AT Shannon Airport last week, dozens of young quantity surveyors, teachers, engineers and carpenters queued for flights, returning to jobs in Britain, having been home for Christmas.
Billy Fitzgerald, 26, is a construction manager now living in Clapham. He said he had little option but to leave Ireland.
“I finished college when I was 22 and worked on the Limerick tunnel for two and a half years. I went to Australia for a year, came home and worked in Portlaoise for six months and then went to England.
There was nothing in my field any more. It’s not even worth looking, you’d have to change career path altogether to get work in Ireland,” he said.
He says many more Irish have come to London over the last six months, which a burgeoning GAA scene reflects.
“It’s pretty good, it’s getting better the whole time and teams are getting stronger. There are more players. When I went first if you were able to walk you’d be on the team but there’s been a big change in the last year,” he said.
Fitzgerald will eventually take over his father’s farm and says people will have to make sacrifices if they want to come home.
“A lot of people are trying Canada and I’ve heard great things about it, but are you going to keep going to places like that? If someone says the next place to be is Africa, will we all go there? The next thing you’ll be 40 and when are you ever going to get home? Eventually you have to bite the bullet, come home and hope it works out.”
Julian King from Ogonnelloe is also 26 and lives in Southampton. He is engaged to an English woman, and says nearly everyone he went to college with has since left Ireland.
“I was in the University of Limerick and I graduated and went straight over. I was in London for six months and got moved to Southampton to look after an office there. All of my class are gone, there’s none of them around. A few are in Dubai and most of them are in Australia,” he says.
Seamus Richardson is part of the London hurling panel and was at the airport with his parents, George and Catherine. He is working as a site engineer with an Irish-owned company and says he is happy enough in the English capital.
“It was tough at the start but I’m into it now and it’s grand. There’s about seven or eight who were in college with me there. There’s a few more in New York, a few in Australia, so there’s not many left at home.”
His mother Catherine said she was glad that her son could get work. “Our daughter is over there for two years and it could be a lot worse. They could be sitting on the couch and drawing the dole. They have jobs and London’s not that far away,” she said.
Ruth Scanlon has been in London for some time but would like to come back now. However, it’s not on the cards anytime soon.
“I’ve been in London for about 10 years. I did hotel management in Shannon and I went over on a placement and stayed there. I’d love to come home but there’s no jobs, not the jobs I’d want to do. I love Ireland but I don’t see it being possible at all for the next five to 10 years. It’s a completely changed country,” Scanlon feels.
A 33-YEAR old Carrigart woman escaped a potentially life threatening situation on Thursday of last week when she and her horse sank in quicksand on the beach at Carrigart.
Liz Potter and her horse Clyde had been out for a ride with her partner when the incident occurred around 10 a.m. on the morning in question. She said the incident happened along the same route people used to take their horses trekking all summer.
Potter said she came to a shallow channel of water but decided against crossing it as it was about two-feet deep, and instead decided to ride to the middle of the strand to a place where it was only half a foot deep. She added she had used this section before so felt it was okay.
She noticed her partner’s horse sink a little as he began to cross but thought nothing of it. She then entered the water a few feet further to the left when suddenly she began to sink quickly and soon found her feet covered. She escaped by climbing over her horse’s head on to drier sand she had just been on.
She had to watch in horror as her horse began thrashing about in an attempt to get free. It was scared and sinking all the time, she said. She tried to pull him out by the bridal reins but when he stopped moving she thought the animal had given up.
“I thought he was just going to let the sand swallow him up, “ she said.
The horse eventually managed to get his front two feet out to the drier sand, but when he just lay still
Potter thought he didn’t have enough energy to get the rest of the way out. The horse rested, then made another attempt to pull free and this time succeeded but lay on the beach totally exhausted.
She added he appeared to be fine after a few minutes and stood up and continued on. She feared had Clyde been older and not as fit he might not have survived.
Potter made enquiries locally to see if such a thing had happened before, but no one could recall a similar incident happening. She is traumatized after the event and doubted if she would ever go near that part of this beach again.
THE majority of prostitutes who had flooded the streets of Limerick for the past six months have left the city. And according to supermarket owner Shane Gleeson, more people are now coming back into the city at night as a consequence and business is improving.
“Most of them came into the shop and said goodbye. They said that they were going home,” explained Gleeson, who runs the Spar shop on Catherine Street.
His and other business had suffered as a result of prostitutes soliciting clients from as early at 6:30 each evening.
“Business has definitely picked up as a result of them leaving. Just two of the prostitutes have returned since Christmas and they have been moved on regularly by the Gardai (police),” said Gleeson.
Other business people and some residents in the city center have been ringing Gardai when they see prostitutes on the streets.
“The Gardai have given instant responses to my calls and have been very good on moving them on,” said another businessman.
Gleeson said that since the widespread publicity over the operation to target men soliciting prostitutes in the city, the number of men kerb-crawling the area has dwindled to “almost nothing.”
Critic in a Jam
A WELL-known British food and drink critic was left red-faced by Dublin Airport security last week when three pots of homemade jam he purchased from a north Longford country market were confiscated from his hand luggage.
Award-winning writer James Crowden said he was still bewildered from the ordeal, especially after Bord Bia, the Irish government’s food board, invited him to Ireland in an attempt to kick-start domestic based food produce.
“That’s the surprising thing about it,” chuckled a more than amused Crowden. “I was asked to do a talk on cider and the fact it (jars) were nicked off me three hours later in Dublin Airport is slightly ironic.”
After sipping on a cup of coffee inside the Greville Arms Hotel, Cowden snapped up three jars of jam from Ardagh-based producer Alan Harrison.
Plainly annoyed by what unfolded in Dublin Airport, the food critic contacted Dublin-based solicitor PolO’Murchu who took little time in dispatching a letter to The Irish Times, asking for the jam to be returned.
O’Murchu said, “His (Cowden’s) hand luggage was searched and the three jars of jam were confiscated.
He was given no reason other than that they were in the wrong shaped jar. The jar should have been 100ml. The jam was not tested and neither was a receipt given for the jam. The jam was perfectly solid and was not a liquid.”
In an angry response, customs officials defended their actions, saying Cowden should have been more aware of the safety protocol that was now in place at Dublin Airport.
“Perhaps if (Cowden) had paid more attention to the security precautions as outlined on Dublin Airport’s excellent website and in the many airport public notices, he would have saved himself the embarrassment of having his jam confiscated. All the traveling public need to observe these precautions which are there for the safety of all,” a strongly-worded reply pointed out.
For Mr Cowden, however, the incident is one which has not dented his plans to re-visit his ancestral home and sample some of the delights currently being offered by the popular north Longford-based market.
“It’s not a Dublin problem this, it’s an EU problem, but if they (jars) had explosives written on them I might have understood it. The funny thing is they (customs) can confiscate jam and then moments later you are sent into the duty free area, confronted by thousands of bottles of whiskey and spirits which, don’t get me wrong, is a far more dangerous weapon than any jar of jam,” he added.