Louisiana's large Irish-American population is composed of the descendants of two very different groups--the Old Irish and the New Irish.
The "Old Irish" arrived in New Orleans between 1803 and 1830. Many were native of Northern Ireland where they had worked in the textile industry. (Although individuals of Irish ancestry immigrated into Louisiana during the eighteenth century, they were not part of a discernable immigrant group.) Established New Orleanians considered the Old Irish to be respectable additions to the city's population. Many members of this community became involved in the import and export business, while others opened dry-goods stores or worked as journalists and printers, and their involvement in education. Once established in the Crescent City, many transplanted natives of Ireland married into Creole families.
The New Irish arrived in New Orleans between 1830 and 1862 because of the Irish potato famine. They were not so well accepted by their Louisiana hosts. This group, far larger than its early nineteenth century predecessor, was composed primarily of peasants, who generally remained within the Crescent City's boundaries, where work was immediate and plentiful. Many former peasants found employment as dock workers and laborers for canal and road construction projects. Employment within city allowed the potato famine refugees to greet friends and relatives as they arrived at the Port of New Orleans. Once families were reunited, the potato famine refugees settled in very close-knit neighborhoods.
The Irish Channel:
Although Irish immigrant settles throughout the Cresent City, the best area known for its Irish neighborhoods was the old City of Lafayette, which became popularly known as the Irish Channel, following the municipality's incorporation into New Orleans. Although the neighborhood has changed greatly since the nineteenth century and although many original families have long since migrated to the suburbs, the Irish Channel remains in site of a major St. Patrick's Day parade and celebration.
by Diana C. Monteleone