Irish Times: Economist warns against disenfranchisement

29 Jan

I was surprised to see a reference to emigrant voting rights in an article by former Central Bank chief economist Michael Cleary in today’s Irish Times. Cleary, who is also on the executive board of the IMF, gave an analysis of factors leading to outward migration from Ireland. He noted that the problem of emigration in Ireland seems intractable:

In short, it now seems as if the boom years were an anomaly and that high unemployment and emigration are never far from the surface here, especially when demand is constrained by recession and deflationary policies. Structural factors also play a part – though perhaps not the dominant one.

The concept of “hysteresis” may be relevant. Normally applied to unemployment, it suggests the problem feeds on itself. That is why, in inner cities, if parents are unemployed there is a strong probability that their children will also be unemployed. It is difficult to break the cycle. The same may be true of emigration. Once it begins or resumes, it becomes easier for others to follow. This may be because existing emigrants urge friends and relatives to do the same. If this is true then even if cyclical and structural problems are largely corrected, unemployment and emigration may continue for quite a long time. There is an urgent need to examine in detail the motivations of emigrants. They should not be ignored or disenfranchised as they were in the past.

That last sentence is particularly important, highlighting as it does the way we’re ignoring our emigrants by silencing them from our political system.

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