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Irish Diaspora - Diaspóra na nGael

The Irish diaspora 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 over 80 million people, which is over thirteen times the population of the island of Ireland itself, which had approximately 6.2 million in 2009 (comprising the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland).

Irish emigration – the 17th & 18th century

The earliest waves of Irish emigration date to the second half of the 17th century and the aftermath of the Cromwellian era. Most were Catholics. While significant numbers went voluntarily to settle in the West Indies, even more were transported there as slaves. The alternative route, which attracted many from counties Waterford and Wexford, was to Newfoundland.

To the typical Irish Catholic of the 17th and 18th century, the very notion of emigration went against the old Celtic traditions of extended family and clan relationships. To leave your family, and your homeland, was considered an unbearable exile. For this reason, an ambition to find a better life overseas did not trouble the majority of Ireland's population, no matter the poverty they currently lived in or the oppression they suffered as a result of their faith. Catholic immigration to North America was forbidden by law until after the War of Independence.

Irish emigration – the 19th century

Summary: At least 8 million men, women and children emigrated from Ireland between 1801 and 1921. That number is equal to the total population of the island in the fourth decade of the 19th century. The high rate of Irish emigration was unequalled in any other country and reflects both the overseas demand for immigrant labour and the appalling lack of employment and prospects for the average Irish person.

19th-century emigration from Ireland is usually broken down into three distinct phases:

  • 1815-1845, when 1 million left;
  • 1846-1855, when 2.5 million left; and
  • 1856-1914 when 4 million departed.

These figures are considered underestimates because it is difficult to ascertain the numbers who settled permanently in mainland Britain. Ireland was still a part of Britain, so travel to or from the mainland was not subject to any scrutiny.

About 80% of Irish immigrants who left their homes in this period were aged between 18 and 30 years old.

Causes of Irish emigration

Special emigration schemes

In 1822, the British Government established a trial emigration scheme for Irish paupers to Upper Canada. There were two waves of emigration, one in 1823 the second in 1825. Peter Robinson supervised the emigration of over 2500 Irish emigrants to Canada. See :Peter Robinson Settlers

Irish Brigades

Famous Irish emigrants:

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