The Irish diaspora (Irish: Diaspóra na nGael) refers to Irish emigrants and their descendants in countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil and states of the Caribbean and continental Europe. The diaspora, maximally interpreted, contains more than 100 million people, which is more than fifteen times the population of the island of Ireland, which had approximately 6.4 million in 2011.
After 1840, emigration became a massive, relentless, and efficiently managed national enterprise. Counting those who went to Britain, between 9 and 10 million Irish people emigrated after 1700. The total flow was more than the population at its historical peak in the 1830s of 8.5 million. From 1830 to 1914, almost 5 million went to the United States alone. In 1890 two of every five Irish-born people were living abroad. By the 21st century, an estimated 80 million people worldwide claimed some Irish descent; which includes more than 36 million Americans who claim Irish as their primary ethnicity.
The term Irish diaspora is open to many interpretations. One, preferred by the government of Ireland, is defined in legal terms: the Irish diaspora are all persons of Irish nationality who habitually reside outside of the island of Ireland. This includes Irish citizens who have emigrated abroad and their children, who are Irish citizens by descent under Irish law. It also includes their grandchildren in cases where they were registered as Irish citizens in the Foreign Births Register held in every Irish diplomatic mission. (Great-grandchildren and even more distant descendants of Irish immigrants may also register as Irish citizens, but only if the parent through whom they claim descent was registered as a citizen before the descendant in question was born.) Under this legal definition, the Irish diaspora is considerably smaller—some 3 million persons, of whom 1.2 million are Irish-born emigrants. This is still a large ratio for any country.
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