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    Too early to give up immigration reform fight, NY Times says

    Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

    The New York Times has called for a renewed commitment to comprehensive immigration reform in the US in an editorial today. The editorial says that the US needs to confront the issue, with a solution that “would clamp down on the border and the workplace, streamline legal immigration and bring 12 million illegal immigrants out of the shadows”. It notes that the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress say they remain committed to comprehensive reform this year, despite “the poisonous stalemate on Capitol Hill”.

    Remarkably, it mentions the recent declaration by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform that the issue is dead. From the editorial:

    At least one advocacy group, the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, has declared the dream of comprehensive reform dead. It is urging incremental change, with modest reforms like the Dream Act. Other groups may follow. It is too soon to give up.

    Some Irish activists have been criticised in the past for being too willing to look for a special solution that would assist the undocumented Irish with a separate solution. Yesterday, Niall O’Dowd, speaking on Pat Kenny’s RTE 1 radio show, said that he believed the only option was a series of piecemeal solutions. One that he mentioned was a  visa agreement between Ireland and the US similar to US agreements with Australia and Chile; this would give Irish people access to non-permanent visas, renewable every two years. While this would ensure continuing Irish access to the US, it’s a solution that would presumably be unavailable to the tens of thousands of Irish estimated to be in the US illegally right now.

    The New York Times adds that legislation in the house is being prepared by Representative Luis Gutierrez, and a similar bill for the Senate by Charles Schumer and Lindsay Graham.

    The Irish Echo seems to agree with the New York Times that there is life in the process yet. In last week’s edition, it said, “One source close to the legislative process admitted to what he called ‘a very challenging (legislative) environment’ but added that reports of reform’s demise were premature.”

    Here’s hoping  it’s too early to give up the fight.

    Related webpages:

    Primary documents

    Friday, July 24th, 2009

    Archives of the Irish experience throughout the world can be found in destination countries, and some of these are online. These are useful for scholars but are also fun for just browsing around – there’s a host of gems here!


    Archive of the Irish in Britain


    Archives of Irish America – Includes several exhibitions, including an oral history project called “New York Stories?.

    Library of Congress Memory Project: Immigration


    The Shamrock and the Maple Leaf – an exhibition of Irish-Canadian documentary materials held by Library and Archives Canada

    Moving Here, Staying Here: The Canadian Immigrant Experience

    The Ships List – Comprehensive set of documents related to ships and the immigrant experience around the world.


    Australia: Convict Transportation database

    More on Irish convicts at Irish Convicts Transported to Australia

    Leaving from Liverpool – an excellent educational site highlighting the experience of migration to Australia through the port of Liverpool.

    Latin America

    Society for Irish Latin-American Studies

    Oral histories

    Friday, July 24th, 2009

    There has been a wonderful trend in recent years of collecting emigrants’ oral histories. Many of those contributing their memories are elderly, and these books, films and websites are an invaluable record of the struggles and triumphs of ordinary people, many of whom have extraordinary stories. Know of any other oral history projects? Drop me a line or fill in the comment box…


    Irish Oral History Archivea reference archive and resource for the contemporary and historical spoken narratives of Irish people at home and abroad, especially as they relate to the story of emigration. Luton Irish Forum – a variety of individuals detail their moves to England

    I Only Came Over For a Couple of Years… 2005 – Interviews with Irish elders in England who arrived between the 1930s and 1960s. (Half-hour documentary, £7 plus postage and packaging)

    Irish Elders Now project

    Dunne, Catherine. An Unconsidered People: The Irish in London. Dublin: New Island, 2003 – a book detailing the experience of older emigrants.


    A story to be told: Personal Reflections on the Irish emigrant experience in Canada (book)

    Memories of the Past: Reflections from Ottawa’s Irish Drop-In group – a collection of memories and recipes

    United States

    Archives of Irish America – Interviews with a range of notable people in the New York Irish community, discussing their life history and sense of identity.

    When Mem’ry Brings Us Back Again – the stories of 35 people who moved to New York between 1927- 1964. Available as both book and DVD.

    An Irish (American) Story (film, 1997) – The 96-year-old grandmother of the filmmaker recalls her emigration as a 17-year-old in 1911.

    The Gathering: Collected Oral Histories of the Irish in Montana – Funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs, this project is based in the University of Montana.

    Irish Dance in Arizona – Tracing the history of Irish dance in the American southwest since 1942.

    Crossroads Irish Oral History Project Archives of the San Francisco Bay Area – Funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the project looks at the Irish and Irish-American communities of the San Francisco Bay area.

    Molloy College – documenting the Irish of Long Island and the greater New York area.

    University of Notre Dame – Director of Notre Dame’s Department of Anthropology Deb Rotman is working on a developing an online archive of Irish-American oral histories.


    The National Library of Australia – has a number of Irish-related recordings in its oral history catalog.

    New Zealand

    National Library of New Zealand – has several oral history collections; contact them for Irish-related materials.

    Global and Irish-based

    GAA Oral History Project – recording what the GAA has meant to the Irish people, in their own words.

    Breaking the Silence: Staying at home in an emigrant society – examines the impact of emigration on those who stayed through 78 oral narratives and 12 text contributions.

    Returning to Ireland

    Narratives of Migration and Return – Stories of returning emigrants

    Coming Home: “Stories of young men and women who left Ireland and, after many years in exile, closed the circle of emigration by coming home again? – produced by the Safe Home project – also see their True Lives page.

    New books published: “After the Flood” on post-war Irish America, “Musical Traditions of Northern Ireland and its Diaspora”

    Friday, July 17th, 2009

    Two books published this week will surely be of interest to scholars of the Irish diaspora.

    “After the Flood: Irish America 1945-1960”, edited by James Silas Rogers and Matthew J. O’Brien, takes a fresh look at the Irish-American experience during the post-war period. The publishers say:

    The essays in this volume examine diverse aspects of the Irish-American community during the postwar years and cover both the immigrant community within the US – which witnessed a surge in immigration from Ireland – and the subsequent expressions of an Irish identity among later generation ethnics. Essays consider both social and political history, such as ethnic anti-communism and American responses to Partition, and significant representations of Irish life in popular culture, such as The Last Hurrah (1956) or The Quiet Man (1952). The study shows that the Irish-American community was lively and, in many ways, dissimilar from “mainstream” American life in this period. The supposedly deracinated descendants of earlier immigrants were nonetheless well aware that the larger culture perceived something distinctive about being Irish, and throughout this period they actively sought to define – often in deflected ways – just what that distinctiveness could mean.

    “The Musical Traditions of Northern Ireland and its Diaspora: Community and Conflict” is as much about the North’s cultural dynamics as it is about the music itself. From the publishers:

    For at least two centuries, and arguably much longer, Ireland has exerted an important influence on the development of the traditional, popular and art musics of other regions, and in particular those of Britain and the United States. During the past decade or so, the traditional musics of the so-called Celtic regions have become a focus of international interest. The phenomenal success of shows such as Riverdance (which appeared in 1995, spawned from a 1994 Eurovision Song Contest interval act) brought Irish music and dance to a global audience and played a part in the further commoditization of Irish culture, including traditional music.

    However, there has up to now been relatively little serious musicological study of the traditional music of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland remains a divided community in which traditional culture, in all its manifestations, is widely understood as a marker of religious affiliation and ethnic identity. Since the outbreak of the most recent ‘troubles’ around 1968, the borders between the communities have often been marked by music. For example, many in the Catholic, nationalist community, regard the music of Orange flute bands and Lambeg drums as a source of intimidation. Equally many in the Protestant community have distanced themselves from Irish music as coming from a different ethnic tradition, and some have rejected tunes, styles and even instruments because of their association with the Catholic community and the Irish Republic. Of course, during the same period many other Protestants and Catholics have continued to perform in an apolitical context and often together, what in earlier times would simply have been regarded as folk or country music.

    With the increasing espousal of a discrete Ulster Scots tradition since the signing of the Belfast (or ‘Good Friday’) Agreement in 1998, the characteristics of the traditional music performed in Northern Ireland, and the place of Protestant musicians within popular Irish culture, clearly require a more thoroughgoing analysis. David Cooper’s book provides such analysis, as well as ethnographic and ethnomusicological studies of a group of traditional musicians from County Antrim. In particular, the book offers a consideration of the cultural dynamics of Northern Ireland with respect to traditional music.

    For more information:

    Taoiseach discusses US-Irish relations, immigration reform, North, economy with US delegation

    Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

    The Taoiseach held talks yesterday with the visiting US Congressional delegation led by Richie Neal, Chair of the Friends of Ireland.

    Also on the delegation are:

    • Rep Tim Murphy, from Pennsylvania
    • Rep Donald Payne, from New Jersey
    • Rep Luis Gutierrez, from Illinois
    • Rep Mike Doyle, from Pennsylvania
    • Rep Tim Holden, from Pennsylvania
    • Rep Nydia Velazquez, from NYC

    The Taoiseach’s press office said in a press release:

    The Taoiseach reiterated the priority he has placed on Ireland’s relationship with the United States and looked forward to the further development of that relationship with the implementation of the recommendations of Strategic Review of Ireland-US Relations which he launched on his St Patrick’s Day visit to the US. He stressed the importance of human interaction across the Atlantic and the need to develop all opportunities to enable Irish and US citizens to visit, work and study in each others countries.

    There was also a lengthy discussion of the prospects for immigration reform in the US and its implications for Irish citizens, including the Irish undocumented community (Reps. Gutierrez and Velazquez have been very active in the campaign for immigration reform and recently attended a bipartisan meeting with President Obama on the topic – see ).

    The Taoiseach briefed the delegation on recent progress in Northern Ireland. He particularly welcomed the announcements of loyalist decommissioning. There was a discussion on how the US can continue to make a contribution to the peace process, including by assisting with economic development and as a strong example of how a varied, multicultural society can integrate and work together for the greater good.

    There was also a discussion on the economic situation. The delegation updated the Taoiseach on the economic reform programme in the US, including tax refrom, while the Taoiseach responded by emphasising the Government’s strong commitment to supporting US businesses in Ireland and the transatlantic trading relationship.

    See the press release on the Taoiseach’s website.

    US Congressional delegation visits Ireland

    Monday, June 29th, 2009

    A US delegation of seven Democratic and one Republican Congressmen is visiting Ireland this week to hold talks with Irish political leaders on a number of topics. Items on the agenda include immigration reform, the political situation in the North, and the global financial crisis.

    The group is led by Congressman Richard Neal, chair of the Friends of Ireland Executive Committee in the US Congress, a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives that promotes Irish interests and trade and cultural links.  They will meet with the Taoiseach and Tanaiste, opposition politicians, and the President during their week-long visit.

    An Oireachtas spokesman said:

    “During their visit the delegation will meet with key political leaders and examine issues such as the International Fund for Ireland, the case of the undocumented Irish in the US, the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement, Ireland-US relations and the World Financial Crisis.?

    There are six members of the Friends of Ireland Committee: Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, and Richard Neal of the House of Representatives, and Edward Kennedy, Chris Dodd, and Susan Collins in the Senate.

    Related websites:

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