Sunday 25 February 2018

Millions of Irish will celebrate St Patrick's Day on foreign shores

St. Patrick's Day festivities began with the traditional river dyeing green where thousands watched from Michigan Avenue to Wacker Drive in Chicago. Photo: AP
St. Patrick's Day festivities began with the traditional river dyeing green where thousands watched from Michigan Avenue to Wacker Drive in Chicago. Photo: AP

Seán Duffy

Today's St Patrick's Day celebrations will see Irish people all over the globe bask in a glow of green as the world expresses its appreciation for our small island nation.

The plight of the Irish abroad is never far from the minds of politicians, communities and family members at home. Earlier this week, the Government unveiled plans to offer a vote to Irish citizens living abroad in the country's presidential elections - a move that has been well received by the diaspora.

Scarcely anyone in the country has not been affected by the tradition of emigration that is almost as synonymous with Irishness as the green white and orange.

The Department of Foreign Affairs says that there are 1.73 million Irish citizens living outside the country. It should be noted that not all of these are emigrants, with a large proportion of this number believed to second-generation Irish.

In addition, the Good Friday agreement allowed people in the North to become Irish citizens, none of whom could be classed as emigrants.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny used his meeting yesterday with US President Donald Trump to highlight the plight of the undocumented Irish in the United States.

In total, there are around 50,000 Irish people living under the radar in the US.

That figure represents over a third of the total number of Irish estimated to be living in the US, according to UN population division estimates, which say there are a total of 132,000 Irish emigrants in the Unite States.

The UK remains the most likely destination for the Irish heading overseas, with just over half a million Irish emigrants estimated to be resident in the country. A major attraction for those heading to the UK in recent years has been the City of London.

Indeed, the Irish have firmly established themselves in the corporate sector in the UK; a survey by public relations firm Eulogy found that over 66,000 Irish people are registered as company directors in the UK.

The trend of Irish financial professionals heading to the UK for work has been bucked by Brexit, with a number of Irish recruitment firms reporting a huge spike in enquiries from the UK about vacancies here.

The recession is still ingrained on the minds of most Irish people wherever they are around the globe.

One country that saw a mass influx of Irish during that time was Australia.

Following the collapse of the construction sector at home, Irish tradespeople flocked to secure work down under. The UN figures show that there are just over 100,000 Irish emigrants now in Australia.

Such has been the exodus, the Construction Industry Federation is hoping to attract 112,000 workers home in order to meet demand in the sector between now and 2020.

Another domestic sector that has been hit by emigration in recent years is nursing.

Minister for Health Simon Harris recently went on record to say that he "needed nurses to come home".Figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland estimate that around 15,000 nurses have left the country over the past six years.

There's no doubt that the Irish have made and continue to make an impact wherever they go around the world.

Yet today of all days, many of them will reflect on that old Irish proverb, Níl aon tinteán mar thinteán féin - there's no place like home.

Irish Independent

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