It’s a blight on our poor country, one worse than the potatoes suffered during The Great Famine of 1845-47. It is a curse worse than “c%#t”, and it is as miserable as pulling a calf on Christmas morning, up to your knees in shit and up to your shoulders in placenta. It’s terrible, it’s shocking and it’s awful for the young people and their poor mothers.
Parents are forced to give up their sons and daughters to Australia and London and Canada, not to see them again for quite some time. Young people who spent 13-18 years receiving their education in their home country are forced to go and show all they learned somewhere else because there is no place for them in Ireland. In only a small fraction of cases, all of this is true.
Emigration is rampant in Ireland at the moment. The young people trudging off to the airport are left with “global financial crisis”, “worldwide recession”, “negative equity”, and Eamon De Valera’s immortal words “No longer shall our children, like our cattle, be brought up for export.” ringing in their ears. They leave behind their families, their friends and their homes to go elsewhere in search of work and to feel useful again. In truth though, the reality is much different. I hasten to add that this is all from my viewpoint, people I know and stories I have heard. I am aware there are exceptions.
It is difficult to listen to anyone harp on about emigration being an awful thing when their daughter is uploading pictures of her and her friends petting lions, riding elephants and going for a spin in the pouch of a kangaroo. That last one is one I haven’t seen happen yet but it’s possible. People are floating around pools on lilos all weekend, drinking beers and spending their hard earned money. They’re going to music festivals that could never be facilitated in Ireland and attending full moon parties that wouldn’t be allowed. They’re accidentally having sex with lady boys and lying to their friends about it. They’re crashing their motorcycles on country roads in Thailand. They’re drinking with ex Irish Health Ministers in Singapore or attending brunch with current Ministers on St. Patrick’s Day.
They’re taking road trips at weekends to cities they’ve never even heard of, spreading the Irish message farther and wider than it has ever been before. They are drinking beers in Irish pubs in Kampala. They’re making new friends that they can invite down to their local pub for a weekend, knowing full well that it will never happen – but it might. They are starting fights outside places that remind them of Supermacs with people they’ve never seen before. They are drinking cocktails out of buckets that a calf would have trouble emptying. They are milking cows, feeding bales and driving quad bikes on 1,000 acres farms, having never seen an animal in all their time in Ireland. They’re digging their car out of 12-15 inches of snow once a week. They’re drinking beers they never knew existed and falling in love with sports they previously hated. They are learning to navigate the biggest cities in the world by public transport, by foot and by car.
They’re leaving behind their local GAA clubs in Ireland and picking up again in America, Canada, London and Asia, making “pull on it” and “ah ref, you’re only a bollocks” universal sayings. They’re teaching Korean school children how to sing Irish songs. They’re becoming an even better reason to visit Irish pubs the world over. They’re bringing foreign girls home to meet their mammies. They’re visiting other friends that have moved somewhere close. They’re hanging around on the set of Home and Away. They are seeing the fucking world and they are adding to it. Emigration is the reason why Irishness is such a global brand and why St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated worldwide – and getting bigger.
Sure they are missing home. Especially on St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas and any time family and friends gather to make memories. But they are making their own memories, they are creating their own new experiences and they are living their own lives in a world that is now truly global.
Not everyone will return and settle in Ireland but some will. The experiences they have gained during their travels will benefit everyone. The world has always been full of endless possibilities. Now they are just more reachable and even more endless and emigrating should not be seen as the end of the world, it should be embraced as the beginning.