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Irish attraction

Wednesday, 11th April, 2018 5:10pm

In the eighties, no one wanted to become Irish. Well, very few bar some Irish-Americans perhaps. But they didn’t need to take out citizenship.

Ireland in the eighties was not the greatest place to be and being Irish wasn’t very cool.

Cork was suffering from the dual loss of Ford’s in 1984 and Dunlop’s in 1983 and spent the decade after in a depression.

Life was tough and many, many people left to seek their fortune elsewhere. As Irish people had done in their millions since the 1840s.

The nineties heralded a sea change in the Irish economy and Ireland, for the first time ever, arguably, became a desirable place to live. Great! But it didn’t last.

It was illusory, or at least, in the foundations of our success lay the seeds of our failure.

And Ireland ceased to become as desirable a place to come and live. But many of the people who had made their home here decided to remain here. Clearly, it wasn’t so bad despite terrible austerity and a severe economic downturn.

Perhaps we as a country are caught in a boom and bust cycle, as we have since risen again, while remaining very vulnerable.

The global economy has a huge effect on our economy, so too does the fate of the British economy and the economic policies of county Clare hotelier Donald Trump. And indeed his trade wars.

So our next bust may be sooner than we think.

Meanwhile, being and becoming Irish is as popular as ever. Or is it?

According to reports this week, record numbers of UK residents are applying for citizenship. They may be doing so primarily to retain freedom of movement in the EU post-Brexit.

860 British people applied for naturalisation in Ireland last year.

Interestingly, the number of non-EU immigrants looking for Irish citizenship has fallen from 12,900 in 2014 to 6,900 last year. There have been 1,500 applications in 2018.

So last year saw a significant fall on the number in 2014, when we were still mired in economic distress.

However, an Irish passport is becoming ever more popular and valuable in Northern Ireland. 82,274 people in Northern Ireland applied for passports in 2017, compared with 53,715 in 2015.

And who were the largest group of people to acquire Irish citizenship? Over 1,300 citizens of Poland acquired Irish citizenship in 2016.

The numbers from Eurostat also show that citizens of India (1,028) and Nigeria (776) were the second and third highest respectively.

But instead of seeing these talented, committed new citizens of Ireland as threats, shouldn’t we be happy that our country is seen as a good place to make a life and that people want to become Irish too?

It’s what we Irish have done in our millions for over 150 years.

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