 percent[citation needed] of the population regularly celebrating the day regardless of their ethnic origins.

The largest Irish communities are located predominantly in the cities and towns across Britain, in London, in particular Kilburn (which has one of the largest Irish-born communities outside of Ireland) out to the west and north west of the city, in the large port cities such as Liverpool (which elected the first Irish Nationalist Members of Parliament), Glasgow, Bristol and Portsmouth. Big industrial cities such as Coventry, Birmingham, Manchester as well as parts of Newcastle and Nottingham also have large diaspora populations due to the Industrial Revolution and in the case of the first two the strength of the motor industry in the 1960s and 1970s. As with their experience in the U.S, the Irish have maintained a strong political presence in the UK, most especially in local government but also at national level. Prime Ministers Callaghan and Blair have been amongst the many in Britain of part Irish ancestry, with Blair's mother coming from County Donegal. Current Chancellor George Osborne is a member of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and heir to the baronetcies of Ballentaylor and Ballylemon.

Towns such as Rugby, Denbigh, Ilfracombe, Huyton and parts of Market Harborough and Devon have a high concentration of Irish communities.

Central to the Irish community in Britain was the community's relationship with the Roman Catholic Church, with which it maintained a strong sense of identity[citation needed]. The Church remains a crucial focus of communal life among some of the immigrant population and their descendants[citation needed]. The largest ethnic group among the Catholic priesthood of Britain remains Irish[citation needed] and in the United States, the upper ranks of the Church's hierarchy are of predominantly Irish descent[citation needed]. The current head of the Catholic Church in Scotland is Cardinal Keith O'Brien.

Scotland experienced a significant amount of Irish immigration, particularly in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Coatbridge. This led to the formation of Celtic Football Club in 1888 by Marist Brother Walfrid, to raise money to help the community. In Edinburgh Hibernian were founded in 1875 and in 1909 another club with Irish links, Dundee United, was formed. Likewise the Irish community in London formed the London Irish rugby union club.

The 2001 UK Census states that 869,093 people born in Ireland are living in Great Britain, with over 10% of the population (over 6 million) being of Irish descent.

Plastic paddies

People of the Irish diaspora who were not born in Ireland, but who claim to be "Irish" are sometimes labelled as Plastic Paddies.[8]

Mary J. Hickman writes that "plastic Paddy" was a term used to "deny and denigrate the second-generation Irish in Britain" in the 1980s, and was "frequently articulated by the new middle class Irish immigrants in Britain, for whom it was a means of distancing themselves from established Irish communities."[9] According to Bronwen Walter, Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies at Anglia Ruskin University, "the adoption of a hyphenated identity has been much more problematic for the second generation Irish in Britain. The Irish-born have frequently denied the authenticity of their Irish identity, using the derogatory term plastic paddy, and the English regards them as "assimilated" and simply "English."[10]

The term has also been used to taunt non-Irish born players who choose to play for the Republic of Ireland national football team,[11] fans of Irish teams, who are members of supporters clubs outside of Ireland,[12] and other Irish individuals living in Great Britain.[13] A study by the University of Strathclyde and Nil by Mouth found the term was used abusively on Celtic F.C. and Rangers F.C. supporters' internet forums in reference to Celtic supporters and the wider Catholic community in Scotland.[14] In August 2009, a British Asian man from Birmingham, England received a suspended sentence after making derogatory comments to a police officer, who was of Irish origin. The prosecutor said the man had made racist remarks about the officer, including accusations that the officer was a "Plastic Paddy".[15]

Scottish journalist Alex Massie wrote in National Review:

When I was a student in Dublin we scoffed at the American celebration of St. Patrick, finding something preposterous in the green beer, the search for any connection, no matter how tenuous, to Ireland, the misty sentiment of it all that seemed so at odds with the Ireland we knew and actually lived in. Who were these people dressed as Leprechauns and why were they dressed that way? This Hibernian Brigadoon was a sham, a mockery, a Shamrockery of real Ireland and a remarkable exhibition of plastic paddyness. But at least it was confined to the Irish abroad and those foreigners desperate to find some trace of green in their blood.[16]

In Spiked, Brendan O'Neill, himself of Irish descent, uses the term to describe "second-generation wannabe" Irishmen,[17] and writes that some of those guilty of "Plastic Paddyism" (or, in his words, "Dermot-itis") are Bill Clinton, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Shane MacGowan.[17] Scottish-Australian songwriter Eric Bogle wrote and recorded a song titled "Plastic Paddy". British Mixed martial arts fighter Dan Hardy has called American fighter Marcus Davis a "Plastic Paddy" due to Marcus' enthusiasm for his Irish ancestry.[18] In the book Why I Am Still a Catholic: Essays in Faith and Perseverance by Peter Stanford, the television presenter Dermot O'Leary describes his upbringing as "classic plastic paddy", where he would be "bullied in a nice way" by his own cousins in Wexford for being English "until anyone else there called me English and then they would stick up for me."[19]

Continental Europe

Irish links with the continent go back many centuries. During the early Middle Ages, 700–900 AD, many Irish religious figures went abroad to preach and found monasteries in what is known as the Hiberno-Scottish mission. Saint Brieuc founded the city that bears his name in Brittany, Saint Colmán founded the great monastery of Bobbio in northern Italy and one of his monks was Saint Gall for whom the Swiss town of St Gallen and canton of St Gallen.

During the Counter-Reformation, Irish religious and political links with Europe became stronger. An important centre of learning and training for Irish priests developed in Leuven (Lúbhan in Irish and Louvain historically in English) in the Duchy of Brabant, now in Flanders (northern Belgium). The Flight of the Earls, in 1607, led much of the Gaelic nobility to flee the country, and after the wars of the 17th century many others fled to Spain, France, Austria, and other Catholic lands. The lords and their retainers and supporters joined the armies of these countries, and were known as the Wild Geese. Some of the lords and their descendants rose to high ranks in their adoptive countries, such as the French royalist Patrice de Mac-Mahon, who became president of France. The French Cognac brandy maker, James Hennessy and Co., is named for an Irishman. In Spain and its territories, many Irish descendants can be found with the name Obregón (O'Brien, Irish, Ó Briain), including Madrid-born actress Ana Victoria García Obregón.

During the 20th century, certain Irish intellectuals made their homes in continental Europe, particularly James Joyce, and later Samuel Beckett (who became a courier for the French Resistance). Eoin O'Duffy led a brigade of 700 Irish volunteers to fight for Franco during the Spanish Civil War, and Frank Ryan led the Connolly column who fought on the opposite side, with the Republican International Brigades. William Joyce became an English-language propagandist for the Third Reich, known colloquially as Lord Haw-Haw.



In the 19th and early 20th centuries, over 38,000 Irish emigrated to Argentina.[20] Distinct Irish communities and schools existed until the Perón era in the 1950s.

Today there are an estimated 700,000 people of Irish ancestry in Argentina,[20] approximately 15.5% of the Republic of Ireland's current population; however, these numbers may be far higher, given that many Irish newcomers declared themselves to be British, as Ireland at the time was still part of the United Kingdom and today their descendants integrated into Argentine society with mixed bloodlines.

Despite the fact that Argentina was never the main destination for Irish emigrants it does form part of the Irish diaspora. The Irish-Argentine William Bulfin remarked as he travelled around Westmeath in the early 20th century that he came across many locals who had been to Buenos Aires. Several families from Bere island, County Cork were encouraged to send emigrants to Argentina by an islander who had been successful there in the 1880s.[21]

Widely considered a national hero, William Brown is the most famous Irish citizen in Argentina. Creator of the Argentine Navy (Armada de la República Argentina, ARA) and leader of the Argentine Armed Forces in the wars against Brazil and Spain, he was born in Foxford, County Mayo on June 22, 1777 and died in Buenos Aires in 1857. The Almirante Brown-class destroyer is named after him, as well as the Almirante Brown partido, part of the Gran Buenos Aires urban area, with a population of over 500.000 inhabitants.

The first entirely Catholic English language publication published in Buenos Aires, The Southern Cross is an Argentine newspaper founded on January 16, 1875 by Dean Patricio Dillon, an Irish immigrant, a deputy for Buenos Aires Province and president of the Presidential Affairs Commission amongst other positions. The newspaper continues in print to this day and publishes a beginners guide to the Irish language, helping Irish Argentines keep in touch with their cultural heritage. Previously to The Southern Cross Dublin-born brothers Edward and Michael Mulhall successfully published The Standard, allegedly the first English-language daily paper in South America.

Between 1943 and 1946, the de facto President of Argentina was Edelmiro Farrell, whose paternal ancestry was Irish.


Early in its history, Bermuda had unusual connections with Ireland. It has been suggested that St. Brendan discovered it during his legendary voyage, and a local psychiatric hospital (since renamed) was named after him. In 1616, an incident occurred in which five white settlers arrived in Ireland, having crossed the Atlantic (a distance of around 5,000 kilometres (3,100 mi)) in a two-ton boat.[22] By the following year, one of Bermuda's main islands was named after Ireland.[23] By the mid-17th century, Irish Prisoners-of-war and ethnically-cleansed civilians, were involuntarily shipped to Bermuda, condemned to indentured servitude. This expulsion resulted from the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland,.[24] The English government expelled Irish people to other parts of the trans-Atlantic Empire as well. This was meant to pacify Ireland, easing English rule, and to clear land for settlement by English soldiers. The Puritan English government officials also expressed the opinion that they were saving the souls of the Catholic Irish by settling them in Protestant territories where they would inevitably be converted to the true faith (smaller numbers of Scottish prisoners were also sent to Bermuda following Cromwell's invasion of Scotland).

Relations between the involuntary Irish immigrants and the local English population were strained. The Irish and Scots were ostracised by the English, ultimately intermarrying with the various Black and Native American minority groups to create a single demographic (coloured, latterly Black). In 1658, three Irishmen — John Shehan, David Laragen and Edmund Malony — were lashed for breaking curfew and being suspected of stealing a boat. A Scottish indentured servant and three black slaves were also punished.[25] Several years later, in 1661, the local government alleged that a plot was being hatched by an alliance of Blacks and Irish, one which involved cutting the throats of all the English. Governor William Sayle prepared for the uprising with three edicts: the first was that a nightly watch be raised throughout the colony, second, that slaves and the Irish be disarmed of militia weapons and third, that any gathering of two or more Irish or slaves be dispersed by whipping. There were no arrests, trials or executions connected to the plot,[26] though an Irish woman named Margaret was found to be romantically involved with a Native American; she was voted to be stigmatised and he was whipped.[27] In 1803, Irish poet Thomas Moore arrived in Bermuda, having been appointed registrar to the Admiralty there. Irish prisoners were again sent to Bermuda in the Nineteenth Century, including participants in the ill-fated Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848, and Nationalist journalist and politician John Mitchel. Alongside English convicts, they were used to build the Royal Naval Dockyard on Ireland Island.[28]

Although there is little surviving evidence of Irish culture, some elderly islanders can remember when the term "cilig" was used to describe a common method of fishing for sea turtles. The word cilig appears to be meaningless in English, but in some dialects of Gaelic is used as an adjective meaning "easily deceived".[citation needed] In Irish there is a word cílí meaning sly. It is used in the expression, Is é an cílí ceart é, pronounced Shayeh kilic airtay, and means What a sly-boots.[29] Characteristics of older Bermudian accents, such as the pronunciation of the letter 'd' as 'dj', as in Bermudjin (Bermudian), may also indicate an Irish origin. Later Irish immigrants have continued to contribute to Bermuda's makeup, with names like Crockwell (Ó Creachmhaoil), and O'Connor now being thought of, locally, as Bermudian names.[citation needed] The strongest remaining Irish influence can be seen in the presence of bagpipes in the music of Bermuda, which stemmed from the presence of Scottish and Irish soldiers from the 18th through 20th centuries. Several prominent businesses in Bermuda have a clear Irish influence, such as the Irish Linen Shop, Tom Moore's Tavern and Flanagan's Irish Pub and Restaurant.


The 2006 census by Statcan, Canada's Official Statistical office revealed that the Irish were the 4th largest ethnic group with 4,354,155 Canadians with full or partial Irish descent or 14% of the nation's total population. This may understate the Irish contribution to Canada's population, as those responding "Canadian" in census surveys are thought to be largely of British or Irish descent.[30]

Many Newfoundlanders are of Irish descent. It is estimated that about 80% of Newfoundlanders have Irish ancestry on at least one side of their family tree. The family names, the predominant Catholic religion, the prevalence of Irish music – even the accents of the people – are so reminiscent of rural Ireland that Irish author Tim Pat Coogan has described Newfoundland as "the most Irish place in the world outside of Ireland".[31] Newfoundland Irish, the dialect of the Irish language specific to the island was widely spoken until the mid-20th century. It is very similar to the language heard in the southeast of Ireland centuries ago, due to mass emigration from the counties Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford, County Kerry and Cork.

Saint John, New Brunswick, claims the distinction of being Canada's most Irish city, according to census records. There have been Irish settlers in New Brunswick since at least the late 18th century, but during the peak of the Great Irish Famine (1845–1847), thousands of Irish emigrated through Partridge Island in the port of Saint John. Most of these Irish were Catholic, who changed the complexion of the Loyalist city. A large, vibrant Irish community can also be found in the Miramichi region of New Brunswick.

Guysborough County, Nova Scotia has many rural Irish villages. Erinville (which means Irishville), Salmon River, Ogden, Bantry (named after Bantry Bay, County Cork, Ireland but now abandoned and grown up in trees) among others, where Irish last names are prevalent and the accent is reminiscent of the Irish as well as the music, traditions, religion (Roman Catholic), and the love of Ireland itself. Some of the Irish counties from which these people arrived were County Kerry (Dingle Peninsula), County Cork, and County Roscommon, along with others.

In Antigonish County, next to Guysborough County in Nova Scotia there are a few rural Irish villages despite the predominance of Scottish in most of that County. Some of these villages names are Ireland, Lochaber and Cloverville. Antigonish Town is a fairly even mix of Irish and Scottish, and the Irish presence contributes to Nova Scotia's Celtic cultural character.[citation needed]

Quebec is also home to a large Irish community, especially in Montreal, where the Irish shamrock is featured on the municipal flag. This is not a sign of homage to the Irish but of the conquest of French speaking Québec by the British who use the symbols of France, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland bounded within the English cross of St. George[citation needed]. Notably, thousands of Irish emigrants during the Famine passed through Grosse Isle near Québec City, where many succumbed to typhus. Most of the Irish who settled near Québec City are now French speakers.

Ontario has over 2 million people of Irish descent, who in greater numbers arrived in the 1820s and the decades that followed to work on colonial infrastructure and to settle land tracts in Upper Canada, the result today is a countryside speckled with the place names of Ireland. Ontario received a large number of those who landed in Quebec during the Famine years, many thousands died in Ontario's ports. Irish-born became the majority in Toronto by 1851.


In the wake of the mid 17th century Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, Oliver Cromwell deported many Irish prisoners of war into slavery or indentured labour in Caribbean tobacco plantations. Most of these forced migrants ended up in Barbados, Montserrat or Jamaica (Tom McDermot was an Irish campaigner there against colonialism and slavery). This became so prevalent that a term "Barbado'ed"[32] was coined to mean someone deported to Barbados. Another term to reference the Irish was the "redlegs". Most descendants of these Irishmen moved off the islands as African slavery was implemented and blacks began to replace whites. Many Barbadian-born Irishmen helped establish the Carolina colony in the United States.[33][34]

In addition, many of the Irish Catholic landowning class in this period migrated voluntarily to the West Indies to avail of the business opportunities there occasioned by the trade in sugar, tobacco and cotton. They were followed by landless Irish indentured labourers, who were recruited to serve a landowner for a specified time before receiving freedom and land. The descendants of some Irish immigrants are known today in the West Indies as redlegs.

After the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland (notably at the siege of Drogheda in 1649), Irish political prisoners were transferred to Montserrat.[citation needed] To this day, Montserrat is the only country or territory in the world, apart from the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Canadian province of Newfoundland to observe a public holiday on St Patrick's Day.[35] The population is predominantly of mixed Irish and African descent.[citation needed]

Puerto Rico

Irish immigrants played an instrumental role in Puerto Rico's economy. One of the most important industries of the island was the sugar industry. Among the successful businessmen in this industry were Miguel Conway, who owned a plantation in the town of Hatillo and Juan Nagle whose plantation was located in Río Piedras. General Alexander O'Reilly, "Father of the Puerto Rican Militia", named Tomas O'Daly chief engineer of modernising the defences of San Juan, this included the fortress of San Cristóbal.[36] Tomas O'Daly and Miguel Kirwan were partners in the "Hacienda San Patricio", which they named after the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick. A relative of O'Daly, Demetrio O'Daly, succeeded Captain Ramon Power y Giralt as the island's delegate to the Spanish Courts. The plantation no longer exists, however the land in which the plantation was located is now a San Patricio suburb with a shopping mall by the same name. The Quinlan family established two plantations, one in the town of Toa Baja and the other in Loíza.[37] Puerto Ricans of Irish descent were also instrumental in the development of the island's tobacco industry. Among them Miguel Conboy who was a founder of the tobacco trade in Puerto Rico.[36]


Many of the Wild Geese, expatriate Irish soldiers who had gone to Spain, or their descendants, continued on to its colonies in South America. Many of them rose to prominent positions in the Spanish governments there. In the 1820s, some of them helped liberate the continent. Bernardo O'Higgins was the first Supreme director of Chile. When Chilean troops occupied Lima during the War of the Pacific in 1881, they put in charge certain Patricio Lynch, whose grandfather came from Ireland to Argentina and then moved to Chile. Other Latin American countries that have Irish settlement include Puerto Rico and Colombia.


Probably the most famous Irishman ever to reside in Mexico is the Wexfordman William Lamport, better known to most Mexicans as Guillen de Lampart, precursor of the Independence movement and author of the first proclamation of independence in the New World. His statue stands today in the Crypt of Heroes beneath the Column of Independence in Mexico City. Some authorities claim he was the inspiration for Johnston McCulley's Zorro, though the extent to which this may be true is disputed.

After Lampart, the most famous Irishmen in Mexican history are probably "Los Patricios". Many communities also existed in Mexican Texas until the revolution there, when they sided with Catholic Mexico against Protestant pro-U.S. elements. The Batallón de San Patricio, a battalion of U.S. troops who deserted and fought alongside the Mexican Army against the United States in the Mexican-American War of 1846 to 1848, is also famous in Mexican history. Álvaro Obregón (possibly O'Brian) was president of Mexico during 1920-24 and Obregón city and airport are named in his honour. More recently, Vicente Fox served as President from 2000 to 2006. Mexico also has a large number of people of Irish ancestry, among them the actor Anthony Quinn. There are also monuments in Mexico City paying tribute to those Irish who fought for Mexico in the 19th century. There is a monument to Los Patricios in the fort of Churubusco. During the Potato Famine, thousands of Irish immigrants entered the country, today, over 90,000 Irish descendants live in Mexico. Other Mexicans of Irish descent are: Romulo O'Farril, Juan O'Gorman, Edmundo O'Gorman, Anthony Quinn, Alejo Bay (Governor of the state of Sonora), Famed Conductor Felix Carrasco, Guillermo Purcell a businessman, former Miss Mexico Judith Grace Gonzalez, among many others. Today, the Irish community in Mexico is a thriving one and is mainly concentrated in Mexico City and the northern states.

United States

The diaspora to America was immortalised in the words of many songs including the famous Irish ballad, "The Green Fields of America":

So pack up your sea-stores, consider no longer,
Ten dollars a week is not very bad pay,
With no taxes or tithes to devour up your wages,
When you're on the green fields of Americay.

The experience of Irish immigrants in America has not always been harmonious, however. Irish newcomers were sometimes uneducated and often found themselves competing with Americans for manual labour jobs or, in the 1860s, being recruited from the docks by the U.S. Army to serve in the American Civil War and afterward to build the Union Pacific Railroad.[38] This view of the Irish-American experience is depicted by another traditional song, "Paddy's Lamentation".

Hear me boys, now take my advice,
To America I'll have ye's not be going,
There is nothing here but war, where the murderin' cannons roar,
And I wish I was at home in dear old Ireland.

The classic image of an Irish immigrant is led to a certain extent by racist and anti-Catholic stereotypes. In modern times, in the United States, the Irish are largely perceived as hard workers. Most notably they are associated with the positions of police officer, firefighter, Roman Catholic Church leaders and politicians in the larger Eastern-Seaboard metropolitan areas. Irish Americans number over 45 million, making them the second largest reported ethnic group in the country, after German Americans. Historically, large Irish American communities have been found in Philadelphia; Chicago; Boston; New York City; New England; Baltimore; Pittsburgh; St. Paul, Minnesota; Buffalo; Broome County and the San Francisco Bay Area. Many cities across the country have annual St Patrick's Day parades, the nation's largest in New York City - one of the world's largest parades. The parade in Boston is closely associated with Evacuation Day, when the British left Boston in 1776 during the American War of Independence. Not to be forgotten, are the 56% of the people who claim Irish ancestry who are Protestant and populate large areas of the southeastern United States especially in Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia

Before the Great Hunger ("Irish Potato Famine") in which over a million died and more emigrated[citation needed], there had been the Penal Laws which had already resulted in significant emigration from Ireland[citation needed].

According to the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, in 1790 there were 400,000 Americans of Irish birth or ancestry out of a total white population of 3,100,000. Half of these Irish Americans were descended from Ulster people, and half were descended from the people of Connaught, Leinster and Munster.

According to U.S. Census figures from 2000, 41,000,000 Americans claim to be wholly or partly of Irish ancestry, a group that represents more than one in five white Americans.



Irish Australians form the second largest ancestry group in Australia, numbering 1,919,727 or 9.0 per cent of respondents in the 2001 Census.

It is not clear whether the Irish-born are considered "Irish Australians" or if the term only refers to their Australian-born descendants. The 2001 Census recorded 50,320 Irish-born in Australia, although this is a minimal figure as it only includes those who wrote in "Ireland" or "Republic of Ireland" as their country of birth. Responses which mentioned "Northern Ireland" as birthplace were coded as "United Kingdom". This interpretation may omit as few as 21,500 Irish-born present in the country, as many as 29,500, or possibly even more. Nevertheless the number of persons born in Ireland, north and south, resident in Australia in 2001 may be confidently extrapolated at around 75,000.

According to the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs White Paper on Foreign Policy, there were 213,000 Irish citizens living in Australia in 1997; nearly three times the number of Irish-born immigrants to the country. Most Irish Australians, however, do not have Irish citizenship and define their status in terms of self-perception, affection for Ireland and an attachment to Irish culture.

Irish settlers - both voluntary and forced - were crucial to the Australian colonies from the earliest days of settlement. The Irish first came over in large numbers as convicts (50,000 were transported between 1791 and 1867), to be used as free labour; even larger numbers of free settlers came during the 19th century, partly due to the Donegal Relief Fund. Irish immigrants accounted for one-quarter of Australia's overseas-born population in 1871. Their children, the first Irish Australians in the sense we understand the term, played a definitive role in shaping Australian history, society and culture. The Irish heritage has also had a significant influence of the Australian accent and slang words.

Historian Patrick O'Farrell noted in The Irish in Australia (1987) that the term "Australia first" became "what amounted to the Australian Irish Catholic slogan". These Australians of Irish background did not tend to regard Ireland as their "mother country" - primarily because few had a wish to return to a home they had left in search of a better life. Rather, they tended to identify themselves as Australians.

According to census data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2004, Irish Australians are, by religion, 46.2% Roman Catholic, 15.3% Anglican, 13.5% other Christian denomination, 3.6% other religions, and 21.5% as "No Religion".

The high percentage of Catholics is largely the result of descendants of Irish immigrants.

The song Far Away in Australia sung by the Irish ballad group The Wolfe Tones portrays the sorrow of two young Irish lovers who are separated when the male youth is forced to make his living far away in Australia, leaving his girl behind. Examples of the sad lyrics are: "Sweetheart I'm bidding you fond farewell" murmured the youth one day... "Must we be parted?" the young girl replied. "I cannot let you go"... "Far away in Australia, soon will fate be kind. When I will be ready to welcome at last, the girl I left behind".

The Irish have made a very significant contribution to education in Australia. Approximately 20% of Australian school students are currently enrolled in Catholic schools that were, in large part, established by Irish Catholic religious orders. Large numbers of Irish priests, nuns and brothers followed other Irish immigrants to Australia from the earliest years of European settlement in order to provide education to the children of those immigrants.

South Africa

19th-century South Africa did not attract mass Irish migration, but Irish communities are to be found in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Kimberley, and Johannesburg, with smaller communities in Pretoria, Barberton, Durban and East London. A third of the Cape's governors were Irish, as were many of the judges and politicians. Both the Cape Colony and the Colony of Natal had Irish prime ministers: Sir Thomas Upington, "The Afrikaner from Cork"; and Sir Albert Hime, from Kilcoole in County Wicklow. Irish Cape Governors included Lord Macartney, Lord Caledon and Sir John Francis Cradock. Irish settlers were brought in small numbers over the years, as from other parts of the United Kingdom. Henry Nourse, a shipowner at the Cape, brought out a small party of Irish settlers in 1818. In 1823, John Ingram brought out 146 Irish from Cork. Single Irish women were sent to the Cape on a few occasions. Twenty arrived in November 1849 and 46 arrived in March 1851. The majority arrived in November 1857 aboard the Lady Kennaway. A large contingent of Irish troops fought in the Anglo-Boer War on both sides and a few of them stayed in South Africa after the war. Others returned home but later came out to settle in South Africa with their families. Between 1902 and 1905, there were about 5,000 Irish immigrants. Places in South Africa named after Irish people include Upington, Porterville, Caledon, Cradock, Sir Lowry's Pass, the Biggarsberg Mountains, Donnybrook, Himeville and Belfast.

External links: Irish Police in SA & Research in SA


Irish bishop Paul Cullen set out to spread Irish dominance over the English-speaking Catholic Church in the 19th century. The establishment of an 'Irish Episcopal Empire' involved three transnational entities - the British Empire, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Irish diaspora. Irish clergy, notably Cullen, made particular use of the reach of the British Empire to spread their influence. From the 1830s until his death in 1878, Cullen held several key positions near the top of the Irish hierarchy and influenced Rome's appointment of Irish bishops on four continents.[39] By contrast, a number of Irish people abroad converted to Asian religions and played significant roles in anti-colonial revival movements, such as the Irish Buddhist monk U Dhammaloka (?Laurence Carroll?) in Burma, Buddhist sympathiser Lafcadio Hearn in Japan, the Hindu nun Sister Sanghamitta (Margaret Noble) and the Theosophist Hindu couple James and Margaret Cousins.[40]

Walker (2007) compares Irish immigrant communities in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Great Britain respecting issues of identity and 'Irishness.' Religion remained the major cause of differentiation in all Irish diaspora communities and had the greatest impact on identity, followed by the nature and difficulty of socio-economic conditions faced in each new country and the strength of continued social and political links of Irish immigrants and their descendants with the old country.

From the late 20th century onward, Irish identity abroad became increasingly cultural, non-denominational, and non-political, although many emigrants from Northern Ireland stood apart from this trend. However, Ireland as religious reference point is now increasingly significant in neopagan contexts.[41][42]

Famous members of the diaspora


See also Notable Americans of Scotch-Irish descent

Isadora Duncan, legendary dancer
Garland as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Artists and musicians

Maureen O'Hara, Irish Actress and famous beauty in the trailer for The Black Swan (1942)



Painting of Louise O'Murphy by François Boucher c. 1751
Lola Montez, Irish-born mistress to King Ludwig I of Bavaria. Her real name was Eliza Gilbert

See also - Irish Brigade

See also - Causes of Irish emigration

See also - General


  1. ^ David Fitzpatrick, "Emigration, 1801–70", in A New History of Ireland, vol. V: Ireland under the Union, I, 1801–70, ed. W. E. Vaughan (Oxford, 1989), 569; David Fitzpatrick, "Emigration, 1871–1921", in A New History of Ireland, vol. VI: Ireland under the Union, II, 1870–1921, ed. W. E. Vaughan (Oxford, 1996), 607
  2. ^ Kenny (2003)
  3. ^ "Irish Citizens Information Board". 
  4. ^ Kennedy, Robert E. ' 'The Irish: Emigration, Marriage, and Fertility.' ' Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973.
  5. ^ a b Bowcott, Owen (2006-09-13). "More Britons applying for Irish passports". The Guardian (London).,,1871753,00.html. 
  6. ^ One in four Britons claim Irish roots
  7. ^ Crowley, Ultan (-?) The Men Who Built Britain: a History of the Irish Navvy
  8. ^ Fallon, Steve (2002). Home with Alice: A Journey in Gaelic Ireland. Melbourne: Lonely Planet. pp. 30–32. 
  9. ^ Mary J. Hickman. 2002. "'Locating' the Irish Diaspora." Irish Journal of Sociology 11(2):8-26.
  10. ^ Bronwen Walter, 2005, "Irish Diaspora" in Immigration and asylum: from 1900 to the present, Volume 3 edited by Matthew J. Gibney, Randall Hansen. ISBN 1576077969
  11. ^ Teenager under fire (November 26, 2006) Times (UK)
  12. ^ McCullough, Ian. "Back of the Net". The Irish Post. Retrieved 2007-01-05. 
  13. ^ "A proud celebration of our new Irish identity" in The Irish Post (Wednesday, May 10, 2006)
  14. ^
  15. ^ Birmingham man given suspended sentence for racist remarks
  16. ^ Massie, Alex (2006-03-17). "Erin Go ARGH! - The case against St. Patrick's Day. (And, no, I'm not British.)". National Review Online. Retrieved 2007-01-07. 
  17. ^ a b We're all Irish now from Spiked online magazine
  18. ^ Davies, Gareth A (2009-06-10). "Dan Hardy's UFC clash with Marcus Davis set to produce fireworks". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  19. ^ "More than a Plastic Paddy" in Why I Am Still a Catholic: Essays in Faith and Perseverance
  20. ^ a b "Flying the Irish flag in Argentina". Western People. 2008-03-14. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  21. ^ Clear, Caitríona (2007). Social Change and Everyday Life in Ireland, 1850–1922. Manchester University Press. ISBN 9780719074387. Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  22. ^ Packwood, Cyril Outerbridge (1975). Chained on the Rock. New York: E. Torres. p. 159. ISBN 0-88303-175-2. 
  23. ^ Craven, Wesley Frank (1990). An Introduction to the History of Bermuda. Bermuda: Bermuda Maritime Museum Press. p. 13. ISBN 0-921560-04-4. 
  24. ^ Zuill, W. S. (1987). The Story of Bermuda and her People. London: Macmillan Caribbean. p. 91. ISBN 0-333-34156-2. 
  25. ^ Packwood, Cyril Outerbridge (1975). Chained on the Rock. New York: E. Torres. p. 160. ISBN 0-88303-175-2. 
  26. ^ Packwood, Cyril Outerbridge (1975). Chained on the Rock. New York: E. Torres. p. 143. ISBN 0-88303-175-2. 
  27. ^ Outerbridge Packwood, Cyril (1975). Chained on the Rock. New York: E. Torres. p. 132. ISBN 0-88303-175-2. 
  28. ^ British military presence in Bermuda, The Royal Gazette, February 3, 2007
  29. ^ Ó Dónaill, Niall (1992). FOCLÓIR GAEILGE-BÉARLA (Irish-English Dictionary). Dublin: An Gúm. ISBN 1-85791-037-0. 
  30. ^ Paul Magocsi, ed. Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples (1999) p 463
  31. ^ Tim Pat Coogan, "Wherever Green Is Worn: The Story of the Irish Diaspora", Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.
  32. ^ "Barbado'ed: Scotland's Sugar Slaves". BBC. Retrieved 2009-05-15. [dead link]
  33. ^ [1]
  34. ^ "The Buried History of America's Largest Slave Rebellion and the Man Who Led It" New York Times
  35. ^ "Montserrat Hosts First Ever Volcano Half Marathon". Travel Video News. September 28, 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-02. 
  36. ^ a b Emerald Reflections, Retrieved November 7, 2007
  37. ^ Remembering the Past
  38. ^ Collins, R.M. (2010). Irish Gandy Dancer: A tale of building the Transcontiental Railroad. Seattle: Create Space. p. 198. ISBN 978-1452826318. 
  39. ^ Colin Barr, "'Imperium in Imperio': Irish Episcopal Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century", English Historical Review 2008 123(502): 611-650
  40. ^ Laurence Cox, "The politics of Buddhist revival: U Dhammaloka as social movement organiser". Contemporary Buddhism 11/2: 173-227
  41. ^ Catherine Maignant, "Irish base, global religion: the Fellowship of Isis". 262–280 in Olivia Cosgrove et al. (eds), Ireland's new religious movements. Cambridge Scholars 2011, ISBN 978-1-4438-2588-7.
  42. ^ Carole Cusack, "'Celticity' in Australian alternative spiritualities". 281–299 in Olivia Cosgrove et al. (eds), Ireland's new religious movements. Cambridge Scholars 2011, ISBN 978-1-4438-2588-7
  43. ^ Glazier, Michael (ed.) (1999) The Encyclopedia of the Irish in America. Notre Dame IN: University of Notre Dame Press ISBN 0-268-02755-2
  44. ^ a b The Encyclopedia of the Irish in America (1999) ISBN 0-268-02755-2
  45. ^ The Encyclopedia of the Irish in America (1999)
  46. ^ a b
  • Ronan, Gerard The Irish Zorro: the Extraordinary Adventures of William Lamport (1615–1659)
  • Murray, Thomas (1919) The Story of the Irish in Argentina
  • Glazier, Michael (ed.) (1999) The Encyclopedia of the Irish in America Notre Dame IN: University of Notre Dame Press ISBN 0-268-02755-2

Further reading

  • Akenson, Donald. The Irish Diaspora: a Primer. (Belfast: Institute of Irish Studies, 1993)
  • Bielenberg, Andy, ed. The Irish Diaspora (London: Pearson, 2000)
  • Campbell, Malcolm. Ireland's New Worlds: Immigrants, Politics, and Society in the United States and Australia, 1815–1922 (2007)
  • Coleman, Philip Coleman, James Byrne and Jason King, eds. Ireland and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History (3 vol. ABC-CLIO, 2008), 967pp excerpt and text search
  • Coogan, Tim Pat. Wherever Green Is Worn: The Story of the Irish Diaspora (2002), popular
  • Darby, Paul, and David Hassan, eds. Sport and the Irish Diaspora: Emigrants at Play (2008)
  • Delaney, Enda, Kevin Kenny, and Donald Mcraild. "The Irish Diaspora", Irish Economic and Social History (2006): 33:35-58
  • Fanning, Charles. New Perspectives on the Irish Diaspora (2000)
  • Glazier, Michael, ed. The Encyclopedia of the Irish in America (U. of Notre Dame Press, 1999) 988pp
  • Gray, Breda. Women and the Irish Diaspora (2003)
  • Gribben, Arthur, and Ruth-Ann M. Harris. The Great Famine and the Irish Diaspora in America (1999)
  • Kenny, Kevin. "Diaspora and Comparison: the Global Irish as a Case Study", Journal of American History 2003 90(1): 134-162, In JSTOR
  • Lalor, Brian, ed. The Encyclopedia of Ireland (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 2003)
  • Mccaffrey, Lawrence. The Irish Catholic Diaspora in America (Catholic University of America Press, 1997)
  • O'Day, Alan. "Revising the Diaspora." in The Making of Modern Irish History, edited by D George Boyce and Alan O'Day. (Routledge, 1996), pp. 188–215.
  • O'Farrell, Patrick. The Irish in Australia: 1798 to the Present Day (3rd ed. Cork University Press, 2001)
  • O’Sullivan, Patrick, ed. The Irish Worldwide: Religion and Identity, vol. 5. (Leicester University Press, 1994)
  • Walker, Brian. "'The Lost Tribes of Ireland': Diversity, Identity and Loss among the Irish Diaspora", Irish Studies Review; 2007 15(3): 267-282

External links


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