Una Mullally, the Irish Times columnist, penned a thought-provoking column on Monday on the reality of emigration and young people in Ireland.
Usually these numbers are released as part of overall studies and are quite often buried by governments keen to hide the extent of emigration, but she lays it out in bare and cold fashion.
She wrote: “Right now, there are 205,150 fewer twentysomethings in Ireland than there were six years ago. That’s 27.2 percent of the twenty something population. For those between the ages of 20 and 24, the reduction of that demographic is bigger still, a 31 percent decrease in six years. In 2009, there were 180,900 women between the ages of 20 and 24 in Ireland. Last year there were 104,600, a decrease in population of 34 percent.
“People talk about how depressed small towns and villages become when the young people leave. But the conversation about national emigration hasn’t moved beyond 'isn’t it terrible.' We aren’t examining the impact the decimation of Ireland’s twentysomething population is having.”
Well said, but there is nothing new in the obfuscation of details such as this. The Irish economic recovery, such as it is, has been built on the departure of enough young people to force the unemployment figure down and leave room for jobs for those who stayed behind.
Meanwhile, politicians trumpet the success of their alleged job creation efforts.
It has ever been thus. Every thirty years since the 1920s there has been an emigration surge connected to hard times – the 20s, 50s, 80s and, since 2010, the latest exodus.
All those unemployment crises were solved by people literally leaving on jet planes, boats and trains not thanks to any government policy.
In each case Ireland has rejoiced when the unemployment numbers magically began to drop, as it is right now, when it is obvious is is linked closely to the 205,000 people who have left.
It also has a massive impact on the creative and cultural life .
As Mullaly wrote: “ Seeing such a monumental drop in that age group in such a small country has a very real, daily impact. It sucks a huge chunk of creativity and fun out of the place. Do you wonder why they’re not staying when things are apparently “picking up”?
Ireland is effectively Greece but for emigration and there is little wonder there is massive political disaffection. The pain and heartache of the recent recession is still causing enormous suffering which is why issues like water charges continue to resonate.
Sure some of those who left had jobs, but they were usually dead end positions with little chance of advancement.
Mullaly has put her finger squarely on the reason why politicians continue to trumpet each new drop in unemployment. They claim their policies are working when in fact they are hiding the truth.
The reality is that the departure lounges are still full and Ireland is losing some of its best and brightest to countries where their skills will be deeply appreciated.
Will it be ever so?