Many emigrants left to escape debt. Why isn’t this talked about?
Irish GP in Australia: ‘The banks took a risk on me, I took a risk on the Irish economy, and neither worked out’
‘If the Irish Government is serious about inviting emigrants back to Ireland, they have to address the reasons people left, and debt is one of those reasons.’ Image: Getty Images/SuperStock RM
The Generation Emigration series makes for interesting reading, as do the comments underneath the articles. Many people who respond are supportive of the writers, but many others are downright nasty and vindictive.
The negative comments highlight the animosity that exists towards those who have found themselves in difficult financial circumstances, and have made the decision to emigrate for that reason. The excessively self righteous view that a debt is a debt and should therefore always be paid seems to still hold sway.
I feel sorry for those still left behind in Ireland in this situation; they are trapped by lending institutions and the law into a lifetime of debt repayment at the cost of who knows what for their families and their own personal health and wellbeing.
I’m a GP who has recently emigrated to Australia. I left my business partnership, my patients of eight years, my extended family and friends and my country to avoid a bank bleeding me dry at the cost of my children’s education. I built a family home when our business was doing well and growing, and at the time had no reason to believe it wouldn’t continue to do well. I make no apologies for earning a good income. I come from a rough working class background in Dublin and got through medicine with the help of my wife and our families.
Around the time our house was finished, the IMF began to dictate to the Irish government how much they could spend on various services including the General Medical Services Scheme for medical card holders. Our practice made most of its income from this group of patients and had developed many costly services for which we received zero income. As a business we, the partners, took the financial hits. We did not charge the patients, we did not reduce staff hours or wages.
Eventually the economic downturn began to impact on my personal financial situation: my mortgage as a percentage of my income began to grow to the point where it became obvious that in a few years I would not be able to afford to send my children to university. The bank’s response was to put each request on the long finger; all this meant for me was that I would be working for them for the rest of my life, they could at any point use the law to take my house or force me to pay.
We didn’t have a lavish lifestyle. Living in a rural area, we owned two cars, but they were nine and 11 years old. We took one family holiday a year, and had no 60-inch plasma screens.
So we left Ireland. I don’t want to be abroad, and there is a shortage of GPs in Ireland. It doesn’t make sense.
Last year I had the opportunity to open a new surgery in a small isolated community where I’m from, much in need of a local GP. I advised the banks of my predicament, but they chose the “wait and see” approach.
So I’ve stayed abroad. I don’t feel morally obliged to pay the banks for a house that’s now worth 50 per cent of what I paid for it. The banks took a risk on me, I took a risk on the Irish economy, and neither worked out.
There are I’m sure many Irish people abroad who have left for the same reasons but I don’t often see those views represented in Generation Emigration. If the Irish Government is serious about inviting emigrants back to Ireland, they have to address the reasons people left, and debt is one of those reasons. People like me were paying up to 50 per cent of our income in tax, and we are now out of the system, not paying tax and not providing needed services that we are skilled and experienced to offer. Where’s the sense in that?
Dr William “Billy” Ralph works as a GP in Melbourne. He told Ciara Kenny about how his fitness regime changed since leaving Ireland in G’day sport: Is exercise easier in Australia?