Irish diaspora

'Emigrants Leave Ireland', engraving by Henry Doyle (1827–1892), from Mary Frances Cusack's Illustrated History of Ireland, 1868

The Irish diaspora (Irish: Diaspóra na nGael) refers to Irish people and their descendants who live outside Ireland.

The phenomenon of migration from Ireland is recorded since early Medieval times,[1] but it is only possible to quantify it from around 1700: since then between 9 and 10 million people born in Ireland have emigrated. This is more than the population of Ireland at its historical peak in the 1840s of 8.5 million. The poorest of them went to Great Britain, especially Liverpool; those who could afford it, almost 5 million, went to the United States.[2]

After 1840, emigration from Ireland became a massive, relentless, and efficiently managed national enterprise.[3] In 1890 40% of Irish-born people were living abroad. By the 21st century, an estimated 80 million people worldwide claimed some Irish descent, which includes more than 36 million Americans who claim Irish as their primary ethnicity. [4]

As recently as the second half of the nineteenth century the majority of Irish emigrants spoke Irish as their first language. This had social and cultural consequences for the cultivation of the language abroad, including innovations in journalism. The language continues to be cultivated abroad by a small minority as a literary and social medium.[5]

In July 2014, the Irish Government appointed Jimmy Deenihan as Minister of State for the Diaspora.[6]


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, while the emigrants would continue on to Derry Port.

The term Irish diaspora is open to many interpretations. The diaspora, broadly interpreted, contains all those known to have Irish ancestors, i.e., over 100 million people, which is more than fifteen times the population of the island of Ireland, which was about 6.4 million in 2011. It has been argued the idea of an Irish diaspora, as distinct from the old identification of Irishness with Ireland itself, was influenced by the perceived advent of global mobility and modernity. Irishness could now be identified with dispersed individuals and groups of Irish descent. But many of those individuals were the product of complex ethnic intermarriage in America and elsewhere, complicating the idea of a single line of descent. "Irishness" might then rely primarily on individual identification with an Irish diaspora.[7]

The Government of Ireland defines the Irish diaspora as 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.[8] (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.

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 practice jus sanguinis or otherwise permit members of the diaspora to register as citizens.

There are people of Irish descent abroad (including Irish speakers) who reject inclusion in an Irish "diaspora" and who designate their identity in other ways. They may see the diasporic label as something used by the Irish government for its own purposes.[9]


The Irish, whom the Romans called Scotti (but who called themselves Gaels), had raided and settled along the West Coast of Roman Britain, and numbers were allowed to settle within the province, where the Roman Army recruited many Irish into auxiliary units that were dispatched to the German frontier. The Attacotti, who were similarly recruited into the Roman army, may also have been Irish settlers in Britain (the movement between Ireland and the classical Britain may have been two-way as similarities between the Medieval accounts of Túathal Teachtmar and archaeological evidence indicate that the Romans may have supported the invasion and conquest of Ireland by Irish exiles from Britain with the hopes of establishing a friendly ruler who could halt the raiding of Britain by the Irish. Some historians have also suggested that the Cruthin of the North of Ireland may have been Picts.).[10] Following the withdrawal of the Roman army, the Irish began increasing their footholds in Britain, with part of the north-West of the island annexed within the Irish kingdom of Dál Riata. In time, the Irish colonies became independent, merged with the Pictish kingdom, and formed the basis of modern Scotland.

The traditionally Gaelic-speaking areas of Scotland (the Highlands and Hebrides) are still referred to in the Gaelic language as a' Ghàidhealtachd ("the Gaeldom"). Irish monks, and the Celtic church, pioneered a wave of Irish emigration into Great Britain, and continental Europe (and they were possibly the first inhabitants of the Faroe Islands and Iceland).[11] Throughout early Medieval times Britain and continental Europe experienced Irish immigration of varying intensity, mostly from clerics and scholars who are collectively known as peregrini.[1] Irish emigration to western Europe, and especially to Great Britain, has continued at a greater or lesser pace since then. Today, the ethnic-Irish are the single largest minority group in both England and Scotland, most of whom eventually made it back to Ireland.

The dispersal of the Irish has been mainly to Britain or to countries colonised by Britain. England's political connection with Ireland began in 1155 when Pope Adrian IV issued a papal bull (known as Laudabiliter) that gave Henry II permission to invade Ireland as a means of strengthening the Papacy's control over the Irish Church. This was followed in 1169 by the Norman invasion of Ireland led by the general Richard de Clare, a.k.a. Strongbow.

The English Crown did not attempt to assert full control of the island until after Henry VIII's repudiation of paprebelal authority over the Church in England and subsequent rebellion of the Earl of Kildare in Ireland in 1534 threatened English hegemony there. Until the break with Rome, it was widely believed that Ireland was a Papal possession granted as a mere fiefdom to the English king, so in 1541 Henry VIII asserted England's claim to Ireland free from the Papal overlordship by proclaiming himself King of Ireland.

Following the Nine Years' War (1594 to 1603) political power rested in the hands of a Protestant Ascendancy minority and was marked by a Crown policy of plantation, involving the arrival of thousands of English and Scottish Protestant settlers, and the consequent displacement of the pre-plantation Roman Catholic landholders. As the military and political defeat of Gaelic Ireland became more pronounced in the early seventeenth century, sectarian conflict became a recurrent theme in Irish history.

Roman Catholics and members of dissenting Protestant denominations suffered severe political and economic privations from Penal Laws. The Irish Parliament was abolished in 1801 in the wake of the republican United Irishmen Rebellion and Ireland became an integral part of a new United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland under the Act of Union.

The Great Famine of Ireland during the 1840s saw a significant number of people flee from the island to all over the world. Between 1841 and 1851 as a result of death and mass emigration (mainly to Great Britain and North America) Ireland's population fell by over 2 million. In Connacht alone the population fell by almost 30%.

Robert E. Kennedy explains, however, that the common argument of the mass emigration from Ireland being a "flight from famine" is not entirely correct: firstly, the Irish had been coming to build canals in Great Britain since the 18th century, and once conditions were better emigration did not slow down. After the famine was over the four following years produced more emigrants 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.

By 1900 the population of Ireland was about half of its 1840 high and continued to fall during the 20th century.

Irish people at home were facing discrimination from Great Britain based on the former's religion. 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 implemented to stop the retribution. Any hope for change was squashed with the death of Daniel O'Connell in 1847, the political leader championing for Ireland, and the failed rising of the Young Irelanders in 1848. More was to be gained by immigrating to America from Ireland and the 1848 discovery of gold in the Sierra Nevada lured away more.[12]


Main article: Irish genealogy

Public interest in ancestry and family history received a boost in the late 1970s with the television broadcast of Roots: The Saga of an American Family, Alex Haley's account of his family line.[13] and the television series Who Do You Think You Are?, a genealogy documentary series that started on the BBC in 2004.

The Internet and the number of resources now readily accessible has resulted in an explosion of interest in the topic.[14] According to some sources, genealogy is one of the most popular topics on the Internet.[15][16]

Plastic Paddies

Main article: Plastic Paddy

People of the Irish diaspora who were not born in Ireland but who identify as Irish are sometimes labelled as Plastic Paddies.[17]

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."[18] 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 regard them as "assimilated" and simply "English."[19]

The term has also been used to taunt non-Irish-born players who choose to play for the Republic of Ireland national football team,[20] fans of Irish teams, who are members of supporters clubs outside Ireland,[21] and other Irish individuals living in Great Britain.[22] 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 Roman Catholic community in Scotland.[23] In August 2009, a Rangers F.C supporter himself 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".[24]

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.[25]

In Spiked, Brendan O'Neill, himself of Irish descent, uses the term to describe "second-generation wannabe" Irishmen[26] 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.[26] 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 and identity.[27] 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."[28]

Great Britain

The movement of people between the adjacent islands of Ireland and Great Britain has ebbed and flowed with their politics, economics and social conditions. Ireland was a feudal Lordship of the Kings of England between 1171 and 1541; a Kingdom in personal union with the Kingdom of England and Kingdom of Great Britain between 1542 and 1801; and politically united with Great Britain as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland between 1801 and 1922. Today, Ireland is divided between the Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland which is part of the UK.

Today, millions of residents of Great Britain are either from the island of Ireland or have Irish ancestry. It is estimated that as many as six million people living in the UK have an Irish-born grandparent (around 10% of the UK population).[29]

The 2001 UK Census states that 869,093 people born in Ireland are living in Great Britain. More than 10% of those born in the United Kingdom have at least one grandparent born in Ireland.[30] 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.[30] Almost a quarter claimed some Irish ancestry in one survey.[31]

The Irish have traditionally been involved in the building trade and transport particularly as dockers, following an influx of Irish workers, or navvies, to build the British 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 1845–1849. Many Irish servicemen, particularly sailors, settled in Britain: During the 18th and 19th century a third of the Army and Royal Navy were Irish. The Irish still represent the largest contingent of foreign volunteers to the British military, with more Irishmen serving in British uniforms than Irish ones. 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.[32]

The largest Irish communities in Britain are located predominantly in the cities and towns: in London, in particular Kilburn (which has one of the largest Irish-born communities outside 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, Sunderland and Portsmouth. Big industrial cities such as Coventry, Birmingham, Sheffield, Wolverhampton, Manchester, Salford, Cardiff and 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. Rugby, Denbigh, Widnes, Ilfracombe, Bootle, Huyton, Crosby, Birkenhead, Gateshead, Seaham, Middlesbrough, Wallasey, Moreton, Batley, Bolton, Barrhead, Winsford, Ellesmere Port, Chester, Blantyre, Runcorn, Ashton-under-Lyne, Heywood, Consett, Bishop Auckland, Cambuslang, Ashton-in-Makerfield, Solihull, Brighouse, Clydebank, Easington Colliery, Kirkby, Litherland, Whitehaven, Barrow-in-Furness, Irlam, Newton Mearns, Chatham, Greenock, Port Glasgow, Prestwich, Holyhead, Fishguard, Caistor, Saltney, Cleator Moor, Newport, Maghull, Washington, North Shields, South Shields, Tynemouth, Paisley, Stockport, Haslingden, Dewsbury, Skelmersdale, Keighley, Chorley and parts of Market Harborough, Devon and Greater Manchester have high concentrations of Irish communities. The towns of Hebburn, Jarrow and Coatbridge have famously all earned the nickname 'Little Ireland' due to their high Irish populations.[33]

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. The Church remains a crucial focus of communal life among some of the immigrant population and their descendants. The largest ethnic group among the Roman Catholic priesthood of Britain remains Irish (in the United States, the upper ranks of the Church's hierarchy are of predominantly Irish descent.) The former head of the Roman 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 in Scotland 50,000 people identified as having Irish heritage.[34]

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 of the population regularly celebrating the day regardless of their ethnic origins.

As with their experience in the US, the Irish have maintained a strong political presence in the UK, in local government and at the national level. The current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II,[35] and her former Prime Ministers David Cameron,[36]Tony Blair, John Major, Margaret Thatcher and James Callaghan have been amongst the many in Britain of part-Irish ancestry; Blair's mother, Hazel Elizabeth Rosaleen Corscaden, was born on 12 June 1923 in Ballyshannon, County Donegal. Current Chancellor George Osborne is a member of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and heir to the baronetcies of Ballentaylor and Ballylemon.[37]

Continental Europe

Irish links with the continent go back many centuries.[1] 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 are named.

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 Roman 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 Spanish general and politician Leopoldo O'Donnell, 1st Duke of Tetuan, who became the president of the Government of Spain or the French general and politician Patrice de Mac-Mahon, Duke of Magenta, who became the president of the French Republic. 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.


With its newly established trans-Atlantic empire, England needed labour. After the Irish Rebellion of 1641, England began to pacify Ireland through ethnic cleansing, transporting large numbers of Irish, often forced into indentured servitude, to the New World. This increased following the English Civil War (1642–1651) and the Cromwellian invasion of Ireland (1649–1653). Cromwell took Irish land both to repay investors who had financed the invasion and as payment for his soldiers, and the ethnic Irish were ordered to move to Connaught or die. Between 1641 and 1652, over 550,000 Irish died from famine and other war-related causes. The Irish population of Ireland fell from 1,466,000 to 616,000. Between 1652 and 1659, 50,000 Irish men, women and children were sent to the West Indies, Virginia and Bermuda.


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

Today there are an estimated 1,000,000 people of Irish ancestry in Argentina,[38] 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.[39]

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 22 June 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 Roman Catholic English language publication published in Buenos Aires, The Southern Cross is an Argentine newspaper founded on 16 January 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.


Bermudiana, found only in Bermuda and Ireland

Bermudiana (Sisyrinchium bermudiana), the indigenous flower that is ubiquitous in Bermuda in the Spring, has now been realised to be found in one other location, Ireland, where it is restricted to sites around Lough Erne and Lough Melvin in County Fermanagh, and is known as Feilistrín gorm, or Blue-eyed grass.[40][41] Early in its history, Bermuda had unusual connections with Ireland. It has been suggested that St. Brendan discovered it during his legendary voyage; a local psychiatric hospital (since renamed) was named after him.[42][43][44] 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.[45] By the following year, one of Bermuda's main islands was named after Ireland.[46] By the mid-17th century, Irish prisoners of war and ethnically cleansed civilians were involuntarily shipped to Bermuda, condemned to indentured servitude.[47] This expulsion resulted from the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland.[48] 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 Roman 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 Black and Native American minority groups to create a single demographic (coloured, which in Bermuda included anyone not able to be described as wholly of European ancestry. Today, the term has been replaced by Black, in which wholly sub-Saharan African ancestry is erroneously implicit). The Irish quickly proved troublesome, and Bermudian slave owners were instructed that those that hath the Irish servants should take care that they straggle not night nor day as is too common with them. 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.[49] 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,[50] 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.[51]

During the course of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, the colony's various demographic groups boiled down to free whites and mostly enslaved "coloured" Bermudians with a homogeneous English culture. Little survived of the non-English cultures. Catholicism was outlawed in Bermuda, as with the rest of English territory, and all islanders were required by law to attend services of the established Church of England. Some surnames that were common in Bermuda at this period, however, give lingering evidence of the Irish presence. By example, the area to the east of Bailey's Bay, in Hamilton Parish, is named Callan Glen for a Scottish-born shipwright, Claude MacCallan, who settled in Bermuda after the vessel in which he was a passenger was wrecked off the North Shore in 1787. MacCallan swam to a rock from which he was rescued by a Bailey's Bay fisherman named Daniel Seon (Sheehan). A later Daniel Seon was appointed Clerk of the House of Assembly and Prothonotary of the Court of General Assize in 1889 (he was also the Registrar of the Supreme Court, and died in 1909).

In 1803, Irish poet Thomas Moore arrived in Bermuda, having been appointed registrar to the Admiralty there. Robert Kennedy, born in Cultra, County Down, was the Government of Bermuda's Colonial Secretary, and was the acting Governor of Bermuda on three occasions (1829, 1830 and 1835–1836).[52] Irish prisoners were again sent to Bermuda in the 19th 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.[53] Conditions for the convicts were harsh, and discipline was draconian. In April, 1830, convict James Ryan was shot and killed during rioting of convicts on Ireland Island. Another five convicts were given death sentences for their parts in the riots, with those of the youngest three being commuted to transportation (to Australia) for life. In June, 1849, convict James Cronin, on the hulk Medway at Ireland Island, was placed in solitary confinement from the 25th to the 29th for fighting. On release, and being returned to work, he refused to be cross-ironed. He ran onto the breakwater, brandishing a poker threateningly. For this, he was ordered to receive punishment (presumably flogging) on Tuesday, the 3rd of July, 1849, with the other convicts aboard the hulk assembled behind a rail to witness. When ordered to strip, he hesitated. Thomas Cronin, his older brother, addressed him and, while brandishing a knife, rushed forward to the separating rail. He called out to the other prisoners in Irish and many joined him in attempting to free the prisoner and attack the officers. The officers opened fire. Two men were killed and twelve wounded. Punishment of James Cronin was then carried out. Three-hundred men of the 42nd Regiment of Foot, in barracks on Ireland Island, responded to the scene under arms.[54]

Although the Roman Catholic Church (which had been banned in Bermuda, as in the rest of England, since settlement) began to operate openly in Bermuda in the 19th century, its priests were not permitted to conduct baptisms, weddings or funerals. As the most important British naval and military base in the Western Hemisphere following US independence, large numbers of Irish Roman Catholic soldiers served in the British Army's Bermuda Garrison (the Royal Navy had also benefitted from a shipload of Irish emigres wrecked on Bermuda, with most being recruited into the navy there). The first Roman Catholic services in Bermuda were conducted by British Army chaplains early in the 19th Century. Mount Saint Agnes Academy, a private school operated by the Roman Catholic Church of Bermuda, opened in 1890 at the behest of officers of the 86th (Royal County Down) Regiment of Foot (which was posted to Bermuda from 1880 to 1883), who had requested from the Archbishop of Halifax, Nova Scotia, a school for the children of Irish Roman Catholic soldiers.[55][56]

Not all Irish soldiers in Bermuda had happy lives there. Private Joseph McDaniel of the 30th Regiment of Foot (who was born in the East Indies to an Irish father and a Malay mother) was convicted of the murder of Mary Swears in June, 1837, after he had been found with a self-inflicted wound and her lifeless body. Although he maintained his innocence throughout the trial, after his conviction he confessed that they had made a pact to die together. Although he had succeeded in killing her, he had failed to kill himself. He was put to death on Wednesday, the 29th of November, 1837. Private Patrick Shea of the 20th Regiment of Foot was sentenced to death in June, 1846, for discharging his weapon at Sergeant John Evans. His sentence was commuted to transportation (to Australia) for life. In October, 1841, County Carlow-born Peter Doyle had also been transported to Australia for fourteen years for shooting at a picket. At his court martial he had explained that he had been drunk at the time.[57]

Other Irish soldiers, taking discharge, made a home in Bermuda, remaining there for the rest of their lives. Dublin-born Sapper Cornelius Farrell was discharged in Bermuda from the Royal Engineers. His three Bermudian-born sons followed him into the army, fighting on the Western Front during the First World War in the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps.

Although there is little surviving evidence of Irish culture, some elderly islanders can remember when the term "cilig" (or killick) was used to describe a common method of fishing for sea turtles by tricking them into swimming into prearranged nets (this was done by splashing a stone on a line – the cilig – into the water on the turtle's opposite side). The word cilig appears to be meaningless in English, but in some dialects of Gaelic is used as an adjective meaning "easily deceived".[58] 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.[59] Alternatively, the word may be derived from an Irish word for a stone and wood anchor.[60] Characteristics of older Bermudian accents, such as the pronunciation of the letter 'd' as 'dj', as in Bermudjin (Bermudian), may indicate an Irish origin.[61] Later Irish immigrants have continued to contribute to Bermuda's makeup, with names like Crockwell (Ó Creachmhaoil) and O'Connor (Ó Conchobhair) now being thought of locally as Bermudian names.[62][63] 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.

A succession of Irish Masonic lodges have existed in Bermuda, beginning with Military Lodge #192, established by soldiers of the 47th Regiment of Foot, and operating in Bermuda from 1793 to 1801. This was an ambulatory or traveling lodge, as with other military lodges, moving with its members. Irish Lodges #220 (also a military travelling lodge) was active in Bermuda from 1856 to 1861, and Irish Lodge #209 was established in Bermuda in 1881. Minder Lodge #63 of the Irish Constitution was in Bermuda with the 20th Regiment of Foot from 1841 to 1847. The Hannibal Lodge #224 of the Irish Constitution was warranted in 1867, and still exists, meeting in the Masonic Hall on Old Maid's Lane, St. George's. Another Hannibal Chapter, #123 of the Irish Constitution, was chartered in 1877, but lasted only until 1911.[64]

An 1848 woodcut of HMD Bermuda, Ireland Island, Bermuda.


Main article: Irish Canadians

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.[65]

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 Roman 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 Ireland".[66] 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 Roman 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.

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. 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.


From the 1620s, many of the Irish Roman Catholic merchant 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. 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.[67][68]

After the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland Irish prisoners were transferred to Montserrat as indentured laborers.[69] 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.[70] The population is predominantly of mixed Irish and African descent.[71][72]

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.[73] 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.[74] 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.[73]

Other notable places in the Caribbean include:


Main article: Irish Chilean

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.


Main article: Irish Mexican

Probably the most famous Irishman ever to reside in Mexico is the Wexfordman William Lamport, better known to most Mexicans as Guillén 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 Roman Catholic Mexico against Protestant pro-US elements. The Batallón de San Patricio, a battalion of US 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. 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. 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

Main article: Irish Americans

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. The US did not have a good relationship with most of the incoming Irish because of their Roman Catholic faith, as the majority of the population was Protestant and had been originally formed by offshoots of the Protestant faith, many of whom were from Northern Ireland (Ulster).[77] So it came as no surprise that the federal government issued new immigration acts, adding to previous ones which limited Eastern European immigration, ones which limited the immigration of the Irish.[78]

Those who were successful in coming over from Ireland were for the most part already good farm and other hard labour workers, so the jobs they were taking were plentiful in the beginning. However, as time went on and the land needed less cultivation, the jobs the new Irish immigrants were taking were those that Americans wanted as well.[79] In most cases, 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 US Army to serve in the American Civil War and afterward to build the Union Pacific Railroad.[80] 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 35 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 York; Detroit; New England; Baltimore; Pittsburgh; St. Paul, Minnesota; Buffalo; Broome County; Butte; Dubuque; Quincy; Dublin; Hartford; New Haven; Waterbury; Providence; Kansas City; New Orleans; Braintree; Weymouth; Norfolk; Nashville; Scranton; Wilkes-Barre; O'Fallon; Tampa; Hazleton; Worcester; Lowell; Los Angeles; and the San Francisco Bay Area. Many cities across the country have annual St Patrick's Day parades; The nation's largest is 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.

Before the Great Hunger ("Irish Potato Famine"), in which over a million died and more emigrated,[81] there had been the Penal Laws which had already resulted in significant emigration from Ireland.

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 Connacht, Leinster and Munster.

According to US 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. Most African Americans are part of the Irish diaspora, as they are descended from Northern Irish Protestant (Scots-Irish) slave owners and overseers who arrived in America during the colonial era. Many are also descended from Irish immigrant workers.[82][83][84]



Main article: Irish Indians

Irishmen have been known in India right from the days of the East India Company. While most of the early Irish came as traders, some also came as soldiers. However, the majority of these traders and soldiers were from the Protestant Ascendancy. Prominent among them were the generals Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769–1852) who became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1834 and his brother Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley (1760–1842), who was Governor-General of India (1798–1805) and who is also a great-great-great grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II. Later in the Victorian period, many thinkers, philosophers and Irish nationalists from the Roman Catholic majority too made it to India, prominent among the nationalists being the theosophist Annie Besant. It is widely believed that there existed a secret alliance between the Irish and Indian independence movements. Some Indian intellectuals like Jawaharlal Nehru and V. V. Giri were certainly inspired by Irish nationalists when they studied in the United Kingdom. The Indian revolutionary group known as the Bengal Volunteers took this name in emulation of the Irish Volunteers.


People with Irish ancestry as a percentage of the population in Australia divided geographically by statistical local area, as of the 2011 census
Main article: Irish Australian

Irish Australians form the second largest ethnic group in Australia, numbering 2,087,800 or 10.4 per cent of respondents in the 2011 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 development of the Australian colonies from the earliest days of European 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. It has been argued that the Irish language was the source of a significant number of words in Australian English.[85]

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 Roman 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 Roman 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 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.

New Zealand

Main article: Irish New Zealanders

The Diaspora population of Ireland also got a fresh start on the islands of New Zealand during the later half of the 19th century. The ideology of striking it rich in the gold mines caused many Irish people to flock to the docks; risking their lives on the long voyage to potential freedom and more importantly self-sufficiency. Most famous places including both Gabriel's Gully and Otago are examples of mining sites which, with the funding of large companies, allowed for the creation of wages and the appearance of mining towns. Women found jobs as housemaids cleaning the shacks of the single men at work thereby providing a second income to the Irish family household. The subsequent money accumulated with regards to this would allow for chain migration for the rest of the family left behind.[86]

The Transition to New Zealand was made easier due to the overexposure that the Irish had previously had with colonialism. They ventured upwards to the British ports, settling temporarily to accumulate the necessary finances before moving onwards towards the banks of the far away island. In doing so, they not only exposed themselves to the form of British form of government but likewise to capitalism. This aided to further the simplicity of the transition for the dispersed population.[87]

The government aided through the use of both promissory notes and land grants. By promising to pay for the passage of a family the government ensured that the island would be populated and a British colony would be formed. Free passage was installed for women first between the ages of 15-35, while males between the ages of 18–40 years of age would be promised a certain amount of acres of land upon arrival in the New World. This was attributed to the installment of the New Zealand Land act. To further aid with the financial burden, free passage to any immigrant was granted after 1874.[88]

A final note with regards to importance of the Irish diaspora population in New Zealand deals with the diminished amount of prejudice present for the Roman Catholic population upon arrival. The lack of embedded hierarchy and social structure in the New World allowed for previous sectarian tensions to be dissolved. This can also be attributed to the sheer amount of distance between the respective religions due to the sparseness of the unpopulated area and the sheer size of the islands.[89]

List of countries by population of Irish heritage

Country Population % of country Criterion
Irish in North America
United States Irish American 33,348,049 10.50%

Self-identified "Irish"
10.50% of the US population (2013)
Scotch-Irish Americans
27 to 30 million[91][92]
Up to 10% of the U.S. population
5,827,046 (Self-reported only, 2008)
1.9% of the total U.S. population

Canada Irish Canadian 4,544,870 14%


Irish in South America
Chile Irish Chilean 120,000 0.7%


Uruguay Irish Uruguayan 120,000 3.6%


Argentina Irish Argentine 700,000–1,000,000 2.5%

[97] – 1,000,000[98]

Irish in Europe
United Kingdom Irish British 14,000,000 10%

869,093 Irish-born[99]
(1.4% of the British population)
c. 6 million with at least 25% Irish ancestry
(10% of the British population)

Northern Irish 828,220 45%


Scotland Irish-Scots 1,500,000 28%


Irish in Oceania
Australia Irish Australian 7,000,000 30%

7,000,000 (30% of the Australian population of partial Irish ancestry)[102][103]
80,000 (by birth, 2011)[104]
2,087,800 (self-declared Irish ancestry, 2011; 10.4% of the Australian population)

Irish in Africa
South Africa Irish South African 330,000 1%
Total in Diaspora ≈75,000,000
Republic of Ireland Irish people 3,877,072 84.5%


Total Worldwide ≈80,000,000


Irish bishop Paul Cullen set out to spread Irish dominance over the English-speaking Roman 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.[107] 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.[108]

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 Ireland.

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.[109][110]

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



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