And the recession has taken a big fat bite out of our young Irish. If I’m being honest most of my friends (mainly in their thirties – some married with kids, others single) are working and getting by fine, but it’s their younger sisters and brothers that are leaving in their droves. They call it the “Brian Drain.”
Louise, 25, spent a year in Australia before returning to Irish shores. Armed with a degree in psychology the young Kerry woman searched high and low for a job in her field.
When that proved fruitless she searched for any kind of work. The only offer she got was a part time job in a clothing store that paid minimum wage €8.65 euro ($10.75). Knowing she couldn’t survive on only 12 hours a week Louise booked a one way ticket to London where she is currently working in an accountancy firm.
A friend of mine is due to fly to Canada for her brother’s wedding in three weeks. Her brother immigrated to Toronto two years ago after failing to get a job in Ireland. He has a diploma in engineering and was let go from his job in the summer of 2010.
He met a Canadian girl a year and a half ago and they are to be married soon. His sister tells me he will never live in Ireland again.
“I’m only home for the weekend,” Brenda told me outside Penneys clothing store in Tralee on Saturday.
Brenda is 20 and has been in London since January.
“At the start I hated it but I think I’m getting used to it now,” she said.
Brenda works in a factory in London. She works six days a week and every seven or eight weeks comes back to Ireland for the weekend to see her family.
“I’m a home bird. I love being with my sisters and brothers and their kids so I come home as often as I can. I work hard, save up the money to fly back and it works out,” she told me.
Brenda doesn’t really like the social life in England and has made little friends.
“I moved over to my cousin who is there a year longer than me and we usually just go to the cinema or local pub at weekends. I prefer to go out in Ireland,” she added.
Australia is also a final destination for many young Irish.
Jennifer, 23, has her flight to Australia booked for June 19. She lost her job in a nursing home in Limerick a month ago. Nothing has surfaced since, so Australia is her only hope now for a job.
“Seven out of 19 from my class in school have emigrated. Six of them are in Aus so I’m going over to them to give it a try,” said Jennifer.
“There is nothing here at the moment so I’ll head away, make a bit of money to keep me and hopefully I’ll come back to Ireland in a few years with a bit of money to buy a house and maybe a husband if I’m lucky,” joked Jennifer.
My own cousin Carly, Colum’s godmother, is leaving for Australia next month. Carly left Ireland a few years ago for a job in Luxembourg so moving again isn’t a big deal to her.
She is following her best friend Gemma who left Tralee two months ago for a better life. We will miss Carly and hope she won’t stay there forever.
So that’s it. There is definitely sadness among my friends and their families as the younger generation are being forced to leave the country in search of work.
I hope more than anything that when the time rolls around for my children to find a job that there will be plenty. But for them they have an alternative. They are American citizens and will always have the option of moving to the United States.
But John and I hope and pray that Ireland will be back in full swing by then and Colum and Sadie won’t want to leave us.