Opposition seizes on Coughlan's emigration gaffe
Published 17/02/2010 | 05:00
TANAISTE Mary Coughlan has been accused of "losing the plot" after claiming that some emigration was "not a bad thing" and that some young people were leaving Ireland because "they want to enjoy themselves".
Defending her Government's record in a recent BBC television interview, she was questioned about the fact that Irish people were once again being forced to emigrate to find work.
During the interview on the BBC's 'Hardtalk' programme, was asked by its host, Stephen Sackur, about the return of net emigration to Ireland.
Ms Coughlan said: "We have a lot of people -- young people -- who have decided that they will go to other parts of the world to gain experience.
"I think the type of emigration that we have . . . It's the type of people that have left have gone on the basis that . . . they want to enjoy themselves. That's what young people are entitled to do."
She continued by saying that young people were emigrating with degrees and PhDs.
"They are people who have a greater acumen academically and who have found work in other parts of the world. And that's not a bad thing."
The Tanaiste added: "Because equally we still continue to have very many people who are working here from other member states, from the UK, from Northern Ireland."
Her comments were seized upon by the opposition. Fine Gael's Meath West TD Damien English accused the Tanaiste of "losing the plot".
He said: "Mary Coughlan has revealed an alarming disconnect to the hardship being inflicted on Irish people.
"We can have no confidence in an enterprise minister who is happy to see our best and brightest being sent overseas."
Ms Coughlan's comments on emigration were also highlighted in the Seanad yesterday by Fine Gael's Pascal Donohoe. He said young people weren't choosing to emigrate -- the decision had been made for them.
"We have 20,000 young people under the age of 25 signing on for the dole in Dublin, and two thirds of young people are signing on in Limerick," he said.