For generations people have migrated from their homes to other countries. The "New World" was built on the movement of large numbers of people from the "Old World". Some people moved because they wanted the option to practice their religion free from persecution, but many more were forced into moving abroad because they wanted opportunities to get ahead, opportunities that their home countries couldn't provide.

Populations have always moved, though usually not voluntarily. Wars and plagues have seen large numbers of people forced from their homelands to resettle in a new country. In this article I want to examine the history of Irish migration.

The Irish Diaspora 19th Century Migration

Irish Migrants 19th Century

The failure of the Irish potato crop in the 1840's led directly to some one million Irish moving overseas, mainly to the United States. From 1822 to 1852 some 1 to 1.5 million Irishmen moved to the New World. In the worst years of the famine emigration was around 250,000.

The majority of the Irish who left Ireland before and during the famine came from the most poverty stricken part of Ireland, the west. It was not however entire families who emigrated. Instead young men, and in equal numbers women, moved to England, Canada, Australia and the United States. Once they got themselves established they sent back money to bring other members of he family to the new country.

Ireland at that time was an occupied country, in someways worse off that some of the the then rest of the then British Empire, Catholics didn't have freedom of religion and didn't have the ability to make a future for themselves in their own country. The potato famine was the initial impetuous for people to take the one way trip overseas, but subsequent generations made the same leap of faith.

Irish Pub, Sydney, AustraliaIrish Continue to Move Abroad in the Twentieth Century

Even though Southern Ireland (Eire) finally got their independence in the 1920's - Ireland was still one of the poorest countries in Europe. Irish continued to migrate overseas often to countries such as Australia, Canada and the US - which to this day have large Irish communities and many Irish pubs. When Ireland joined the European Union in 1973 they were one of the poorest members. During the late 1980's Ireland dramatically reduced taxes and decreased regulation, and this together with significant EU infrastructure investment saw a big economic boom and Ireland's first ever labour shortages.

Within the last 15 years many expatriate Irish have returned home and many Europeans from the former Eastern European countries such as Poland have moved to Ireland to take the jobs the Irish no longer want.

Unfortunately the 2008 economic crises and seen Ireland's economic boom come to vary abrupt stop. Unemployment is growing rapidly and it may not be long until Ireland again is a net exporter of people. Already many European immigrants have left but there is now media coverage of young Irish families looking to migrate overseas, or in some cases re-migrate in search of better economic opportunities.

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