Jan 24 2011
Kerry is the home of Gaelic football (GAA) and local businessman Jimmy Banbury runs one of five local teams in the Dingle Peninsula. He usually has no problem producing players sufficiently good to make the selection for the county senior team.
But this year he will struggle.
Unemployment levels are so high that men in their late teens and early twenties can’t afford to hang around. GAA, although played like a professional sport, is amateur. And the chance of national football glory in Croke Park is no substitute for a living.
“Eight of our best players have emigrated and more of them are going after Christmas either to Australia to Britain,” Banbury told me before Christmas.
“Only eight boys started in junior infants this year. In a 10 year period that has dropped 50 per cent,” he says. Dingle is a substantial town but relies on tourism for business and the downturn is evidently driving away those with young families.
Banbury, like everyone else in Ireland, will be unsurprised by today’s news that emigration is now running at levels higher than the 1980s.
While Fianna Fáil waste time playing deckchairs on the Titanic, the rest of the country is hanging its head in despair and anyone who has a chance – mainly single men and women – are getting out in the latest wave of emigration.
Today it was predicted that emigration in Ireland this year will be worse than the 1980s.
The Economic and Social Research Institute predicts 100,000 Irish will be emigrating in the next two years – 50,000 this year and 50,000 in 2012.
It means more Irish people will emigrate this year than 1989, when emigration last peaked and 44,000 left Ireland.
The figure is tethered to another timebomb – unemployment .
As ESRI’s Dr Alan Barrett says the figures are of course uncertain but “If migration is lower unemployment will be higher”. That’s Hobson’s choice for young graduates and for thousands of twenty and thirty-somethings who haven’t left the country already.
Ireland has reared a lost generation
The figure confirms what every family in Ireland knows, the country has reared a “lost generation” of twenty something semi-skilled workers and graduates who have no choice but to leave to find a job.
Australia is one of the most popular for the Irish and earlier this week I spoke to the authorities in Sydney and to one 26 year old who had already made the move to Oz.
There are two types of émigrés – those who are making a permanent move to the country with their families, and younger 20-somethings who are going on working holiday visas which, provided they work for three months in a rural area, can last for two years.
Five years ago, the department of immigration says, the numbers of Irish on this holiday visa stood at 12,500.
23,000 Irish arrived in Australia in 2009
This steadily rose year on year and peaked in 2008/9 when 23,000 arrived in Australia seeking a break in fortune.
Last year numbers fell slighty, back to 15,000 – although the figures are recorded from June to June, so we don’t know yet how many arrived in Australia for the second half of 2010.
Migrants with certain types of skills, carpenters, electricians, nurses and other medical workers are the lucky ones. They can get permanent visas.
The numbers here have swelled from 1,700 in 2005/2006 to 3,000 in 2009/10.
A further 2,000 “temporary visas” were granted to workers with these skill sets who got sponsors.
“If you look at the trends, 2,000 is not an insubstantial number. It’s an increase of 65 per cent on the same numbers in 2009 when there were 700. The carpenters, electricians, resident medical officers – these are not trades or professions that any country would like to lose,” said Sandi Logan, communications manager with the department of immigration and citizenship.
‘It’s like the famine remittance days’
Richie Bohan, 26, left for Australia in November 2009. He couldn’t get a job so decided to take a year out.
I caught up with him last night and he told me he had no intention of coming back.
His dad, a painter, hasn’t had work since November and is about to close his business after 43 years.
“I try not to think about what’s happening at home too much. It’s funny, when I was leaving my dad was screaming at me not to go and now he’s screaming at me not to come back.”
“My dad will be alright. I remember when I was about nine he sat me and my siblings down – there are six of us – and told us we would have to move into our gran’s, but the boom came along and we never did. He will find something.
But it’s almost sort of coming back to the days of the famine remittance when those who left sent money home,” says Bohan.
‘What’s the point of going back to Ireland?’
Bohan tried his hand as a journalist at the Irish Times and wrote a blog for me in a previous incarnation. Now he has decided to switch tack completely and is working in sales in Melbourne and loves it.
He says the increase in volume of Irish is really noticeable. “The Irish usually go to Sydney, not Melbourne, but now you see the GAA jerseys everywhere and the Irish rugby jerseys and it’s really noticeable when you go to a bar, you just hear the accents.
“When I went to the Melbourne Cup in November it was like being at the Punchestown races, just Irish accents everywhere,” he says.
He keeps in touch with Irish affairs but not too much. It’s too depressing, he says.
Will he go back to Ireland. “No, absolutely not. I don’t think there is any future in Ireland. I miss my family and friends but I have go to look at the bigger picture.
“What’s the point of going back to be with family and friends when you are on the dole?”
- Ireland losing 1,000 people a week to emigration (reuters.com)
- Ireland Faces Mass Emigration (online.wsj.com)