A Letter from Ireland:

Which part of the Irish Diaspora are you from?

Are you a member of the Irish Diaspora? When the people of a nation are dispersed and settle elsewhere, their descendants often keep a memory of their ancestral homeland. In this letter we will discuss how the diaspora of Ireland went to the four corners of the globe, but never lost their Irish identity.

Céad Míle Fáilte – and I hope you are keeping well on what is a lovely morning here in County Cork. I’m having a cup of Lyons tea this morning – and I do hope you’ll have a cup of whatever you enjoy and join me for this morning’s letter.

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Which part of the Irish Diaspora are YOU from?

Don’t you just love that word – “Diaspora”? Apparently, it comes from the Greek word for “scattering”. The reason I bring this up today is because Ireland appointed it’s first “Minister for the Diaspora” – Jimmy Deenihan.

I first remember the word being used in the context of an “Irish Diaspora” when President Mary Robinson used to light a candle of welcome each night in all the windows of the presidential residence. A symbol of guidance and welcome for people of Irish descent spread throughout the world.

Now there are about 80 million people around the world who claim significant Irish descent. Quite amazing for such a small country as ours!

The following is a rough breakdown of where we find our Irish today:

  • USA – about 36 Million people identify themselves as primarily of Irish descent. One of the things that surprised me when I started Your Irish Heritage was just how many readers we have of Scotch-Irish descent (and that is a subject coming soon in a Letter from Ireland!) – about 20% of all our readers.
  • Canada – about 4.5 million of Irish descent. Most Irish headed to Canada from the 19th century famine all the way to the 1950s. Even today, Canadian companies turn up in Ireland each year in quantity to recruit whole families of skilled tradesmen to all sorts of infrastructure and mining projects across the country.
  • South American countries claim high Irish descent populations – 2.5% in Argentina and 3.6% in Uruguay. The majority of these are descendants of the families of soldiers who first left Ireland as “Wild Geese” to fight with the Spanish armies – and followed them onto the colonies. People like William Brown from County Mayo – the founder of the Argentinian Navy.
  • Australia – Just over 10% of the Australian population self-declare as being of Irish ancestry. I am always struck by the stories that come from our Australian readers. Many of their ancestors arrived in the colony as convicted criminals – and the story around their conviction was often captured in court proceedings back in Ireland. And harrowing stories they are too.
  • Great Britain – has about 10% of it’s population is of Irish descent. Our US readers often question how Irish people could go and live in Britain. The answer is simple – job prospects and that is often where their family and friends already reside. My own parents moved to Britain. I was born there. We all moved back to Ireland. I went back to work there for a short while. My own son now works there. That is the way it has been for many centuries.

So, if you were passing on advice to our new Minister for the Diaspora – Jimmy Deenihan – what would you say? What questions would you have for him?

In the meantime, thank you so much much for being a part of the Letter from Ireland community – I think we have become a living example of just how people of Irish descent around the world can connect together.

As always, do leave a comment or question below.

That’s it for now!

Slán, Mike… talk next week!

  • Theresa Hart says:

    I have been trying to track the McDonnell part of our family. No idea of their origin in Ireland, they immigrated to Canada, and eventually settled in Troy New York. My grandfather Hugh McDonnell moved to Staten Island, New York and married Anne Gallagher from Aranmore. How can I find out more info on where his family is from?

  • Carolyn says:

    Wonderful Letter Mike and Carina. Being a member of Your Irish Heritage has led to many discoveries and my connection to Irish Scots!

  • Rosalee says:

    I have a complex lot of Irish ancestors….a young man from County Down convicted of housebreaking & sent to NSW for 14 years in 1814, his young wife who came to join him bringing his baby with her; a family man from County Mayo sent out for life as a political rebel in 1822, and his family who eventually joined him; another young man from County Down sent out in 1822 for 7 years for buying stolen linen; a soldier from County Clare who arrived with the 28th Regiment of Foot in 1835 and became Chief Constable, his Irish born wife and children; my “Orangemen” – a cooper, his wife and 5 sons from County Cork

    • Mike+Collins says:

      Well Rosalee, on the Irish ancestry trail to Australia we visited a few penal colony prisons and heard many tales similar to your own. in Tasmania we visited Port Arthur where many convicts were sent for life as any sentence meant they never got back home. Who could afford the fare?

  • Linda Morse says:

    Annie Canning from Waterford 1854 father john a Coachman. She travelled on her own to Australia
    Hardiman — Ship Fullwood Galway 1854 “The placid waters of Lake Boga know the savage with his rude bark canoe no more. The kangaroo cloaks and the jagged fish spears may be found in the museums, the reversible hut has been superseded, and on the rising ground where the native village stood there is now to be seen a large, handsome mansion, tenanted by the tall chieftain of another and a different ” tribe.” This is Mr. Hardiman, who, in the dark days of ’47, left old county Galway far behind him, and, with no fewer than forty first cousins of his own in the same ship, sought a home in this country. In addition to those many ties of consanguinity, Mr. Hardiman is now the father of eleven strapping Irish Victorians. Thanks to his own industry, he has become the possessor of broad acres in this fertile region; but though fortune has richly favoured him under Austral skies, he still looks with an exile’s regret and an exile’s hope to the land of his origin.”

  • Mick says:

    Please make it easier for us to return home. From buying a home, driving and banking.
    I’m first generation. With a Brother and sister raised in Ireland. My wife only moved to the states after we met 2010. Both in our fifties and I’m finding it impossible to retire and return home. Why do they make it so difficult?

  • Brenda says:

    My maternal grandmother is Irish, whose parents/grandparents came from Ireland.

  • Teresa Forst says:

    My great great grandparents came over from Londonderry Ireland after they went there from Scotland. So I’m Scot Irish

    • Mike+Collins says:

      Teresa, we see a constant movement between The north of Ireland and Scotland over the years as people followed the work.

  • Janice Braun says:

    My ancestors came to Port Stanley, Ontario, Canada from County Meath, Ireland and later moved on to Detroit, Michigan for work. I currently live in Illinois.

    • Mike+Collins says:

      When we followed the Irish Ancestry trail in Canada last year we found many families moved to the US for work just like your ancestors Janice.

  • J Gates says:

    My Maher grandfather came to the US from County Tipperary, as did four of his 10 siblings, while the other 5 siblings went to Scotland. My grandmother’s parents came from County Cork to NYS in the 1840’s. Our family remains in NYS, but we have returned a few times and our hearts remain in Ireland!

    • Mike+Collins says:

      We are on The Irish Ancestry Trail in Australia and following the footsteps of many who left with very similar stories to your own J.

  • Laverne flaherty says:

    Convoy,Cunningham, (MacBean)

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