State that chooses banks over people has no right to talk patriotism


OPINION:We are breeding an entire generation for export – again, writes  AISLING TWOMEY

I WAS born in May 1990 – in the middle of an economic recession. I’ll turn 21 next year, at the same time that I’ll complete my degree.

I will come of age and graduate in the middle of an economic recession. Frankly, I find that astonishing.

A country that abounds with talent, imagination and intelligence is drowning under the weight of its own incapacity to create opportunity and steadfast growth – and it’s not the first time that’s happened.

This year, it is estimated that 65,500 people have left Ireland, permanently, to find opportunity elsewhere. That is 400 more than last year; 20,000 more than the year before.

That is phenomenal; we are breeding an entire generation for export. In a similar vein, the number of people immigrating to Ireland has fallen this year: 30,800 in 2010 – almost 28,000 less than in 2009.

Not only are we breeding a generation for export, but nobody is coming here because they know that this is a State in serious need of a band-aid.

I honestly feel that my country is providing me with no opportunities and that my Government is shaming me on the international stage. Ireland is small, but our contributions, social, political and economic, have been the subject of much admiration over the years. Currently, there is little to admire.

Consider this a moment. I have no job. I sent out 86 job applications this summer, to no avail. I did not even hear anything from most of the jobs I applied for, which is inherently degrading. I do not own a car, nor can I drive. I can’t afford the lessons, and can’t afford the car – not to mind the petrol.

My developing independence has taken a serious knock. My degree will be worth little to me; law isn’t exactly the booming career it once was.

I live with my parents, despite the fact that my restlessness tells me to go elsewhere. I can’t afford to go elsewhere.

I have given up drinking, purely because I haven’t the money to do it – which you might consider a saving grace, but it means that I’ve also lost a social life that made me feel positive and optimistic and fun.

At 20, and I mean this with no exaggeration, I feel quite terminally worthless and helpless to do anything about it.

I was always so sure that I would stay here, live here, work here and thrive here. I felt, as I grew into a booming economy that offered me a lot and took nothing away, that I had a great hand to play and more cards to refresh my stock should some options not work out.

Now I don’t think I have an ace in the hole; my options are disappearing from my hand quite quickly, because my Government prefers to save the bankers than the youth of the nation.

If I stay in Ireland, I’ll be forced to pay for that preference – a preference I resent, made by a leadership that devalues me; a preference I never made.

I don’t expect to be in Ireland to pay the price of that failure. A generation is turning its back on the State. We might forever be seen as unpatriotic. We could have waited, they’ll say; we could have stuck it out.

That’s all fine and well – but I won’t take lessons in patriotism from a Government that chooses banks over people.

As Brian Cowen himself has said – I find that to be beyond the pale.

Aisling Twomey is editor of Motley magazine at University College Cork