Ireland’s Minister for Finance has sparked outrage after he branded emigration a lifestyle choice.
Michael Noonan has denied that the daily exodus of hundreds of Irish men and women is down to the country’s economic crisis.
The Limerick deputy went so far as to claim that young people were quitting their families and homes for ‘lifestyle reasons’.
The Fine Gael Minister also claimed that some emigrants just ‘wanted to see another part of the world’.
He also suggested the Government should improve the education system – so that young people can get ‘a good job’ when they emigrate.
Minister Noonan said: “That’s life in modern Ireland and they have to do their best. I hope they are successful abroad.
“There are always young people coming and going from Ireland and some of them are emigrants in the traditional sense. Others simply want to get off the island for a while. You know, a lot of the people who go to Australia... it’s not being driven by unemployment at home, it’s driven by a desire to see another part of the world and live there.
“It’s not about putting on the green jersey or taking off the green jersey, it’s just that’s life in modern Ireland, and they have to do their best.
“I hope they are successful abroad. What we have to make sure is our young people have the best possible education, so that when they go, they are employed as young professionals in their country of destination.”
Three of Noonan’s own children live abroad but the Minister suggested that that was a matter of choice.
He added: “I don’t think any of the three can be described as an emigrant. It was a free choice of lifestyle and what they wanted to do with their lives. And there are a lot of families like that.”
The Minister has since claimed that he was ‘being quoted out of context’.
Fianna Fail jobs spokesman, Willie O’Dea, has called on Minister Noonan to ‘apologise immediately’ for his remarks.
O’Dea said: “Of course there are many young people who, after college, travel abroad. But there is an undeniable link between the high rate of unemployment and the number of people seeking work abroad.”