Mapping ‘sluggish’ migration: Irish internal migration 1851 – 1911


  • Mary Kelly
  • Aidan Slingsby
  • Jason Dykes
  • Jo Wood


Emigration is a major theme in Ireland’s demographic history and has, as a result, received significant attention in scholarship. By contrast, the less prominent story of internal migration has been much less researched. This has resulted in a neglect of the changing geographies of those who remained in Ireland. Here we use Origin-Destination (OD) and Destination-Origin (DO) maps to explore changing patterns of internal migration in Ireland from 1851 to 1911. In doing so, we show that up to 1851 internal migration primarily involved the movement of people to neighbouring counties, even in the east where internal migration was higher. Dublin and Antrim
were however, both destination counties. Dublin attracted people from all over Ireland, but more prominently from its immediate hinterland, and Antrim (containing most of Belfast) attracted migrants primarily from counties that would eventually become
Northern Ireland. We also show that in 1851 women tended to make more localised movements whilst men moved further afield. By 1911, the proportion of people classified as internal migrants had increased by only 4%. However, here we show that migrants were now moving farther distances, being less likely to move to neighbouring counties and more likely to move towards the two principal cities. We also show that by 1911 women now outnumbered men in almost all directions, and in particular in their movements towards Dublin and Belfast. We also show some nuances with regard to the geography and gender of movement towards these cities. Men from northern counties were more numerous in Dublin than females from northern counties, and women were prevalent in Dublin city and county, whereas in Antrim women were more prevalent in the city only. Our identification of these patterns of change using
innovative OD and DO maps aims to stimulate further research on this neglected area of Irish demographic history.



How to Cite

Mary Kelly, Aidan Slingsby, Jason Dykes, & Jo Wood. (2022). Mapping ‘sluggish’ migration: Irish internal migration 1851 – 1911. Irish Geography, 54(2), 89–108. Retrieved from