The emigration debate: should I stay or should I go?
Debate winners Kate Brady with Liam Brophy and John Engle (centre). photographs: charles mcquillan/pacemaker.
Proposition lead speaker Eoin O'Liathain opens the the motion at the Irish Times Debate Final in Queen's University's Riddel Hall. Photographs: charles mcquillan/pacemaker.
At the final of the annual Irish Times Debate in Belfast last weekend, 12 of the country’s best student debaters argued the motion that “This house would emigrate”. Here, some of the speakers summarise their arguments for and against emigration.
Rob MacCarthy UCD Literary and Historical Society
For generations Irish people have pursued freedom. Freedom from tyranny, freedom from ways of life being forced upon us. We have pursued freedom from shame and freedom from guilt. We no longer wish to be apologetic for who we are or who we want to be.
Emigration is this freedom coming full circle. Emigration is the ability to make a life for yourself in spite of adversity. It is the empowerment to rule yourself and be comfortable in yourself, wherever you go. It is that connection with history you choose to embrace. To emigrate is to express this identity of freedom, independence and opportunity.
Kate Brady TCD Historical Society, winner of the individual Christina Murphy memorial prize
An emigrant has left their country in the belief that they will not be returning. These people are looking for somewhere else to settle, somewhere else to try to belong. The explorer travels in the knowledge or hope of return. Because of this, the explorer, and not the emigrant, can engage with new experiences and different realities of other countries and cultures.
The explorer can see new worlds on their own terms.
The emigrant, however, the person who will not be returning home, is much more likely to constantly compare their new experiences with what they have left at home. Such emigrants cannot value such experiences for what they are, as they struggle to see past what they are not. You can’t experience something good about a country if you are continually missing your own home. That is the difference between the mindset of an emigrant and the mindset of someone who has travelled.
Adam Kydd Queen’s University Belfast Literary and Scientific Society
The Irish graduate is rigorously and holistically educated, highly skilled and English-speaking – without the nasty Anglo-American habit of invading lots of places. The Irish graduate is no amateur emigrant. He is professionalised for the globalising world.
By sending young graduates to Russia, China and Brazil, Irish business will learn more about emerging markets, and foreign investors will grow to trust them as familiar faces. And if business turns sour for one Irishman in China, he’s likely to have an old friend from NUIG who’s been there before.
Liam Brophy TCD Bram Stoker Club
(winner of the team Demosthenes trophy with John Engle)
Irish people are drawn to stories, and the one we like to tell ourselves is that we’re victims. A spiritual, lyrical, tragic people who have never been fully in charge of our own fate; always prey to some bigger, bullying outside agent. Emigration is one of the great themes in our national narrative and it serves as a sort of perpetual epilogue; the tragic end to most chapters of our history.