Working hard to start anew in Spain
Tadg and Finola Higgins left Ireland for Torrevieja in their 50s after their businesses failed in the downturn
My wife Finola and I, both in our 50s, left Ireland just before the bailout in October 2010 to live in the tourist town of Torrevieja in Spain. The reason for our departure was simple: we simply could not live in a country that penalises the hardworking and industrious, and rewards the lazy and inept.
We both ran fairly successful businesses which disappeared through a combination of events but mostly due to the economic downturn. We also lost a lot of hard-earned money on several investments, which was painful. Ireland held nothing for us any more. What could two 50-year-olds do in a country heading towards the rocks with incapables at the helm?
We sold our main residence, cleared our mortgage, packed up a Renault Kangoo with our favourite belongings and left Ringaskiddy on a cold and rainy Saturday evening. We had purchased a house here in 2005 and arrived several days later with the intention of spending one year here.
We did not read an Irish newspaper for over 12 months, nor did we watch television. We both got jobs, I for a Russian property company sourcing properties for investors from that huge and amazing country. My wife works as a hairdresser in an Irish-owned salon catering for all nationalities. We have a nice lifestyle, albeit frugal, and have no intention of returning in the immediate future .
We both meet many Irish people during our respective working days and we have yet to meet one who has anything good to say about the current state of play in the auld sod. I have been back only once, for a weekend, to see a beloved aunt in her 80s. Finola returns regularly to see her family.
These days I check the Irish Times online almost daily. Nothing has changed – recent revelations about top-ups paid to HSE executives and charity organisations are perfect examples – and it seems nothing ever will.
There is a plaque by the side of a road in West Cork near my grandfather’s birthplace in Kealkil near Bantry, commemerating men who laid down their lives in their belief that Ireland will be a good place for their grandchildren to live in. It says “May Ireland in her hour of need have the calibre of man who scarificed everything on this spot.” The hour of need is here, but the cailbre of man sadly is not.
My Russian colleagues who know a thing or two about corruption ask me about my country and what I tell them is this: Ireland is a place run by civil servants for civil servants, where somebody can steal millions and get away with it and where somebody else can go to jail for not having a television licence. It is a place where the powers that be will tell you that everything is being done for the good of the people when in fact the opposite is true. My colleagues know exactly what I am talking about.
I have always regarded myself as a proud Cork man, a proud Munster man and a proud Irish man. But these days I drop the proud.