Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

‘With this budget, Government policy changes from Gathering to Scattering’

My friends back home are posting protests or travel plans on Facebook as news of the budget spreads, writes David Burns

David Burns (left) with a friend while home in Ireland for a holiday from Paris, where he now lives

Wed, Oct 16, 2013, 16:41


David Burns

I last wrote for Generation Emigration about the desire to make my way home as I’d never got to know the place before I left it. It seems, especially as of yesterday, that I will be swimming against a rising tide.

Logging into the Zuckerberg express last night, I saw my friends back home were all posting protests or travel plans. A few of them ‘shared’ the call of activist group 1913 Unfinished Business, aiming to demonstrate outside the Dáil today at 5pm.Others had retweeted the quip that, cutting both Dole payments for U-26 and air tax, Michael Noonan might has well drop ‘the lads’ down to Australia himself.

Personally, I can understand the view held by the Government and others that people of that age group should be in work or education. I can understand it, despite national figures standing at 30.8 per cent for youth unemployment, because people normally equate youth with resilience. I can understand a general dismissal of protest movements against the 2014 budget because people habitually equate youth with irresponsibility as well.

Given this, perhaps I would not march with 1913 Unfinished Business and The Young Worker’s Network were I back today. The only parallel that I can draw between 1913 and 2013 is nominal. However the term used to describe the action taken by William Martin Murphy and his associates in the face of the protests of that era, the ‘Lock Out’, does seem fairly apt, if in name alone.

According to estimates published by the National Youth Council of Ireland, 177,000 young people aged between 15 – 24 have left Ireland to seek work since 2008. This move by Noonan and Howlin does not seem calculated to stem or even decrease that outward flow.

It seems almost ironic that these are the tactics employed by the same government which launched the Gathering. Perhaps this change in policy is to be the ‘Scattering’. In either case, this might be a different kind of ‘Lock Out’ though we must admit the doors have not been physically barred. It is still possible to go back. It’s just that given the attitude informing these dole cuts, and the rhetoric behind them, I and others like me feel like the door is shut upon young people. Slammed even.

Yet we’re young. Healthy, mobile, flexible, resilient yes. Inexperienced, in debt, interns or unemployed also. It also becomes problematic to argue that the responsibility should be borne by our shoulders when it is argued that we weren’t buying holiday homes in Spain 13 years ago. We didn’t kill the Celtic Tiger. We didn’t grab him by the tail. Yet we’re to pay, because someone has to pay, and it doesn’t look like it will be the bankers. Paradoxically, the young are to clean up after their parents. Perhaps it is only proper to do so.

Perhaps it is wrong to point the finger. Those of us who can opt out of that unpleasant task will probably do so. Figures from a recent study undertaken by a team at UCC indicate that half of those who emigrated left full time employment behind them.

A price is to be paid for salvation, however, as once outside the island their right to determine conditions in the country they choose to leave is null and void. Once you think about it, it’s just as well really. If they chose to leave then there’re probably a few things that they’d like to change before they’d go back. Better not to have that then. Once they’re out, lock them out. Unless their opinions swing around enough to the point that they can conform and come back.

For those of us outside still young enough to feel marginalised by Noonan, not homesick enough yet to overlook the lack of dynamism in Government policy and national rhetoric, Ireland is surrounded by glass walls and the only door seems to be a way out.

Read David Burns’s previous articles for Generation Emigration about how leaving Ireland made him realise he wasted his youth playing video games, and how he learned about Ireland on a cycling trip around the country this summer.