This page explains the recent turbulent history of Ireland and briefly explains why we have experienced so much immigration and emigration in the past 150 years or so. Firstly, an explanation since the two words are often confused - remember that they describe a perspective:
Thus, let us take the situation of the Irish people who had to make the terrible decision to leave their native land during the 1840s due to famine. They were born in Ireland and left - from an Irish perspective they were (and are) emigrants. Many departed for the USA - to the citizens of that country the Irish were immigrants. For an account of an Irish emigrant, see my Expats pages and Tony Ward's blog.
This short preces also reminds us that the Irish people knew the hardships involved in leaving one's mother country, probably never to return. Being a family-oriented society helped the Irish emigrants to survive in their adopted lands, including the UK, USA and the southern hemisphere.
Modern Ireland is something of a dichotomy; having lost millions due to emigration, our thriving economy results in the lowest level of emigration in recent centuries. The other part of the dichotomy is that our economy attracts a large number of economic migrants; over 5% of the population in the Republic of Ireland are Polish!
These new immigrants are very necessary for the economy since we don't have enough labour. Part of Ireland's success is due to good training and vocations at secondary level education, attracting a large number of highly-technical manufacturing industries in recent years. The lack of unemployment amongst educated Irish has left a gap for more menial work, filled by the increasing number of immigrants.
I have nothing against our immigrants but I must confess that we Irish have little experience of dealing with people beyond our limited cultural boundaries. Thus, the majority of native Irish bear no grudge against them but are ignorant of the situation of these immigrants. The influx is good since it forces us to broaden our horizions. Indeed, our ancestors who survived the uprooting process and thrived in new lands know more about dealing with diversity and different cultures, particularly how to integrate. Those of us left to 'man the fort' need to understand the needs of our new friends - after all, we should learn from our history and remember that the Irish abroad were not always given a warm welcome. They survived because of their congeniality and gradual integration.
All we ask from our new neighbours in some patience and understanding, and an attempt to integrate into our diverse and lively culture. Peter Scott (editor).