Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Low lie the emigrants of Ireland

Michael Noonan and his political counterparts could take a leaf from Munster Rugby’s book and give us something to be proud of, writes Tommy Griffin in Oxford.

Tue, Jan 24, 2012, 17:24


Michael Noonan and his political counterparts could take a leaf from Munster Rugby’s book and give us something to be proud of, writes Tommy Griffin in Oxford.

Paul O'Connell is brought to ground last Saturday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Last week Limerick native Michael Noonan minister for Finance claimed that Young Irish people were moving abroad due to “lifestyle choices”. On Saturday, Munster Rugby, a team synonymous with Limerick sport travelled to Milton Keynes to play Northampton Saints in the sixth round of the Heineken Cup. Northampton moved the game from their home stadium to accommodate demand for tickets. 22500 fans attended the game with a strong portion of these being Munster fans. Many fans travelled from Ireland, but many such as myself came from different parts of Britain – a game for the Diaspora one might say.

The game certainly did not disappoint 19-19 at half time with Munster emerging victorious 51-36 in the end. Munster of course are not only synonymous with Limerick but also with the famous Irish ballad – The Fields of Athenry. This song is about oppression and as a result of said oppression the need for Irish natives to leave their homeland for freedom. Michael, the protagonist has to leave his love Mary as he has been caught stealing food to feed his starving wife and child. Michael is forced by British authorities to board a prison ship destined for Australia. A powerful , moving song that can be used to explain so much about Irish culture and Diaspora. The Fields of Athenry is set during the Irish Famine but times change right? It seems not.

As a nation Ireland’s main export has always been her people. Originally this was part of being an oppressed nation; however as independence ensued Ireland’s people still emigrated en masse. In every generation since the foundation of the state Irish people have left for economic reasons, resulting in large Irish populations in English speaking countries, Britain, Australia and the United States of America. Ireland’s Celtic Tiger did put a stop to this phenomenon between the mid 90s and 2009 however due to the Wall Street crisis of 2008 and the resulting effects on the Irish economy Irish people have resumed emigration at a large scale.

I myself left Ireland in 2010 to pursue my career abroad. Behind me I left my family, my friends my long term girlfriend and my former life. Abroad lay huge opportunities for me both in my career and my personal life. I have enjoyed the challenge of moving abroad and to be fair I am enjoying it. However I have had to make a lot of sacrifices – a family I don’t see enough, friends I am losing contact with and a hometown where I feel I am not known anymore. My Uncle is leaving his family behind this January in search of employment abroad his eldest child 17 his youngest 11. He doesn’t expect to be able to move home for many years.

Ireland’s economic troubles have led to the biggest political shift in almost a century. Many People who had traditionally voted for the party whom their family supported during the civil war changed tact as they felt that Irish economical and political affairs had been handled poorly. This led to Mr Noonan’s party Fine Gael coming to power ahead of their rivals Fianna Fail. Mr Noonan’s comments however do show that he, and many other politicians are out of touch with what is happening to the Irish populous.

Munster Rugby and Irish sport in general is something that I and many others take great pride in. Irish politicians do not inspire confidence and a major reform is needed. Perhaps it is times hat new political institutions were formed and that a new breed of politician is needed. It would indeed be nice if politicians were in tune with what is happening in Irish society. Maybe Mr Noonan and his political counterparts could take a leaf from Munster Rugby’s book and give us something to be proud of.

Low lie indeed.

Tommy Griffin is a 29-year-old originally from Ballybunion in Co Kerry. He now lives in Oxford, where he works in human resources.

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