Whither the Irish?
Full disclosure: Yours truly is a bred-in-the-bone Hibernophile – a big fan of all things Irish. At first I hesitated to divulge this predilection, but the other day a Woke One informed me that I should confront my biases, so there you have it. Confession is good for the soul.
The defining, enduring differentia of the Irish – devout Catholicism, hale and hearty national consciousness and those big boisterous Irish families – are gone with the wind. The mystique of Ireland is still with us, though a pallid wisp of what was, once upon a time. While the Irish nostalgia never lets up, celebrated worldwide in pubs and through music, literature and film, today something decidedly different prevails in the Emerald Isle.
First some history. The 26 counties that comprise today’s Republic of Ireland had a population of over 6.5 million in the mid-1840s. Then came the potato famine. Starvation made a hard life abominable, and over the next decade 2.5 million Irish emigrated, some 1.8 million going to the US. By 1855 Ireland’s population was down to 5 million, with a fertility rate of 3.6. Half of those born in 19th Century Ireland left for greener pastures.
The Irish abroad did quite well, forming thriving communities throughout the Anglosphere. Word got around, encouraging even more to leave the old sod. Robust emigration continued into the 20th Century. From 1846 to 1914, 6.5 million left – the world’s highest per capita emigration. By 1900 Ireland’s fertility rate was 3.04.
Six years after the Easter Rising, in 1922, the 26 counties finally gained their independence. The Irish Free State had 3,070,000 Irish with a fertility rate of 2.61.
Ireland’s population bottomed out in 1961 at 2,818,000. As if to compensate, the fertility rate was a healthy 3.78. When President John F. Kennedy visited his ancestral homeland, he observed that “Most countries send out oil or iron, steel or gold, or some other crop, but Ireland has had only one export and that is its people.”
With an improving economy, by 1990 Ireland’s population had rebounded to 3.5 million with a fertility rate of 2.12, just a hair above the 2.1 replacement-level.
Then came the “Celtic Tiger” economy of the 1990s. Waves of immigrants arrived atop a flood of returning expatriates. By 2000 Ireland had 3.8 million people. By 2020 there were 4,977,000 with a fertility rate of 1.63.
EU membership had helped to kick-start the economy and brought significant infrastructure improvements. But the spoils of globalism brought monumental change.
First off, the rock-solid religious faith that so defined Ireland has practically disappeared. Today’s Ireland is as secularized as Scandinavia. See James Bradshaw’s essay in MercatorNet: “Exploring Ireland’s ‘emancipation’ from faith: The Irish used to be ‘The Best Catholics in the World’. No longer.”
In the space of a generation, Ireland went from being devoutly Catholic to downright anti-Catholic. Scandals in the Church were simply the straw that broke the camel’s back. The cultural dike was breached after a protracted battle to legalize divorce. Subsequently abortion, gay marriage and a host of other “progressive” measures were enacted with overwhelming popular support. Ireland is now one of the most socially liberal countries in Europe.
By 2016 just 78 percent of Ireland identified as Catholic, though a huge percentage of them were not practicing. Church attendance has collapsed. On a per capita basis, it is Polish immigrants who most enthusiastically embrace the faith. The fastest rising religious demographic are the “nones,” those professing no religion. Their percentage has doubled just in the last decade to 11 percent of the population.
Also, Ireland has become decidedly less Irish. Almost one in five are non-Irish (Irish are just over 80 percent). In 2009, a quarter of births were to mothers who were immigrants. Should this trend continue, the proportion of ethnic Irish could be less than two-thirds of the population within a generation.
Like the rest of Western Europe, Ireland has become monstrously modern. Through centuries of abject privation and British oppression, an unshakeable faith, steadfast national consciousness and strong families sustained the Irish.
Today’s Irish no longer have the faith, pride of place or large families that once defined them. It would be hard to imagine anything comparable to the Easter Rising in today’s Ireland. No need. Materially, life is good.
The last time Ireland had replacement level fertility was in 2009. By 2020 it had dipped to 1.63. But that year Ireland’s population was almost 5 million, the highest since 1851. Nowadays, few leave Ireland. Instead, it is a favoured destination for making money. The old formula of sustaining the population through immigration seems to be working – for now. But at what price?
Have the Irish traded their birth right for a mess of globalist pottage? Globalism does stimulate economies. But the zero-sum quest for profit inevitably brings ethnic and racial strife and rising social pathologies. Are the social costs worth it?
According to Alcoholrehab.com: "Ireland has one of the highest levels of drug-related deaths in the whole of Europe. Studies suggest that 51 percent of those aged between 18 and 29 have at least tried illicit drugs in the past. There are believed to be 15,000 heroin users. Roughly 1 percent of the population of Dublin is addicted to this drug."
In 2019 The Irish Times queried: “Sex crimes in Ireland: Why are they rising to record levels each year?”
The far-left Irish Network Against Racism reports record numbers of “racist” incidents. This stuff happens wherever “multiculturalism” is imposed. The insatiable need to import people to prop up the economy is a hallmark of globalism.
There is also a problem with homelessness, especially in Dublin.
From James Bradshaw’s essay: “[T]he Irish people may have replaced their attachment to Rome with a new deference to Silicon Valley and the European Union…” Ireland has “taken the soup” of globalism.
All this affluence is causing folks to lose sight of the fact that money is a means to an end. In a globalist regime, the acquisition of money becomes an end in itself and families, children, social cohesion and even the national birth right get in the way and become dispensable. Sadly, such is Ireland becoming.
Nonetheless, Ireland has one of the younger populations in the European Union. There are indications that a post-Covid baby boom may be in the making. Let’s hope that the luck of the Irish holds up.
There is an old saying that there are two kinds of people in the world – the Irish, and those who wish they were Irish. Hibernophiles know all about it.
“Sliocht sleachta ar shliocht bhur sleachta.” -- May your children's children have many children.
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