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  • National emigration history centre given go ahead in New Ross

    Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

    A national emigration history centre is planned for the Dunbrody Visitor Centre in New Ross, Co. Wexford, as part of a €2.5 million redevelopment plan for the Dunbrody Visitor Centre. The plan was given a go-ahead by the New Ross Town council last month, and the new visitor center could be completed as early as next year.

    Related website:

    “Prairies or pampas?”: article explains why emigrants no longer ask

    Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

    Argentina was once a powerful draw for Irish emigrants, although it is difficult to imagine given the country’s economic troubles today. How did it go from being an economic powerhouse to its current status today? Alan Beattie in the Financial Times documents the decline in a comparison of the policies pursued throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the  United States and Argentina.

    As he points out,

    “Before the Great Depression of the 1930s, Argentina was among the 10 richest countries in the world. The millions of emigrant Italians and Irish fleeing poverty at the end of the 19th century were torn between the two: Buenos Aires or New York? The pampas or the prairie?

    A hundred years later there was no choice at all. One had gone on to be among the most successful economies ever. The other was a broken husk.”

    Beattie points out that America chose openness, innovation, skilled immigration and industrialisation – while Argentina concentrated land and political power in the hands of an elite who shunned the risk-taking nature of industrialisation until it was too late.

    The article is worth reading for anyone interested in the history of the home of the largest non-English-speaking Irish diaspora community. Argentina: The superpower that never was

    “I Only Came Over for a Couple of Years” records experience of London Irish

    Monday, May 11th, 2009

    Yet another oral history project detailing the experience of elderly Irish emigrants has come to your correspondent’s attention. “I Only Came Over for a Couple of Years”, a documentary that was completed in 2005, is now available on DVD from the Irish Studies Centre of London Metropolitan University. The film is a collection of interviews of Irish elders who came over to London between the 1930s and 1960s.

    The DVD is a production of the Irish Elders Now project, which is aimed at building a substantial video and oral record of a generation of Irish migrants to Britain whose stories and experiences have been underrepresented in other official records.

    For more information and to order the DVD, visit the Irish Studies Centre website.

    Diaspora a reason to rejoin the Commonwealth?

    Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

    A new group urging that Ireland rejoin the Commonwealth has invoked the Irish diaspora in support of the idea.

    In a letter that appeared in the Irish Times, the backers of “Ireland and the Commonwealth” said,

    Members of the Commonwealth share a common heritage and history, including an Irish diaspora of some 20 million people – an international community that seems certain to grow as many people are forced by economic circumstances to emigrate from Ireland.

    The letter continued with an outline of the Commonwealth’s benefits:

    Membership of the Commonwealth is more relevant than ever as Ireland faces its worst economic crisis since the foundation of the state. The county is going to need all the friends and connections it can get in the perilous economic times that lie ahead. The Commonwealth is not an alternative or substitute for Ireland’s membership of other international bodies such as the EU or the UN but it could prove to be an invaluable addition if our worst fears about the global economic crisis are fulfilled.

    Ireland’s membership of the Commonwealth would, we are sure, be welcomed by the unionist community in Northern Ireland as significant gesture of reconciliation. It would add to the collaborative framework established by the Belfast and St Andrew’s agreements. It would demonstrate unequivocally that the Republic has finally drawn a line under the troubled history of Anglo-Irish relations that led to Ireland’s self-exclusion from the Commonwealth 60 years ago. It would represent a further important step along the road to a pluralist Ireland in which different identities are recognised and respected, a country that celebrates its multi-cultural heritage and diverse history.

    A follow-up letter in the Irish Times noted, however, that “‘Commonwealth citizens’ have no extra rights of travel or work – for instance, they need to apply for a visa to visit member-state Australia, just as Irish people do.”

    See related websites:

    Film highlights Irish immigration to English town

    Monday, March 30th, 2009

    Two filmmakers in South Tyneside, England, have made a documentary about the impact of immigration into the town of Jarrow.

    Director Gary Wilkinson and playwright Tom Kelly created “Little Ireland” using archive material, photographs and interviews with descendants of Irish immigrants.

    The 40-minute film has been an instant success at home, selling out two screenings in South Shields earlier this month.

    The pair are now trying to interest Irish film festivals, and have sent out copies to film festivals in Dublin, Belfast, Waterford and Cork.
    The film is available from the South Shields Central Library for £10.

    See related web pages:

    Barak Obama’s heritage challenges myths

    Monday, November 24th, 2008

    A Queen’s University Belfast professor uses the election of Barack Obama as the launching pad for a discussion of Irish-American myths in an article in this weekend’s Irish Times.

    Brian Walker points out that formerly held notions of Irish-American identity have been greatly challenged in recent decades, as studies have revealed the extent to which the Irish American community is Protestant. He points out that it had been assumed that the slight majority of Irish-Americans who are Protestant were thought to have been Scots-Irish, but the 1990 US census only showed about 5 million people calling themselves Scots-Irish, or 12% of the Irish-American community.

    While there are several reasons for this, Walker highlights Barack Obama’s Irish ancestor, Fulmouth Kearney, who was a member of the Church of Ireland in Moneygall, Co. Offaly. Walker notes that the presence of Church of Ireland members among the Irish diaspora is too often overlooked.

    Read the entire article on the Irish Times website: