Generation Emigration

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens abroad

“The terms NAMA, IMF and dole lines are not what they are to friends back home”

I know that our country with its great history will come out of this crisis stronger. It is going to take time and heavy cuts in spending at the expense of the ordinary citizens of Ireland. However, I do know this: I will not move back home, and I can safely say I am not alone, writes Darren Conway.

Wed, Oct 26, 2011, 11:07

   

Darren Conway outside O'Shea's pub in Erie, Pennsylvania

I know that our country with its great history will come out of this crisis stronger. It is going to take time and heavy cuts in spending at the expense of the ordinary citizens of Ireland. However, I do know this: I will not move back home, and I can safely say I am not alone, writes Darren Conway.

I emigrated from Ireland during what some might call the boom times, but I call the false years. I left in 2005 when the country was awash with money. Kids were dealing in 50euro bills. Gone were the days you could go the shop with 1pound and buy a fistfull of confectionery that was your dentist’s nightmare.

I was born in 1987 into a middle class family in Co. Wexford, but my father worked two jobs and side work at the weekend. It was not for the lack of money that he worked as hard as he did, but because a good work ethic was instilled in him by my grandfather. Take what work you can when you can get it, he used to tell me. I try to apply it to my life too.

But growing up in the 1990s was hard. We were not dressed in Nike or Adidas. There were no holidays abroad every year, or new cars. But as my sisters and I got older, the power of advertising grew on us, and we began to demand these things. In 1999 just before I was about to go to secondary school my parents surprised my sisters and I with a family holiday in Florida. We did everything there was to do in Orlando, including Disney and Universal. Anything we wanted we got on that trip.

In the early years of the new Millennium, there was rapid growth and rapid change. Mobile phones, cheap flights to Spain, PlayStations, Xboxes, Eircom shares, SSIAs, day trips to see Liverpool play, and apartments in Turkey were ubiquitous. Ireland was going mad.

In 2004, myself and two class mates were given the opportunity to study at a college in the United States that had a relationship with our secondary school. Before we knew it, we were sitting our SATs, going for our visas in Dublin before boarding a plane and saying goodbye to our families. I would think we were among very few young Irish adults leaving the country that year, when immigration was much more common.

Here we were, three young men, one from Wexford, two from Kilkenny, setting out in search of our very own American dream. The phrases that all of us were accustomed to in the weeks before our departure were “ye yanks” “why ya going to America, Ireland not good enough for ya?” We were the evil ones, the traitors leaving during the boom.

But we took all that America had to offer us. By the time we came close to graduation, the option to return home had almost disappeared, as news of the crash filtered over to us. The people who had once mocked us about emigrating became jealous of our stable lives overseas.

Out of the three of us, just one went back, as he was always a home bird. Myself and the other remaining lad have work visas keeping us here in the US till the end of the decade. Listening to the Irish radio on our iPhones, the terms NAMA, IMF and dole lines are not what they are to my friends back home. Our Facebook news feeds are full of photos of going away parties, and of old friends’ trips to Australia and New Zealand in search of new opportunities.

Having an outside view of the country now for six years has opened my eyes. The current presidential race is a mockery, more soap opera than political contest. However it is nice to see that the president is no longer just a puppet of government.

I ask myself, why is it that the government that allowed planning approval for all the apartments and the housing estates at a time that they were not needed are not to be charged with a crime? Where was the regulation on the banks? Why is it that the working class and middle class are paying for the sins of a few? Why aren’t the bankers and politicians in jail?

I know that our country with its great history will come out of this crisis stronger. It is going to take time and heavy cuts in spending at the expense of the ordinary citizens of Ireland. However, I do know this: I will not move back home, and I can safely say I am not alone.

Darren Conway is accounts payable leader for the transportation division of General Electric. He lives in Erie, Pennsylvania.

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