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Noonan on emigration comments: 'I am being quoted out of context'

The Finance Minister’s comments that emigration was in some cases “a lifestyle choice” have been heavily criticised by opposition parties.

Michael Noonan at a press conference yesterday.
Michael Noonan at a press conference yesterday.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire/Press Association Images

FINANCE MINISTER MICHAEL Noonan has insisted that his controversial comments on emigration were being quoted “out of context” following criticism from opposition parties.

Noonan said at a press conference yesterday that emigration by young people was “a free choice of lifestyle” and also commented that “it’s a small island. A lot of people want to get off the island” appearing to dismiss the link between unemployment and emigration.

His comments were slammed by the opposition with Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty describing them as “a disgrace”. Fianna Fáil’s Willie O’Dea said that Noonan should apologise to those he may have offended with his remarks.

“I was disgusted to hear Michael Noonan describe emigration as a ‘free choice of lifestyle’ and adding insult to injury by adding ‘it’s a small island, a lot of people want to get off the island’,” O’Dea said.

But Noonan told RTÉ’s Six One News yesterday that he had been quoted out of context and said that for most emigrants it was “forced emigration”.

Referring to his earlier press conference, Noonan said: “I am being quoted out of context. I said for some people it was a lifestyle choice. Some people might want to go to Australia for a couple of years and come back home again. Other people want to get married abroad. It’s a lifestyle choice.

But for the most of emigrants it’s forced emigration and I drew attention in particular to 100,000 who became redundant in the building industry and I said they were forced to work in Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom.

He said that his comments about ensuring young people had the best education was about making sure that “in the absence of full employment at home” the government should facilitate education for Irish emigrants to ensure they get employment abroad.

Today, Junior Finance Minister Brian Hayes defended Noonan saying that ”in no way was he diminishing the problem of emigration in our society”.

But Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesperson Dara Calleary said that the comments indicated that the government was ”out of touch with the reality of people’s lives”

Speaking on Today with Pat Kenny, Calleary accused ministers of ”trying to make political capital out of this”, referring to Social Protection Minister Joan Burton comments last year that claiming social welfare was a “lifestyle choice”.

Noonan’s emigration comments branded ‘a disgrace’ by opposition

Noonan: Young emigrants ‘not driven away by unemployment’

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Hugh O'Connell

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