Irish migration to Great Britain

Irish migration to Great Britain
Total population
  • 6,000,000 with at least 25% Irish ancestry[2]
    (10% of the British population)
  • 14,000,000 with less than 25% Irish ancestry[1]
    (25% of the British population)
Regions with significant populations
Throughout Great Britain, especially Glasgow, London, West Midlands (Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Solihull), North West England (Liverpool, Birkenhead, Salford, Bootle, Manchester, Stockport, Bolton, Chester, Barrow-in-Furness, St. Helens, Whitehaven, Heywood, Runcorn, Widnes, Ellesmere Port, Skelmersdale), West Yorkshire (Bradford, Keighley, Dewsbury, Batley, Huddersfield), North East England (Newcastle Upon Tyne, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Jarrow, Gateshead, South Shields), Swansea, Luton, Portsmouth, Coatbridge, Edinburgh and Dundee
Languages
British English · Irish · Shelta · Scots ·
Religion
Christianity
(Roman Catholic, Protestant, Anglican)
Related ethnic groups
Irish people · Overseas Irish

Irish migration to Great Britain has occurred from the earliest recorded history to the present. There has been a continuous movement of people between the islands of Ireland and Great Britain due to their proximity. This tide has ebbed and flowed in response to politics, economics and social conditions of both places. Ireland was a feudal Lordship of the Kings of England between 1171 and 1541; a Kingdom in personal union with the Kingdom of England and Kingdom of Great Britain between 1542 and 1801; and politically united with Great Britain as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland between 1801 and 1922. Today, Ireland is divided between the independent Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Today, millions of residents of Great Britain are either from Ireland or have Irish ancestry. It is estimated that as many as six million people living in the UK have at least one Irish grandparent (around 10% of the UK population).[2]

The Irish diaspora (Irish: Diaspóra na nGael) refers to Irish people and their descendants who live outside Ireland. This article refers to those who reside in Great Britain, the largest island and principal territory of the United Kingdom.

Medieval era

During the Dark Ages, significant Irish settlement of western Britain took place. The 'traditional' view is that Gaelic language and culture was brought to Scotland, probably in the 4th century, by settlers from Ireland, who founded the Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata on Scotland's west coast.[3][4] This is based mostly on medieval writings from the 9th and 10th centuries. However, recently some archeologists have argued against this view, saying that there is no archeological or placename evidence for a migration or a takeover by a small group of elites.[5] Due to the growth of Dál Riata, in both size and influence, Scotland became almost wholly Gaelic-speaking until Northumbrian English began to replace Gaelic in the Lowlands. Scottish Gaelic remained the dominant languages of the Highlands into the 19th century, but has since declined.

Before and during the Gregorian mission of 596 AD, Irish Christians such as Columba (521–97), Buriana, Diuma, Ceollach, Saint Machar, Saint Cathan, Saint Blane, Jaruman, Wyllow, Kessog, St Govan, Donnán of Eigg, Foillan and Saint Fursey began the conversion of the English and Pictish peoples. Modwenna and others were significant in the following century.

Some English monarchs, such as Oswiu of Northumbria (c. 612 – 15 February 670), Aldfrith (died 704 or 705) and Harold Godwinson (died 1066) were either raised in or sought refuge in Ireland, as did Welsh rulers such as Gruffudd ap Cynan. Alfred the Great may have spent some of his childhood in Ireland.

In the year 902 Vikings who had been forced out of Ireland were given permission by the English to settle in Wirral, in the north west of England. An Irish historical record known as "The Three Fragments" refers to a distinct group of settlers living among these Vikings as "Irishmen". Further evidence of this Irish migration to Wirral comes from the name of the village of Irby in Wirral, which means "settlement of the Irish", and St Bridget's church, which is known to have been founded by "Vikings from Ireland".[6]

Irish people who made Britain their home in the later medieval era included Aoife MacMurrough, Princess of Leinster (1145–88), the poet Muireadhach Albanach (fl. 1213), the lawyer William of Drogheada (died 1245), Máel Muire Ó Lachtáin (died 1249), Malachias Hibernicus (fl. 1279–1300), Gilbert Ó Tigernaig (died 1323), Diarmait MacCairbre (executed 1490) and Germyn Lynch (fl. 1441–1483), all of whom made successful lives in the various kingdoms of Britain.