The CSO has just reported that net emigration from Ireland, in the year to April 2010, was 34,500 – the highest level of net emigration since 1989. Overall, around 65,300 people emigrated from Ireland: of these, 27,700 (42.4%) were Irish, and 40,400 (61.8%) were men. The two largest migrant groups, as reported by the CSO, were Irish men (15,800, or 24.1%) and men from the EU-12 (13,500, or 20.7%). The main destinations for emigrants were the UK (14,400, or 22%) and ‘Rest of World’ (23,300, or 35.7%). Levels of immigration to Ireland – particularly from the EU-12 – have decreased. However, around 30,800 people moved to Ireland in the year to April 2010: of these, 13,300 (43.2%) were Irish.

The CSO report is a snapshot and an estimate, but it does highlight three important trends. First is that the level of emigration of people with nationalities other than Irish has decreased, thus casting doubt on the idea of an ‘immigrant exodus‘. Second is the extent to which emigration is gendered: men – particularly with Irish and EU-12 nationalities – are emigrating at a much higher rate than women. This is notable in the 25-44 age group: 20,200 men who emigrated were in this age group, compared to 9,700 women. Third is that immigration to Ireland is continuing, though it is once again dominated by returning Irish nationals.

These figures are, as the CSO points out, estimates, but they are the best available information about migration to and from Ireland. They paint a more complex story than recent newspaper headlines, showing that emigration of Irish nationals has not yet come close to the levels of the 1980s, and that many recent immigrants to Ireland remain in the country. And they raise new questions that we urgently need to address, most importantly about the extent of male migration from Ireland and its impacts on communities across the country.

Mary Gilmartin