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Monday 23 September 2019

The beating heart of Irish London

Sean Kennedy at the London Irish Centre, Camden. Photo by Andrew Fosker / Seconds Left Images
Sean Kennedy at the London Irish Centre, Camden. Photo by Andrew Fosker / Seconds Left Images
Kim Bielenberg

Kim Bielenberg

The London Irish centre in Camden is the thriving hub of a population that has spread out across the capital in recent decades.

One in three Irish-born people living in the UK have London as their home.

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Although there is still an Irish flavour to areas such as Camden, Kilburn and Cricklewood, Sean Kennedy (right), chief executive of the London Irish Centre, says they are no longer ghettos.

"A lot of younger Irish head towards Clapham in south London, but the Irish are confident enough to feel comfortable wherever they go," he says.

While the Catholic Church has diminished in importance as a place where the Irish community gets together, Kennedy says many Irish people now meet up through professional networks.

There are popular Irish networks for lawyers, engineers and business people and a wide variety of other occupations. The GAA also remains an important meeting-up point for new arrivals.

The educational profile of the Irish population in London has changed dramatically.

The most recent census figures for 2011 show that there were still 26pc of the Irish population without any qualifications.

But the figures showed that there was a much higher population of Irish immigrants with degrees. Up to 37pc of Irish-born residents in London have university degrees.

Although the Irish still feature strongly in managerial roles in construction, they no longer dominate building trades, as they once did.

For Irish-born residents living in the UK, one in three work in a professional occupation - the most common professions are teaching and education, nursing and midwifery, and IT and telecommunications.

The number of Irish-born people living in the UK is falling as the population becomes older.

There are now more people moving from the UK to Ireland than those going in the other direction.

Originally set up by the Catholic Church 65 years ago, the London Irish Centre provides a wide range of social, welfare and cultural services.

It now has a popular shop selling Irish grocery brands such Jacob's fig rolls, Barry's Tea, Tayto crisps and Cidona.

There is still an older cohort of Irish immigrants in the city, and the centre helps to cater to their needs.

The centre also serves hot meals and hosts health, social and fitness events for older clients.

As well as hosting concerts and debates, it also has a growing Irish language programme and a library.

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