Sat Jul 28, 2007
Like Henry, I’m part of the last generation of Irish people to date for whom fleeing the country was a standard career path. I emigrated in 1995, coincidentally the year that the boom in immigration really began, and the era of significant net migration arrived. My usual impeccable timing, in other words. The scale of Irish emigration throughout the twentieth century is astonishing. From 1926 to 1961, the rate of emigration was sufficient to at least equal and usually significantly outweigh the natural rate of increase in the population, so that overall population numbers either stagnated or fell. Thus, despite the fact that the country’s Total Fertility Rate was over three until the early 1980s, there were fewer than 150,000 more people living in Ireland in 1979 than there had been in 1901. The government conducted 14 censuses between 1926 and 2006. Of these, only four have shown positive net migration from the previous census, and three of those periods are since 1990: 1971-79 (+14 thousand), 1991-96 (+2k), 1996-2002 (+26k) and 2002-2006 (+42k).