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Harry McCann: The message to my generation is 'you don't matter' - so we prepare to emigrate

The student says young people have been consistently left behind so will be now leaving in their droves.

Harry McCann

Updated Jul 2nd 2021, 4:16 PM

AFTER RECENTLY COMPLETING a Covid blighted college education, I have been debating my future in my own head.

The question of “what’s next?” has always been hanging over me, but now I am trying to figure out a new dimension, “where next?”.

While Ireland has always been my home, I am increasingly feeling that it has less and less to offer. Like many people my age, I feel like I am being forced to look further afield.

Even before the pandemic, Ireland was becoming an unfriendly environment for young people. While it may be considered a great place to grow up, Ireland is far from a great place to start your working life, career and family. Our young people are well educated, underpaid, not valued, poorly represented and scapegoats for a society that thrives on apportioning blame.

For those who took on the challenge of third-level education, after four years of paying the highest university fees in Europe, we face a landscape of uncertainty. Instead of making our way in the world, many of us find ourselves back where we began, at home with our parents dreaming of our future.

What would you have us do?

We are all too quickly hit with the stark realisation that it’s impossible to get ahead in a country where the cost of living far exceeds our potential to earn a livable income. Are we expected to work to live or live to work?

If by some minor miracle we work hard, live with our parents, stay in on the weekends, don’t buy a car and get a decent wage, we could possibly save enough money for a deposit on our own place. That is of course assuming that we have a partner, both of us earn well above the average industrial wage and we have a bit of a top-up from the bank of Mammy and Daddy.

Of course, the next challenge is what sort of life could we possibly expect? We pay more for food than the EU average. We pay more for transport than the EU average. Our rental prices increase every year, currently, Ireland has some of the highest rental costs in Europe.

Our utility bills are the highest in the EU. Our car prices are the third highest in Europe and insurance for young drivers is a total farce. Even our alcohol prices are higher than most of our European neighbours.

Carrying the debt

To add insult to injury, we are penalised for sins of the past under the guise of a tax on top of our income tax, Universal Social Charge. We have a health service that can’t cope with an ageing population that will be a burden on us long into the future.

We are now being advised that the only way to fund this in the long term is to cut expenditure or to increase taxation. It doesn’t take an economist to know that all of this drives up wages and makes us a less attractive economy, therefore putting us all at risk.

Charles J Haughey was once concerned that we were living way beyond our means, but Micheál Martin’s government appears to have little concern about the fact an entire generation simply can’t afford to build a life and move out of their childhood bedrooms.

Society is failing because we can’t get the basics right. Our obsession with owning our own property is fueled by the lack of supply in the market. In our twenties, we become fixated on becoming property owners because we are all too aware that as renters the state will not protect us into our old age.

The lack of availability of social housing fuels our dilemma. Our homeless numbers have spiralled out of control while we sell off the property to vulture funds to rent back to us at absorbent rates. Shame on us for not providing for our citizens.

In 2020, Ireland ranked second in the UN Human Development Index. We consistently rank amongst the highest in ‘quality of life’ reports and studies. The question I honestly believe we need to start asking ourselves is, are we really that naive? I wonder what a homeless person living in a doorway in Dublin city centre would say if you asked them if they agreed with the UN’s Human Development Index.

No voice

Our lack of representation for young people is increasingly evident and nothing has made it more obvious than the pandemic.

While we all appreciate the value of vaccinating the elderly and the vulnerable, it doesn’t take a bunch of scientists in a lab to tell us that the cohort most likely to spread the virus is the very one we have been slow to vaccinate.

We predominantly work in the service industry. We use public transport. We socialise in groups. By our nature, we believe we are invincible, but unfortunately, we have no voice.

However, all hope is not lost…

My older brother left Ireland for Australia in the aftermath of the recession for greater opportunities and a higher quality of life. I always believed that I would never have to do the same. I always believed that if I left, it would be by choice. I hope that I won’t be a part of another forgotten generation that has to search for better opportunities further afield.

As it currently stands, the likelihood of me meeting a classmate in a bar in Sydney, New York, London or Toronto is far greater than meeting one in Cork, Limerick, Dublin or Galway.

Despite older generations quoting that it was “harder for them” or that they had to “go away to find work”, the lesson is very simple, so why do we keep repeating the same mistakes? Have we learnt nothing from generation after generation being forced to leave their home for a better life?

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All I can say to the generation growing up in the late ’80s is that at least you had a great football team to watch.

Harry McCann is a twenty-two-year-old journalist and award-winning entrepreneur.

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