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Irish emigrants sent €5.7 billion back from the UK over 30 years

CSO data shows massive transfers from 1940-1970.

Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

IRISH EMIGRANTS LIVING in the United Kingdom sent the equivalent of €5.7 billion back to their families living in Ireland between 1940 and 1970.

During a period when economic stagnation and emigration was rife, many Irish families’ economic survival relied on part of the wages of a bread winner or other family member in the UK.

President Michael D Higgins paid tribute to the Irish emigrants to the UK in his speech yesterday to the joint houses of parliament.

Generations of Irish emigrants have made their mark on the development of this country. As someone whose own siblings make their home here, I am very proud of the large Irish community that is represented in every walk of life in the United Kingdom.

Up to one in four UK citizens claims Irish heritage, showing the scale of Irish immigration to Britain during the 20th century. Official UK government statistics showing the nationality of emigrants only begin in 1975.

Figures compiled by the CSO for the period 1940-1970 and converted to 2012 prices using an inflation calculator show that, on average, remittances and inheritances sent from the UK to Ireland came to €183 million every year.

The highest level of remittances came during World War Two, when the equivalent of €308 million was sent back in 1943. The following year was a close second, when €305 million was sent back.

CSO statistician Stephen McDonagh works in the department which calculates the current level of remittances sent to and from Ireland.

He says the detail of how the data for 1940-1970 was captured is “pretty sparse”, but that it probably had some strands in common with how it is done now.

“They must have used migration statistics at the time…where emigrants go, the kind of jobs they get, what they earned and how much they sent home”

He continued: “Fundamentally it would be a combination of migration statistics, foreign labour market earnings and other available administrative data at the time.”

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Jack Horgan-Jones

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