Wednesday 21 March 2018

The generation game

Have life chances really changed that much in Ireland? Graham Clifford asks several generations of one family

Meet the Dorgans: Left to right - Lisa McLaughlin (nee Dorgan); Bridie Dorgan, Emmet Dorgan, Éabha McLaughlin and Tricia Dorgan pic - Pat Hogan/Provision
Meet the Dorgans: Left to right - Lisa McLaughlin (nee Dorgan); Bridie Dorgan, Emmet Dorgan, Éabha McLaughlin and Tricia Dorgan pic - Pat Hogan/Provision
Bridie Dorgan
Tricia Dorgan
Lisa McLaughlin (nee Dorgan)
Emmet Dorgan
Eabha McLoughlin

Graham Clifford

'Things were very different in my day' -- or so goes the classic line of elders since time began. The words seems more relevant today than ever before.

Social changes experienced amongst the generations in Ireland over the past century have been astonishing.

Aspirations have risen and class structures disintegrated.

A new study into generational needs and benefits, commissioned by Barclays Bank, found that there are now five co-existing generations in the workplace in the UK.

They range from those born before the end of the Second World War to technology-obsessed teenagers who may be in part-time jobs or apprenticeships.

The grandchildren of small impoverished farmers have become millionaire business tycoons and powerful politicians.

In Fermoy, I meet five members of the same family and ask if the life chances they had, or will have, are really all that different throughout the generations.

The family includes Bridie Dorgan, her daughter Lisa and Lisa's daughter Éabha, as well as Tricia Dorgan -- Bridie's daughter-in-law, who married Bridie's son Liam -- and Tricia's son Emmet.

Bridie Dorgan



Maturists: Pre-1950

Bridie Dorgan

"I was the youngest of eight and came from the parish of Kilconly in Galway.

"I went to the Mercy Convent in Tuam but, after I got my Leaving Certificate, I headed for America.

"Most of the girls in the area would have stayed. The expectation for many was they'd marry a farmer and bring up their family there.

"I had a sister and two brothers in New York at the time. I remember going there on a ship on my own and I can tell you I didn't have any iPhone 5 for company!

"The furthest I'd been was Galway City, so walking into Times Square was something else. We were very sheltered in comparison to young people today -- but resilient.

"I met my husband Batt at a dance in New York and settled in San Francisco having four children before returning to Ireland in 1971. When the children were older, a friend and I established a Montessori school in Fermoy.

"Looking back, I was very fortunate that I had a good education -- many didn't. My mother, for example, was a very bright woman and it's a shame she wasn't better educated herself -- but that was the way back then.

Tricia Dorgan


Baby Boomers (1950-1965)

Tricia Dorgan

"I just wanted to finish secondary school and go out and earn my own money -- very few in my class would have gone on to college.

"The 70s in Ireland were bleak. The only children's TV programme was Wanderly Wagon. We used to listen to Radio Luxembourg -- that was it for young people. When 2fm came along in 1979 that was a huge deal!

"Luckily I secured a job with the Bank of Ireland after school -- it was a position for life with a good pension and, at the time, that was about as good as it got.

"I started when I was 17 in a branch on Baggot St in Dublin, staying for six years -- it felt so liberating there. I had money in my pocket, was living on Waterloo road, could go travelling when I wanted and saw artists like Queen and Bruce Springsteen in Slane.

"While many of my classmates left Fermoy, about half of them settled in the town for good. I moved down to a branch in Limerick, met my husband Liam and ended up living in San Francisco for nine years."

Lisa McLaughlin (nee Dorgan)


Generation X (1965-1980)

Lisa McLaughlin (nee Dorgan)

"I was the youngest in our house, so by the time I came along Ireland and opportunities for young people had changed a lot.

"People started looking at college as an option after school -- I'd say half of my class went on to third level.

"I did a secretarial course in Cork -- thumbing lifts there and back, can you imagine doing that now?

"At 19, I lived in London for a year getting office jobs here and there. The craic was great and anything seemed possible. I remember there were eight of us sharing a house in Ealing.

"At that age, the idea of a job for life wouldn't have appealed to me -- I wanted to travel, to try new things.

"There were brilliant opportunities in London but in Ireland, too -- things were changing -- especially for women.

"I loved my music, initially Michael Jackson but as I got older it was the likes of Madness, Nik Kershaw and Duran Duran. After London, I went to San Francisco for a year but came home and decided to get my degree in Montessori teaching. I worked at the school which my mother and her friend set up in 1992 and am now a partner in the business."


Emmet Dorgan

Generation Y (1980-1995)

Emmet Dorgan

"I hope to begin university next year and take a course in business.

"We're advised to look at areas which could translate into jobs once we leave school and I know which professions to avoid. Because I'm not in the workforce yet, I don't really feel the recession has impacted on me that much.

"I think Irish teenagers today, and those in their 20s, are fairly responsible. A lot of my friends wouldn't drink alcohol when they go out if they're in training for a particular sport.

"After college, I really want to travel. As I have an American passport, I wouldn't mind living and working in the US for a while.

"I, like everyone in my school year, have a smartphone but I'm more interested in listening to music on Spotify than being stuck on social media that much.

"Others in my class are on different social-media sites a fair bit during the day. I guess that's just the age in which we live."


Eabha McLoughlin

Generation Z (Born after 1995)

Éabha McLaughlin

"Why do I have an iPhone 5 at 15? To fit in, I suppose. Everyone in school has some sort of smartphone.

"I use Snapchat a lot; it's great and all my friends use it.

"The teachers have drilled it into us just how important it is to be careful online and that once we post something online, it'll stay there forever.

"I'm not sure what I want to do when I leave school, none of us really talk about careers. For anyone who wants to go to college there wouldn't really be anything preventing us from doing that.

"When I hear that Nanny was going to America on her own at 18, it's hard to believe. My mum would have to be pushed letting me go to Cork on the bus with my friends!

"My sister Emma and I are lucky in that we're brought lots of places, sometimes even Spain. At Easter, we went to America to see my uncle. My dad is from Donegal so we've been up there on a trip this year also and to Mayo to see my aunt."

Irish Independent

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