Another lost generation

Between The Lines
Huge crowds of Irish fans have attended all of Ireland’s games in the Rugby World Cup, like this crowd who were at the Italy game in Otago Stadium, Dunedin.?Pic: Sportsfile
Huge crowds of Irish fans have attended all of Ireland’s games in the Rugby World Cup, like this crowd who were at the Italy game in Otago Stadium, Dunedin.?Pic: Sportsfile

Another lost generation?

The collapse of the Irish economy has led to mass emigration and it seems impossible to stem the tide

Anton McNulty

ANYBODY watching the Rugby World Cup from New Zealand will have noticed that the boys in green are undoubtedly one of the best supporters team in the tournament.
The game between Ireland and Australia in particular brought comparisons with the Ireland and Italy match in the Giants Stadium in New York during the soccer World Cup in 1994 when the Irish outnumbered their opponents in the stands and cheered their boys onto another unlikely victory.
Sadly, like the majority of those in the Giants Stadium, the vast majority of the Irish fans who witnessed Ireland’s victory over Australia will not be making the long trip to Ireland after the tournament comes to a close at the end of the month.
Instead they will stay on in New Zealand or ‘cross the ditch’ to Australia where many Irish people have already moved to with the hope of getting work. When the camera panned on the Irish faces in the crowd it was very noticeable that the many of them were in the 20 to 35 age group - the age group now leaving the country in their droves.
Over the last three years the dreaded word emigration has once again raised its head in Ireland after years when it was seen as a thing of the past during the Celtic Tiger years. With the collapse of the Irish economy and with thousands of Irish now unemployed, the default setting for many young people has been reset to emigration.

Figures don’t lie
The extent of the recent problem was outlined in the latest Central Statistic Office figures which showed that Irish emigration is now at its highest level since the Great Famine, with 111 people leaving the country every day.
More than 40,000 Irish nationals have emigrated in the year up until last April which is a 45 per cent rise on the previous 12 months. A total of 76,400 people emigrated from Ireland in that period - 37,800 women and 38,700 men - more than twice as many in the same period in 2006.
The same reliable places such as the UK and the US are still among the destinations where people are heading but Australia and New Zealand - which have escaped the global recession relatively unscathed - are becoming more and more popular.
Of the 18,900 who went to the UK, 54 per cent were men while emigration to the US rose by 57 per cent from 2,800 to 4,400 - 2,400 of them male.
The 30,100 going to the ‘rest of the world’ which excludes EU countries and the US is split evenly between males and females and this category has risen by 29 per cent. The majority of the people going to the ‘rest of the world’ are travelling to Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
One of the most striking and worrying aspects of the data was the breakdown in the age group in which people emigrated. The 25-44 age group accounted for the highest number of emigrants with 34,400 of that group leaving the country while 33,100 in the 15-24 age group emigrated.
Most of the men who left the country were aged 15-44, with 18,300 aged 25-44 and while 15,000 were in the 15-24 year-old bracket. Of the women leaving, most fell into the younger 15-24 group.
Thousands of graduates in Ireland are leaving third level institutions with good qualifications but the demand for work outstrips the supply. With the prospect of getting work harder many feel they have no choice but to go abroad to seek employment in what has become know as the country’s latest ‘brain drain’.
An example of the bleak outlook faced by many young people was outlined by Stephen Kinsella, a lecturer in economics at the University of Limerick, when he asked his class of close to 600 students if they intended to emigrate. Unsurprising most held up their hand and see their immediate future beyond these shores.
This will come as no surprise to many communities in Mayo who through the years have been no strangers to emigration and have not escaped the recent phenomenon. Any GAA or soccer coach will be able to tell you how many of the previous year’s side are no longer in the country and a scroll through the local notes of newspapers highlighting the goodbye parties in recent months.

Domino effect
Last May the problem was highlighted by Achill GAA Manager Paul McNamara who told The Mayo News that there was a domino-effect with players leaving one after the other.
“There has been a real domino-effect since the start of the year. Lads started to tell us they were leaving in January and its continued since, one after another. The backbone of the team has emigrated. In the past, all these lads would have got work in construction, quantity surveying, engineering, health and safety. But not any more,” he explained.
“We were in a similar position when I was a teenager in the early 90s, but not this bad,” he continued. “Now we seem to have gone back to the rural Ireland of the 1970s and 80s. All the old emigration channels have opened up again. Guys are heading off to Manchester, London, Cleveland, Chicago. . . and, of course, Australia. “The old ‘American wakes’ for lads leaving have started up again at weekends. It’s very sad.”
The problem facing graduates was highlighted by the Union of Students of Ireland who warned the government that time is running out to ‘stem seemingly endless graduate emigration’ which they saw is fueled by a lack of opportunities at home.
“It is worrying that, as rates of emigration in Ireland continue to increase, the Government continues to sit idly by,” said USI President Gary Redmond. “It is astonishing that this critical issue remains largely off the Government’s radar.
“Presently, our graduates have two options: leave the country in search of work, or join the dole queue. The silence of the Government on the issue of graduate emigration is deafening and urgent action needs to be taken to give Ireland’s young people the opportunity to rebuild this country, instead of forcing them to emigrate,” he concluded.

Lip service

The question is what will the government do to halt the exodus of the country’s youth? Past governments have been accused of ignoring the problem and paying lip service without actively trying to keep people at home.
During the dying days of the last government, the then Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Mary Coughlan put her foot in it by saying that some emigration out of the country was ‘not a bad thing’.
“The type of people who have left, some of them find they want to enjoy themselves and that’s what young people are entitled to do. Moreover, they are coming with a different talent, they are coming with degrees, PhDs, they have a greater acumen academically and have found work in other parts of the world and that’s not a bad thing,” she told the BBC programme HardTalk.
Nobody is saying that politicians want young people to emigrate but when it continually occurs through generations you have to ask what is actually being done to encourage young people to remain in the country?
A recent OCED (Organisation for Co-operation and Economic Development) report states that the current youth unemployment rate in Ireland is three times higher than it was before the economic crisis. It worryingly stated that the short-term prospects for youth unemployment in the OCED countries remain ‘rather gloomy’ and that the ‘youth unemployment rate is expected to stay at a high level over the next two years and many unemployed youth are likely to experience a prolonged period of joblessness’.
With that gloomy outlook on the horizon, unless the right policies and programmes are put in place to encourage youth employment, the cycle of emigration will be difficult to stop and another generation of youth will be lost forever.

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