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Noonan's emigration comments branded 'a disgrace' by opposition

Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has said that Michael Noonan’s comments earlier today were “deeply insulting”.

Michael Noonan at a press conference today.
Michael Noonan at a press conference today.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Updated, 15.53

MICHAEL NOONAN HAS been heavily criticised for his comments related to the amount of young people emigrating from Ireland earlier today with Sinn Féin saying his comments were “a disgrace”.

At a press conference reacting the Troika’s fifth review of the bailout programme, Noonan commented that emigration of young people “is a free choice of lifestyle” and said “there are always young people coming and going from Ireland.”

Noonan played down the belief that Ireland’s unemployment of over 14 per cent was contributing to young people leaving the country but his comments have been criticised by opposition parties.

Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said that Noonan’s comments were “deeply insulting” in light of figures which showed the majority of people leaving Ireland are now Irish, directly as a result of the economic situation.

“Michael Noonan’s comments are a disgrace. Six thousand people are leaving Ireland every month, the overwhelming majority seeking work in America, Australia, and elsewhere,” Doherty said.

“The overwhelming majority have been forced to leave because of the lack of employment and the belief they have no future in this country.”

Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on finance, Michael McGrath told TheJournal.ie he disagreed with Noonan’s comments noting that economic data compared with emigration data showed that the number of people leaving Ireland was related to the economic downturn.

“In great majority of cases young people emigrate because they don’t see an opportunity at home. In the last two or three years it’s forced emigration,” he said.

“Anyone who witnessed scenes at airports around country at the end of Christmas would realise very quickly that this wasn’t a lifestyle choice. These people want to get on with their lives and pursue opportunities and they can’t do it in Ireland.”

Youth Work Ireland also criticised the comments, saying Noonan was “fundamentally missing the point” about emigration.

“The spectre of emigration is a major social tragedy and seems to be accepted as almost an Irish solution to an Irish problem, and this must be challenged,” YWI’s Michael McLoughlin said.

It is not the first time a senior government minister has come in for criticism for comments about emigration.

In February 2010, then Tánaiste Mary Coughlan told BBC television that some emigration was “not a bad thing” as young people were leaving to “gain experience”.

YouTube: E1REANN

At the time she was accused of “losing the plot” by Fine Gael TD Damien English. English did not return a request for comment on Noonan’s remarks at the time of publication.

Noonan: Young emigrants ‘not driven away by unemployment’

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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