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Irish students are now emigrating before their graduation

Tragedy of forced emigration hits close to home

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Irish students are now emigrating before their graduation

An article in yesterday afternoon’s Evening Echo, a local Cork evening paper, captured the phenomenon of graduate emigration in Ireland very well.

The article, part of a series into the jobs crisis by reporters Ronan Bagnall and Kieran Dineen, was published on the day the local university held its annual conferring ceremony and there were lots of photos of happy faces and proud parents.

Yet the four who were interviewed  had already taken the emigrant plane and were back just for their graduation. Alas, they were unable to find work in Ireland and were now emigrants abroad.

The fact that the two stories made the news section on the same day shouldn’t seem out of place though: it’s reality. Whether you like it or not, a massive 70,000 people are due to emigrate from Ireland in the year of 2010 (out of a country of a little over 4 million), and a good portion of those, as the pictures clearly told, would be freshly graduated students.

The four smiling friends, who’d returned to Cork for their graduation, told of making the decision to emigrate: to London, Australia and beyond. You couldn’t help but feel that they must have been feeling a little bit frustrated by the fact that the certificates which they’d just received, and which they’d spend years studying towards, were not even good enough to land them a job in the land of their own birth.

Their quotes, in the article, are full of the sort of longing for home which easily overtakes any Irish person, and indeed overtook me this summer. “You may laugh at this,” admits the first student interviewed “but what I miss most is green grass.” Another tells of life down under.

Their speeches, though, each bear a significant whiff of dissatisfaction with the status quo the emigration problem finds itself in, and each admits that he’d rather be in Cork than abroad, despite the allure of greener pastures.

“London is a fantastic city,” adds the same graduate from London, “but I wouldn’t like to raise a family here.”

But who’s to blame, and is there even anger? The answer is no-one knows. As I noted in my last blog post, the Irish student unions are puffing a lot of hot air about this right now, and seem to have singled the Minister for Trade and Innovation as their lynch-man.

Although I can fully understand the Unions’ desire to take their anger and frustration out on someone, it’s probably the banks and developers rather than the government or its Ministers which have the largest share of the blame for why we’re here right now. If there’s someone to blame, it’s probably them.

Now that the pendulum of population movements has fully swung, it’s hard to envision or imagine a time when the same page of the paper as the stories about the students emigrating today,  would have been filled with stories of foreigners immigration just a few short years ago. The influx of foreign workers, rather the out-going of our own, seems to have been the concern back then.

The article did a better job at highlighting the issue for me than almost anything else I’d read in the media about this the past few weeks. The site of the four lads, standing on the Quadrange with their robes on, is a sad one, and their story is probably fairly typical. I, and the rest of my peers graduating next year, can only hope that it won’t be our turn in 2011.

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