I had noticed the two young girls in front of me in the U.S. immigration line at Dublin Airport were red eyed and teary. I got as close as I could when they reached the head of the line.
“Where are you heading girls?” asked the immigration inspector
“New York they said, “we have a one year work visa.”
Aha I thought the new ‘super J’ visas as it is called that allows persons within one year of completing a student course to spent 12 months working in the states.
"Why so soon before Christmas?" asked the inspector in a decidedly friendly fashion.
“Don’t remind me said the first of the two girls. “It is breaking my Mam’s heart”
Do you have job lined up yet?” he asked.
“Yes she said, “we have good prospects.”
A snapshot of Ireland today, another two young people taking the emigrant plane.
In the departure lounge at Dublin Airport you are reminded of the history of this leavetaking ritual.
The Famine ships and the people who created the Kennedy dynasty and Reagan presidency are all remembered here.
So too are the half of the Irish population who have left the country since 1840.
These days the departure halls are thronged again.
The two women whose brief exchange I had just witnessed must be pretty desperate I thought, to be leaving this side of Christmas, a sacrosanct holiday with so many Irish families.
On the radio on the way to the airport the story on the news was student teachers being asked to effectively teach for nothing for an intern year even after they had qualified.
A young woman trainee teacher, ready to qualify next spring asked the pertinent question “Why can’t I be paid as a professional for what I have trained three years to do,”
It is a very good question at a time when many such issues are being raised in a country where greedy Allied Irish bankers tried to hijack a $60 million bonus for themselves even though the bank is bankrupt.
Finally the government discovered the gumption to stop it.
The elephants are trampling the grass in Ireland these days, with bankers, politicians, developers at each others throats.
But the people getting hurt the most are the little people who have to accept the consequences of the greed of others.
Old age and blind pensioners had their allowances cut in the recent budget. The minimum wage was cut. The Irish Times reported that the poorest in society take the most savage cut.
And tens of thousands like the two young women I encountered take the emigrant plane.
Think of the money sent educating so many Irish to such a high standard and now all that training will go to help whatever country they are leaving for.
They will be very lucky to have them.