Older Irish Migrants Living in London: Identity, Loss and Return.

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More than a quarter of a million people left Ireland for Britain in the 1940s and 1950s. The literature on the Irish experience in Britain reveals high levels of social deprivation and poor health, some of which has been attributed to prejudice and discrimination, the legacy of a colonial relationship. Other commentators have suggested the more interwoven complexities for Irish migrants in Britain of maintaining an authentic identity. In this paper we explore the myth of return, encompassing notions of identity and settlement for this cohort of Irish people, now in the latter part of their lives. They discuss complex, conflicting attitudes to ‘home’ and belonging. We used focus groups and semi-structured in-depth interviews to explore their reasons for, and experience of, migration and their attitudes to the possibility of return. Many of the informants, particularly single men, detailed their lives as exiles, unable to return to Ireland and poorly connected to British life. They describe a state of disconnection to both worlds. Others have been able to obtain, over time, a relatively contented existence in the UK.

Source: Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies Volume 30, Issue 4, 2004

Author(s):Gerard Leavey, Sati Sembhi and Gill Livingston
Publisher:Taylor & Francis Online
Publication Date:17 Jun 2006
Geographic Focus:London
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