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IIINFOII – Geography – countries in Europe – Northern Ireland…
Religions in Ireland
In the Republic of Ireland, as of 2011, 3,861,335 people or about 84.16% of the population are Roman Catholic. In Northern Ireland about 41.6% of the population are Protestant (19.1% Presbyterian, 13.7% Church of Ireland, 3.0% Methodist, 5.8% Other Christian) whilst approximately 40.8% are Catholic as of 2011.
The 31st International Eucharistic Congress was held in Dublin in 1932, that year being the supposed 1,500th anniversary of Saint Patrick's arrival. Ireland was then home to 3,171,697 Catholics, about a third of whom attended the Congress. It was noted in Time Magazine that the Congress' special theme would be "the Faith of the Irish." The massive crowds were repeated at Pope John Paul II's Mass in Phoenix Park in 1979. The idea of faith has affected the question of Irish identity even in relatively recent times, apparently more so for Catholics and Irish-Americans:
What defines an Irishman? His faith, his place of birth? What of the Irish-Americans? Are they Irish? Who is more Irish, a Catholic Irishman such as James Joyce who is trying to escape from his Catholicism and from his Irishness, or a Protestant Irishman like Oscar Wilde who is eventually becoming Catholic? Who is more Irish... someone like C.S. Lewis, an Ulster Protestant, who is walking towards it, even though he never ultimately crosses the threshold?
This has been a matter of concern over the last century for the followers of nationalist ideologists such as DP Moran.
Thomas Davis, a prominent Protestant Irish nationalist who founded the Young Ireland movement, identified the Irish as a Celtic nation. He estimated that ethnically, 5/6ths of the nation were either of Gaelic Irish-origin, descended from returned Scottish Gaels (including much of the Ulster Scots) and some Celtic Welsh (such as his own ancestors and those carrying surnames such as Walsh and Griffiths). As part of this he was a staunch supporter of the Irish language as the "national language". In regards to the Germanic minority in Ireland (of Norman and Anglo-Saxon origin) he believed that they could be assimilated into Irishness if they had a "willingness to be part of the Irish Nation."
Ireland joined the European Community in 1973, and Irish citizens became additionally Citizens of the European Union with the Maastricht Treaty signed in 1992. This brought a further question for the future of Irish identity; whether Ireland was "closer to Boston than to Berlin:"
History and geography have placed Ireland in a very special location between America and Europe... As Irish people our relationships with the United States and the European Union are complex. Geographically we are closer to Berlin than Boston. Spiritually we are probably a lot closer to Boston than Berlin. – Mary Harney, Tánaiste, 2000
The Irish diaspora consists of Irish emigrants and their descendants in countries such as the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and nations of the Caribbean such as Jamaica and Barbados. These countries all have large minorities of Irish descent, who in addition form the core of the Catholic Church in those countries.
Many Irish people were also transported to the island of Montserrat, to work as indentured servants or exiled prisoners. Unlike African chattel slaves, the majority of Irish laborers who were sent to Montserrat did so by personal choice although they were tricked into doing so by the promise of payment and land of which they did not receive. Some were exiled by the English Oliver Cromwell due to the large Irish population and their attempted rebellion on 17 March 1768. To this day, the Island celebrates St. Patrick's Day as a public holiday to commemorate the event. People of Irish descent also feature strongly in Latin America, especially in Argentina and important minorities in Brazil, Chile, and Mexico. In 1995, President Mary Robinson reached out to the "70 million people worldwide who can claim Irish descent." Today the diaspora is believed to contain an estimated 80 million people.
There are also large Irish communities in some mainland European countries, notably in Spain, France and Germany. Between 1585 and 1818, over half a million Irish departed Ireland to serve in the wars on the continent, in a constant emigration romantically styled the "Flight of the Wild Geese". In the early years of the English Civil War, a French traveller remarked that the Irish "are better soldiers abroad than at home". Later, Irish brigades in France and Spain fought in the Wars of the Spanish and Austrian Succession and the Napoleonic Wars. In the words of Arthur Wellesley, the Irish-born "Iron Duke" of Wellington, a notable representative of the Irish military diaspora, "Ireland was an inexhaustible nursery for the finest soldiers".
The British Legion were units that fought under Simón Bolívar against Spain for the independence of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru. Venezuelans called them the Albion Legion. They were composed of over seven thousand volunteers, mainly Napoleonic War veterans from Great Britain and Ireland. Volunteers in the British Legion were motivated by a combination of both genuine political and mercenary motives. The most famous cause of emigration was the Great Famine of the late 1840s. A million are thought to have emigrated to Liverpool as a result of the famine. For both the Irish in Ireland and those in the resulting diaspora, the famine entered folk memory and became a rallying point for various nationalist movements.
People of Irish descent are the second largest self-reported ethnic group in the United States, after German Americans. Nine of the signatories of the American Declaration of Independence were of Irish origin. Among them was the sole Catholic signatory, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, whose family were the descendants of Ely O'Carroll, an Irish prince who had suffered under Cromwell. At least twenty-five presidents of the United States have some Irish ancestral origins, including George Washington. Since John F. Kennedy took office in 1961, every American President (with the exception of Gerald Ford and Donald Trump) has had some Irish blood. An Irish-American, James Hoban, was the designer of the White House. Commodore John Barry, who was born in County Wexford, was the father of the United States Navy.
In the mid-19th century, large numbers of Irish immigrants were conscripted into Irish regiments of the United States Army at the time of the Mexican-American War. The vast majority of the 4,811 Irish-born soldiers served in the U.S. Army, but some defected to the Mexican Army, primarily to escape mistreatment by Anglo-Protestant officers and the strong anti-Catholic discrimination in America. These were the San Patricios, or Saint Patrick's Battalion—a group of Irish led by Galway-born John O'Riley, with some German, Scottish and American Catholics. They fought until their surrender at the decisive Battle of Churubusco, and were executed outside Mexico City by the American government on 13 September 1847. The battalion is commemorated in Mexico each year on 12 September.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, 300,000 free emigrants and 45,000 convicts left Ireland to settle in Australia. Today, Australians of Irish descent are one of the largest self-reported ethnic groups in Australia, after English and Australian. In the 2006 Census, 1,803,741 residents identified themselves as having Irish ancestry either alone or in combination with another ancestry. However this figure does not include Australians with an Irish background who chose to nominate themselves as 'Australian' or other ancestries. The Australian embassy in Dublin states that up to 30 percent of the population claim some degree of Irish ancestry.
It is believed that as many as 30,000 Irish people emigrated to Argentina between the 1830s and the 1890s. This was encouraged by the clergy, as they considered a Catholic country, Argentina, preferable to a Protestant United States. This flow of emigrants dropped sharply when assisted passage to Australia was introduced at which point the Argentine government responded with their own scheme and wrote to Irish bishops, seeking their support. However, there was little or no planning for the arrival of a large number of immigrants, no housing, no food. Many died, others made their way to the United States and other destinations, some returned to Ireland, a few remained and prospered. Thomas Croke Archbishop of Cashel, said: "I most solemnly conjure my poorer countrymen, as they value their happiness hereafter, never to set foot on the Argentine Republic however tempted to do so they may be by offers of a passage or an assurance of comfortable homes." Some famous Argentines of Irish descent include Che Guevara, former president Edelmiro Julián Farrell, and admiral William Brown. There are people of Irish descent all over South America, such as the Chilean liberator Bernardo O'Higgins and the Peruvian photographer Mario Testino. Although some Irish retained their surnames intact, others were assimilated into the Spanish vernacular. The last name O'Brien, for example, became Obregón.