'The longer people stay away, the less likely they are to return'
EMIGRATION:The exodus has had a life-changing effect on those leaving, but also on those left behind, writes CIARA KENNY
THOMAS CLOHOSEY (23) watched his friends leave their home town of Templemore, Co Tipperary, one by one over the past three years in search of work. Some went to Dublin, but most boarded a flight to London or Australia.
He had doubts about his own future in Ireland long before he graduated this year. While studying for a degree in construction management, he had to go abroad for the last three summers to make money to support himself through the rest of the college year. “I had nothing going for me in Ireland. There’s no work in my trade, or even in a shop or pub,” he says. “I came back home for a month after spending the summer in Italy, and I was bored out of my mind. There were no young people left.”
When he heard Canada was on the verge of a construction boom, the decision on where to go was easy. Within two days of landing in Vancouver earlier this month, he had found work as a purchasing agent for a construction firm.
“I have no experience but with this job I’ve jumped a few rungs of the ladder already. In Ireland, the people from my course are on the dole or doing internships, but I’ve got a really good job and am getting well paid for it. Why wouldn’t I do it? There’s no way I would have had this opportunity if I had stayed.”
Figures published by the Central Statistics Office yesterday show that 35,800 young people emigrated from Ireland in the year to April, an increase of 1,300 on the previous year and more than twice the 2006 number.
Michael Noonan’s argument in January that emigration was a “lifestyle choice” for young people is contradicted by these figures.
For many young people the opportunity to live and work abroad, even if it is thrust upon them through a lack of prospects in Ireland, is a welcome opportunity for adventure and new experiences.
Most young people who have contributed to The Irish Times’s Generation Emigration forum for the Irish abroad are happy to be away from Ireland at the moment. While some express anger at being “forced” out because of unemployment or poor prospects, most, like Clohosey, are at least glad the option is there to travel or work elsewhere.
The majority of emigrants aged under 25 surveyed by Ipsos/MRBI for The Irish Times in March reported being happier than they had been in Ireland, with better jobs, a healthier lifestyle and an ability to save money. One in three were unemployed before they left, but nine in 10 were working abroad when the survey was conducted. Some 86 per cent of those who had found a job said it was on a par with or better than the one they had had in Ireland.