Returning Irish Migrants collection: The career trajectories, self identities and re-settlement strategies of returning Irish migrants

Depositor: Mary Corcoran (Maynooth University)

Between July 1997 and March 1998 Prof. Mary Corcoran at Maynooth University conducted twenty-three in-depth interviews with returning Irish emigrants, mostly in the Dublin region (two were conducted in the midlands and one in the south-east). Seventeen of these interview transcripts have been deposited in the Irish Qualitative Data Archive and made available in the DRI as the Returning Irish Migrants collection. Stipulation for selection was that participants must have left Ireland in the 1980s and returned in the 1990s. Interviews with respondents lasted approximately one-and-a-half hours and covered a range of issues including the following broad themes:

    • Reasons for leaving
    • Initial experience abroad / first position secured
    • Goal setting and goal attainment
    • Economic, social and cultural adjustment problems
    • Assessment of quality of life
    • Cultural capital resources
    • Self-identity and ethnic self-identification
    • Decision to return to Ireland and adjustment problems on return
    • Perception of changes in Irish society
    • Assessment of current quality of life
    • Maintenance of connections with people abroad

Drawing on social networks developed during earlier research on undocumented Irish emigrants in the US in the 1980s, along with familial and occupational networks in Dublin, Prof. Corcoran generated a population frame of returners. In addition, she was able to contact returning emigrants through an advertisement placed in the newsletter of the High Skills Pool distributed to prospective and recently returned emigrants. To broaden the sample she asked each returned emigrant interviewed to refer her to another who was unknown to her and she followed up on some of those referrals. The majority of those interviewed either had advanced educational qualifications before leaving Ireland or had completed advanced - mainly postgraduate - qualifications on their return. So, strictly speaking, this population falls into the relatively privileged category of highly educated emigrants. Of the transcripts deposited in the IQDA, nine are with returning men and nine with returning women (one transcript refers to a husband and wife couple). As a whole, the majority of the interviewees were between the ages of 30 and 40 years. Access to the Returning Irish Migrants collection is through application to the Irish Qualitative Data Archive and is restricted to bona fide researchers and teachers, and to students who are currently registered at a third-level academic institution.

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Published research using the Returning Irish Migrants collection

Corcoran, Mary P. 2003. 'Global cosmopolites: issues of self-identity and collective identity among the transnational Irish elite.' Études Irlandaises 28, 2: 135-150.

Corcoran, Mary P. 2002. 'The process of migration and the reinvention of self: the experiences of returning Irish emigrants.' Éire-Ireland 37, 1-2: 175-191.