Dear Michael (may I be so casual?),
I am writing to you to give you a bit of advice: please try to restrain yourself from spouting such ill-informed nonsense as “It is not driven by unemployment at home, it is driven by a desire to see another part of the world and live there”, and then to add insult to injury to use the example of your children’s emigration as the only evidence for this.
If I may play your game of anecdotal evidence; in my family, my 4 siblings and I have moved abroad. The first two emigrations were made out of a choice for a different job or college course, while for the three youngest in my family, it was out of necessity. The truth is that people emigrate for many different reasons. For some, it is an exciting time but for others, it is an experience filled with sadness and regret.
You see, Michael, many people have felt that they have had no other choice but to emigrate. Young men and women who listened to the empty promises of jobs and houses made to us during the Celtic Tiger have graduated into a stagnant economy with 14% unemployment. We face a future of being on the dole, another “lifestyle choice” according to your Cabinet colleague Joan Burton. If we are really fortunate, some of us may be one of the few able to say that they have a job lined up after graduation. How, then, is it a lifestyle choice for us emigrants to leave our homes when we have so little hope for anything that can reflect our education or skills here?
Be honest now, have you ever packed up the bare necessities into your suitcase, leaving all the trappings of your previous life behind you, and flown alone to another country to start over? Have you ever had to overcome language and cultural barriers while trying not to scream out of total frustration? Have you ever kissed a loved one goodbye, struggling to hold back tears, because you won’t see them for another six months? I have done all this, and to label all this as a “lifestyle choice” is completely insulting to my experience and that of hundreds of other young Irish people.
A free choice is made when you actually have other options. Sadly for my generation, most of us don’t have any other option but to leave. We have created new lives, but please don’t mistake it as free choice, it’s just making the best of our situation. So can we get some respect for the difficult decisions we have had to make? Instead of whitewashing the experiences of a generation, can you as a TD and Minister acknowledge young Irish men and women for their bravery to go out into the world to make something of their lives?
An Irish Emigrant