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Are You Irish?

Updated on September 25, 2016
Rangoon House profile image

I am an idealist, an optimist, a romantic, often a traditionalist. I like to see and write about the good, or how things can become better.

The symbolic Irish shamrock
The symbolic Irish shamrock | Source

There Is Irish In About 75 Million Of Us!

Over 70 million people living outside Ireland claim to have Irish blood.

This group of Irish blooded living around the world is more than 15 times the combined population of the Republic of Ireland, which was approximately 4.5 million in 2011, according to the official Census of that year. (1)

Are you one of the Irish Diaspora?

Source (1) -

The Irish Diaspora Living Throughout The World

The Irish Diaspora refers to Irish emigrants and their descendants who live in countries outside of Ireland. "Diaspora" is derived from he Greek word to "scatter" and in a contemporary context, refers to a group migration dispersed outside its traditional homeland.

President Mary Robinson popularised the phrase in her 1995 address to the Joint Houses of the Oireachtas, "Cherishing the Irish Diaspora", in which she reached out to the millions of people worldwide who can claim Irish descent - "The men and women of our diaspora represent not simply a series of departures and losses. They remain, even while absent, a precious reflection of our own growth and change, a precious reminder of the many strands of identity which compose our story". (2)

Source (2) -

18th Century Irish Emigration - The Irish Famine 1740 - 1741

There has long been an Irish struggle
There has long been an Irish struggle | Source

The Irish Famine of 1740-1741 (Bliain an Ãir) was caused by "The Great Frost" which struck Europe and Ireland with bitter cold and excessive rain during the period December 1739 to September 1741, resulting in devastated harvests, hunger, disease, death and civil unrest.

During and after this famine, many Irish families moved within the country or left Ireland completely. The very poorest were excluded from this social and economic opportunity and remained in Ireland, many perishing.

Ireland, during this period, was predominantly rural, with complex social issues of social inequality, religious discrimination and extreme poverty. “There is in no kingdom greater inequality than in Ireland: one class of great property who live excessively sumptuous: the second and more numerous class hurting their fortunes by the imitation of the first – the third in extreme poverty”. (3)

Ireland was unprepared for the 1740-1741 famine and ill-equipped to recover from its consequences. Extreme food shortages, the increased cost of what little food was available, and the lack of welfare agencies outside of the Church, contributed to high mortality and the absolute necessity to seek better survival opportunities elsewhere. Exact numbers of emigrants are unavailable, but it is believed that the ratios are likely to resemble those who emigrated during the next and better known famine, the Great Famine of 1845-1852.

Source (3) -

19th Century Irish Emigration - The Great Famine 1845 - 1852

A family evicted by their landlord in the 19th Century
A family evicted by their landlord in the 19th Century | Source

The Great Irish Famine (an Gorta Mar) was known internationally as the Irish Potato Famine, as a result of the potato blight disease which devastated the crops that up to a third of the population depended upon as a staple food.

In Ireland, the famine was known as the "Great Hunger". The Irish population of eight million was reduced by an estimated one million who died of starvation, and up to another three million who emigrated during the famine period and into the early 20th century - mainly to England, Scotland, the United States, Canada and Australia. Death records are unreliable as the escalating numbers of dead were buried in mass graves without trace. In some districts, entire communities disappeared as residents died, were evicted, or were fortunate enough to have the means to emigrate.

The majority migrated to America and by 1850, over a quarter of the New York City population was estimated to be Irish. A "New York Times" article on 02 April 1852 recounted the seemingly unstoppable tide of Irish immigration :-

"On Sunday last three thousand emigrants arrived at this port. On Monday there were over two thousand. On Tuesday over five thousand arrived. On Wednesday the number was over two thousand. Thus in four days twelve thousand persons were landed for the first time upon American shores. A population greater than that of some of the largest and most flourishing villages of this State was thus added to the City of New York within ninety-six hours." (4)

Source (4) -

20th Century Irish Emigration - The Continual Flow

Irish immigrants in Kansas City, Missouri, in the early 20th Century
Irish immigrants in Kansas City, Missouri, in the early 20th Century | Source

The flow of Irish migration continued through the 20th century.

Unsustainable small agricultural farming, government protectionist policies that isolated the economy, exclusion from European economic booms, and political uncertainty in Northern Ireland continued to make opportunities abroad seem more attractive than the economic and social limitations at home.

The Irish continued their pattern of leaving home during periods of economic and/or political crisis. Emigration levels during the 1940s and 1950s, following the Second World War, almost paralleled those of a century earlier and the 1980s created a "lost generation" as the young, well-educated fled high rates of employment to seek a better lifestyle wherever they could.

21st Century Irish Emigration - Economic Stagnation

The Irish continue to emigrate in the 21st Century
The Irish continue to emigrate in the 21st Century | Source

Emigration is again the Irish response to national hardship in this century.

A University College Cork’s Émigré Project published in 2013 reveals that 21st century Irish migrants are more educated than the general population (which confirms the "brain drain" theory); that rural areas have been affected more by emigration than urban towns and cities; and that one in four households has farewelled a family member to another country since 2006. (5)

An International Monetary Fund / European Union bailout of Irish banks, high unemployment, unprecedented redundancies and business closures saw the tripling of Irish people leaving the country between 2008 and 2012. Whilst the exodus of Irish to foreign ports gives some relief to the economy, the social scars of further dislocation, dispersal and displacement will again take generations to mend.

The first Irish Diaspora Policy was launched in March 2015. Taoiseach Enda Kenny said at the launch “Emigration has a devastating impact on our economy as we lose the input of talent and energy. We need these people at home. And we will welcome them.” (6)

Ireland is finally calling its people home.

Source (5) -

Source (6) -

Irish Immigration Fast Facts

The symbolic Irish shamrock
The symbolic Irish shamrock | Source
  • Ten million Irish people have emigrated since 1700.
  • One out of every two people born in Ireland has emigrated since 1800.
  • Irish immigrants made up a quarter of the populations in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore by the mid 1800s.
  • New York had 250,000 Irish-born residents by 1850, making it the most Irish city in the world.
  • Over four and a half million Irish settled in America between 1820 and 1975.
  • More than 34 million Americans considered themselves to be of Irish ancestry in 2002, making Irish Americans the second-largest ethnic group in the United States.
  • Approximately six million British citizens have an Irish grandparent.
  • Up to 30 percent of Australians claim Irish ancestry, possibly making Australia the "most Irish" country in the world.

Are you one of the 70 million Irish living outside of Ireland?

More than 34 million Americans claim Irish ancestry
More than 34 million Americans claim Irish ancestry | Source

Are you one of the 70 million Irish blooded living outside of Ireland?

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When did your ancestors emigrate from Ireland?

Millions of Irish entered the United States through Ellis Island
Millions of Irish entered the United States through Ellis Island | Source

When did your ancestors emigrate from Ireland?

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Where did your Irish ancestors emigrate to?

The Statue of Liberty represents freedom and hope
The Statue of Liberty represents freedom and hope | Source

Where did your Irish ancestors emigrate to?

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Do you think your Irish ancestors made the right move?

A cottage in Ireland
A cottage in Ireland | Source

Do you think your Irish ancestors made the right move?

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Are you Irish?

The classic Irish beer
The classic Irish beer | Source

Do you have Irish citizenship?

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Have you been back to Ireland?

 County Wicklow, Ireland - where my Irish connections came from
County Wicklow, Ireland - where my Irish connections came from | Source

Have you visited Ireland?

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Will you answer the Irish call to go home?

Dunguaire Castle, Kinvara, County Clare, Ireland
Dunguaire Castle, Kinvara, County Clare, Ireland | Source

Would you emigrate to Ireland from where your ancestors came?

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Are You Irish American? And Want To Know More?

The Irish Americans: A History
The Irish Americans: A History

Currently, there are 34.5 million Americans who claim Irish ancestry, which is seven times greater than the entire population of Ireland. (1)

If you are one of this diaspora, you will relish learning more about your Irish American history in this book, and the circumstances which led your ancestors to a better life in the United States.

Source (1) -


The Irish In Me - I Am Irish But I Am Not

I am part of the Irish Diaspora.

I have no Irish blood. I do not live in Ireland. I do have Irish citizenship.

My husband has Irish blood. He does not live in Ireland. He does have Irish citizenship.

My daughter has Irish blood. She may one day live in Ireland. She has Irish citizenship.

Thank you to Thomas Patrick Myles Byrne and Helena Bridget Shanley for your postumous gifts of Irish citizenship to your grandson, granddaughter-in-law and great granddaughter. It is a great honour to be a member of the great Irish Diaspora and to share the love and pride for Ireland. We may one day go home.

© 2012 AJ

Share Your Irish Story

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    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 17 months ago from Australia

      Enjoy your day June :-)

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 17 months ago from Australia

      Hi Jeanie. Maybe you should add Scotland to your 2017 trip? You should find the McBrides in Ireland, but I suspect you need to look for the McDonalds in Scotland. A world trip might be coming up? I haven't taken the genealogical DNA test, but need to do that - it sounds so exciting!

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 17 months ago from Australia

      Lucky girl! If you can do some online research about your family before you leave, it will add extra dimension to your trip. We didn't know much the first time we visited, but became so proud and territorial when we found our surname plastered across almost every second shop front in County Wicklow - it gave us an immediate sense of history and belonging, and I'm not even Irish! The original Public Records Office in Dublin was burnt during the civil war in 1922, and what genealogical records remained were largely from private family records, but hopefully you can get enough leads before you leave and do a quick follow up in Dublin when you get there. All the best and travel well.

    • profile image

      Jeanie Russell 17 months ago

      I'm 44% Irish. My great grandparents were McDonalds and McBrides but I don't where they came from in Ireland. I hope to visit next year. I didn't know I was that much Irish until I did the DNA test.

    • profile image

      Jeanie 17 months ago

      44% Irish here. I don't know where in Ireland my relatives came from---I'm trying to find out. I hope to visit in 2017.

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 18 months ago from New York

      You are so sweet. Thank you.

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 18 months ago from Australia

      I hope you can visit Ireland soon June. It is truly beautiful, and I am sure you would connect immediately with your Irish background and obvious pride.

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 18 months ago from New York

      I did not realize how many times there had been cause to immigrate from Ireland other than the Potato Famine. I too am part Irish, but have never been to Ireland. One of my daughters and granddaughters has made the journey. I hope to some day. Even though the Irish were considered the lowest of the low, when arriving in NYC during the famine, we have shown the world how productive and talented we can be. Thanks for the very informative article.

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 18 months ago from Australia

      Hi Dianna - thank you for sharing such a lovely personal story. I'm sure the Irish are generally hardworking, given the enormous contribution they have made to so many parts of the world, including their own. AJ

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 19 months ago

      The best boss I ever had was Irish. He had great attitude and work ethics, which he brought with him when he immigrated from Ireland. The country is beautiful and I would certainly love to visit some day. Thanks for the information on this lovely country.

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 19 months ago from Australia

      You are so right about the Irish contribution to the United States - I once visited Cobh in County Cork and the testimonials at the wharf to the Irish who had departed for America was incredible - politics and literature are just two areas that would be enormously different without them.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 19 months ago from San Diego California

      Like most white people living in lands that were once part of the British Empire, I am supposed to have some Irish blood, though I couldn't tell you how much. The Irish made so many cultural contributions to the United States and other lands that I think most of us feel Irish, even if we are not. Great hub!

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 2 years ago from Australia

      There is great tragedy in the Irish history, but as you say, none of us will ever forget. Thank you so much for visiting.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 2 years ago from Canada

      I knew there had been a heavy Irish Immigration after the great potato famine but did not know the numbers were that high. That could explain why St. Patrick's Day is so widely celebrated in so very many other countries. Plenty of Irish descendants to remind us not to forget.

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 3 years ago from Australia

      Thank you SheilaMilne. As you know, the process of applying for Irish citizenship is complex, demanding and drawn out over a very extended time, and there is no guarantee that any family members will receive citizenship, spouse or children. So it is a great honour to have citizenship of your birth country.

    • SheilaMilne profile image

      SheilaMilne 3 years ago from Kent, UK

      I was born and brought up in Ireland and therefore I am an Irish citizen. However I have a British passport and don't really plan to change it. I know nowadays when you apply, as my sons have done, for an Irish passport, they ask the likelihood of you ever living there. I think they may be tightening up on the rules because also there is no guarantee that a spouse will be granted citizenship.

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 3 years ago from Australia

      Hi Elsie. Thank you for dropping by. Irish genealogy is tricky - so many branches of the same family name and you have to be absolutely certain you have the right branch. I also understand that a fire of public archives in the 1900s destroyed most records that weren't kept by families, which makes the genealogical search even more interesting. Good luck.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 3 years ago from New Zealand

      Petty I didn't see this article last week it would have made a nice St Patricks Day story.

      My grandmother was a Riley, she married a english man and the came to New Zealand in the early 1900s, I have irish blood in me and I'm very proud to be a descendant although I know nothing about my great grand parents from Ireland, I do genealogy but can't find much to help me yet.

      All the best.