IT IS hard to fathom what exactly Finance Minister Michael Noonan was thinking when he claimed that emigration is a ' lifestyle choice' for young people who are abandoning this country in their droves. . .
For generations, stretching back to the Famine and beyond, emigration has been a particular Irish tragedy that has bled the country of its young and its best and brightest talent
The loss of so many young people to emigration is, quite rightly, recognised as a tragedy for Ireland. The reality of emigration is young people abandoning their families and the communities in which they were reared because there is no future for them at home and they are left with no option but to try their luck elsewhere
It is true, of course, that for some people emigration is about broadening their horizons and getting experience of the world. For the vast majority, however, emigration is not a choice it's a necessity. They leave because there is nothing for them at home and that is a damning indictment of mother Ireland because it reveals the sad truth that this nation cannot provide for its young.
Right now there is a surge in the number of people leaving the country as those who stayed on to enjoy what was possibly their last Christmas at home finally pack their bags. It's not hard to imagine how they felt when Minister Noonan blithely remarked that 'there are always young people coming and going from Ireland. Some of them are emigrants in the traditional sense, others simply want to get of the island for a while.'
The number of Irish people leaving the country has more than trebled over the past three years, following the collapse of our economy. The latest CSO figures indicate that during the year to April 2011 alone, 40,000 Irish people left the country. Of these many have gone to Australia where there is a promise of plentiful employment and where visa requirements are far more relaxed than in the US.
Those people, who left because they have no prospects at home will, no doubt, be well impressed by Minister Noonan's assessment that ' a lot of the people who go to Australia [are] 'driven by a desire to see another part of the world.' Does Minister Noonan think emigrants are living in a holiday camp? They aren't. They live in the cheapest accommodation they can find and work every hour God sends in whatever kind of job they can find so that, through their own sweat, they can build for themselves a future that mother Ireland has failed to provide.
Young Irish people with BAS, MAS and PHDS who are digging holes and pulling pints on foreign shores don't need lessons from Minister Noonan on emigration patterns, much less economics. The families who waved goodbye at the airports after Christmas don't need to hear that rubbish either. It is to be assumed that Minister Noonan and the entire Government are keenly aware that what they are involved in is disaster management. We know they have to make the best of a bad lot.
Put please don't try to sell us the line that the national tragedy of emigrations is nothing more than a ' lifestyle choice'.