Reflections on a homecoming: 'The fight has gone out of Irish people'
Visiting emigrants share their impressions of Ireland while home for Christmas and New Year
Padraig Moran (28), London: “The word ‘recession’ is never mentioned”
The first night home felt easy, life how it’s meant to be lived. I woke up in the not-so-merry aftermath and wanted to move back. But that was quickly followed by a promising email from my job in London, making me realise I’d be mad to try.
Everyone seemed to agree. “We miss you and all, but stay where you are.” They’re doing well. Retraining. Working in jobs they don’t love while they figure out their next move.
We were young when the economy belly-flopped. Luckily, we were too young to be saddled with debt. Less luckily, we were too young to have established ourselves when jobs got scarce and doors started closing. Five years on, opportunities at home look thin on the ground, but people are working hard. No one grumbles.
A friend calls it “waiting”, waiting until we get to that point where the hard work starts paying off. Waiting to succeed. I’m doing the same in London, I think. Maybe it’s good for us. The word “recession” is never mentioned.
Everyone’s a couple of years older than how I remember them. I was struck by the number of new businesses. Artisan bakers, organic food halls, Irish design stores. There’s money in the old town yet.
Heading back to the airport, I passed a butcher’s on Camden St. A neon sign used to shout ‘baby beef’ from the window, but it’s broken now. The single word ‘baby’ floats ominously over racks of raw, pinkish flesh. Swift, you’d hope, would have loved it. If we’re too poor to keep the lights on, we can always eat the young.
Padraig Moran moved to London in 2010 to work as a journalist.
James Taplin (41), Dubai: “The emigration issue is less raw this year”
Saying goodbye to my wife and kids in Westmeath to return to Dubai after Christmas this year was much easier than last, as the day this article is printed they will be moving out here to join me in the United Arab Emirates.
We went to visit my sister and her children on St Stephen’s Day, an annual tradition, to watch the racing at Leopardstown together. Apart from that, we had a quiet Christmas as my father-in-law is unwell.
The thing that struck me most during this visit was how much my daughter Cara’s speech had developed since I last saw her in August. She’s two, and speaking in full sentences now. It took her a while to get used to having me there in person. Every time I turned on the computer she pointed at me as if to say, “you should be in there”. Daniel is five, and he was delighted to see me.
There is an air of resignation in the country now that is very noticeable. The fight has gone out of people, which I was saddened to see. I brought up the budget a few times in the pub, and no one wanted to talk about having less money in their pockets next year. At this stage, most people only have the energy to put on a brave face.
The emigration issue is less raw this year than last. The media are still looking for the sob stories but, generally, emigration is another fallout from the recession that people have accepted.