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Ireland's lost generation: What happened without the 20-somethings? Part three

With emigration taking its toll, we look at the Ireland that is being left behind. This week, coming home.

Image: Photocall Ireland

IRELAND HAS THE highest net migration in Europe.

Nobody leaves any country, including Kosovo and Lithuania, more than leaves Ireland. Our net migration in 2012 was around 35,000, but the numbers of indigenous Irish leaving are higher.

Without question, the hardest hit generation are those aged between 21 and 28. Over 30 per cent of Irish youths receive some form of income support.

But what happens without them? What is the impact on Ireland?

In Part Three, we look at it from the perspective of those who left.

‘It’s different’

Leaving is, for many people, a wrench. While some can’t wait to leave Ireland, most will miss at least some aspects of our rainy shores.

As was suggested numerous times in comments on both parts of this series; emigration is what we do.

Irish people have left for generations and the streets of London, Sydney and New York are no stranger to Irish people looking for a better life.

One mother of two recent emigres feels that this is unlike any other exodus, however.

“It’s different,” she says “When my friends left in the 80s, you felt like they’d be back. Now, you see Irish people putting down roots all over the world.”

That is epitomised in the popularity of Irish clubs across newer areas, with China, Hong Kong and the UAE all having emergent GAA clubs.

Indeed, Brian Cummins went to the effort of establishing Abu Dhabi Paddy, a resource for Irish people heading to the Emirates.

‘A choice’

It is not politically clever to say it, as politicians can attest, but there is some truth to the idea that some people leave Ireland by choice.

Aveen Croash is one of those people. She left Ireland for London four years ago and her view of the country has improved with time.

“When I first left four years ago and was going home for visits, Ireland seemed like a very depressing place. Lots of my friends and family were losing jobs and those that kept theirs had the sword of Damocles dangling overhead while working flat out to compensate for their increased workload.

“Every time I visited, it rained every day and it just felt grey and flat.

It feels better now though: my Mam makes a point of mentioning new companies that are opening up when I call and although people don’t seem to be making as much money as they used to, my friends seem a lot happier too.

Dan* doesn’t feel the same. He’s been in Toronto for three years after being unable to find a job in Ireland.

“I didn’t want to come home, so when my first visa was up, I hung on. I only ended up overstaying by a week or so, but I managed to get a job and am working my way to residency now.

“I can’t say my opinion of Ireland has improved greatly from the outside, to be honest. Even here, people give out about the [public transport] and I just laugh.

Compared to Dublin, it’s a Swiss watch. So you see how simple things work better elsewhere from the outside.

What is striking is that, despite their different reasons for going, neither plan on coming home.

“At the moment, I don’t plan on coming home in the immediate future and it would probably be for family-related reasons that I would,” says Aveen.

“I love living in London and there are so many more opportunities here for work, it’s exciting, and I’m fortunate to live in an area where even if you’re broke, there’s so much to do.”

Dan is more unequivocal.

“No. Why would I?”

What would make Ireland more attractive?

“A better economy and more variety of opportunities,” says Aveen.

“Less rain would be good too but I doubt there’s anything that can be done about that.”

Have you noticed an under reported effect of emigration? Email: paulhosford@thejournal.ie

Read: Ireland’s lost generation: What happened without the 20-somethings? Part one.

Read: Ireland’s lost generation: What happened without the 20-somethings? Part two

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