We have all got it wrong and we should be thankful for the great opportunities we are now presented with. That's not the view of éirígí but it appears to be the thinking of former Progressive Democrat (PD) Minister Liz O'Donnell.
She was speaking on national radio last week following the release of a report showing a massive increase in the numbers emigrating from our shores once again. According to the document from the British governments Department for Work and Pensions, more than 13,000 people moved from Ireland to Britain in search of work in 2010. This is a massive increase of 25% on the 2009 figure of 11,050. The numbers have been steadily increasing since 2006 when the figure for emigration to Britain was 9,500.
As far as Liz is concerned however, this is just one great adventure for these people to enjoy. She tried to equate it with a student or some other young person taking a year or two out to travel the world and possibly work abroad before they return home to finish college or pursue their career.
But these are not the same things. They are in fact totally different. The stark reality is that the tens of thousands of Irish people who are now leaving our shores and heading for Britain, Europe, Australia, the US and elsewhere are doing so not out of choice. This is not an adventure for them. This is forced emigration from which many of these people will never return.
While the economic collapse and the lack of government action to secure and create employment is the main reason for this exodus, it alone is not the full story. As thousands and thousands of workers started to lose their jobs in recent years, both the previous Fianna Fáil led administration and now the current Fine Gael/Labour coalition have set about introducing measure after measure to try to humiliate them and make life as miserable for them as possible.
And it is no co-incidence that the vast majority of those who emigrated to Britain, more than 6000, were in the 18 – 24 age bracket. While social welfare cuts have been imposed right across the board, this age group has been particularly singled out for harsh treatment.. Under 21's had their dole reduced to €100 a week while those in the 22-24 year old bracket had theirs reduced to €150 a week making it virtually impossible for them to survive on the dole in this country.
So what we seen was young people either losing their jobs or unable to get a job through no fault of their own when they finished their education. As if that was not bad enough, they were then forced to wait up to 16 weeks to receive their pittance of an entitlement, all the time being forced to jump through hoops needlessly. As we previously highlighted (click here) many were refused what they were entitled to and would then possibly have to wait up to twelve months for their appeal against that decision to be heard.
Responding to the emigration figures, éirígí Sligeach activist Gerry Casey said the massive increase was shameful but comes as no surprise.
He said: “The upsurge in the numbers of people, particularly young people, emigrating from our shores is an indictment of the political classes and their bankrupt capitalist ideology.”
“As unemployment skyrocketed, the previous Fianna Fáil led administration introduced measures which were calculated decisions to make life here unbearable for the jobless. In particular their cuts aimed at 18-24 year olds were undertaken specifically to force these young people to emigrate in order to hide the true extent of unemployment in the twenty six county state. These policies have shamefully now been adopted by the new Fine Gael/Labour coalition despite pre-election promises to protect the most vulnerable.”
Reacting to the recent comments of Liz O'Donnell, Casey described them as “despicable” and said that she is not alone among the political classes in attempting to portray forced emigration in a positive light.
Casey said: “Last year former Tanaiste Mary Coughlan of Fianna Fáil told BBC radio how she thought that emigration 'wasnt a bad thing'. Now this tells us one of two things. Either these politicians have no idea whatsoever about the hardships and deprivation that they have caused and how their decisions have torn families apart – or – they know exactly the misery that they have and are continuing to inflict upon working people and the unemployed. Either way, it is indefensible and unforgivable.”
“Indeed not content with just forcing our young people to emigrate, this state and its agencies also felt it appropriate to act as recruiting agents for the British army. Last April it was revealed that Fás had written to unemployed people in the Limerick region advising them of 'careers' in the British army. Aside from the fact that in doing so they were acting illegally, that they considered it justifiable to recruit young Irish people as cannon fodder to advance British Imperialism around the globe shows their contempt for their own citizens.”