Guest post on IrishGirlAbroad

24 Jan

New York-based Irish journalist Frieda Klotz recently invited me to do a guest post on her blog. Frieda was running a series on what it was like to be watching the Irish economy implode from the inside. Frieda’s blog, “An Irish Girl Abroad – New York life through a European lens” is an insightful and perceptive examination of her experiences as an expat, so I was delighted to be invited to participate.

Here’s an excerpt, on the government’s response to the recent upsurge in emigration – read the rest on IrishGirlAbroad.

The governmental non-response has been striking. There has been no major speech by any minister discussing the exodus. On MerrionStreet.ie, government’s news service, a search for the word “emigration” turns up only two results. There have been almost no job stimulus programmes, and government politicians have expressed satisfaction with a drop in unemployment rates of a percentage point or two, despite the fact that the emigration of the jobless is surely responsible. One of the few government politicians to remark on emigration since the start of the crisis was Tánaiste Mary Coughlan: she was reviled for her statement that young people were emigrating ”to enjoy themselves. That’s what young people are entitled to do” – a tone-deaf response that was reminiscent of the most notorious statement of the1980s exodus, Brian Lenihan’s “we can’t all live on a small island“.

What has not been lacking, however, is faith in the diaspora to solve our problems. While emigrants – dispossessed and disenfranchised – are untouchables to the establishment, when the ruling class looks at the Irish diaspora they see investors, philanthropists, cultural-product consumers, ancestor-seekers, and tourists. Lauded by Brian Cowen as “our huge and willing resource“, the 70 million are presumed to be ready to share their wealth and know-how to pull us out of this crisis. Government strategies on the economy, higher education, tourism, and culture give them prominent roles. The diaspora is related to the phenomenon of emigration, sure, but in a sanitised, less-painful way: we’d like them to buy our certificates of Irishness and come “home” for visits, but we don’t expect anyone to shed tears at the airport when they leave. We do hope they’ll contribute 100 million euro to building our new children’s hospital, however.

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