The Irish diaspora is continuing to expand, as tens of thousands of Irish leave the Republic in the wake of the ongoing economic troubles. (I'm unaware of any specific trends regarding Northern Ireland; leave links here if you'd like.)
Canada is taking on greater importance. An Irish Times blog post claims that three-quarters of Irish emigrants in 2011 went to the United Kingdom, Australia, and the remainder of the European Union, each destination accounting for roughly a quarter of the emigrants, with Canada and the United States each accounting for roughly a tenth. A more recent article suggests that Canada is starting to catch up to Australia, with news items like the February Irish Examiner article claiming that 6350 Canadian work visas were snapped up at a job fair over just four days and ention being made of the labour-hungry economy of Alberta.
Ontario, and the Toronto where I live, are also destinations. Back in November, I blogged about a Toronto Life article detailing how Gaelic football and real Irish pubs played critical roles in connecting Irish migrants to jobs. Two recent articles in the Toronto press highlight these interesting contingent mechanisms. The Torontoist post "An Irish Sport Gains Popularity in Toronto", by Sarah-Joyce Battersby, highlights Gaelic football.
[W]ith a new wave of Irish immigrants coming to find work in Canada, the sport has taken on a special role.
“The Toronto GAA has taken it on to make our best efforts to take care of people coming over,” spokesperson John Creery told us. “When you come over, the most important thing is to find work and a home. The Irish community in general is good, and they’re realy helpful, but the GAA community in particular is great for that.”
That’s how Creery got settled when he moved to Canada in 2001 from Lugan, a small town in County Armagh. Creery had been playing Gaelic football all his life. Soon after moving to Toronto, he met a team coach. “When he heard my accent he wanted me to come play for him,” said Creery.
Most of Creery’s friends are people he met through the Gaelic football community. And he said people involved in the sport look out for one another, helping new recruits find out about job prospects, apartments, and the Canadian way of life.
The support is helpful not only to the players, but also to their families in Ireland. “This way,” Creery said, “families back home know their loved one is being welcomed and taken care of, and has someone here to look in on them.”
St. Patrick's Day was Sunday. On that day, Toronto Star writer Antonia Zerbisias described how the parade provided a venue for meet-up groups, if not immediately a job.
Damien Lenihan could use some of that mythical luck of the Irish.
The 33 year old Dublin native, who came to Toronto last September, is looking for work — and a future in Canada.
“Every time I ring home, everyone says ‘Don’t come back, things are really bad, you’re not missing anything,’ ” he says. “Everyone seems really depressed.”
On Sunday, he shivered in a light leather jacket and hoodie as Toronto’s 26th St. Patrick’s Day passed on Queen St. W. Lenihan recognized Mayor Rob Ford, and seemed to approve of the floats and bands. But he spent most of the parade asking questions about jobs and life in Canada.
[. . .]
Still, as cold as it was on Sunday, Lenihan was basking in the warmth of a new group of friends, thanks to a meet-up organized online by the Irish Association of Toronto.
“It’s like they’re strangers in a strange land, and they’re coming in the hundreds and thousands because the economy is so awful there,” explains Leah Morrigan, a proud holder of dual citizenship and the association’s vice-president. “This is good fun because a lot of the Irish don’t have anybody to latch on to. We like to be a bit of a welcoming committee for them.”
I'm fascinated by these contingencies that help determine the direction and eventual success (or failure) of individuals' efforts at making a success of migration. These individual stories determine are hardly unique to Irish migrants to Toronto; they undergird every migration story.