A Dublin celebration of the Irish Diaspora

A Dublin celebration of the Irish Diaspora Inside the EPIC audiovisual experience in Dublin’s Docklands

St Patrick’s day sees the arrival of great numbers of visitors from abroad, many of them part of, or deeply interested in the Irish diaspora.  

This seems an appropriate moment then to visit the EPIC presentation down on Customs House in the Dublin Financial Centre. EPIC stands for Irish Emigration Museum, by the way. This is undoubtedly what Ed Sullivan would have called ‘a really big show’; and it has been named Europe’s leading tourist site three years in a row.  


The location is very unusual. On ground level there is a wide open concourse with refreshment booths, a book and gift shop, advice centre and other facilities aimed at visitors.

But the show itself is downstairs, in an underworld of vaults and passages, the residue of the former bond store where dutiable imports were lodged by the customs.

Some visitors might be advised that the environment is not for those made anxious by enclosed spaces or who are affected by amplified sound and flashing images. This not an exhibit of relics or of pictures. It is an audiovisual show of a very up-to-the moment kind.

The presentation is in some 20 sections, divided into three parts. The first part presents a résumé of Irish history and the reason for emigration: famine, poverty, persecution. This is all done very briefly and correctly, an Irish point of view is taken, but not too stridently.


There are some points that some quibble at. The intended audience seems to be largely North American, which is understandable. But the presentation of the Irish world shows places where Irish people undoubtedly went, but made no large settlement.

For instance on the world routes South Africa is shown, though Irish people went there the settlement was small. But there are no illustrations of Argentina, where there was a huge Irish settlement, which is still influential, still Catholic, but this is ignored, as are the Irish settled in Chile.

North American visitors are clearly thought to have little interest in Latin America.

However, the second part covers music and dance through science, sport, and political and social influences – all very well done. The third part gets down to the details of the Irish mentality and imagination, food, design and creativity, storytelling through book and film, winding up to end with a celebration of all things Irish and their global connections.

So quite a lot to see and take in, so you will need to take your time especially if you have children. The varied entry charges may seem steep, but they are on a level with theatre tickets, and kids go free.

As I say the presentation is aimed mainly at North Americans – there is far less emphasis on Europe – but others interests are not ignored. I think it is a place that many Irish people, young and old, will enjoy and be enlightened by.


So a visit is recommended. By the way, the activities of Irish missionaries and medical professionals in Africa, Brazil and Peru is not ignored, but celebrated.

But nuance may be lost in these kinds of shows. EPIC highlights a great many things, but visitors will still need to read not a book or two, but a good number, if they are really to come to terms with the Irish and Irishness, to really understand the Diaspora. Books at any time are the real road to understanding.