Irish Story

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From the end of the 1798 uprising, England began to transport the undesirable and rebellious from Ireland to her Australian colonies. Many of the convicts found Australia to be a harsh, dry country, but the opportunities for free settlers in the new colony were far greater than for their relatives back in Ireland, so many remained when their sentences expired and brought their families to join them. Meanwhile, many rebels who had not been arrested left for America, where they could be free of English rule.

The famine which occurred in the middle of the 19th Century, called by the Irish "the Great Hunger", is considered to be the primary source of the Irish diaspora. In 1851 a peak figure of 221,000 emigrants to the United States was reached. Thousands more emigrated to Australia, and by the end of the next decade the population of "Ireland beyond the sea" was greater than the population remaining in Ireland.

These emigrants took with them a mighty resentment against the English, not only for the harsh laws which discriminated against Catholics but also because the English handled the Great Hunger so badly. Their presence in Australia shaped the developing colony's culture - over 80% of Australians at the turn of the century were of Irish descent - and in America they raised funds and founded organisations such as the Fenians, with the purpose of freeing Ireland.






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