Childhood visits to Ireland by the second generation in England
The close entanglements of families spread between Ireland and England are often ignored as transnational links, reflecting the hazy understanding of separate states within the 'British Isles' especially outside the Irish Republic. It examines the public record available in autobiographical memoirs and novels. It also examines the private accounts produced in discussion groups and interviews generated by the ESRC-funded Irish Project to uncover the complex family networks which structure migration flows between Ireland and England. The chapter considers life story data from second-generation Irish women and men living in England, to explore ways in which childhood memories have contributed to constructions of identity at different stages of their lives. The largest number of emigrants to Britain came from rural Ireland, especially the counties of the western seaboard where farms were smallest and economic life most vulnerable. Second-generation Irish people with 'mixed race' heritages have different childhood memories of visiting Ireland.
Comparative approaches challenge ways of thinking about particular parts of the Irish diaspora which focus exclusively on national arenas and risk losing sight of the 'bigger picture'. They also bring to the fore relationships between those of Irish cultural background and other ethnicities, which may be lost if the focus is simply on Irish identities. This chapter aims to explore different contexts in which settlement has taken place, both geographically and socially, and presents three case studies. The first is an exploration of intersections between Irish women and members of other diasporic groups in Britain, examining similarities and differences in their lives. The second compares Irish women's experiences of different destinations within the British Empire and its Commonwealth successor. Finally parallels are drawn with a diaspora outside the English-speaking world where social and political similarities point up important facets of women's diasporic experiences.