States with Irish migrants 'should pay tax'


COUNTRIES that benefit from Irish emigration should pay a tax to the State in return, sociologist Fr Micheál Mac Gréil SJ has said.

The Jesuit priest, who addressed the annual St Patrick’s Day pilgrimage on Máméan in Connemara’s Maamturk mountains, said current emigration was symptomatic of a free movement of labour that had become an “international scandal”.

Weaker countries like Ireland would “never develop” while there was a “push-pull” factor attracting young people to stronger economies, he said at the weekend.

“The push is the crisis at home, the pull is the opportunity abroad,” which was reflected in an Irish Times survey on emigration on Saturday, Fr Mac Gréil noted.

The survey showed 59 per cent of emigrants left by choice, while 41 per cent said they were forced to leave.

Fr Mac Gréil, former professor of sociology at NUI Maynooth, said he did not blame young people for leaving, either by choice or circumstance, and many were “great ambassadors for Ireland”.

“But the reality is that it is a great loss for the country, and it would be better for young Ireland to be on the dole – and be creative – than to be emigrating,” he said.

Fr Mac Gréil emphasised he was not in favour of a “centralist socialism that curtailed freedom of movement”, as this was to punish individuals for an issue that was “determined by globalisation”.

“When it costs the State an average of €85,000 to educate people to third-level, it is time that host countries paid a tax in return for the benefits accruing,” he said.

By the same token, Ireland should then be prepared to pay a tax to developing countries whose citizens – trained in areas such as medicine – are employed here.