Apart from “Do you have a Tesco club card?” and “Would you like to upgrade your meal to large for an extra fifty cent?” the most common question I get asked these days usually revolves around the big black shaped hole in my future labelled ‘Post College’.
My answer to that question is, for the most part, the textbook response that any 22-year-old prospect-less student would say: “Well, I feel pretty unemployable at the moment in the supposed area of expertise I’ve been studying for the last four years. So, clearly my only option is delve further into negative equity-ville and spend my way out of my problem with further education.”
At first having that question fired at me by my relatives, friends, and Facebook friends alike bothered me, but I’ve been desensitised. Still, each time I’m asked “What are you going to do after college?”, the question seems gradually more and more rhetorical each time. Rhetorical to the sense that sometimes in my head the question sounds like an assault on my life decisions:“Well, you’ve really screwed up your prospects this time, haven’t you?”
No matter, the option to leave the country is always there. That daunting but assured route that nearly guarantees a comfortable way of life away from these shores. Maybe even somewhere where the sun doesn’t bring the heat with it when it goes to bed every night.
It appears to be such an easy opportunity that is readily available, which means it’s no surprise Irish people spanning all age groups are upping and leaving for a chance to seek out some sense of stability. It is tough to deal with putting thousands of kilometres between yourself and those who matter deeply to you, but we should hold back the tears and wistfully bid them adieu. Then, when they arrive home on a cold wet evening in June, we should have the kettle whistling, turf on the fire, and a one-page synopsis of what they’ve missed on Fair City, while welcoming them with open arms.
That description of a cosy environment is all in contrast to the grim reality painted by a Facebook page that garnered significant attention last month. Ireland Abandoners managed to provoke a frenzied response from Irish ex-pats community, informing them that they are “NOT WELCOME HOME” in big red bland font.
The premise of the page, which does not represent my view, does have a point however. If people who left during the economic plight expect to be welcomed home with open arms in 10 or 20 years time, they may want to roll for a reality check.
For instance, many of the emigrants that left for Australasia and Britain in the 1980s and returned back to Ireland during the Celtic Tiger years noted that they received mixed reactions from friends and cohorts upon their return. And I doubt our generation will be all that forgiving given the same circumstances.
The sentiments of the Facebook page such as, “Take down your tri-colours, you are not worthy of flying them and are not welcome back so stay where you are because the Irishness is better off without you!” are a bit harshly worded. I wouldn’t be so quick to criticise anyone who left the country during these times. It is tough to leave your home, especially when the decision is forced upon you by economic reasons.
Our generation, however, does lack a sense of drive and desire to explore. A characteristic that has plagued previous generations who decided it was too much bother to leave a comfort zone powered purely by the love of Irish Mammies. Although, when previous generations have been forced to emigrate, it has done nothing but ingratiated Ireland to the international community, cementing our status as an endearing country full of hard working people.
Irish workers helped build New York into one of the greatest cities the world, laid the train tracks in Argentina, and were the driving force behind the development of Australia and New Zealand. They don’t love Ireland for its Guinness and leprechauns; they love us.
Unlike the Irish emigrants that flooded the Facebook page with inappropriate hate-filled comments, I can understand exactly why a segment of Irish society would be angered if the twenty-somethings eventually came home to roost. A lot of these people leave, sneering at the government that they were left no other options, but the truth is that there still are jobs. The situation is that many Irish people think they shouldn’t have to lower themselves to fulfil the jobs available in the services industry.
Fundamentally, I don’t agree with the page because I believe that those who have left are serving as invaluable ambassadors worldwide for Ireland and will benefit from the priceless experience of being immersed in different cultures. I’ve experience what it is like to live abroad and for the most part, Irish people I’ve met are applying themselves very well and are sought after to fill jobs in areas such as construction and agriculture.
Even if the page doesn’t represent your view, that doesn’t make their opinion wrong. It garnered significant positive, and negative, responses and warrants acknowledgement because it does embody a sense of resentment harboured by some people towards Irish emigrant workers.
“Basically you have all left now, many of you hope to return one day when things pick up, when the economic climate changes to suit you, well, guess who is changing it? The people that stayed behind we will not allow you to reap the benefit of the crops that we are sowing now!”
The comment is akin to a quote from Emmet Kirwan in the viral video that appeared over Christmas called Just Saying, where he said: “I’m just saying you might get sick of the wet weeks, wet socks, the wet jeans, wet funerals, the wet streets. It’s all getting a little harder to justify. And it’s too late to be screaming ‘We Are Your Friends’ at heads in a gaff you’ve never been before and you’ll never be again. As Sydney and London swallow your mates. Any craic? No, youse fucked off.” And he’s right, they did.