Excerpt: Ireland

The Celts who have learned
from their history


In Ireland 150 years of a history marked by major
emigration came to an end in 1993. Since the Great
Famine of 1845-1849 — and with the exception of a
brief period following Ireland’s accession to the EU —
people had been emigrating continuously from the poor,
high- fertility country. In the course of these roughly 150
years, Irish communities emerged in just about every
nook and cranny of the world, in the UK, in the US, in
Canada, in South Africa, in Australia. 93 per cent of all
people throughout the world who claim Irish ancestry —
a total of 70 million — live in places other than Ireland.20
Had they remained in their homeland, Ireland would
today be Europe’s second most populous country.


A census conducted in 1841 reported a total population
of 6.5 million persons in the territory that is today’s
Republic of Ireland (i.e. without Northern Ireland, which
is part of the UK). That made it one of Europe’s most
densely settled regions. However, during the famine
years, when a potato disease blighted the staple food
of the Irish population, somewhere between 500,000
and one million people died of hunger and malnutrition.
Hundreds of thousands fled the country. By 1901 the
country had lost half its population. Despite continuing
emigration, the population began to stabilize — thanks
to high birth rates — in the 1920s at a level of around
three million.




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