Saturday 20 December 2014

Would the last person to leave please turn out the light?

Well, that's one way of looking at things, I suppose . . . A friend of mine was at a party last weekend and he bumped into a guy he hadn't seen for a few years.

Ironically, both of them had been living in New York but it was only back in Dublin that they bumped into each other.

As they caught up -- remember such and such? How is so and so? You know yourself, the usual small talk -- the conversation turned, inevitably, to the economy.

And, just as inevitably, the talk then turned to the current emigration crisis.

Now, Michael Noonan might try to convince us, if not himself, that the droves currently fleeing our shores are merely indulging in a 'lifestyle choice' but those of us in the real world know the truth.

And it's an ugly one -- people are leaving because there quite simply is nothing here for them. They are the lost generation.

But my mate was amazed at the weird curve the conversation took.

Because the guy he was talking to actually . . . blamed students for heading off to pastures new.

The State had helped to educate them, he said. Therefore these beneficiaries of a third-level education should have a moral, if not a legal, obligation to stay and help the country get out of the mess we're in.

It was an astonishingly wrong-headed and mean-spirited argument, but it's one I've heard from a few other people as well.

Now don't get me wrong. I'd love graduates to return something to the community.

Whether that's arts grads organising book clubs or literacy classes or catering graduates helping out in our burgeoning soup kitchen industry, the idea of giving something back to your community is the sign of a healthy, functioning society.

But expecting someone who has left college with a degree aimed towards an industry that is no longer employing people to stay on the dole is just ridiculous.

And it's not just students, either.

This kid, and the hundreds like him who every day are leaving this country in what is the economic equivalent of the Dunkirk evacuations, just know this country has nothing to offer them. And nor will it for a long time.

And what's interesting about talking to them is that, for the majority of them, it's not a case of simply taking a gap year and seeing what happens.

No, this is a definitive decision -- this country has failed them and, apart from the odd holiday home at Christmas time, they have no intentions of ever returning to live here permanently. And can you blame them?

Irish Independent

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