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'When I left Ireland there was a sense of fear, now it's a different place full of optimism and change'

The former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh writes about how Ireland is experiencing a time of great change.

LAST JULY I decided to move back to Ireland from the USA, after a period of nearly six years being away.

My reasons for moving back to Ireland were based solely on intuition and gut. There is an enormous sense of optimism within Ireland at the moment. There is an underlying tone of change for and by the people living in Ireland.

When I moved to the States, Ireland was in the grip of recession. There was a sense of fear and uncertainty, and with good reason.

However, the Ireland I returned to just over half a decade later was a totally different place to the one I left. In the less than 18 months I have been back in Ireland, the transformation this country has undergone has been incredible.

I think the marriage referendum has played a huge role in that transformation and puts Ireland in a great position as we head into 2016, which will of course be a time of reflection, but will also, importantly, be a time for looking to the future.

In the past few weeks, I have been involved in the launch of a report entitled the ‘Future of Ireland’, the study asked over 1,000 people around Ireland what their hopes, fears and ambitions are for the future.

I have to say, the results really made me feel vindicated in my reasons for returning here, with the overwhelming majority of people feeling very optimistic about the future and 44% stating that they believe their lives will be better in 2025 than they are today.

It also showed that as a country, we have become more resourceful than ever. There’s recognition that if we want something then we need to go for it, rather than wait passively for the future to happen. Over half of us (51%) are planning to learn a new skill that will earn us money and nearly a quarter expect to set up their own business.

I was also very encouraged to see that more than half of people living in Ireland believe we will have our first female Taoiseach by 2025. Personally, I hope it happens a lot sooner than that!

There’s no doubt that life now is a lot different to 2005 – who would have thought even 10 years ago that a short-haired, tattooed, pioneer and member of the LGBT community would be crowned Rose of Tralee?

So, what will our country look like in 10 years’ time? Will we, as a nation, be happier? Healthier? More balanced?  Realistically, it is impossible to fully predict the future, and the frightening terror attacks over the past week have really brought that home.
But what we can do is open up a direct and open conversation about our future, to discuss, challenge, inspire and drive the future of Ireland.

This week we saw the first same sex couples legally marry, so it is indeed a time of great change and I for one, am very excited about what the future has in store for our little island.

Maria Walsh is a broadcaster and the former Rose of Tralee.

The ‘Future of Ireland’ was published by OMD media agency, with the support of Ulster Bank. The aim of the initiative is to facilitate a national conversation around Ireland’s future, which is being driven at and @OMD_FIRE.

Read: Ireland in 2025: Slow internet connection and a female Taoiseach- here’s what you’re predicting>


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