Friday 15 December 2017

We are locked out of our own country

The real reason for the drop in the unemployment figures is that so many of our young have left Ireland, writes Jerome Reilly

THE number of people on the dole went down by 6,600 last month -- now 13.6 per cent of the population, or 443,000 people, are out of work.

But does anyone, even the Government, really believe that Ireland managed to create more than 7,000 jobs last month? No.

The real reason behind the decline in the numbers on the Live Register is that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of mostly young people left Ireland. For some it is merely a temporary migration, but for others it means turning their back on Ireland for good.

Last month the Sunday Independent profiled the men who, with no little anger, call themselves "FitzPatrick's Fusiliers". They are the men from the building trade now forced to find work in Eastern Europe, Germany and Belgium. The story struck a chord among the new wave of Irish emigrants who follow the Sunday Independent online. Many of their stories are positive. For them, emigration has been an adventure.

Yet there are also feelings of bitterness and resentment. Patrick McGarrity from Carlingford, Co Louth, who is now making a new life in Oklahoma, USA, puts it succinctly: "I feel locked out of Ireland."


Rachel and Simon


Rachel Healy and Simon Doran both had good jobs with Newstalk Radio, but she says Canada is a brighter, more optimistic place than Ireland.

'I'M originally from Dundalk, and after my Masters went straight into Newstalk where I worked as a researcher and producer. Then, in 2008, just as things were starting to turn nasty in the economy, I was offered a job as producer with Seoige on RTE.

"When it all ended, there was literally nothing going in any area for my skill set. So, reading the papers and all the doom and gloom, myself and my partner Simon, who also worked in Newstalk, decided to get out while we could.

"Canada seemed to have suffered least of the English-speaking countries, and we decided to come to Vancouver to start a new life. We arrived in June 2009 for one year initially, and 15 months later, we're still here!

"I tried to get media work but wouldn't you know it, it seemed to be the sector of the Canadian economy hit worst by the laughingly short nine-month recession.

"Quite by chance, I met the editor of one the biggest papers here. He had a friend who needed a business writer and, long story short, I've been writing for one of Canada's largest security companies ever since. Simon also got a job with them, and, although it's a far cry from what we expected to be doing, it's been great so far.

"Life here is just so different. Everyone's so friendly and polite, and even the news reports are happy and full of cheer, which makes us laugh when we think back to the dark days in Ireland. I've only been back once for a visit and Simon hasn't been home at all. It's just too expensive. It's funny, we get our folks to send 'Care Packages', which is a real throwback to the old days. These times though, they're filled with Ballymaloe Relish, and cheese 'n' onion crisps!

"Since we've arrived, my two best friends have come over, as well as some of Simon's friends from Newstalk. Like us, they want to get away from the bad times at home."


South Korea

THERE are plenty of jobs in booming South Korea for those who can teach the English language, according to Jonathan Donahoe.

'ILEFT Ireland in March of this year for South Korea after being out of work for nearly a year. I had been working in 'pint production' since leaving school. I'm from Clonee, Co Meath. Some years later I went back to college as a mature student. After college I got a job, and then came the economic crisis. You can guess the rest.

"I did a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate course in the summer of 2009 and I haven't looked back since.

"I've been here for nearly eight months and I will be signing a new contract soon, teaching English at a public school in a province known as Gyeongbuk.

"South Korea shares many characteristics with Ireland. Both are republics. Both have endured mind-altering occupation by foreign ruling powers. Both are somewhat separate from their respective northern regions. Unfortunately, alcoholism and suicide are problems that are also common to both.

"But South Korea's economy is thriving, with world-renowned companies like Samsung, Hyundai, LG and Daewoo showing no sign of weakness. Couple this with an insatiable hunger for education and mastery of the English language, and you have jobs for English-speaking people -- many, many jobs.

"The cost of living is low. A decent meal out will set you back about 8,000 won -- or €5 in the old money.

"The town where I live could at a glance be mistaken for Dublin. It's industrial, but surrounded by mountains in the distance that offer a bit of green relief. Crime is virtually non-existent.

"I arrive at school at half eight each morning . The children bow their heads courteously and greet me in Korean. Or, they'll say, 'hi jonodan teacher'. I get plenty of holidays either side of the school year, plus the numerous Korean national holidays. There's talk of another island-hopping adventure in two months.

"I've completed stage one of my beginner Korean lessons, so I can get by. The ability to speak Korean isn't utterly necessary, but it does make things like shopping and eating out easier. While wages are on par with those in Ireland, the low cost of living mean that pure savings of around €1,000 a month are within reach, depending on your spending habits.

"So the bottom line is, Irish need apply. The programme I am on is called EPIK, (English Programme In Korea). Epik is run by the Korean Ministry of Education and their website is:"



Patrick McGarrity, from Carlingford, Co Louth, has made a new life in Oklahoma and Arkansas working in the heavy equipment industry for Powerscreen, a Northern Irish company.

'IFIRST moved here in 2005,having just finished DCU, firstly to New York. Back then, it was more a 'wanderlust' decision rather than seeking employment. At the time, most of my friends, some unqualified, were bringing home €600 to €700 a week in the building trade. They all thought I was mad, opting to go to the US to work for Powerscreen,in commission-based sales, which inevitably is very low-paying in the initial stages, especially in a foreign country.

"After my first 18 months living in the US, if anything the news from home was that the economy was getting stronger. The mobile crushing and screening plant industry in Ireland had taken off, My friends back home were still out-earning me, working shorter hours too. After my third year away, I began to think about returning. Primarily, I missed the culture. I held off, purely due to indecisiveness. Today, five years after leaving, I no longer have a 'decision-making' problem. Quite simply, coming home isn't an option. Aggregate crushing and screening sales in Ireland have collapsed, to the best of my knowledge. No one is hiring in any capacity.

"I look at it all with contrasting emotions. Firstly, I regret passing up the opportunity to come home to a country I love and miss so much. On the other side, I'm relieved I didn't make that choice. As it's panned out, I would have been severely worse off today if I had gone through with my decision to return.

"Today, one thing remains constant. I miss home and my family and my friends. However, from reading the Sunday Independent for the past 24 months, I realise that I have no conceivable option but to stay over here for the short term. In fact, I might as well be honest and say it will probably be long term.

"I enjoy life in the US. I make a good living but I'm not alone in saying that us ex-pats are effectively locked out of our own country."

Sunday Independent

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