Tuesday 19 November 2019

We must resolve not to lose another generation

WE number our emigrants in tens of thousands and scores of thousands. Once, we numbered them in millions. We constantly make comparisons with the draining of this country's lifeblood after the Great Famine, when more people fled than during the famine itself.

But nothing compares with personal experience and simple facts and figures. The tide of young Christmas visitors has come and gone, and another 200, from the cream of the crop, will leave the country every day.

We console ourselves with the knowledge that none of them face the danger and hardship of long voyages in older times, and that few will have to endure the poverty and humiliation often suffered by Irish emigrants in the past.

We are less willing to confront another fact, an uncomfortable one.

Most emigrants, especially the young, will have good jobs and living standards. They will be in touch with home, frequently by Skype. But whether they prosper, make spectacular careers or merely get by, they have this in common: only a very few will come back for good, to contribute to Irish society.

Most will make new homes. We have lost the intangible, so much beauty and gaiety, and the tangible, their talents and potential – and the money spent on their education. We can only resolve that we will not lose another generation.

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