Contributing wrtier Áine Feeney remarks on recent events and highlights how various negative policies in the Irish economy contributes to high emigration and brain drain
As Irish people, emigration is woven into the fabric of our history. Famines, recessions and successive government failures have scattered Irish people to other nations such as England, America and Australia for centuries. Most recently, the post-2007 crash pushed thousands of Irish through the departure gates. Since then, emigration has gradually dropped each year as the country got back on its feet, however according to a census conducted last year the figures are on the rise once more, with almost 10 percent more leaving in 2022 than in 2021. There has also been a steady drop in the number of Irish nationals returning home in recent years. Thus, the cycle of departure resumes. The grass is obviously greener elsewhere.
In the immediate wake of the 2007 crash, businesses went bust and Irish people flocked to Australia and New Zealand for better job opportunities. They were employed in occupations such as nursing, teaching and construction and doing all the jobs that a functioning society requires. Some came back, some didn’t. In comparison to today’s driving forces, the millennial cohort were forced abroad for very different reasons. There are jobs in this country now. Employment has bounced back to a healthy 73.5% in the wake of the havoc wreaked by the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of the ensuing restrictions and lockdowns. In fact, some industries are having difficulties in finding people to work for them. The issue is now more multifaceted than employment concerns alone.
The future and potential of any society lies with its youth. Subsequently, that society has to provide enough reasons for its youth to stay and realise that potential. It is arguable that Ireland is doing the opposite and that. Ireland is squeezing its youth out. It’s willing to employ them, but somehow still rendering them penniless at the end of each month once living expenses are paid. It’s unwilling however to pay its student nurses for the hours of grit and exhaustion that they give, and is then surprised when they emigrate the moment they graduate. It’s charging students the highest college fees in the EU and exorbitant rent for the most basic and subpar accommodation. It’s tearing down their nightlife, amenities and social hubs to build 5-star hotels in city centres, while some college students face dropping out of college or sleeping in a tent on campus because there are simply no places for them to live. It’s stripping them of the chance of ever owning a home of their own. It is not substantially taking seriously their concerns about how they are meant to stand on their own two feet with so many external forces working against them. As a popular Tiktoker from Dublin who goes by the username @alicekiernan stated, “I love my home, but my home doesn’t love me back.”
Ireland is a wonderful place to live. It’s a place full of culture, heritage, beauty and charm. It has produced poets, scholars, saints, and musicians. Millions of people claim to descend from this small island. Irish people have always left for bigger and better things. Leaving is in our DNA. But a government that does little to nothing to stop the latest wave of this centuries old cycle, is a government that does not value its young people and what they have to offer. And so, the figures, as predictable as ever, indicate that a generation on the cusp of graduating is beginning to leave once again, not by choice, but as a matter of survival.