Generation Emigration

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens abroad

‘I want to be part of the recovery’

It’s true that young people are leaving in droves but for some, staying in Ireland to help repair the damage to our economy is a realistic option – and it’s important that their voices are heard, writes Tara Cunningham.

Fri, Jan 27, 2012, 07:16

   

It’s true that young people are leaving in droves but for some, staying in Ireland to help repair the damage to our economy is a realistic option – and it’s important that their voices are heard, writes TARA CUNNINGHAM.

Tara Cunningham at her graduation

TO A FINANCE graduate in a country where career opportunities are slim for most young people, the bright lights of New York or London are inviting. But I have decided to ride out the storm in Ireland, because I want to be part of the recovery.

I share that feeling held by so many others that Ireland has been cheated by a government and a banking sector that tore our economy to pieces. But if we all join the thousands of young people who are leaving our shores every month, who will be left behind to repair this country and build solid foundations for the future? I studied commerce in University College Dublin and graduated in 2008. It was a terrible time to be emerging into the jobs market, so I decided to continue my education in order to improve my chances of employment, and did a Masters in finance in Smurfit Business School.

While studying for that Masters, one of our lecturers advised us to listen to the famous “Stay hungry, stay foolish” commencement speech given by Steve Jobs at Stanford University in 2005. It is so optimistic and full of hope, advising those graduates to go after what they want and not to settle for a job that doesn’t fulfil them.

At our own graduation ceremony, in March 2010, I was one of the very few who turned up to collect my certificate. It was extremely sad to see that so many of those whom I had sat beside in class every day had emigrated so soon after the course had finished.

I am also one of the lucky graduates who has managed to secure work in the field that I am trained in, but over the past few years, I have witnessed the exodus of my peers from Ireland. At the weekends now, the talk among my friends on a night out is about their travel plans, and where they are going to emigrate to.

When I go home to Cavan, the absence of those who now live too far away to come back, even at Christmas, is also felt. Cavan is becoming a ghost town, devoid of youth, just like so many other rural towns around the country.

Many of those who are employed are working in cafes and shops, jobs that bear little relation to their qualifications. They are supposed to feel lucky that they have a job at all, even though they may be barely making ends meet, while their true potential lies untapped. It is deflating for graduates who have put so much time and energy into their education to emerge into an economic environment that offers them little opportunity to put their knowledge to good use.

We are unfairly having to pay, and pay dearly, for the mistakes of a previous generation. Last week, we were reading in the news that Irish exports increased last year by 12 per cent, but the greatest export, the one costing us the most, is our youth.

Those who can stay behind have to take a stand and do all they can to help to repair the damage that has been done. We can’t leave it to those who so corruptly demolished the economy in the first place.

Young people must shout loudly to have their voices heard. We need to encourage more young people to become actively engaged in politics, and the government and the opposition parties should be seeking the input of young people. It angers and frustrates me that we are being overlooked when decisions are being made, that those who are lining up in dole queues or boarding planes in search of a better life abroad are made to feel like mere statistics.

Part of me aches to leave Ireland, to get away from the pessimism and gloom, but I am choosing to stay. I love my country, and I want to be able to see it through this extremely difficult economic time. I don’t want to abandon Ireland and have no part to play.

Obama reminded us in his address to the nation at College Green in May 2011 that: “In dreams begins responsibility.”

The young generation is willing and able to share the responsibility of remoulding our economy and rebuilding a better Ireland, yet if our voice remains silenced and unheard, the emigration generation will be in danger of becoming the lost and eternally forgotten generation.

In conversation with CIARA KENNY

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