Below is a study that weve come across, some of its findings are interesting and comment or queries should be sent to Hugh Garavan, his mail address email@example.com
Hugh Garavan , Dr. Michael Doherty : Bowling Green State University
Dr. Aidan Moran: University College Dublin
Mail correspondence to: Hugh Garavan, Department of Psychiatry, MFRC Medical College of Wisconsin,
8701 Watertown Plank Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53226, USA#
Origins of Irish Abroad: Emigration.
Importance of the Irish Abroad.
Neglect of the Irish Abroad
Procedure and Subjects
How is the emigrant received?
What difficulties have been experienced?
Intentions to return to Ireland?
Liberalisation in Ireland?
Voting rights for emigrants?
Keeping in contact?
Suggestions for practical ways in which emigrants can play a more important role in Irish life?
We surveyed Irish emigrants on their experiences of emigrating and on their attitudes towards Ireland. The emigrants were the readers of a weekly newsletter, The Irish Emigrant, that is distributed world-wide via electronic mail. Our 495 respondents (438 of them Irish emigrants),writing from 17 different countries, provided us with information particular to the emigrant's experience (reasons for having emigrated, difficulties encountered, anti-Irish prejudice, etc.) as well as information on their perceptions of Ireland. These emigrants, largely professional and technologically adept, present a picture of being generally well-received and of being quite content in their new homes. For almost all, the emigrant experience has been rewarding and many do not intend to return to Ireland. The problems that are anticipated, both by those who intend to return and those who do not, as well as the emigrant's particular perspective on Ireland, are described. Their suggestions for how they, as emigrants, can play a practical role in life in Ireland are presented.
So pack up your sea-stores, consider no longer,
Ten dollars a week is not very bad pay,
With no taxes or tithes to devour up your wages,
When you're on the green fields of America"
("The Green Fields of America," traditional ballad)
Ever since the legendary voyages of St. Brendan, who is alleged to have discovered America, Irish people have acquired a reputation as indefatigable travellers. For over a thousand years, they have wandered the globe, more as crusaders and adventurers than as colonists. The motivation for these travels varied significantly depending on the era involved. The earliest Irish emigrants were missionaries, whose exile was voluntary and inspired by proselytising zeal. But in the nineteenth century, the vast majority of Irish emigrants were forced to leave the country by economic or political circumstances. Indeed, the "famine decade" (1845-1855) witnessed the largest mass exodus of Irish people in recorded history. Even today, Ireland has one of the highest rates of migration in the European Union (Pollak, 1993). Economic necessity is not the only determinant of contemporary emigration; some have chosen to leave to fulfil educational or occupational aspirations in new environments. But regardless of their reasons for emigration, Irish people abroad have retained a keen interest in contemporary Irish affairs. Evidence of this comes from the popularity of periodicals (e.g., Ireland of the Welcomes magazine; The Irish Echo newspaper), electronic mail newsletters (e.g., The Irish Emigrant) and 24-hour satellite-radio news services for expatriates.
As a result of their travels, Irish people and their descendants may be found all over the world. O'Dowd (1993) estimates that there may be as many as 60 million people of Irish descent now living outside Ireland. This is probably an under-estimate because in North America alone over 40 million people claim Irish "roots" (Lee, 1984). Despite their ubiquity, the Irish abroad have attracted little research interest from psychologists, a search of Psychological Abstracts and the Social Sciences Citation Index revealing no published psychological research on the Irish Diaspora. However, a sociologist, Corcoran (1993), recently produced a major study of illegal Irish immigrants in the USA. But (and especially in the case of "legal" emigrants of higher socioeconomic status), we know surprisingly little about Irish expatriates' attitudes towards, and aspirations for, their motherland. Accordingly, the present study was designed to explore this aspect of the "Irish mind abroad;" our focus being on those emigrants who, primarily, chose to leave rather than having been forced to do so for economic reasons. These are emigrants who left to advance themselves and subsequently prospered. Before presenting our research, however, we consider some background information about the origins, importance and neglect of Irish people living abroad.
Emigration has been a feature of Irish life since the "great potato famine" of 1845-1849. Before this calamity, the population of the country had increased from about 5 million in 1800 to about 8 million in 1845 (Mulcahy & Fitzgibbon, 1982). But during the famine years, Ireland's population loss was about 2.5 million. Of these, about 1.0 million people starved to death while another 1.5 million emigrated (Swift, 1992). The impact of the famine can be gauged from the fact that while the population of most European countries increased considerably between 1840 and 1900, Ireland's was virtually halved. Between 1820 and 1910, almost 5 million Irish departed for such destinations as the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (Swift, 1992).
Emigration did not stop when the famine ended. Between the late 1840s and 1921, official statistics show that about 4,750,000 Irish people went to North America, 375,000 went to Australia and about 70,000 to New Zealand (Kelly & Nic Giolla Choille, 1990). This exodus has continued. In fact, the records of the Central Statistics Office indicate that between 1982 and 1989, about 5% of the population departed from Ireland. This figure is probably an under-estimate, because an unknown number of people emigrate illegally to the United States each year. Historically, apart from England, the most popular destinations for post-famine Irish emigrants have been the "new worlds" of North America, Australia, and New Zealand. In passing, it should be noted that Irish emigrants have not always encountered open doors and economic success. For example, in England, between the 1930s and the 1950s, many Irish immigrants suffered considerable hostility and prejudice. This anti-Irish racism has been well documented (e.g. Curtis, 1984).
Emigration patterns have changed since the last century. As a consequence of Ireland's accession to the European Union in the early 1970s, continental countries such as Germany and Holland have become increasingly popular host locations for Irish émigrés. Unfortunately, destination patterns are difficult to establish for several reasons. First, official statistics estimate only the number of people who emigrate each year, not the destination. Second, no records are available for emigration to countries (such as England) that do not require entry visas of Irish people (due to mutual recognition of passports by member states of the European Union). Third, even in countries with strict immigration requirements (e.g., USA), illegal entry by Irish emigrants seems to be widespread, and there is no official way of estimating how many Irish people are living and working illegally in these countries.
The Irish abroad constitute a vast and influential group. The size of this Diaspora has been described, but what of its potential importance to Ireland? First, the tourist industry depends greatly on people of Irish extraction coming home in search of their "roots." In addition, economic assistance for Irish emigrants has been provided indirectly by ethnic Irish politicians in other countries. For example, extra visas for Irish people wishing to emigrate to the US were obtained in 1990 through political pressure exerted by a prominent Irish-American, Bruce Morrison. It is believed that these "Morrison visas" will enable approximately 70,000 Irish people to emigrate to the US over the next three years (Pollak, 1993). At the political level, Irish-Americans played a role in facilitating the 1993 British-Irish joint declaration (or "peace plan") on Northern Ireland. For example, in December 1993, 220 leading Irish-Americans (including 85 heads of major US corporations) placed a one-page advertisement in the New York Times to express their support for this important policy statement (O'Clery, 1993). Finally, the emergence of "Irish Cultural Studies" programmes abroad (e.g., see Danaher, 1992) has stimulated academic concern with the origins and consequences of Irish heritage. These programmes provide a vehicle for establishing cultural and economic links between the Irish at home and abroad.
At first glance, the failure of cross-cultural psychologists to examine the "Irish mind abroad" is surprising in view of the sheer size of the Irish Diaspora, and because emigration constitutes "the great fact of Irish social history" (Foster 1988, p. 345). Closer analysis suggests two possible reasons why Irish emigrants have received such little attention.
First, it is usually ethnic groups with "adjustment problems" that capture sociological or psychological interest. Historically, however, Irish immigrants have been rather successful in their host cultures.
McCaffrey (1976), in a historical study of Irish-Americans, concluded that "most of them have become so successful in the United States that they no longer pose a social problem or a political crisis" (p. 4). Irish emigrants have achieved remarkable economic and political success wherever they have settled. For example, ethnic Irish people have risen to the highest political offices in such "new world" countries as Australia, Canada and the United States (where 18 presidents have had Irish ancestry).
Paradoxically, the success of the Irish Diaspora has led to its relative neglect.
A second possible reason for this neglect stems from the ambivalent way in which emigration is perceived in Ireland. Although the Irish government is proud of its exiles, it offers no formal voice to emigrants. Recently, this situation was criticised by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties who remarked that "it is self-evident that emigrants are a group who have been excluded. They too have a stake in the issues which are of concern to everyone in our political culture. They too make a contribution, financial or otherwise, to the nation's welfare which deserves reciprocal recognition" (Irish Council for Civil Liberties, cited in O'Toole, 1994). In a similar vein, little or no financial assistance is provided by the State for "emigrant advice centres" around the country, in spite of the rising trend of emigration in recent years (e.g. the official number of emigrants in 1993 was 29,000 people--representing a 14% increase over 1992). This failure to acknowledge emigration may be rooted in fear
and shame. Emigration, in folk-beliefs, is interpreted metaphorically as a form of death; the tradition of the "American wake" expresses the belief that emigrants are "dead" to their homeland.
In summary, the Irish living abroad are numerous and often successful. But as yet, they have not been asked their views about any aspect of Irish life or culture. Therefore, the present study reports the results of an attempt to rectify this oversight, at least with respect to one limited aspect of those involved. How has the Irish Diaspora fared and what does it think of contemporary Ireland?
The survey was distributed by electronic mail to the readers of a weekly newsletter, The Irish Emigrant (IE). Electronic mail, or e-mail, is a means of communication between computers via telephone links. One can send messages to an individual's computer, or an individual's computer account on a mainframe computer, that will appear for the individual when next he or she turns on the computer. In this way the IE, edited from Galway by Liam Ferrie, can be sent to any computer account holder world-wide. The IE contains a review of the previous week's current affairs, politics, sports, and so on, and has been available to anyone who requests it. As expected, both the IE and it's editor, are extremely popular among readers; indeed this survey would not have been possible without the co-operation of Liam Ferrie. When the survey was sent out (June 9, 1993) the IE had a distribution of 1,435. However, because many companies have internal distribution systems and because copies are often printed and distributed among the Irish community, the actual number of readers was probably considerably higher.
We received 495 completed surveys, 7 of which were unreadable due to some sort of computer hiccup. 438 of the remaining 488 identified themselves as Irish emigrants; the rest were mostly U.S. or UK citizens with an interest in Irish affairs. Our respondents were predominantly male (77%) and ranged in age from 20 to 74 (mean=32.6). Their current residences broke down as follows, with 17 different countries being represented:
Regarding occupations, 43% work in technical or computer-related industries, 23% as academics (teacher/student), and 10% as scientists. The occupations of the rest were quite varied. The time out of Ireland ranged from 2 months to 41 years with just over 7 years being the average. 56% had lived in just one foreign country, 30% in two, and 11% in three. Given that our focus is specifically on the Irish mind abroad, we report data only from emigrants. Adding the fifty non-emigrants did not alter the pattern of results.
We listed some possible reasons for having emigrated and asked the respondents to indicate and rank those that applied to them. For their most important reason, 25% identified further education, 20% wanted to advance their careers, 16% to find employment, 13% to travel and see the world, 9% to improve on their current job, 6% were looking for adventure and 13% provided some other reason. The most common of these was a desire to escape something in Ireland, ranging from a dissatisfaction with the social, cultural, or political scene (mentioned by 22 respondents) to getting away from family or, as 2 respondents mentioned, the situation in Northern Ireland. Another prominent reason was to accompany one's spouse, family, or significant other (mentioned by 17 respondents).
It appears that the emigrant experience has been largely a happy one. When asked to indicate their overall experience of living abroad on a 9 point scale (1=very negative; 9=very positive) the most frequent response was 8. Indeed, 84% responded with either a 7, 8, or 9. In all, 83% believed that reactions towards them were influenced by their nationality. While 88% believed that attitudes towards them were positive, 9% believed that attitudes were mixed and only 2% thought they were negative.
The absolute percentages of any one difficulty are low, but bear in mind that this is a selected sample; people with access to electronic mail are almost universally highly educated and working for an organisation with a mainframe computer. The most common complaints related to difficulties adjusting to the new culture (15%), problems with the language (12%) and references to homesickness and missing family and friends (12%), with another 9% commenting on difficulties making friends or integrating into the new society. Note that these percentages refer to comments, not people. Job concerns of one sort or another were mentioned by just 4% of the respondents, but again recall the sample. Other problems mentioned by more than a couple of people were problems with bureaucracy, immigration authorities being mentioned a dozen times, money, especially with respect to the costs of visiting Ireland, and insurance problems, especially health insurance. A handful mentioned difficulty with sense of humour, and two rued the inability to get Guinness. Bar a single reference to the smog of Los Angeles, no problems with one's new physical environment werementioned; the social environment dominated respondents' concerns.
These generally successful expatriates don't seem to find the transition abroad overwhelming; the most common response to the question of difficulties was something like "none, really" (41%). In the words of one expatriate, "During the first few months: loneliness, finding a new group of friends. Next couple of months: the novelty of the whole thing wears thin; then it gets better and better." The words of another epitomise what we think may be an emotion of many, ". . . coping with a sense of loss once I realised there was nothing at home for me took an emotional toll." The words "friends and family" were typed often!
Though many respondents (34%) report having encountered some prejudice, once again, the overall picture seems positive. Also, many respondents noted that some of their negative experiences were more likely expressions of a general anti-foreigner bias than a specific anti-Irish one. It appears that most anti-Irish feelings are experienced in England or from the English in other countries. Though others were mentioned (e.g.,Scotland, Australia, Germany, and the United States), England features on 79% of all occasions that a country was mentioned. Note, however, that this figure represents just 48 of our 438 emigrant respondents. One theme running through the reported experiences of prejudice is the negative consequence of the terrorist activities in Northern Ireland. Of the 48 references to English anti-Irishness, 17 are described as responses to terrorist events such as bombings in London. Six more explain their encounters with prejudice as an anti-IRA backlash. Also reported is the stereotype that all Irish people are IRA sympathisers. Finally, 10 respondents draw attention to what they consider prejudicial security checks at airports and ferries, often qualified with an acknowledgement ofthe necessity of such treatment given the situation in Northern Ireland.
Another theme to emerge is the stereotype of the dim-witted, drunken and aggressive Irishman, reported by 34 respondents. Anti-Irish jokes are also a source of concern. Though prejudices, both in the forms of stereotypes and strong negative sentiments, are encountered (only one respondent reports having been physically assaulted) the Irish emigrant would, on the whole, appear to be well received; positive "bias" towards the Irish is frequently mentioned. The reader should be cognisant of our sample; it is possible, for example, that the "illegal" Irish emigrants' experiences of discrimination might be quite different (see Corcoran, 1993). The anti-Irishness experienced by our respondents, however, may not be that much different from the experiences of any other group. As one expatriate notes "Actually, my wife experienced far more prejudice on our trip to Ireland for being an American."
It was unfortunately unclear to the respondents whether some questions referred to short-term or long-term intentions. Nonetheless, many distinct themes and issues were clearly discernible. It is difficult to characterise in a few short paragraphs the variety and depth of responses to questions that touch on such consequential life decisions of our respondents. Many described in depth and with great poignancy the forces influencing where their futures would lie.
For those whose long-term intentions were clear, it appears that most do not intend to return to Ireland (intend to return-33%; do not intend to return-53%; don't know-14%). But some respondents were students or contract workers whose intentions would always have been to return. The reasons for not wanting to return and the problems anticipated should one return are primarily economic and career related. The difficulty of finding a job, high taxes, and lower salaries with a decrease in overall standard of living were foremost. Being overqualified for the jobs that Ireland might have to offer, or not being able to find employment in one's area of expertise or sufficiently stimulating employment also feature prominently. Many respondents simply wish to continue the career progress that emigration has brought them.
Second to career and economic issues is a distaste for the social climate in Ireland. This takes two forms. A generally depressing, defeatist and unambitious air in Ireland is often mentioned. One respondent notes "I find the air of pessimism daunting in hiring people in Ireland (not "from" Ireland - only "in" Ireland)." The second form is a dislike for what some respondents consider the quiet, parochial, and conservative political climate. Words like "narrow-minded," "bigoted," "church-ridden," "corrupted" and "discrimination" occur often. One respondent refers to "official morality that exudes like black treacle from every pore in Irish society." Fears of being unable to readjust to this society, especially after having spent a number of years abroad are mentioned: "I'll be foreign wherever I go. This is true now even when I go home to Dublin." Other important factors include being very happy in one's new home, not wishing to disrupt the lives of one's spouse and/or children (for one's children, either by taking them away from what they consider home or by taking them to a country in which they may have no future and from which they themselves may have to emigrate), and a reluctance to have to deal, once more, with the Irish weather. The diversity and opportunities found in other countries as well as the desire to continue the emigrant's adventure also feature.
The problem that these emigrants most expect to encounter, given that they will not return to Ireland, is the loss of contact with family and friends. Many worry about parents growing old without their help; "I'm staying in the US and the distance from parents and my brother is felt more and more as time goes on." Homesickness, loneliness, regret, and even guilt at having "bailed out" of Ireland are mentioned. The upbringing of their children, expensive travel costs for visiting Ireland, as well as an intangible sense of losing one's true identity in one's new foreign culture are other concerns.
Paradoxically, hand-in-hand with the above picture of a repressive and joyless society is an oft-repeated affirmation of an unsurpassed quality of life, good humour, and friendliness in Ireland, noted both by those who do and those who do not intend to return. Most emigrants who intend to return do so because of family and friends. Be aware, however, that for some, these intentions may refer to holiday plans rather than long-term commitments. The quality or way of life in Ireland is the next most cited reason to return. Related to this, and a close third, is a desire to start a family and raise one's children in Ireland. The superior education and the desirable atmosphere in which to raise children in
Ireland provide strong motivators for returning. Many simply state that they wish to return "home." A handful are wary that they may encounter some resentment from those who stayed in Ireland. Others feel that the readjustment and relative quiet of the Irish scene will prove difficult to handle: "Maybe I'll miss the 'buzz' the feeling of advancing myself gives me. Will I stagnate in Ireland?"
In reading the intentions of the Irish emigrant one is often struck by a certain ambivalence. Many of the aspects of Irish society that are criticised (e.g., the relaxed approach to work) also feature as it's best aspects (e.g., the relaxed approach to everything). While many criticise Ireland they still consider it home, though they have chosen to leave and like where they are now living they still feel regret and a strong tie to Ireland (even the strongest critic receives the Irish Emigrant and went to the trouble of completing this survey). Finally, one gets the sense that some, perhaps many, would return were it a feasible option; "I intend to return to Ireland once the ever-elusive indicators are favourable. There isn't much point in returning to decrease the emigration figures at the expense of the unemployment figures."
When asked to rate how confident they were that "the violence in Northern Ireland will decrease by the year 2000," 74% responded toward the pessimistic end of a 9-point scale, with only 17% responding toward the optimistic end. Note that these answers were provided during the Summer of 1993; the developments with regard to Northern Ireland, including the Joint Declaration, were yet to come. Fully 403 of the emigrants (92%) answered the open-ended question, "When asked by non-Irish people about the situation in Northern Ireland, particularly the organisations involved in violent activities, what is your response?" Replies ranged from a few words saying that they evaded the issue, to long, thoughtful essays.
Many (104) indicated that they condemn violence, most stipulating that they condemn violence on all sides, although there is an intriguing asymmetry in how specifically our respondents refer to terrorist groups. The loyalist terrorist group that is named most often is the UVF, with 5 specific references, while 64 respondents name the IRA, a few with unprintable adjectives. Accusations that paramilitaries are really in the game for power or money were made by 22 respondents, with 10 more explicitly using the term "Mafia." Ten respondents noted that they implore people living abroad not to "subsidise violence."
Many try to educate the questioner, with 137 references to explanations of historical antecedents and geographical information (primarily distinguishing N.I. from the Republic). Analogies are used by some, with Bosnia being mentioned by 5 individuals! Fully 75 respondents indicate that only a small minority of people are involved. There were 104 respondents who either explicitly used a word like "complex" or who said or implied that they tried to show that there were two or more sides, many saying that they tried to be objective.
There was some finger pointing at Great Britain, less at Belfast and Dublin. Some 42 respondents explain that the conflict is not a religious one (implicating civil rights, economic or other social issues), while others say that it is religious, or that religion is tied in with other factors. Solutions are not abundant! A handful say "Brits out;" another handful say that that would be a disaster. A handful put what little hope is expressed in these responses in the EU, but 42 express hopelessness in that they see no simple solutions in the offing. Perhaps another bit of evidence of despair is the 47 who said that they evaded answering such questions! One respondent epitomises much of the commentary:
"I explain that the protagonists on either side are a very small percentage of the population; equivalent to the soccer hooligans in Britain. They claim to be fighting for a noble "cause" but in reality they are social misfits who are turned-on by violence, just as soccer fans in Britain use their support for a specific "team" as a vehicle for indiscriminate mischief. Most Irish, Protestant and Catholic, are hard-working and peaceful people whose lives have been cruelly disrupted by this senseless violence. All the terrorists have done is to drive away Ireland's most productive people. Few will ever return."
On being asked if they believed that Ireland was becoming more liberal, 69% of the emigrants responded towards the agreement end of a 9 point scale, 14% towards the disagreement end. Elaborations were provided by 240 respondents. They pointed to such recent events as the legislation regarding condoms and the decriminalisation of homosexuality, the ongoing issues of abortion and divorce, and the elections of President Robinson and other liberal politicians. Improvement in women's issues and a new frankness to deal with rape and incest cases were also singled out as evidence of liberalisation. Though some were sceptical about there having been significant changes in attitudes (14 mentioned this) and others (21) state that Ireland has a long way to go, the now commonplace discussion of what were once taboo issues is regarded as quite a development.
Some reasons for this perceived change were offered. Thirty-three respondents mention global and European influences. Interestingly, included among these global influences are the emigrants themselves, who, returning with an appreciation of how more liberal societies operate, are less tolerant of Irish ways. Coupled with this is the perceived impact of the shift in demographics in Ireland. The youth of Ireland are considered more open-minded, seen partially as a consequence of better education. Thirty-five respondents believe that the church is "losing it's grip" both on the people and the policy makers of Ireland, and 16 suggest that improved communications and availability of information, including TV and other media, are affecting attitudes. However, 20 said there was still a large conservative faction opposing these developments.
Of the 240 responses, only 3 were critical of the perceived liberalisation in Ireland; many suggest that it is about time. Attitudes of emigrants would seem, to some extent, to be in conflict with what they think are the attitudes in Ireland. Our respondents were asked if they believed that the upcoming divorce referendum would be successful, and if they thought that the introduction of divorce would be a good thing for Ireland. While 89% favoured the introduction of divorce (10% did not) only 66% believed the referendum would be successful (25% thought not). The difference was more pronounced with respect to abortion. Respondents were asked if they believed that some, perhaps restrictive, form of abortion would become available within the next five years and if they thought it being available would be a good thing for Ireland. While 69% would favour its introduction (25% would not) only 36% thought some form would be available (61% thought not). Some stressed that favouring its introduction should not be confused with favouring abortion.
Finally, some emigrants struck a positive note in that they believe that the liberalisation will proceed "without sacrificing certain values of a caring society for which Ireland is internationally respected." As another emigrant put it "On account of the church and the conservative nature of the people, I think there will always be a good balance of progressiveness and tradition."
We asked our respondents if they believed that people born in Ireland but living abroad should have the right to vote in Irish elections. Whilst 46% responded no, 41% responded yes, another 12% responding yes, but only with provisions. This certainly seems to be a contentious issue, underscored by the fact that only 4 respondents did not express an opinion. Perhaps a sense of the contrast in views can best be conveyed by the following two responses:
"Yes, if emigrants are given their own constituency. Although emigrants are prone to cultivating an idealistic view of home, and of being out of touch with the issues, they could provide a sort of sanity check, as most of them will have had their minds broadened by travel."
"No. If you want to change the political system in Ireland go live there and change it from within. Do not try and impose your views on a people that you are unwilling to share space with. One of the most ridiculous and self-centred arguments I've recently encountered is that the emigrant voter wants to change the country to a more thriving economy (so that they can ultimately return), and can only do so by some tough policy decisions but these very people are unwilling to suffer the hardships involved in that process in the meantime."
The most often mentioned reasons against emigrant votes are that the emigrants will not be fully informed (28 comments), will not have to live with the consequences of their votes (23), and that there should be "no representation without taxation" (22). Some argued for a separate constituency or Seanad seats for emigrants, others (35) for a time limit ranging from 1.5 to 10 years, with 5 years being most frequently suggested. Fifteen specified that only emigrants who are abroad temporarily or those who are intent on returning to Ireland should be allowed vote (the difficulties in regulating this were acknowledged). That citizenship in Ireland should be retained (4 comments) and that citizenship elsewhere should not have been attained (5 comments) also featured.
Unsurprisingly, the most popular method of keeping in contact with Ireland, equalling reading the IE, is through phone calls and letters (99%). Irish newspapers are read by 56% while 46% report socialising with Irish groups. Trips to Ireland are frequently cited. Receiving the IE is considered important in keeping a tie with Ireland; 84% respond on the important side of a 9 point scale. E-mail in general is considered important; 61% report corresponding with others in Ireland and 62% report corresponding with other Irish emigrants. Finally, we queried the emigrants on whether or not they favoured the establishment of an Irish short-wave radio world service; 74% supporting this idea, 12% not. A few respondents were of the opinion that a TV service might be more suitable given the progress in satellite communication.
Just short of 300 respondents responded to an invitation to suggest ways that emigrants could play a role in Irish life, of whom 20 thought it inappropriate to do so, and a handful thought the attempt might be unwelcome. Some (66) commented on the great value of behaving like an ambassador abroad, while others mentioned financial considerations. The latter, numbering over 50, called for doing business in Ireland, setting up businesses or branches there, buying Irish, investing one's money in Irish banks or businesses or trying to get the government to make it more desirable to do so. Some said simply, "go back," and many spoke of the importance of visiting and keeping informed of what is happening in Ireland. There were a few calls for political pressure by one's adopted country to end the violence in Northern Ireland, pleas to stop giving money to groups that sponsor violence, and 31 people called for voting or representation of some sort.
Bear in mind that our respondents are typically well educated, often in fields that call for high degrees of technical skill and at the forefront of a variety of technologies in countries all over the world. By far their most common and most urgent calls were for the freer flow of ideas. Bring new ideas back to Ireland. New skills. New attitudes. New contacts. Let those who have chosen not to leave know what life in other countries is like. Help people in Ireland have a more broadly based view of what is good about Ireland (e.g., education), as well as what is not so good (e.g., parochialism). Get ideas and information flowing in the other direction - from Ireland to her expatriates. What is going on in Ireland now? What jobs are available in Ireland? What jobs are prospective emigrants looking for and qualified for? How can we provide information to help prospective emigrants decide whether to emigrate and to help them if they do? Some called on the government to set up a world-wide communication system, perhaps along the lines of an e-mail network, to open the world to Ireland and Ireland to the world, to tie Irish emigrants to home and to each other, and to facilitate the freer flow of ideas. There is a sense in many of these responses that emigration, often painted as a disaster for Ireland, has been a good thing for the Irish, and can be exploited to make things better for Ireland.
Many issues noted above were raised again in response to this closing question, the need to enhance the free flow of information between Ireland and the Irish abroad, the need for better preparation of potential emigrants, and for efforts to make it more attractive to stay home in Ireland and to come home to Ireland. In calling for enhanced communication, many respondents commented on the contribution of Liam Ferrie, who organises the Irish Emigrant. One somewhat extravagant plaudit was that "Liam Ferrie should be given the Freedom of the City of Galway, canonised and allowed to win the Lottery all in the same day."
A few new themes arose as the respondents came to the end of the questionnaire. A total of 185 people answered this question, 50 of whom stressed that emigration had many positive aspects, while 4 saw it as a tragedy. Those who see emigration as at least partly positive commented mainly on career opportunities and on the broadening effects of seeing other cultures. Many suggested that this broadening would ultimately have a positive impact on Ireland, as people return to live or visit. They extolled the benefits of travel; one suggested that Ireland set up a Peace Corps which would send out Irish youth as ambassadors of good will and bring them back with experiences that will enrich their home country.
Not all the comments were positive. Strains of anger and bitterness appeared, with 20 people expressing strong negative feelings about politicians or the government, and another 5 complaining about the impact of the church on political decisions. Complaints, one very bitter, about the cost of visiting, were lodged by 3 people, and 17 lamented either the inaction on the part of the government to make the country work or the hostility on the part of some people against emigrants who return. Some spoke of the sadness and guilt at leaving home, others of how upset they are when they visit and see the landscape littered with rubbish.
The picture that emerged as we read and reread the rich and varied responses is of a successful group who are generally happy with their choices in life. Emigrants with less education than this highly selected sample may well present a very different picture. The respondents on which this survey has focused are generally happy with their lives abroad even as they feel powerful ties to the land of their birth. They serve as good ambassadors for Ireland, in how they represent themselves and in how they represent Ireland. Perhaps we can capture a flavour of the emigrants' thoughts in the melancholy, yet hopeful words of one: My dream is to live in Sligo, drink down the pub with the old men, and still work for NASA at home over some massive virtual-reality type link.
We acknowledge gratefully the research assistance provided by Catherine Stanley and Beth Bender to the present paper.
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