It is an eerie feeling being in Ireland these days. The sense of deja vu for an emigrant is incredible.
The Irish are leaving again, not so much this time to America, but to Australia, Canada and other points, driven again by a poor economy and the inevitable impact.
I am launching a book here about my thirty years as an exile from Ireland called 'An Irish Voice' but the most surprising aspect of the launch is how relevant it has suddenly become again to talk about emigration.
Every show I have been on the question has come up right away. Before it was always political questions about Obama/Bush/Clinton or whoever happened to be in the limelight. Now the Irish have begun to look inward again, to address their own grievous problems.
During the Celtic Tiger era emigration was what very wealthy people did to avoid tax restrictions in Ireland. Those young people who did leave were usually taking up high-paying jobs overseas and were by no means the definition of traditional emigrants.
Back during those years emigration was a curiosity and I was rarely asked about it. Thousands were flooding into Ireland not out of it . I was often asked what the end of emigration meant to me. I always answered that I was far from sure it was all over.
But the inexorable Irish cycle of boom, bust and departure has now kicked in. Every thirty years or so in the 1920s, 1950s, 1980s and now again, the emigrant planes and ships fill up and thousands go sailing.
Since I have come here last weekend I have been questioned repeatedly about the possibility of finding work in America for sons, daughters, cousins, friends, etc. The reality that many young people have lost their jobs and face crushing mortgages on houses that are no longer worth the candle has struck home with a vengeance.
Australia and Canada, with much more liberal and sensible immigration policies, are attracting the majority of the young Irish. Those countries will be lucky to have them. These young Irish I meet are as anxious as ever to work, to get on in life and to create a better country whether it is Canada or Down Under or hopefully some day back in Ireland in a resurgent economy.
Some are inevitably coming to America but the notion of living illegally does not interest them. It is a shame that this pool of great young talent is not able to find a home in the U.S. if there is no work in Ireland. It is America's loss I am certain.
There was a poignant article in the Observer newspaper at the weekend about the town of Westport in Mayo where the recession has hit hard. The broken dreams and futile efforts to cope of many of the young residents locally were chronicled. Many are leaving on a jet plane. It is a story being repeated all across the country.
Ireland is down but not out and the bad old days are back. Should we be surprised? Probably not, but as another generation begins the emigrant trail one cannot help but feel for them and their families. Let us hope there are better days ahead.
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