The Irish Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) released information in July which said 200,000 people will emigrate from Ireland by 2015. The Irish are returning to emigration being the norm as the new generation begins to repeat history.
As the social affairs correspondent for the Irish Times, Jamie Smyth said “We’ve always had a culture of emigration”. He was referring to the potato famine in the 1840s when the Irish population shrank by 20 percent, when one million died and another million people fled for a better life.
Currently one-third of under-25-year-olds are unemployed and it is the young who are most likely to leave. It’s believed that most will travel to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, visas permitting, and Britain. Places where the Irish have been relocating to for generations.
Mary Corcoran, professor of sociology, at National University of Ireland Maynooth, spoke to the BBC about the tradition of emigration in Ireland. She insists that the boom years in Ireland were and exception.
Corcoran says that since the Irish state was founded in 1919 emigration has been a part of economic survival for Ireland.
During the 1950 emigration in Ireland was at its worst with 50,000 people leaving per year. This trend stopped briefly but then in the 1970s emigration once more became the norm when unemployment spiked. Again during the 1980s an average of 35,000 people left every years.
Speaking about the 1980s Corcoran said “That is the decade many are comparing today's situation with. People remember airports at Christmas time packed with emigrants coming home and the farewells in January when they all went back again."
She commented that Britain and America have always been the traditional choices for Irish people seeking a new life. Speaking about Britain she said the Irish were the navies who built Britain’s railways and in the 20th century they manned the nation’s building sites or worked as domestic help. This created Irish ghettos in the big cities.
“When we think of emigration we think of the famine ships or the people who went to Kilburn in the early 70s and drank themselves into an early grave,” she said.
However, thankfully though Ireland’s situation, and the current necessity for emigration is the same, the character of the emigrant is different. Today the Irish population of 25 to 34-year-olds have gone to higher education, at the second highest rate in the EU.
Thankfully it seems that the now angry and well educated young are indeed preparing to leave. Claire Weir, a 25-year-old graduate spoke to the BBC about leaving Ireland. She hoped a boat from Dublin to start a new life in London.
She is now sleeping on a her friends couch in London looking for work to pay the bills. She said “I just want a job, I need a bit of money coming in and can't live on thin air. I don't think I can get that consistency in Ireland…If you can get out you do. I come from a rural area in County Meath and there are very few graduates left. Four of my closest friends have gone, the others are either in a relationship or at college so can't leave."
Unfortunately her, and her friends situation, will become the norm in Ireland over the next three years.
Moving to Ireland
After living in Ireland for almost one year, this is what I’ve learned