Apr 2008

  1. Welcome
  2. Taoiseach invokes emigration in speech to Congress
  3. In focus: How many Irish are there around the world?
  4. Update: Ean curriculum
  5. Focus: Broadcasting to emigrants
  6. Author seeks stories from workers in Britain
  7. On our website


Welcome to Ean's newsletter. We send out this email bulletin to keep you informed about issues affecting the Irish abroad as well as those intending to emigrate or to return.

Your suggestions are welcome! If you'd like to share any aspect of your work, or would like to alert those working with emigrants about any issue that may affect them, or just have thoughts you'd like to express, let me know at noreen@ean.ie

Thanks! I always welcome your feedback. - Noreen Bowden

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Taoiseach invokes emigration in speech to Congress

Bertie Ahern spoke movingly of the bond created by past generations of immigrants to the US in his historic speech to the joint session of the US Congress today. Ireland’s immigrant legacy in the US figured prominently in his speech, and he did not leave out a request for the US to resolve the plight of the Irish undocumented - a request that was applauded by his audience.

The Taoiseach said:

Whenever we have asked for help, America has always been there for us - a friend in good times and in bad. From the very outset, Ireland gave to America presidents, patriots and productive citizens of a new nation.

Beginning with the Scots-Irish in the 17th and 18th centuries, they came from all corners of our island and from all creeds. The Irish helped to build America. The very bricks and stones in this unique building were quarried and carried by the hands of Irish immigrant labourers.

A sculptor of Scots-Irish Descent, Thomas Crawford, created the figure of Freedom, the statue later raised to the top of this famous dome here on Capitol Hill. It reminds us all of the shared values of democracy and freedom which inspired both our journeys towards independence - the values that shine as a beacon of light and that stand strong as a city upon the hill among all the nations of the earth.

That statue also tells our Irish immigrant story - a story which is an indelible part of America’s own story of immigration, of struggle and of success.

The great waves of Irish immigration in the 19th century carried millions to your shores in flight from famine and despair. They carried little with them as they arrived on these shores, except a determination to work hard and to succeed.

In the words of the poet Eavan Boland, that eloquent voice of Ireland and America, they had

"Their hardships parcelled in them.
Patience. Fortitude.
Long-suffering in the bruise-coloured dusk of the New World.
And all the old songs.
And nothing to lose."

To them, and the legions of others who came before and after, America was more than a destination.

It was a destiny.

We see that same spirit in the New Irish at home today - the many people from beyond our shores who are now making new lives in Ireland. They too had the courage to come to a foreign place, to find their way and to provide for themselves, for their children and, in many cases, for their families far away.

The New Ireland - once a place so many left - is now a place to which so many come. These newcomers to our society have enriched the texture of our land and of our lives.

We are working, as are you, to welcome those who contribute to our society as they lift up their own lives, while we also address the inevitable implications for our society, our culture, our community and our way of life.

So we are profoundly aware of those challenges as we ask you to consider the case of our undocumented Irish immigrant community in the United States today. We hope you will be able to find a solution to their plight that would enable them to regularise their status and open to them a path to permanent residency.

There is of course a wider issue for Congress to address. And it is your definitive right to address it in line with the interests of the American people.

I welcome the wise words of your President when he addressed you on the State of the Union earlier this year and said he hoped to find a sensible and humane way to deal with people here illegally, to resolve a complicated issue in a way that upholds both America’s laws and her highest ideals.

On this great issue of immigration to both our shores, let us resolve to make the fair and rational choices, the practical and decent decisions, so that in future people will look back and say:

They chose well.

They did what was right for their country.

The Taoiseach is the sixth Irish leader to address a joint sitting of the US Congress. Another prominent theme of his speech was the issue of peace in Northern Ireland; Mr Ahern thanked the US for its role in the peace process.

Irish-American publisher Niall O’Dowd welcomed the speech and said that it would be warmly welcomed by the Irish in America. He noted that work by the Irish government was continuing on the issue, and Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern is in the US conducting meetings on the issue.

The Taoiseach continues his US visit with a trip to Boston tomorrow, where he will deliver a speech at Harvard University.

See the entire text of the speech at the Emigrant.ie website

Do you have any comments on this issue? Let me know at noreen@ean.ie.

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In focus: How many Irish are living abroad?

Estimating the size of the Irish community abroad is difficult. There are an estimated 800,000 Irish-born people living abroad today; the number has been declining in recent years as outgoing migration as slowed and return migration increased. The following statistics are compiled from a number of national censuses, and refer to those born in the Republic of Ireland, unless stated otherwise.

  • Just under 500,000 lived in Britain in 2001. (See BBC News)
  • 156,000 in the US in 2000. (See US Census figures)
  • About 50,000 in Australia, with 21,000 from Northern Ireland. (2006 Census)
  • 22,800 in Canada (2001 Census)
  • European figures are hard to come by but in the 1990s it was estimated they numbered at about 60,000 or so.

Find our more! See our factsheet at www.ean.ie. - let me know if you have any comments by emailing me at noreen@ean.ie.

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Update: Ean curriculum project

Ean has been working on developing a curriculum to teach Transition Year students about emigration for the last several months. The curriculum deals with emigration from early times through today's changing times, and offers scope for exploring immigration today.

We are currently spreading the word about this curriculum, which consists of a course outline, a list of resources, and some suggested exercises. We’ve had a very positive response so far as we’ve presented it to teachers at the History Teachers Association of Ireland conference and to others involved in education. We will be working to improve this over the next year based on the feedback we’re getting, as we encourage teachers here in Ireland to use the curriculum in their classes.

We welcome comments from our members! Download the whole curriculum from our website. I’d be delighted to hear your comments and suggestions - send them to Noreen@ean.ie.

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Focus:Broadcasting to the Irish abroad

Last month, RTE shut down its medium wave service.We are interested in learning more about the effects of the shutdown of RTE’s medium wave service, which we believe mostly affects the Irish community living in Britain outside of London and southeastern Britain. If you have any thoughts on the issue, let me know at noreen@ean.ie.

We've also published a factsheet on broadcasting to the Irish abroad, which includes information on RTE's other move affecting the Irish abroad last month - the far more welcome announcement that it will begin broadcasting Diaspora TV to the Irish in Britain next year. It also includes some thoughts on the potential we see in radio broadcasting in the DRM format, which could eventually see Irish radio reaching throughout Europe on digital radio.

See the factsheet on Ean's website.

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Seeking stories from workers in British construction

Ean member and author Ultan Cowley has put out a call for information as he researches his new book.

In his own words:


In 2001 I wrote a history of the Irish in British construction, The Men who built Britain, and now I want to publish the stories of those who were there - in their own words.

In Britain almost half a million Irishmen worked in construction. On hydro dams, power stations, oil terminals and motorways. Many lived in camps, often in remote locations, working long hours for Wimpey, Tarmac, or MacAlpine, following the Big Money and sending what they hadn’t ‘subbed’ back home to families in Ireland.

In London, Birmingham, Manchester and elsewhere other Irishmen were working, often on ‘The Lump’, for Irish contractors renewing and expanding the utilities - telephones, water, gas and electricity.

The pub was their labour exchange. Although working in the public eye theirs was a hidden world: of gangers, agents, publicans and landladies whose whims and vagaries set out their everyday existence. They moved between the pubs, the digs, the dancehalls, ‘caffs’ and roadside ‘Stands’ where ‘Skins‘ were hired each day by gangermen who judged them by their boots.

Those who were there remember ‘Tunnel Tigers’, ‘Heavy Diggers’, and ‘McAlpine’s Fusiliers’; ‘Hen Houses’, ‘Cock Lodgers’, and ‘Landladies’ Breakfasts’; ‘Pincher Kiddies’, ‘Long Distance Men’, and ‘Shackling Up’; ‘Dead Men’, ‘Walking Pelters’, and ‘Murphy’s Volunteers’; ‘The Shamrock’, ‘The Galtymore’, ‘The Buffalo’ and ‘The Crown’; exile and isolation and loneliness and despair...

If you were there, and have a tale to tell, please contact Ultan Cowley at The Potter’s Yard, Rathangan, Duncormick, Co. Wexford, or email ultan.cowley@gmail.com.

Have something you'd like to publicise to our members? Drop a line to noreen@ean.ie

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On our website

Stay on top of emigrant-related news and media in Ireland through our Newswatch section on our website. Through this blog-style feature we track media articles related to emigrants, with brief posts and links to additional information.

Here are links to a few of the latest articles - see the site for more!

"Emigrant citizenship and diaspora policy: publications roundup"
Postal vote for overseas travellers, suggests report
"White Cargo" tells of forgotten slave trade involving Irish
Clinton, Obama campaigns take Irish slants
Stop misleading the undocumented, says Taoiseach
Repatriation of bodies through Shannon to resume
Gay couples want to return: Irish Times

The Newswatch section is updated several times a week. Feel free to send on suggestions!

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Ean - Ireland's emigrant network