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Irish Migration in 1950s and 1980s
Transcript of Irish Migration in 1950s and 1980s
An important point to note is the faith the Irish possess even in times of crisis. "[In the 1950s], practical problems were still resolved by recourse to supernatural agency. A best-selling Catholic monthly, 'Irish Messenger of the Sacred Heart', ran a 'Thanksgiving' column throughout this entire period. Thousands of letters came in from both parts of Ireland and from Irish communities in Britain, Australia, and North America, thank God, the Blessed Virgin, and various saints for relief from various worries, health scares, emotional quandaries, or financial problems." (Garvin 216). This undying faith in God's hand is what makes the Irish the resilient group they were then and are still today. What caused the mass exodus of the 1950s? Emigration Statistics Irish Migration in the 1950s 1950s Ireland “Indeed, the official estimates show that unemployment increased from 45,000 inn 1951 to a peak of 78,000 in 1957.” (O’Hanlon 77) “Accumulated over the decade, the surplus labour amounted in total to around 300,000, and this could only give rise to increased unemployment or emigration.” (O’Hanlon 77) “Emigration in the 1950s was dominated by the younger age cohorts: those aged 15 to 34 in 1961.” (O’Hanlon 78) “It is estimated that two-thirds of the emigrants in the 1950s went to Britain and, following some further outflows in the 1960s, the Irish-born population there peaked at over 700,000 in 1971.” (O’Hanlon 78) “A nation’s greatest asset is its people. National freedom, national prosperity, a national language, are valuable only in so far as there are people in the country to enjoy them.” (Lucey 3) The movement of so many people from one country, relative to the size of the total population, within one decade was, in European terms, without equal." (Delaney 83) 1. Sporadic/Uncertain Nature of Employment; Economic Factors
- the domestic economic environment created a bleak future for young people
- need for reasonable security for the future; great contrast between job security in Ireland and Britain
- declines in agricultural opportunities due to mechanization, suppression of the small farm holdings by the government, fixed prices victimizing farmers, the encouragement of products impossible for the small farmer to produce, and the oppressive policies of the Department of Agriculture that made it difficult to buy land, nearly impossible to divide land once purchased, and wholly impossible to rent land
- virtual absence of female employment
- disparity between wages in Ireland and Britain
- failure of the economy to provide the rising living standards sought in rural areas
- demand for unskilled labour in British economy and absence of regulations on entry into the British labour market; no language or cultural barriers
- lack of sustained economic development in Ireland; The Commission on Emigration noted "The fundamental cause of emigration is economic." 2. Social and Psychological Factors
- conflict between expectations for living standards and reality of little opportunity in Ireland; expectations were fueled by contact with emigrants in Britain; aspirations grew as Irish citizens heard of the "affluent worker" in Britain
- late marriage drove female migration; females considered greater opportunities abroad for marriage prospects; men who could not support a family due to economic circumstances unlikely to marry and consequently rural girls seek emigration as an alternative
- the attraction and lure of urban life versus the declining rural one; young people were seduced by the glamor of life in Britain as they compared it to the dulls backward, lonely life in rural Ireland; this ideal was then confirmed and fostered when well-dressed emigrants returned and spoke of high incomes and easy conditions; remittances also confirmed this belief of a better life abroad
- influence of the media; "Films make young the young emigrant more at home when he goes abroad than he used to be. He already knows about Bing Crosby and Mickey Mouse. Dublin is less known than Boston. Dail Eireann is only something in the papers." (Connolly 94)
- young men saw farming as profit-less
- lack of village centers in rural areas where young people could gather and socialize drew youth away from the land
- young people began to see life away from home; envisioned emigration from a young age' tradition of emigration stronger than tradition of staying
- Specifically related to female emigration, females saw better prospects for marriage abroad and also saw less controversy over illegitimacy; unmarried mothers found it preferable to escape the conservative confines of Ireland
- Female social status and autonomy was asserted by emigration; a girl reared on a small farm with no dowry had little future in Ireland; many laws in Ireland regarding equal pay, dismissal from positions upon marriage, and inheritance encouraged women's inferior position in Ireland in stark contrast to their position in Britain; again here the glamorous appearance of girls home from holiday coupled with a lost confidence in Ireland's ability to offer girls a proper life fueled female emigration from Ireland. The Commission on Emigration made significant recommendations for future policy in Ireland. Though few were enacted, the most impressive aspect of the Commission was in its ability to mark "the end of the utopian idealization of life in rural Ireland by starkly revealing the realities of people's circumstances. This led to a more measured, pragmatic response to the Republic's need for sustained economic development." (Connolly 107) In light of the Commission's findings, the Fianna Fail government's reliance on protectionism, isolationism, and censorshop broke down and were effectively replaced Dr T.K. Whitaker's call for a complete reversal in policy. Essentially this opened Ireland up to trade liberalization and access to foreign capital.
- dependency upon the UK weakened as Ireland grew more autonomous with foreign direct investment and a new export-led economy
- Ireland came to embrace the global economy with its pro-business policies (chief of those being Ireland's low corporate tax policy); became the major supplier of Europe's technological and pharmaceutical supplies
- A movement for reforms in Irish workforce educational standards resulted in an emphases on scientific and technical skills to make Irish workers more competitive
- Essentially as a consequence of the 1950s, "The Irish economic policy-making environment during this period can be characterized as having shifted from that appropriate to a dependent state on the periphery of the UK to that of a region more fully integrated into an encompassing European economy." (Bradley 120) http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152277050195282 "Carrying his cardboard suitcase, hung with medallions, supplied with a package of extra-thick sandwiches, embraced by his sobbing mother, standing at the bus stop to begin his great journey to Cleveland, Ohio, to Manchester, Liverpool, London, or Sydney, to some uncle, a cousin, a brother, perhaps, who has promised to look after him and do something for him." (Keogh 13) Donall MacAmlaigh
Donall spent his last days in Ireland visiting areas around his home. He walked to nearby Callan with a friend Mick Hogan. But the evening ended in sadness as he was leaving his old friend, Old Mick, "thinking that maybe he'd never see him again."
When the day came for his departure, he didn't delay in bidding goodbye. He hugged his mother once, grabbed his bag, and went on. As he looked back at the house, Donall left the Irish Army in 1951 and returned to his family in Kilkenny. With little work available his mother noted of a job as a stoker in a Northampton hospital, "You could give it a chance...for surely God put it in your way." Yet when the news arrived regarding the job, "both of us got very melancholy to think I'd be leaving home and going foreign". But in order to celebrate the occasion, Mrs MacAmhalaigh sent for a cake and hid her tears as she poured the tea.Donall saw his mother "with her hand to her mouth as was her habit whenever she was worried about something."
He boarded the Princess Maud and quickly found himself in the company of native speakers from Galway. But as the boat pulled away he moved to the stern to see the coast of Ireland receding into the darkness and suddenly "he felt lonely all over again". He started thinking of the old house with the pots of tea they'd drink before going to bed and his heart felt like a solid black mass inside his breast.
Donall spent his working life in England, living in a milt-cultural world. But he lived much of the time in the Irish community with its cultural reference points, the church, the jobs, the dance-hall and public house. Soon after arriving, he concluded "Damn this place, there's nothing in it! Bad and all as it might be, there's more in Kilkenny!" (Keogh 14-16) Eleanor “Above all, let us look at the problem of emigration as a human or personal one. It is people who count most; and it is people, our own people, that are involved. When we think of emigration then, we must think of it not in any abstract or metaphorical terms but in terms of men and women.” (Lucey 9) http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10152277208580282 Eleanor was born in 1950 and left Cork in 1958 with her parents to travel to London. Before leaving Cork, they lived on a local authority housing estate on the outskirts of Cork city. Here "they had a home, but very little else."
With her parents and siblings, they sailed from Cork to Fishguard and then onward to Paddington Station in London. She notes, "I remember arrive at Paddington, and the noise and chaos of what seemed to me as a small child [to be] thousands and thousands of people all over the place, and feeling excited but apprehensive, quite frightened by the whole thing."
As many emigrants to Britain did, Eleanor spend her summer holidays with relatives in Cork. Recounting her halcyon days in Cork, Eleanor notes, "The other thing of my childhood I remember most clearly were long cold winters in London and long hot summers in Cork. We went home every summer for the full six weeks' holiday...I never wanted to leave Cork; I hated London." (Delaney 83) Irish Identity Abroad England: "The post-1945 Irish population has been caught between two images. On the one hand their migrants experience and cultural difference has been denied because they are a 'white', 'British Isles' population groups. On the other anti-Irish stereotypes persist in British society and been fueled by anti-IRA fears over the last thirty years.
Irish children were educated to become 'good Catholics' and to lose their Irish national identities in the public sphere of school and the outside world. However they persisted at home and strong sense of Irishness were often passed on to second-generation children.
Yet despite the assimilation of some Irish in Britain, three major discriminatory elements remained: non-recognition of Irish needs and experiences of racism, stereotyped responses and exclusionary practices, racial harassment. (Walter 41,44) United States: Irish-American patriotic contributions in the US, even well before JFK's historica 1960 election, were well recognized. In addition, the 1940s and 50s seemed to represent the fulfillment of the ideological dreams of Irish immigrants. Essentially despite personally held Irish identities, academics identified children and grand-children of Irish immigrants as quintessentially American.
While the Catholic identity in Britain posed a threat to Irish security, the traditional Irish Catholic faith rose to the forefront of American ideology. Also in great contrast to Britain, the Catholic Church offered guidance for new Irish immigrants in the form of advice and material support. (Walter 58,62) Australia: Despite the presence of Irish immigrants in Australia since the earliest days of colonial settlement, the distinctive Irish contribution is only recently being acknowledged. Unfortunately alongside the explosion of Irish associations and activities run a strong anti-Irish sentiments similar to those in Britain. (Walter 81) “What is draining away are the human beings – the son from his mother, the husband from his wife, boys and girls from home and all they hold dear. What is going are people. And people are the most worthwhile thing in the whole world, so worthwhile that God Himself came to live among them and die for them. They do not want to go; they should not have to go; and when they go, the difficulties and dangers of life abroad are too much for many of them. They are our brothers and sisters. We cannot sit by and watch them being edged out into countries alien in race, religion, and way of life; we are their keepers.” (Lucey 9-10)