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There are few countries in the world that can claim a level of emigration greater than Ireland. The country's population of four million is still half than what it was prior to the the Great Irish Potato Famine, which triggered an exodus to the United States, Britain and her colonies.

Ireland's own experience of immigration has been influential - the first wave of course being the British colonalists brought over by Oliver Cromwell. And if you have wondered how come Irish-born people like Pierce Bronson, Sam Neill and Enya have darker hair and complexions than other people indigenous to the British Isles, this is part of the legacy of the 'black Irish' -decendents from Spanish Moors who traded with local Irish on the west coast. The popular idea that they were the offspring from shipwrecked mariners from the Spanish Armarda is discounted.

Now the Celtic tiger, with a rate of economic and employment growth that looks akin to an East Asian country of the early ninties, attracts immigrants. Since 1999 Ireland has received 50,000 applications for asylum, although the rate of applications is dropping.

There has been a backlash recently against migrants appearing to abuse the system, such pregnant women as choosing to immigrate just prior to giving birth to ensure their children become Irish by birthright. Immigration is new to a country that has been traditionally homogeneous, although the Irish are more than familiar about what immigrant life is about. Certainly however, Ireland wants to avoid the trouble it has seen brewing in multicultural Europe.

In the 2002 census, there were 3,458,479 Irish born and 400,016 non-Irish born people residing in the Republic of Ireland. Most foreigners were from other developed countries, if the list of top ten countries is any indication:

1. Britain 248,515
2. USA 21,541
3. Nigeria 9,225
4. Germany 8,770
5. France 6,794
6. South Africa 6,260
7. Australia 6,107
8. Romania 5,838
9. China 5,669
10.Spain 4,632

If we count by nationality instead of country of birth, China goes up to sixth place, Romania to seventh and Spain to eighth. The Philippines comes in at ninth and South Africa goes down to tenth.

ref: www.cso.ie

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