This blog is primarily about the Irish families of Stafford, but it must never be forgotten that Stafford was but one small town amongst the countless places abroad where Irish people have settled over the past five hundred years or more. That scattering of the Irish has come to be called the Irish Diaspora and its importance was recently emphasised by the first Global Irish Diaspora Congress that took place in Dublin in August 2017.
Over 200 people came from all over the world to present and discuss a massive range of topics about the Irish Diaspora. There were presentations on the history of Irish migration and settlement, their impact on host societies, the cultural transference of the Irish, the media, the diaspora today and many other issues. The family dimension to the Irish diaspora was also discussed and I presented a paper on the methodology and main findings of the Stafford research. You can find a copy of that paper here.
One surprising and rather disturbing feature of the Congress was how few British-based people were there. Whether that reflects the stagnant state of Irish studies in Britain, higher education cuts or a mixture of other factors it is difficult to say. Two thirds of the presentations were by Irish-based and American people. Those from Britain came a poor fourth, just behind those from Australia and New Zealand. Only a minority of British-based presenters actually talked about Britain’s Irish diaspora. Today the country shows signs of retreating behind a wall of xenophobia. The need for informed discussion on the world stage of the country’s migrant history, including that of the Irish, has never been greater. Let’s hope there is a bigger British contribution to the next Congress (2019 or 2020?).