Useful Notes: The Irish Diaspora
"Ladies and gentlemen, as you probably know, Irelandís biggest export is people."
"Our Diaspora includes people as diverse as a third-generation Irish-American steelworker in Pittsburgh; a Dublin-born financial expert working in Hong Kong; an Irish-Australian family in Perth; a Galway-born pensioner in North London; a young Cork-born designer in Paris, and a fifth-generation Irish-Argentinian or Newfoundlander whose lilting Irish brogue is remarkably strong for someone who has never set foot on Irish soil and proof positive of the longevity of the Irish imprint."
—President Mary McAleese
About 6 million people live on the island of Ireland, yet worldwide at least 10 times that number claim Irish ancestry (35 million in the United States alone), one of the few diasporas demonstrably much larger than the home population (the other big ones being the Jewish, Armenian, Lebanese, and Palestinian). Thanks to over a century of poverty and lack of opportunities at home, the Irish can be found just about anywhere.
People in Ireland have a mixed but mostly affectionate relationship with the diaspora, especially the American part of it, including claiming the current president as one of their own
A great deal of fiction has been created which deals with relations between the diaspora and Ireland. The most famous of these is probably the John Wayne
film The Quiet Man
. Not only is Wayne's character himself an American "returning" to Ireland, but it was made by Irish-American John Ford
as something of a love letter towards his parents' home country.
On the other hand, there's the film version of The Field
, in which an American returns to Ireland to buy the eponymous field. The man renting the field, which he has turned from a barren patch of dirt to a lush expanse of green, sees the American as a traitor who abandoned the country when times got tough, and has now returned to pave over everything the faithful Irish have worked to rebuild. This is the stereotype of the "plastic Paddy", common in both Ireland and Britain, of people whose connection to Ireland may be three or more generations in the past and who only claim to be Irish when it's convenient. The "plastic Paddy" stereotype has especially negative connotations in Britain and Northern Ireland
, where it's often associated with groups like NORAID that supported the PIRA with arms and money during The Troubles
Tropes associated with the Irish Diaspora include: