Who Celebrates St. Patrick’s Day?


Estimates for the size of the “Irish diaspora” vary hugely, from three million to 70 million depending on who is talking. Where are they? (Irish Times)

Use our mapping and instructional resources to learn more about the Irish diaspora and push and pull factors involved in such migration. Then, learn a little about St. Patrick’s Day—or should that be St. Maewyn’s Day?—in This Day in Geographic History.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit, including a link to today’s MapMaker Interactive map.

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Discussion Ideas

  • The Irish Times article (part of a series called “Generation Emigration“) addresses the complexity of the so-called Irish diaspora. What is a diaspora?
    • A diaspora is a community of people scattered from their traditional homeland.
    • The Irish diaspora refers to self-identified Irish people who don’t live on the island of Ireland, the second-largest of the British Isles. Two countries share the island of Ireland: the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.


  • Can you think of any other diasporas?
    • The most familiar diaspora is probably the Jewish diaspora. In fact, the capitalized word “Diaspora” is sometimes used to refer to the entire historic and contemporary Jewish population outside Israel.
    • The African diaspora refers to the forced migration of millions of Africans into slavery in the Americas during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.
    • Smaller, internal diasporas are often linked to refugee patterns. Following the disaster and response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, for instance, thousands of residents left their homes and livelihoods as part of the “New Orleans diaspora.”


  • Take a look at the Irish Times map of the Irish diaspora, and compare it to today’s MapMaker map of the same phenomenon. Why are the maps so different?
    • From a visual perspective, the maps are very different. The zoom levels are set differently, so the viewer sees different perspectives of the globe. The MapMaker map has bookmarks, while the Irish Times map displays more markers on a single map. The maps also use different base maps and markers, and the markers display different information.
    • The maps use different sets of data. The second paragraph of the Irish Times article introduces the difficult concept of defining a diaspora: Does it describe “people abroad with an Irish passport, an Irish-born granny, or those who claim any Irish ancestry at all, no matter how distant”?
      • The Irish Times map uses United Nations data on people born in Ireland but living abroad. The data encompass the years 1990-2013.
      • The MapMaker Interactive map relies on general trends of Irish emigration over more than two centuries—closer to the “people who claim any Irish ancestry at all” category described in the Irish Times.



  • Read through the short markers in today’s MapMaker Interactive map. What were leading push and pull factors in historic Irish emigration patterns?
    • Push factors: Poverty, (anti-Catholic) religious intolerance, and limited social/political opportunities were common push factors that drove 18th- and 19th-century Irish citizens to seek new lives elsewhere in the United Kingdom, the Americas, Europe, and Australia.
    • Pull factors: Economic opportunity, available land, and social freedom are pull factors that drew Irish citizens from their island home.


  • Read through the Irish Times article. What are some push and pull factors driving contemporary Irish emigration?
    • Push factors are primarily economic. Ireland continues to recover from a recession, and job growth is slow.
    • Pull factors are also primarily economic. Young Irish citizens are moving to areas with stable, strong economies, especially in the tech and education sectors.
      Idea: Use the table in the Irish Times and our MapMaker Interactive's numbered markers to identify the leading contemporary destinations for Ireland's "generation emigration." Our last bookmark in today's map can get you started.
      Idea: Use the table in the Irish Times and our MapMaker Interactive’s numbered markers to identify the leading contemporary destinations for Ireland’s “generation emigration.” The last bookmark in today’s map can get you started.


  • So, based on both sets of data (historic and contemporary Irish emigration patterns), where do you think St. Patrick’s Day is widely celebrated?



Irish Times: The global Irish: Where do they live?

Irish Times: The Irish Abroad map

Nat Geo: The Irish Diaspora map

Nat Geo: Migration Around the World: What causes people to migrate?

Nat Geo: Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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