I watched two programmes tonight that made me think about the state of this country. The first was an episode of Nationwide that featured young Irish people who are doing very well in London. One of them is Conor Clinch, from Coolock, a 20-year-old photographer who plans to open his own studio. He shows no signs of wanting to return to Ireland. Who could blame him?
I thought of Aer Lingus’ recent marketing campaign in which it brought some family members back to Ireland, squeezing the maximum emotional capital from the tearful reunions while informing us mournfully that over 50% of Irish people wouldn’t make it ‘home’ for Christmas. How many of those people didn’t come ‘home’ because home is now somewhere else—somewhere where they have happily integrated, perhaps married a local person? The sentimental notion of ‘Wild Geese’, tied up with historical victimhood, is no longer appropriate.
It’s surely time for a rethink on the ‘emigration as unmitigated evil’ theme to which our useless politicians have always paid lip service, even though emigration is a necessary escape valve to mask their failures (as is the abortion trail to England). Yes, it’s a shame if people are forced to leave by economic circumstance, but even then their horizons may be expanded greatly in other countries.
The second programme I watched was The Great Irish Sell-Off, which examined how international vulture funds have bought massive swathes of property in Ireland in the past few years, raising rents, closing businesses and evicting mortgage holders more or less as they please. Each of these multi-billion businesses pays something like €250 in tax in Ireland each year.
Noam Chomsky, interviewed for the programme, said ‘It’s obvious that concentrated private capital will seek to increase its power—and the power is enormous … When you say the Government could no nothing, that means the public did nothing.’
He’s right, of course. Ireland could be a great little country, but after almost 100 years of independence we still haven’t managed to elect any government that has come close to making this a reality. No wonder so many so many of our people don’t come ‘home’.