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The Irish Diaspora - Places Where the Irish have Settled

Updated on June 4, 2016

Jamaica Was a Popular Destination

In Jamaica you will find many Irish place names. On this tropical island, you can drive down Killarney Avenue and Leitrim Road. Outside of Kingston, just as the landscape gets a lot more rugged and mountainous, you can also find a little place called Irish Town.

Although most Jamaicans don't look very Irish, many of them do have Irish blood running through their veins. In Ireland you will find many people with the last name of Lynch and O'Brien. You will in Jamaica as well, because, by one estimate, a little less than three-quarters of the population has some Irish ancestry.

Even the country's first prime minister, after it achieved its independence, was at least half Irish. Many people assume Alexander Bustamante was Spanish, because of his surname. But he was born William Alexander Clarke. His father's ancestors came from Ireland.

Jamaica is one place that was populated party as a result of the English persecution of the Irish. Many poor Irish were deported to the New World colonies to work as slaves. Others left their homeland during the Great Famine, in which one million Irish perished because of a potato blight.

They all constitute the Irish diaspora that has since spread around the world.

So, where did all the Irish end up? In some pretty unusual places, in addition to the large North American cities of Boston, New York and Chicago, where you expect to find many Irish.

Morguefile photo top by terryballard

Many Irish Headed for America

About 12 percent of the population in the United States has Irish or partial Irish ancestry, for a total of 36 million people. This is far more than now live in the Republic of Ireland, which has less than 5 million people.

Many of the Irish immigrants who came to America settled in urban enclaves, such as Boston, Providence, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Buffalo, Baltimore, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. But they also settled in other parts of the country, such as the Deep South.

Many Irish also put down new roots farther North in Canada, especially in and around Ontario. Many Canadians, about 4.5 million of them, have Irish ancestry.

These are the places we all expect to find Irishmen. But what about the Irish who immigrated to more far-flung corners of the world?

(Morguefile photo below by jdurham)

New Photo Gallery

Montserrat - The Other Emerald Isle

It's not really accurate to call it a St. Patrick's Day event. That's because Montserrat's festivities last an entire week. Everyone also gets a day off from work and school on March 17.

Montserrat is an island that's very proud of its Irish heritage. Visitors first notice that this place has a connection with Ireland when their passports are stamped with a green shamrock.

The Irish came to Montserrat in a roundabout manner. They were first brought to the neighboring island of Nevis. But, during the 1600's, they fled when local authorities, reflecting the sentiment back home in England, began persecuting the Irish Catholics brought to work "indentured servants" on the Nevis sugar plantations. So an estimated 1,000 Irish were rounded up and shipping to Montserrat.

This Caribbean port is now known as the "Emerald Island of the Caribbean," partly because of its Irish connection and partly because of geographical factors. It has a beautiful green landscape, with gently rolling hills, just like Ireland.

Many Irishmen also settled in Puerto Rico, which has a lively Irish pub in Guaynabo City.

(Morguefile photo below by mconnors)

Countless Irish Settled in the Caribbean

Latin America Attracted Irish Immigrants

Many Irish headed for Latin America after fleeing their homeland during the potato famine. The European-like city of Buenos Aires was one of the leading destinations.

An Irish presence can still be detected, as Irish step dancing is very popular. There are a number of Irish dance schools within the city. St. Patrick's Day is also celebrated in this South American capital in a big way, with tens of thousands of people holding a massive block party on March 17. You can also find Catholic churches founded by Irish immigrants that still have ethnically Irish congregations.

Chile was also the adopted home of many Irishmen, forced to leave their country in the 1800's as much of the population starved. One famous transplant was Bernardo O'Higgins, who helped lead Chile in its battle for independence from Spain.

Uruguay was also the destination for a lot of Irish fleeing the ravages of this famine. It's estimated that today, more than 100,000 Uruguayans can trace their roots to Ireland.

One-Third of Australians are of Irish Descent

It's believed that as many as one-third of Australians are of Irish descent. That's because many were exiled there during the 1700's. Some were prisoners, and this remote region seemed like the perfect place to send them. However, some of the crimes they committed may have been very petty. Some of these convicts were jailed purely for political reasons.

Thousands of Irish girls who were orphaned were also shipped to Australia. The idea was for them to work as domestic servants in the homes of the rich. Many of them, sadly, died in transit or once they arrived.

Australia, proportionately, has more Irish people than any other country, except for Ireland.

(Morguefile photo above by clconroy)

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