Tuesday 20 March 2018

Self-serving parties could not care less for emigrants

Liam Fay

Picture ID is a necessity of modern life. From next month, however, the Irish passport will provide citizens with a groundbreaking innovation: picturesque ID. As part of a makeover designed to boost security mechanisms, the new-look travel documentation will feature holographic images depicting iconic Irish landmarks, like the Cliffs of Moher, the Rock of Cashel and Dublin's Samuel Beckett Bridge. Every passport will, effectively, double as a tourist brochure.

Ironically, the use of pretty pictures as proof of national identity comes at a time when the reality is far from pretty. These days, Irish passports are increasingly presented at departure gates by emigrants who can no longer afford the luxury of living in this country. Almost 90,000 people left in the 12 months to April last and the rate of migration shows no sign of slowing, especially among the young.

Occasionally, the question of how the Irish State can maintain a formal relationship with those who leave becomes a topic of ostentatious political discourse – and now is one of those moments. In truth, however, these ritual bouts of public chin-stroking simply underscore the lowly perch that emigrants actually occupy in the official hierarchy of considerations. Out of sight, out of mind. Like the scenic images imprinted on the revamped passport, expressions of political concern about emigrant welfare are little more than a showy affectation, chocolate-box ornamentation.

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