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Thursday 8 December 2016

History lesson as half a million emigrated

Fergus Black

Published 31/12/2010 | 05:00

WITH many young Irish citizens again facing the prospect of having to go abroad to find work, the grim toll that emigration exacted on the country over previous decades is revealed in newly released state papers.

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Even before the hardships of the 1980s set in, one file from the Taoiseach's department shows more than half a million people emigrated in the previous two decades.

Between 1952 and 1971 an average of 25,550 people a year left Ireland with the figures peaking in 1958 when 56,000 emigrated.

The file, which goes back to 1971 and which was only closed a decade later, also contains a report on emigrant services which points to low wages, job dissatisfaction and poor social life among of emigrants.

Also included are letters addressed to the Taoiseach from returning emigrants and bizarrely, two vitriolic and highly racist letters from a UK-based writer in Chester, "Merrie Englande", both of which were sent to the Taoiseach's office in 1973.

In one, he writes that as the English casualty list in the North rises and as Eire moves north the number of "sub-standard peasant-type Eirean immigrants flooding into Englande increases".

His solution was to flood "Eire from end to end with foot and mouth disease and colorado beetle".

One returning emigrant wrote from New Zealand to Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave in May, 1973 saying he intended setting up a horse-training operation in Ireland.

"I know you are a keen racing man yourself and you are also a steward of the Turf Club," he wrote. "I intend setting up training in Newbridge, Co Kildare and would very much like to have the opportunity of training a horse for you."

Some weeks later, the wannabe trainer to the Taoiseach received a reply.

Mr Cosgrave had asked an official to say that "while he appreciates your offer, he does not propose to make any change in his existing arrangements for the training of his horses.

"The Taoiseach wishes you well with your enterprise when you return to Ireland."

Irish Independent

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