There’s no place like home: the young Irish who are happy to be here
On the eve of St Patrick’s Day, meet the young Irish people refusing to board the bandwagon of gloom. Buzzing with ideas and enthusiasm, they are building careers, gaining new skills and starting companies in a country they believe is full of potential. For these young Irish, despite everything, there’s no place like home
Staying power: Front row, left to right: Mark Griffin, Rebecca Winckworth, Dearbhla McGann, Ian Power;
Rory McInerney. Photograph: Alan Betson
Clare Herbert. Photograph: Alan Betson
Steve O'Donnell. Photograph: Alan Betson
Katie Tsouros, Rebecca Winckworth and Kate Dillon. Photograph: Alan Betson
Clare Herbert, 25
is a self-employed communications consultant and journalist. Originally from Kildare she lives in Dublin and blogs at clareherbert.com
Despite the doom and gloom, I love life in Ireland. I wish we were a little less angry and a little more proactive in how we deal with the problems we face. I tend to shield myself from some of the more depressing media coverage.
About 60 per cent of my friends have left. Most of them went voluntarily, looking for adventure and work opportunities.
Only a few felt they had to leave because employment prospects were bleak. I have worked abroad before but I consider myself lucky to have enough work to sustain myself here. The emotional pull to Ireland remains profound. I want to be at home, to live in the country where I was educated and to be a very small part of the solution to our grave national problems.
We have the opportunity to reimagine the kind of country we want to live in and that’s very exciting.
People I look up to . . . are Mary Robinson, for her humility and dedication, and Colm O’Gorman for his courage and honesty.
Steve O’Donnell, 24
has just moved to Dublin from Co Clare and is a graphic designer with Spin 1038 and 98FM. He also runs the creative agency All Out Design, and recently set up a designer toy company.
I love living in Ireland and I think people who complain about being here are lazy and pessimistic. I’ve had the best and most successful years of my life since the recession hit.
We have to stop being bogged down by economic troubles. The businesses closing are being replaced by small and more passionate enterprises and the ones that survive will be driven by this passion. I have thought about leaving, but I figured turning my back on all the connections and relationships I’ve built up here would be a huge disadvantage.
Despite all the negativity, I feel really good about this country. I take little interest in politics because the more I find out, the more I lose faith in what they are doing.
My plan is to stick on my path and forget everything else. They’ll continue to mess up at their end and I’ll continue to succeed at mine.
What brings me down is . . . people whose minds are closed to new ideas.
Cathal Reid, 24
is a secondary-school teacher in Limerick. He has lived and worked in Scotland, Australia and the US. He enjoys yoga, meditation, weight lifting and getting out of his comfort zone.
To me Ireland means fun, friends and fond memories. When I came back from Australia a few months ago I expected most of my friends to be unemployed and depressed, because that’s the picture that had been painted.
The truth is that all my friends are either working or still in education and, most importantly, they are content.
We have an amazing country, and although we are going through a tough time there are still huge opportunities here for people of all ages.
We have such little control of outside factors; but there is one thing we are in control of, and that’s our attitude to whatever circumstances we face.
Perspective is also important: less than 100 years ago Britain ruled us and outlawed our language. If we can overcome that, we can overcome anything.
My heroes are . . . my parents. I put them through so much pain and anguish in my younger years. Now I see how much they did for me, and how openminded and inspirational they are.
Kate Dillon, 23
lives in Dublin with her family and works full-time for Converse Ireland. She is also a co -founder of a footwear customisation business .
I am exactly where I want to be at this point in my life. I know I am very lucky to have a job and that there are lots of young people struggling to find employment who feel the only option is to leave. But we need fresh blood to drive business and entrepreneurship.
I recently heard about DCU’s New Start, which is a scheme to help start-ups, and I think there should be lots more initiatives like that.
The way I view Ireland is as a little green island populated by a fantastically talented, fun-loving, passionate set of individuals who have managed to create an environment where even the biggest multinationals want to be based. My generation has ambition, resilience and hope for the future.
I hope we nev er lose . . . the charm and character so many people travel here to experience
Brian Morrissey, 23
from Clonara, Co Clare, is an advertising intern in Dublin. He likes running, rugby and watching ‘The Sopranos’ .
There is an edge to life here. Everyone is on the move, either afraid of what tomorrow holds or excited by the prospects. Young people have a natural sense of optimism and, even with all the gloom, it shines through. I’ve travelled and lived away from home but I’ve never wanted to succeed anywhere else the same way I do here.
Of course I’ve been attracted by other places but then I look around me and I see this country offers as much as anywhere else in the world. Even if you live in Manhattan you can still stand on only one spot at a time and hang around with so many people. I’m really positive about the future of this country. I expect exceptional things. The greater the challenges, the greater the performance that is required to overcome them.
I have great respect for . . .Roy Keane, because when I was 12 I saw him tell all the other grown-ups that what they accepted was not good enough.
Tara Walsh, 23
availed of an internship scheme to land her job in a Dublin public relations company. She is interested in current affairs, live music and theatre.
A lot of us have had to do internships to get jobs. I t’s expected nowadays unless you are on a clear career path such as teaching or accounting. In my case it worked out and I got offered a full-time position. I feel lucky.
I don’t think I will ever leave Ireland permanently. Every time I go away I always think, ‘T his place is good but Ireland is much better .’ As a society, we have moved on in many fundamental ways and I’m glad I don’t live in the Ireland of decades ago.
There is a real solidarity among people my age because we all left college at a really difficult time. We’re hugely supportive of each other because we know how difficult it is to get a decent job.
I have huge respect for . . . Michael D Higgins. I know it’s a bit naff saying the President, but he represents us so well.
Rebecca Winckworth, 23
is a full-time musician. This month she released her debut solo EP and all proceeds will go towards her trip to India this summer where she will be volunteering with the Irish charity Suas.
It’s exciting to be in Ireland at the moment. Despite all the problems there’s a strong sense of unity, a feeling of “we’ll get through this together ”. I think this new Ireland is far nicer than the Celtic Tiger days; there’s less greed, materialism and competition.
I’m a member of the Sandbox network, a global community of young innovators and entrepreneurs. Our Dublin hub is the most active of the 25 worldwide. We have loads of talented young people, from writers to contemporary artists, theatre producers to web developers and financiers to sportspeople.
I am constantly inspired by meeting bright young Irish people who are fulfilling their dreams by having the courage to challenge the status quo .
I’d say 80 per cent of my college friends have emigrated. Most of them work in business, medicine or engineering and felt the opportunities in tho se fields were better abroad. I nearly went too, when I was offered a masters at the University of Cambridge, but I spent a long time building up a musical career in Ireland and I felt it would be foolish to throw it all away.
I’m happier being a poor musician in a country I love than a bored banker in a foreign, lonely city.
My role model is . . . my mother, because of her talent and generosity
Rory McInerney, 24
has just started Fitter Faster Stronger, a high-performance gym and personal training facility in Dublin city centre. ffs.ie
It’s an exciting if uncertain time to be young in this country. The uncertainty creates challenges that are motivational. I want my business to become well established and not just a flash in the pan.
What sets our generation apart is a greater desire to succeed. I believe the talents of this generation will shine through. We are innovative and intelligent and, most importantly, we have the skills to improvise, adapt and overcome.
This might not be a widely held view but I actually think we are in a privileged position to learn from the mistakes made over the last few years. The future’s in our hands.
I am inspired by . . . my father, who lost his business and then slaved away, in the face of public embarrassment, to start a new company.
Katie Tsouros, 27
is from Dublin and is a co founder and CEO of Artfetch, an online gallery for emerging artists artfetch.com
I lived in London for a couple of years and I love travelling, but I am a homebird at heart. I would consider emigrating if it was something that made sense for me or my business. Fortunately, it’s not something that I’ve ever felt I have to do.
I think the tougher economic times have forced people of my generation to be more creative in terms of the opportunities that are available. We can’t walk into jobs like we once could, so we have to be more proactive.
I also think the hard times have encouraged people to re-evaluate what’s important. Yes, it’s harder to succeed now but that’s okay, it will lead to a greater sense of achievement and confidence in the nation.
I love Ireland because . . . of the people; a truly unique bunch.
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Sheelan Yousefizadeh, 21
wa s born in Tehran, Iran, and moved to Ireland with her family at the age of 12. She studies genetics at Trinity College Dublin and works part-time in a cafe
Despite being born in Iran, I call this country home. It’s where my friends and family are, it’s where I would hope to start a family of my own in the future. Young people in Ireland are privileged to have access to many of their basic rights; primarily their right to freedom of speech and assembly. But while these rights are available, many do not exercise them.
Many young people are staying here because they genuinely care about their country and want to make a difference. I really believe Ireland has a bright future, provided young people become a central part of the decision-making process.
I am happy here because . . . I feel equal and accepted.
Rachel Lally, 26
is a model, actor and theatre masters student at the Gaiety School of Acting and NUI Maynooth. She is from Newbridge, Co Kildare, and likes home-brewing and heavy metal.
I’ve been to my fair share of farewell parties but I’ve noticed a shift in the mentality of those who ha ve stayed. We seem to have a more intimate and meaningful engagment with each other now. We appreciate what we have.
The recession has also taught us to be more resourceful, swapping mad nights out for cosy nights in, restaurant meals for dinners in our kitchens and gym membership for jogging.
There’s no getting away from the fact that we are in an uncertain place, and as a nation we seem to be beating ourselves up or moaning instead of acting. But families and individuals are making significant changes to their lives to help the country get back in shape financially. So we need to give ourselves credit for that.
What I like about being Irish . . . is our great capacity for empathy. We look to each other when the bigger institutions let us down.
Dearbhla McGann, 21,
is from Newbridge, Co Kildare, and is working as a beauty therapist in Dublin since returning from Australia five months ago .
Our generation are more appreciative of jobs and money because both are rarer than they were 10 years ago. I think we have more gratitude for the things money can’t buy.
Emigrating made me realise Ireland is not as bad as people say. I went to Australia for a change of scenery, not for job opportunities. I was happy to come home after a year.
Spending time with my friends and family makes me happy and I couldn’t do that in Australia.
The future of the country . . . is bright. I keep very positive because being negative won’t get us anywhere .
Ian Power, 26
works in Dublin with the youth charity spunout.ie. Originally from Co Waterford, he has just moved home from London, where he worked in education for two years .
When I graduated from UCC I was on the first one-way flight out of here. I couldn’t bear the atmosphere of despair. If it wasn’t for the excitement of a new job, I wouldn’t have returned. I’ve been pleasantly surprised. There’s a great buzz around the city.
As a generation we are stereotyped in the media with labels such as “the lost generation”.
It’s difficult to read that when you know there is so much good work going on. I am confident that our young people could change the world if given the chance. But I worry that they won’t get that chance because our political system is slow, self-interested and devoid of dynamism.
Ireland is great . . . because of the people, the landscape and Barry ’s Tea.
Having completed a stint at Dylan McGrath’s Fade St Social, he is currently on a break from the kitchen to pursue a photographic career .
For those who are willing to take a chance this country holds so much potential. My generation will become the new face of Ireland and change the way we are viewed on an international level. I have a plan to live in another country for some of my 20s, but at the moment I am building something strong to fall back on when I return to Ireland.
Everything is changing at such a fast pace and all we can do is embrace the moment and believe in a brighter future.
My Irish heroes are . . .Fionn Mac Cumhaill, Veronica Guerin and my father, Philip Guiney .
Emma Fortune, 23
is from St Mullins, Co Carlow, and works in Dublin’s docklands as marketing manager with Spanish Point Technologies, where she interned after graduating from UCD.
I think we are hungry. We are the generation of kids that got a wake-up call. This makes us very goal oriented, especially in the business world. Some of my closest friends are abroad.
I always thought that I would be the first one on the plane to some mad place. For a time I thought maybe I had been left behind and that I have missed out on something. But I feel I made the best decision for me – Dublin is the hub of all things tech these days – and I have no regrets.
The most impressive things about Ireland . . . are ideas machines such as James Whelton of CoderDojo and Paddy Cosgrove from the Dublin Web Summit.
Úna Ní Chárthaigh, 23
is from Clonakilty, Co Cork, and is a PR executive in the bilingual communications company Stillwater Communications, in Dublin.
We have it a lot better than some generations before us. We know we've to work extra hard to earn our keep and we appreciate how precious our jobs and college courses are.
I started training with na Gaeil Óga, an all-Irish speaking GAA club in Dublin city centre, to get to know some people my age so it's nice to feel part of a group here.
Having spent the p ast four years in college in Connemara , it eased the transition to city life having everything in Dublin, from football to yoga to pubs, as Gaeilge. I’ve no intention of leaving.
You can't beat . . . Irish banter. It doesn’t cost much to have a laugh in Ireland .
Vincent Lyons, 24
runs a small software development company in Dublin with some friends. In his spare time he oversees Dubstarts, a brand that helps young people get involved in entrepreneurship and i nternet start ups .
I got off a plane last September after a few months volunteering in India and headed straight to the pub to catch up with friends. While I was there, I randomly bumped into a bunch of i nternet entrepreneurs who wanted to help me make connections here instead of emigrating.
It made me appreciate that I have the right people around me now in Dublin. Tens of thousands of jobs in finance, construction and engineering disappeared overnight while a lot of us were at college or starting out in our careers. Some of my friends feel a bit lost.
On the positive side, I'm seeing friends with business degrees starting companies, and others learning programming.
I spend my days surrounded by young Irish people looking to build companies and I'm sharing in all their excitement and frustration.
For most of us there's a huge gap between the Ireland we thought we'd be living in when we were growing up, and the country we have now.
A lot of us are going through this mad scramble for identity. The Ireland I try my best to live in is creative, hardworking and optimistic.
In the future . . . I expect to see some of the world's greatest companies being built in Ireland.
Mark Griffin, 23
is from Limerick and is an intern at Cork University Hospital. In his spare time he likes to act, watch movies and listen to the musings of Ger Loughnane.
We’re the ones charged with fixing the country. We have a “put up or shut up” attitude. I nstead of just talking, we are doing. What’s also happening is we are re-examining ourselves as individuals and as a nation. I think this self-reflection can only stand to us. I know not everyone agrees, but I believe Enda Kenny deserves a lot of respect. He’s had nothing to work with since taking charge and he’s made a lot of progress with restoring some of our international credibility. H e’s hard working and he’s doing well.
I feel lucky to have a job; most of my friends are retraining or have emigrated. I do think about leaving but it’s mostly because I want a break from having to listen to the Plight of Ireland on a daily basis. For some reason we can’t stop analysing why the country’s in the state it’s in.
I heard two guys talking about Bertie Ahern the other day as if the whole scandal just broke last week. It’s been years now. Why keep bringing it up?
What makes me happy . . . is seeing Irish teenagers such as The Strypes blowing people’s minds with their music.
Jessica Hutchinson, 23,
grew up in O’Devaney Gardens in Dublin 7 and is doing a degree in youth and community work at NUI Maynooth. She is on the steering committee of the Y Factor, a group that supports young women in Ireland.
There have been drastic cuts to the youth sector, which will have an impact on the future of young people and their hopes of employment. But I still maintain we have a thriving and striving community of young people who can offer so much if they’re recognised as active citizens capable of creating change.
I thought about leaving when I lost my job but decided to go back into education to create a better future at home.
Knowledge is power. I want to play a part in creating a better future for the next generation.
Socrates said it best: “The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new”.
I admire . . . strong women in Irish society and from history, such as Constance Markievicz
Special thanks to Rita Crosbie and the staff at Café Bar H in Grand Canal Square, Dublin for providing the location for this photo shoot. For reservations, call
01 899 2216 cafeh.ie