Dublin: Up to 6,000 Irish lined up in mixed weather conditions this weekend to seek out jobs abroad.
The long lines outside the Royal Dublin Society building in Ballsbridge for a jobs abroad fair reminded me somewhat of the Great Depression and brought home the human impact of the Irish financial crisis.
Every media outlet in Ireland drones on and on about the banking crisis but you never get to see the trickle down effects until you stand with the people lining up to leave Ireland once again.
It is estimated up to 200,000 could leave during this current recession.
The age average at the fair skewed surprisingly older. I would have expected young men and women but there were many in their thirties and forties.
They were underwater financially because their only investment, their house, was now worth less than the mortgage they were paying on it.
For them the reality was incredibly harsh. Many were taking young children with them, starting a new life but never wanting to abandon the old.
I couldn’t help but wonder what the $65 billion the Irish government will sink into saving their banking system would have done for the Irish like those leaving, if it had been spent on them and infrastructure and creating jobs.
I often wonder the same when I look at the cost of the Iraq war and the Afghanistan theater.
What would the U.S look like today if we weren’t spending just billions on an increasingly futile exercise?
The jobs at the Irish fair on offer were mostly in Canada and Australia, two countries that avoided the excesses of the downturn by having basic banking safeguards in place.
How much better would our world be if the US, and Ireland and the other reckless splurgers had used such restraint themselves?
The fair was a sad mirror image of an event my newspaper Irish Voice co-hosted in Manhattan about six years ago.
Back then, in conjunction with the Irish jobs agency FAS, we hosted an Irish jobs fair for Americans who were anxious to work in Ireland.
It was a time when the good times were still rolling, when property values were in the stratosphere and all seemed well with the Celtic Tiger.
Jobs were plentiful in Ireland and even the influx of European workers to Ireland were not enough to keep the labor rolls filled.
The Americans came in their thousands to the job fair, ready willing and anxious to work in Ireland, to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.
It was an extraordinary feeling, seeing history placed on its head and the reverse of what had happened for generations suddenly come through.
It all came crashing down of course and the grim tide of the new economic reality came washing over Ireland again.
It will be a cold day in hell I think when another Irish jobs fair is held in America.
More’s the pity though. It was an amazing turnabout while it lasted.