'Emigration is a tragedy,' says novelist


Irish emigration can best be described as a “tragedy” for the emigrants themselves and for Ireland the novelist Colm Tóibín as said.

He said the phenomenon of Irish people emigrating en-masse whenever there is a downturn does not happen in places like Spain and the north-east of England.

Speaking at the Global Irish Forum this afternoon, Mr Tóibín said he was moved by the pictures on the news of people losing their jobs at the TalkTalk call centre in Waterford.

He believed providing employment was the most important thing that Ireland could do for the unemployed.

Mr Tóibin, who lived in Spain for many years, said exile had been “nourishing” for him as an artists and for many Irish writers such as Samuel Beckett and James Joyce.

However, he stressed that it was “too easy” to think that made emigration good for Irish people and when Irish people emigrate, their parents and grandparents lose them.

“It is a tragedy and we have to remember that and that should be our priority,” he said.

Actor Gabriel Byrne, who is also Ireland’s cultural ambassador, said emigrants and the diaspora had a “passionate even spiritual connection” with Ireland, but the feelings weren’t reciprocated by Irish people who remain at home. “We don’t think of them belonging to us,” he said.

Comedian Dara Ó Briain said Irish people in Britain were now regarded as not much different from their British counterparts and Ireland not sufficiently unique to attract visitors.

He said the Imagine Ireland cultural initiative in the United States should be tried in the UK too.

The three were taking part in a discussion at the forum on how to promote Ireland through arts and culture.