Sunday 25 September 2016

A century on, young people are asking - was it for this?

Lorraine Courtney

Published 29/03/2016 | 02:30

Capt Peter Kelleher reads the Proclamation on Sunday Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Capt Peter Kelleher reads the Proclamation on Sunday Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Things were clearly different back in 1916. We weren't free but we had leaders with big ideas. Listening to the Proclamation being read aloud on Sunday, I came out in goosebumps: "The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally."

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They fought for freedom. They gave us freedom - freedom for future generations to grasp our destiny in our own hands.

And national pride in our culture and identity is a vital tool for maintaining our sanity while we now wait for somebody to step up and lead us.

Anything that lends itself to a bit of patriotic bragging, we'll happily add to our collection but today's political crop don't always aspire to such lofty ideals.

They peddle mediocrity to us and we accept it. We're the reactionary, unengaged and politically disinterested generation.

We don't learn to drive. We enter the job market reluctantly. We never fly the nest.

It's getting harder and harder not to be permanently bitter about generational injustice.

Young people (and please call us this rather than the media-contrived "millennials") are too often depicted as eternal kidults inhabiting a frivolous world of entitlement, of Snapchat, onesies and Tinder connections.

This notion completely overlooks the fact that all of the traditional rites of passage, such as moving out from mam and dad, buying a house, getting a stable job and having a baby are off-limits to so many of us and these barriers to adulthood are being reinforced rather than coming down.

Rents have become so preposterous that people are audaciously letting out spaces that push the very boundaries of habitability. It means having to eat your dinner in your room, sitting up in bed. We have to consider living in airing cupboards, nesting next to immersion heaters, because they're preferable to those suburban holding pens for alienated young professionals.

"Renting is basically throwing your money away," my parents told a 19-year-old me as I prepared to sign my very first lease. I'm still paying rent, dumping more than two weeks of my salary into each monthly payment.

According to Real Estate Alliance (REA), the average age that we try to buy our first home is currently up to 35 and it's still rising.

The new income requirements of 3.5 times salary combined with increased deposits introduced by the Central Bank price most of us out of the housing market.

The unemployment rate for younger workers has generally been higher than for older workers throughout this recession and small recovery, and those who are working have likely started off lower on the ladder, and making less money, than they might have in a better economy.

The youth unemployment rate in Ireland averaged 18.48pc from 1983 until 2015, reaching an all-time high of 31.1pc in June 2012. It still stands at more than 19pc.

If you can't live the life you want in your own nation, you move away. While we cannot - from available CSO data - break down the number for 15- to 24-year-old emigrants by nationality, we can safely assume that the bulk of net migration in this age group was among Irish nationals. It comes to 70,000 people.

Nope, we don't want to be eternal adolescents. From the girl who would like to start a family but can't feasibly do that without a proper maternity leave payment written in her contract, to the young person who wants to leave the family home but only has an unpaid internship, young people want to grow up.

But we face crazily high rents, property prices that mean a home of our own will remain forever out of reach, zero-hour contracts, low pay and JobBridge. Is this any way to live?

Everything, from our housing situation to career prospects, looks so unstable.

How will we ever afford to get married, have children, own a home? Sometimes, it feels as though the dream of a bright future is slowly slipping away from me. It is all on shaky ground.

A century passes and once more a generation is wondering: "Was it for this…?"

Irish Independent

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