Monday, March 5, 2012

Rates of Irish emigration to New York mirroring that of early 20th century

355,000 Irish nationals have emigrated in six years

KERRY O'SHEA - IrishCentral Staff Writer - Monday, March 5, 2012

With a dismal economic forecast, Ireland is losing more and more of its population to emigration every year. Ever since the glory days of the Celtic Tiger came to an end in 2007, the rate of emigration has gone up every year since citizens look to new horizons for better opportunities.

The New York Post reported on Sunday that hundreds of Irish workers are coming to New York every month looking for employment. The staggering numbers of those emigrating are particularly profound when considering Ireland’s relatively small national population of only about 4.5 million people.

About 355,000 Irish people have emigrated out of Ireland in the past six years.

Ireland’s emigrating population does come typically highly qualified when venturing outward to places like New York for work. More often than not, those emigrating are highly educated, multilingual and boast specialized skills, traits that the last major wave of Irish emigrants could have only dreamed of.

“There’s a much better economic climate here than in Ireland,” said Natasha Barnwall (25), a Dublin native with a master’s degree in management consultancy. “I will stay as long as possible.”

25 year old Shaun Kennedy, who emigrated to Connecticut as a computer developer, said, “The days of the Celtic Tiger are gone, but if you work hard here, employers will reward you. I have a very keen 18-year-old brother who wants to come out to work after his [high school] exams.”

The rates of emigration are visibly impacting Ireland. “There are no teenagers left in parts of Ireland, that’s how bad it is,” said Frankie McMonagle (40) who, after 13 years of working in New York, had optimistically returned to Ireland to find work only to return back to America after being unsuccessful.

“The people are so depressed at home because of the economy,” he added.

Despite waves of Irish emigration at the moment, American immigration law has not been overly accommodating for those looking for working stateside. Senator Charles Schumer, a loud advocate for Irish immigration rights in America, told the New York Post that proposed alterations to immigration law will make it “virtually impossible for Irish nationals to work legally in the United States in jobs where Americans are not available.”

Senator Schumer is fighting hard, along with other Irish and Irish American community leaders, for a “Irish E-3 visa bill,” which will help repair “our broken immigration system to ensure that we reward legal immigration and deter illegal immigration from one of America’s strongest allies.”


The vast majority, if not all, of these young Irish immigrants are coming here on visa waivers which will expire “in the blink of an eye”. What will happen to them then? Undoubtedly, most will elect to remain here and lapse into a category called “out of status” or in plain English “illegal immigrant”. It is an unfortunate fact of life that if this happens, Senator Schumer’s “Irish E-3 Visa Bill” will be of no more use to them than it is to our undocumented Irish nationals that are currently living here in the U.S. now and that is, very frankly, NO USE. Bearing this very strong possibility in mind, does it not make much more sense to work on legislation that would solve the plight of our undocumented first, foremost, and permanently before campaigning for “temporary non immigrant work permits” for which our undocumented Irish here in the U.S. are not eligible.

Jack Meehan, Past National President

Ancient Order of Hibernians in America

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