If there is an iconic image this St. Patrick’s Day of Ireland, it is of those thousands lined up seeking to leave the country at a Canadian/Australian employment fair two weekends ago.
It reinforces an historic reality, yet focuses the issue on how the country needs to do better in keeping its educated work force at home.
A press release from Canada received in this office this week reflects the demand for Irish workers from abroad. It is from an employment agency boasting about how they are seeking to recruit 150 doctors from Ireland.
The agency will undoubtedly be successful, but the huge losers are the Irish people who have spent tens of millions in tax revenue in educating those doctors only to see them fly the coop because of lack of opportunities at home.
Ireland is being cherry picked of its best talent as surely as it was in the 1950s, 1980s and now again.
It was ever this way the old timers will tell you, every 30 years or so a grand expulsion of natives, especially the talented ones, in order to safeguard the old orders and stop the country collapsing.
But this young generation now leaving never grew up with that outcome in mind. As kids of the Celtic Tiger they saw their future as unlimited and unbound in Ireland. For a few years it indeed seemed to be that way.
The disappointment is doubly crushing then, the departure into exile that much harder to take.
“Ireland is the old sow that eats its farrow,” James Joyce wrote in the Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man.” It certainly must seem that way to many.
The playwright John B. Keane wrote a play entitled Many Young Men of Twenty Say Goodbye. That was back in the 1960s, and the young men of 20 and 30, even 40, are shipping out again along with the women of the same age.
The emigration is the upshot, unfortunately, of a country governed by successive governments ruled by greed and incompetence, never more true than the most recent one that led Ireland to its downfall.
This present one at least has stated baldly how bad things are and have leveled with the people.
Whether they will be able to keep their young people home and rebuild the economy remains to be seen.
Let’s hope so. The Irish have had enough of false promises and prophets.