Debate: are emigrants abandoning Ireland, or has it abandoned them?
A Facebook page, now removed, accused Irish emigrants of abandoning their country in its time of need, and has met with a volatile reaction online. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
GENERATION EMIGRATION:A Facebook page has accused emigrants of being ‘Ireland Abandoners’. Here, two Irish people, homeand abroad, weigh up the debate
A Facebook page called “Ireland Abandoners” appeared online last month, taking aim at emigrants who were “jumping ship” when Ireland needed them most.
“Basically you have all left now,” it said. “Many of you hope to return one day when things pick up, when the economic climate changes to suit you, well, guess who is changing it? The people that stayed behind. We will not allow you to reap the benefit of the crops that we are sowing now!”
The page attracted more than a thousand “Likes” and numerous comments from people who agreed with the anonymous account holder, and thousands of replies from emigrants who were offended by the remarks.
A counter page set up by a group of emigrants in Australia lobbied for the original page to be removed from Facebook, which it subsequently was.
Here, two people give their reaction to the debate.
KATIE HARRINGTON (24), now lives in Dubai
I was surprised about how strongly I felt on reading the recent Facebook Ireland Abandoners page, which attacked young people who have emigrated from Ireland. The page derided those of us who have left the country recently, arguing that we had abandoned Ireland and would not be welcome back when the recession ended.
To abandon something is to walk away from it and to never look back. None of my Irish friends who left Ireland in search of work has done that. The page also criticised those of us who fly the tricolour abroad (“Take down your tricolours, you are not worthy of flying them and are not welcome back”). Who is anyone to tell us we don’t have that right? Should we stop listening to Irish music, too? I’m going to a GAA tournament outside Dubai next week; should I tell the organisers to cancel it, that Irish people can celebrate their cultural heritage only in Ireland?
Irish people are known for our gregarious nature, it’s a trait we like to promote. But the debate on the Ireland Abandoners page displayed another attribute we’re famous for – begrudgery.
I’m 24, and August will mark my fourth year living outside Ireland. In the past 12 months, I have left a teaching job in Abu Dhabi to pursue a media career in Bristol, a move that was ultimately unsuccessful and led to me taking a post in recruitment to pay the bills. Six months later, I was offered a journalism job in Dubai, so I returned to the Middle East.
Dubai is the fifth city I’ve lived in since graduating from the University of Limerick in 2009. I’ve worked long hours and for free, and I’ve worked in countries I would rather not have worked in. I’m not complaining, because after all that, I feel things are going my way now. I’m on the career path I want to be on, I’m saving money, and I shouldn’t have to apologise for that.
What the person behind this page – and others who posted comments supporting them – seem to ignore is that many of us did our utmost to stay. We still watch when the Budget is announced, to see if it contains anything that might allow us to come home in the next few years. We have brothers, sisters, parents and friends who are struggling with cutbacks.