The Impact of Emigration
This outflow of people had a tremendous impact, both on Ireland and on the destination countries. By 1890, some 3 million Irish-born people lived in other countries. In Ireland, it meant that the remaining population had a better chance of getting by, but it also meant a degree of stagnation. By taking away the youngest and most vigorous members of the workforce, emigration deprived Ireland of the surplus manpower that could have fueled an industrial revolution. Instead, Irish muscles powered the factories of England and the United States.
The wide-scale emigration took a huge psychological toll on those remaining in Ireland. Everyone living on the island would have known someone, and probably many people, who had gone away forever. It seems likely that this constant sense of loss would have contributed to the sense of fatalism and morbidity that has appeared in so much of Ireland's art and literature.
Another impact of losing the young population was that it made revolution in Ireland unlikely. With its youngsters gone, the remaining population tended toward conservatism. While Ireland in the late nineteenth century certainly had its share of revolutionaries, one has to wonder what would have happened if all the angry young men running the political machines in Boston and New York had stayed home. It is noteworthy that Ireland's final revolt against England happened during World War I, when ordinary emigration policies had been suspended.
The Story Continues
The story of Irish emigration isn't over. You'll still frequently run into authentic Irish accents in the many pubs of Boston and New York. Thousands of young Irish men and women emigrate every year. The difference, however, is their reason for leaving. Today, Irish people emigrate for education, or for job relocations, or because they've always heard how much fun Boston is. The days of people leaving because of hunger and poverty are over.