Irish Diaspora

I feel I have little choice if I'm going to provide for my family. Tom Scott, England 2011

The people leaving Ireland now are part of a long history of Irish emigration.

The ancient Greeks first used 'diaspora' to describe the trading colonies they established around the Mediterranean, but since then the word has become defined by the Jewish experience of forced migration and displacement. It now means the global migration of people, compelled by war or natural disaster, who retain strong cultural links with their place of origin and with fellow groups in other countries.

The Irish diaspora was triggered by the Great Famine of the 1840s and 1850s, in which potato blight destroyed the staple food crop. More than a million people emigrated during the worst years of the famine, followed by many more who sought a life of greater opportunity. Most went to the great centres of Irish migration - Great Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia – establishing a vast network of kinship and political alliances.

I have to go where the work is...Graham Ford, UK, 2011

Although the idea of diaspora implies a shared experience, the reality is far more complex. Emigration had been a fact of Irish life both before the famine and in the years since. Migrants came from different social backgrounds and divergent religious and political affiliations, all of which contributed to tensions within the migrant Irish communities.

Many Irish people today are part of a new diaspora which is defined by mobility and work skills rather than national or religious allegiances. They have the same desires as earlier migrants but their lives are more fluid, as they move between Ireland and a host of other countries in pursuit of economic and social opportunities.

We seem to be losing a generation in our country. Darragh McMunn Mexico, 2011

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