Wednesday 13 December 2017

Would the last person to leave please turn out the light?

Well, that's one way of looking at things, I suppose . . . A friend of mine was at a party last weekend and he bumped into a guy he hadn't seen for a few years.

Ironically, both of them had been living in New York but it was only back in Dublin that they bumped into each other.

As they caught up -- remember such and such? How is so and so? You know yourself, the usual small talk -- the conversation turned, inevitably, to the economy.

And, just as inevitably, the talk then turned to the current emigration crisis.

Now, Michael Noonan might try to convince us, if not himself, that the droves currently fleeing our shores are merely indulging in a 'lifestyle choice' but those of us in the real world know the truth.

And it's an ugly one -- people are leaving because there quite simply is nothing here for them. They are the lost generation.

But my mate was amazed at the weird curve the conversation took.

Because the guy he was talking to actually . . . blamed students for heading off to pastures new.

The State had helped to educate them, he said. Therefore these beneficiaries of a third-level education should have a moral, if not a legal, obligation to stay and help the country get out of the mess we're in.

It was an astonishingly wrong-headed and mean-spirited argument, but it's one I've heard from a few other people as well.

Now don't get me wrong. I'd love graduates to return something to the community.

Whether that's arts grads organising book clubs or literacy classes or catering graduates helping out in our burgeoning soup kitchen industry, the idea of giving something back to your community is the sign of a healthy, functioning society.

But expecting someone who has left college with a degree aimed towards an industry that is no longer employing people to stay on the dole is just ridiculous.

And it's not just students, either.

Of all my brother's friends, the last one to stay in Ireland is leaving for Australia next week. And he's not leaving as a 'lifestyle choice'. No, he's leaving not just because he can't find a job no matter how hard he looks.

He's leaving because, like a lot of other people, he hates what this country has become and he hates living here. That doesn't sound much like a 'lifestyle choice', does it?

This kid, and the hundreds like him who every day are leaving this country in what is the economic equivalent of the Dunkirk evacuations, just know this country has nothing to offer them. And nor will it for a long time.

And what's interesting about talking to them is that, for the majority of them, it's not a case of simply taking a gap year and seeing what happens.

No, this is a definitive decision -- this country has failed them and, apart from the odd holiday home at Christmas time, they have no intentions of ever returning to live here permanently. And can you blame them?

To be honest, if I was a few years younger and didn't have the responsibilities I do, I would have been gone a long time ago -- and I have a job.

But we're now looking at an emerging generation which is facing a future of zero employment, not through choice, not out of a family culture of welfare dependency -- we are now seeing third and even fourth generations of families who rely entirely on social welfare -- but simply because there just aren't any jobs out there.

These are the kids who would have come of age towards the fag end of the Celtic Tiger. They would have been used to a particular standard of lifestyle that would have seemed extravagant to someone like me, who grew up in the late '80s/early '90s.

And now, through no fault of their own, the bright, shining future they were promised has been shattered and left in a smoking pile of rubble.

I remember back in the grim old days of 20 years ago -- although they don't feel so grim when compared to what we're seeing today -- when the pubs would be packed every Christmas with people returning from London or New York. Now we're back to those days.

In fact, we are hemorrhaging our kids at a truly frightening and shocking level and that should shame all of us.

That's one of the reasons I loathe The Gathering so much.

It's not just the happy- clappy claptrap we're being fed. It's not just that it is as stupid as that whole 'Your Country, Your Call' nonsense. It's not even down to the fact that Michael Ring TD had the audacity to say that we should all be "wearing the green jersey" and supporting the thing.

It's the fact that nobody seems to grasp the irony that as the Government throws good money after bad at this hair-brained project to attract people to our shores, there are even more leaving in the opposite direction and nothing is being done to cater to them.

In fact, a perfect example of just how nauseating and toe-curlingly, cringe-inducingly embarrassing The Gathering is lies in the fact that school kids are being given postcards to send to foreign relatives, asking them to visit.

This is now our country -- reduced to using children to emotionally blackmail ex-pats to come over and spend a few quid. It's pathetic and offensive.

So, we spend time and money trying to attract people to our shores, while turning a blind eye to the thousands who are leaving it.

Yup, we're a great little country altogether.

Irish Independent

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