A 53-year-old carpenter, Barry McKinley, has described in vivid terms what it is like being forced to emigrate again after returning to Ireland ten years ago for good.
Barry McKinley wrote in The Irish Times that he is bound for New York and says “At 53 years of age I’m planning on leaving the country again, returning to New York city where I worked for more than a decade.
"I will be taking my carpentry tools, my arms, my shoulders, my back – the legs will follow. There’s nothing in Ireland left to build, and no money left to pay for it.”
McKinley says he deeply resents those who say emigration is all about well educated professionals going abroad for a few years.
“We keep hearing about the “brightest and the best” streaming out of the country... these kids have seen the world before they even get there, through Facebook and MySpace and LinkedIn. They network, and they work the Net. These aren’t just Paddies, these are iPaddies.....And I’m one of the other guys.
“There are 50,000 people leaving the country this year, four planeloads every week, and not all of them will be firing up the particle accelerator at Stanford.” he says.
“Some of us will work with drywall, oak flooring and rebars. Some of us will wash windows and sweep floors on construction sites. Some of us will erect scaffolding, and a few of us will fall from it, like birds weighed down by hammers."
He says amid the hype about the well educated leaving, “The thing is this: you won’t even notice us as we slip away because we don’t stand out. ...As we take our seats on the Airbus, we look much like everybody else, and although its unlikely we will ever be confused with the brightest and the best, we’re not exactly the dullest and the worst. ..We will behave, and then we will be gone."
McKinley notes the last time he left it all seemed different, “The last great wave of unemployment peaked in 1989; I remember it well because I surfed it, and it didn’t feel like this. It didn’t feel historic or epic in proportion. It felt like it would end, sooner rather than later, and then we would all come home and live happily ever after. We would have kids and they would be educated and the cycle would be broken.
"It was an interesting theory. I might share it with the bright young man beside me when we touch down in JFK airport.
Outside the terminal, the bright young man will look around excitedly and shout, “I’ve arrived.” “I’m back,” I’ll whisper. He will probably pay $90 to a limo driver and get dropped off in the wrong neighbourhood. I’ll pay $15 for the bus to Port Authority. Twenty-four hours later he will be trading bonds on Wall Street and I will be riding upwards in a service elevator on Park Avenue.”