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    No choice but to emigrate, young people tell Irish Times

    By Noreen Bowden | February 24, 2010

    The Irish Times has carried a number of articles in the last week highlighting the perspectives of emigrants.

    On Friday, two young, recent emigrants wrote of their experiences. Paul Bradfield wrote that he is moving for an unpaid internship in The Hague, and hopes that employment will follow.

    Here are a few excerpts:

    I went not for the want of pleasure or enjoyment, nor to seek a “gap? year full of congenial experiences. The very term “gap? year implies that there is a distinct point in the future upon which the “gap? will be filled, whereupon one returns home to fulfil the innately human desire of carving out a career for oneself, or to simply settle into an agreeable existence in the place of one’s birth. Provided of course, you are able to return. Like many young Irish men and women who have gone before and will go after me, I go because I must.

    Witness the exodus. The lost generation is leaving. Moreover, judging by the demographic of attendees of recent emigration seminars held around the country, married couples with young children are also embarking upon the uncertain but now necessary voyage of emigration, to make a better life for themselves and their progeny. To Australia, Canada, the UK and Europe they are heading.

    Read the whole letter on the Irish Times website.

    A second young person, Sarah Moore, wrote that she was “disgusted at the recent comments on emigration by the Tanaiste Mary Coughlan”. Sarah is a university graduate with a higher diploma in nursing who reports that she has had several job offers from English hospitals. She says:

    I, a young person of 23, have recently moved to London to take up a job. And despite Ms Coughlan’s assertions about my generation, I did not move to enjoy myself. I left my family, my friends and all that I hold dear behind because I had to.

    I moved because my native country has nothing to offer me because of the self-interest, the naked greed, the croneyism of those in positions of power in Government and in financial institutions. These are the people who robbed a whole generation of a future in Ireland and they are still making the decisions about our country.

    Are we the most compliant nation on Earth, or what?

    Read the rest of the letter on the Irish Times website.

    And on Tuesday, a letter from an older emigrant echoed the themes of the two younger emigrants.  Tom Healy of Plymouth, England, emigrated in 1962 “not to enjoy myself but. . . to avoid a life of poverty in Ireland”. He says her comments “led me to reflect on how little the situation has changed since I boarded a flight at Dublin for Bristol.”

    I had left school two years before; my parents could not afford to put me through higher education. My future, for what it was worth, lay in a succession of low-paid, insecure jobs with plenty of bouts of unemployment in between. I wasted reams of paper and expended a small fortune on postage to make job applications that seldom elicited an acknowledgment, let alone an interview.

    In despair, I left for England, where I have lived and worked since. The leaving was difficult and painful. Fitting in took much effort, but eventually I adjusted to life here. For a few years I entertained the hope that I might be able to return and tried to do so, only to run up against the barriers which made people like me in the Ireland of the time unable to find work. I refer to the croneyism and insider relationships which plagued the Ireland of the time and appear never to have gone away. Those who achieved their place in the sun post-Independence had no time for those caught on the outside, for that would have required changes which might have reduced their influence and status and upset their cosy world.

    Emigration, I must tell Ms Moore, is as much an instrument of Government policy now as then, and as in the 19th century. Those of us who leave provide the safety- valve that allows the rotten shower in power to avoid having to create a more just and fair society.

    It might well be better to stay at home and raise hell to change the odiously corrupt system which existed when I was young and which seems to have changed but little in the almost 50 years since I left.

    Read the whole letter on the Irish Times website.

    This makes for bleak reading. It was only two years ago that Bertie Ahern was being lauded for putting an end to involuntary emigration. He himself regarded it as one of the key achievements of his administration, saying in his resignation speech:

    In looking back on all the things I wanted to achieve in politics, I am proud that as Taoiseach I have:

    – delivered on my objective to bring the peace process to fruition;
    – delivered on my objective to see a stable administration based on the power-sharing model take root in Northern Ireland;
    – delivered successive social partnership agreements which underpin our social and economic progress;
    delivered a modern economy with sustainable growth in employment and brought an end to the days of forced emigration;
    – delivered on my objective to improve and to secure Ireland’s position as a modern, dynamic and integral part of the European Union.

    What a difference two years makes.

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