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Exodus is expected among 'all levels' of society

Ireland is about to experience its most dramatic fall in population since the Fifties, according to the Labour Party's Joan Burton -- who claims that data being processed by the Revenue and the Central Statistics Office (CSO) suggests that over half a million people are poised to leave the country in 2010.

As unemployment creeps towards the half a million mark, trends in areas such as the purchase of "ready to go" phones suggest large numbers of economic immigrants are preparing to return home.

However, Ms Burton said the flight from Ireland will encompass every strata of society from the "breakfast roll man to the children of the wealthy professional classes and returned emigres''.

"Unlike past episodes of emigration which were confined to the poorest under-classes, now figures as diverse as the man with two kids and the 4x4 Jeep who worked in construction, to newly qualified teachers and wealthy professionals are all preparing to emigrate," she said.

Ms Burton noted that "many parents and grandparents are now using their savings to set up their children in foreign countries".

She also said colleagues from all parties "are now telling me that sorting out emigration issues is becoming an increasing feature of constituency work".

In what will come as a severe blow to Brian Cowen's promise to build a "smart economy", Ms Burton also claimed that large numbers of science PhD graduates, many of whom had returned to Ireland during the boom years, were planning to leave.'

She said it must surely be a "matter of deep concern" to Brian Lenihan and Mr Cowen that we were "losing the very people who it was anticipated would drive the science and technology revolution".

Ms Burton said it was a tragedy that we were experiencing "a return of the politics of the human surplus".

She also said it was a matter of some shame that "once again, in a time of crisis, the sole response of a FF government to the best-educated generation of people we have ever had was to plead with them to get the boat and the plane and just leave''.

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