Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Motivations of Irish emigrants to be explored at TCD symposium

‘Contemporary Irish migrants are highly skilled and are seeking experience, adventure and improved quality of life as much as higher wages’, says dean of the Faculty of Arts

Tue, Apr 9, 2013, 12:36


The motivations, identities and movements of the new generation of Irish migrants will be explored by four leading social scientists at the Trinity Week Academic Symposium tomorrow, Wednesday April 10th, as part of the Trinity Week 2013 programme.

Contemporary Irish migrants are highly skilled and are seeking experience, adventure and improved quality of life as much as higher wages, according to Professor James Wickham, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, who will present his research comparing Irish graduate emigration to that from Poland in the last decade at the symposium.

Entitled Irish Migration Today and Yesterday, the symposium is the centrepiece of Trinity Week 2013 (8th–12th April), which will focus on the social, cultural and economic perspectives of the Irish Diaspora. Organised by the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Trinity Week comprises a diverse programme of themed academic and literary events exploring Irish migration past and present. All of the events are open to the public and free and are taking place across Trinity campus. Other, highlights include a treasure trail for young people, a mini film festival focusing on the representation of the Irish Diaspora on the silver screen and a celebration of poetry in translation by Seamus Heaney.

Speaking in advance of the event Professor James Wickham, dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, says: “In Ireland we still often understand emigration in terms of the coffin ships and the emigrant wake. Yet emigration from Europe today is very different – at its simplest it is the skilled and the better educated who are most likely to emigrate. One way to understand what this involves is to look at the experience of the many young Polish people who came to Ireland during the Celtic Tiger boom; it turns out that they were the pioneers of forms of European emigration that we see now not just in Ireland but in other crisis countries such as Greece.”

“Today contemporary Irish emigration echoes Polish emigration in many ways. It is the more skilled and the better educated who are leaving. Migration today often takes the form of commuting, shorter term stays, circular and even serial migration rather than the traditional move-work-settle pattern of the past. It is not just jobs, but quality of life, gaining experience and even adventure that motivates Ireland’s present day migrants and for this new generation emigration, national identity is worn lightly and reflexively.”

Other speakers at the symposium are Professor Mary Corcoran, NUI Maynooth, who will focus on what lessons can be learned from the 1980s’ “generation emigration”; Professor John Fitzgerald, from the ESRI, who will present on open labour markets and open economies and Professor Binod Khadria, from Jawaharlal Nehru University, who will analyse global migration trends.

The Trinity Week Academic Symposium: Irish Migration Today and Yesterday takes place tomorrow from 2pm to 5pm in the Neill/Hoey Lecture Theatre, Trinity Long Room Hub, Trinity College.

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