Friday 24 November 2017

Catherine Dunne: It's time to add sad, new chapter to emigrant tale

Catherine Dunne

BACK in 2003 I believed that the stories that had inspired my book about emigration, 'An Unconsidered People', were part of the past. They belonged to Ireland's social history. After all, they represented the 1950s -- that painful, never-to-be-repeated decade of poverty and mass emigration. They spoke of times when men and women left rural Ireland in their thousands because 'it was that or starvation'.

I felt a huge sense of relief once the book was published. For the three years that the research and writing had taken, I'd been gripped by a sense of real urgency. I wanted to record all these elderly voices, to tell all these poignant stories, before it became too late. I wanted my interviewees' experiences to survive, to illuminate an Ireland that I believed was gone forever. I thought their stories might serve as a cautionary tale of what can happen when governments fail their people.

Above all I wanted to give a voice to the generation that had not been forgotten, certainly not by their loved ones at home, but whose lives and futures had remained resolutely unconsidered by the State that had abandoned them.

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