The Irish Diaspora in Leeds

Leeds Irish Health & Homes
Photographs by Corinne Silva

Emigration is a common theme throughout Irish history, one that has touched almost every family in Ireland. Until recently, thousands found work in Britain's major industrial centres. For a large proportion of people leaving County Mayo in the west of Ireland, the Yorkshire city of Leeds was their chosen destination.

Today the Leeds-Irish population measures around 20,000. Although Ireland now enjoys a booming economy, for many Irish in Britain a combination of family ties, economic dependence and prolonged absence means that whilst Ireland is still 'home', the imagined permanent return is often an impossibility.

Róisín Bán (pronounced Rosheen Bawn) refers to the floral symbol of Yorkshire, the white rose. By contrast, Róisín Dubh, the black rose or dark maiden, was an allegory for Ireland used in poetry and song during times of persecution when it was considered too dangerous to openly express patriotism.

In March 2006 Leeds Irish Health & Homes launched the Róisín Bán book and exhibition - the culmination of two years work. Through the lens of photographer Corinne Silva, Róisín Bán explores and celebrates the Irish community living in Leeds and their ties to Ireland. Silva's images accompany frank interviews describing the peaks and troughs of being a part of an 'invisible minority', the global Irish diaspora.