Dáil Éireann - Volume 653 - 08 May, 2008
Written Answers. - Emigrant Statistics.
Deputy Leo Varadkar Deputy Leo Varadkar
Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of Irish citizens resident overseas with a breakdown by country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17744/08]
Deputy Micheál Martin Deputy Micheál Martin
Deputy Micheál Martin: The global spread of our Diaspora is very considerable. For a small nation, it is practically unparalleled. Our largest emigrant communities have consistently lived in Britain and the United States, Irish citizens have also been an influential presence in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Southern Africa for very many decades. While the precise number of Irish citizens resident around the world is not known, the enormous contribution they have made to their host countries and to Ireland is well documented.
In 2002, the Report of the Task Force on Policy regarding Emigrants, which is considered the most authoritative research yet conducted on the extent of our Diaspora, stated that there were approximately three million Irish citizens living abroad, over 1.2 million of whom were born in the island of Ireland. There are several impediments to providing a more precise figure than this. For example, Irish citizens are not required to register with any official Government body when leaving the State, or when resident abroad.
Some countries, including the United States, include questions regarding ancestry in their census forms, and so offer a broad estimate of the total number of people of Irish heritage residing there. Being of Irish heritage, however, does not necessarily entitle one to Irish citizenship. Estimates of Irish ancestry in census returns are, therefore, of very limited assistance in estimating the precise number of resident Irish citizens abroad.
As regards information to be gleaned from passports, a snap-shot of those issued in 2007 shows that, out of some 600,000, 80,000 were issued by our Embassies and Consulates. Our Embassy in London was the highest issuing office at almost 43,000, with our offices in North America accounting for almost 16,000.
Finally, the prevalence of unreported citizenship by descent is another complicating factor when it comes to estimating the number of Irish citizens overseas. Under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts 1956 to 2004, a person born outside of Ireland is automatically an Irish citizen by descent, if one of his/her parents was an Irish citizen and born in Ireland. Many  citizens by descent, however, do not “activate” dual citizenship by, for example, acquiring an Irish passport.
Dáil Éireann 653 Written Answers. Emigrant Statistics.